Return of a Fleet into Plymouth Harbour


By Dominic Serres the Elder, 1766

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The recruited sailors had to be kept healthy. The circumstances required British ships to spend long periods of time at sea and in 1759 this problem was especially difficult. The French were planning an invasion of England and gathered their armies and transport craft at a wide and safe anchorage called the Morbihan. To start the invasion the French men-of-war  had to sail from the nearby Brest to Morbihan to collect the troops and escort the transport to the English shores. For the British it was critical to keep the French fleet on check and prevent it leaving Brest. Therefore a close and continuous watch was required. This meant that a fleet of 14,000 men had to be kept healthy at sea for weeks or even months in the western part of the Channel. Such a blockade was made possible by the existence of Plymouth dockyards, where damaged ships could return for running repairs. Also food, fresh water and other supplies could be easily sent to the blockading fleet. With Brest being the main target, Plymouth grew both in size and importance.

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