Talk:Battle of Flamborough Head

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The original version of this page was written as a summary- probably as near NPOV as you're ever going to get, but less encyclopedic in style than originally intended, simply because it was so much fun to write- of the very detailed information about the Battle of Flamborough Head provided on the website which in turn owes a great deal to the decades of research by Peter Reaveley (well known in recent years as a member of an American team trying to locate the wreck of the Bonhomme Richard). Other websites are cited where they provide convenient access to source material; also, please note that the original author of this page is not in any way connected with the yorkshirehistory website.

Some apparently valuable first-hand sources of information are deliberately underused by the website, notably the reminiscences of Nathaniel Fanning and Richard Dale, published decades after the battle. The author of the original version of this page, on inspection of these sources, tended to accept this judgement. Many of Fanning's details (at ) are impossible to reconcile with contemporary accounts. Dale's published account is rather an oddity in that he seems to present two versions of the battle, a well-detailed and perfectly plausible first-person narrative of the battle and its aftermath, interrupted at the moment of victory by a highly suspect third-person section. There are also serious problems with John Paul Jones's own "campaign journal", written in 1785 (at ) which conflicts in places with sources from 1779 (including his own official report). In particular, by limiting the activities of Alliance to treacherous attacks on the Richard, while still being truthful about the actions of Cottineau aboard Pallas, Jones has had to make a virtue of self-imposed necessity, and find the Countess of Scarborough something honourable to do during the early phase of the battle (this narrative also seems to be the source of the Countess's uprating from 20 to 22 guns).

A map of the situation at midday on September 23 1779 is attached to the original version of this page, largely as an invitation. If some agreement can be established concerning the events of the battle, it would be really helpful if somebody could provide an animation.

Finally, to encourage accurate revision, the references given for the article are nearly all to the primary sources, rather than to the analysis on the yorkshirehistory pages. David Trochos 18:07, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

PS: If anybody can start a "Further Reading" list, with references to the most recent research in books or military/naval history journals, I for one would be most grateful. I'd be inclined to ask that general biographies of Jones be excluded from this list, as they are covered in the article about him (and they also tend to be a bit biased...). David Trochos 23:49, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

Better wording[edit]

I don't believe that we need a disclaimer of sorts in the first paragraph:

"What follows is an attempt to present a balanced view of the events of September 23, 1779, in the North Sea off the coast of Yorkshire in north-eastern England. Note that all times in this account are very approximate; apart from anything else, there were no international time zones in the 18th century, so American/French and British witnesses would have had their watches set to different times."

Can this be reworded or even removed? S♦s♦e♦b♦a♦l♦l♦o♦s (Talk to Me) 22:42, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

It probably can be reworded, but I'm not sure that it should be removed. The first sentence is a hint that what follows is rather different from the traditional image of the battle; the second is a paraphrase of Admiral Morison's explanation, in his biography of Jones, of the time problem which really bedevils attempts to explain battles in the period after fairly accurate timepieces were introduced, but before time zones were created. David Trochos 00:03, 1 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm also about to remove the "USS" designation given to Bonhomme Richard. I know it's standard to denote all US naval vessels as "USS", but in terms of a description of events in 1779, it's anachronistic. Would Jones even have used the term "United States ship" in preference to "Continental Navy ship"? Obviously, if there's a majority feeling that "USS" should be included, then do please revert this. David Trochos 00:03, 1 December 2007 (UTC)
PS- I've left in the clarification "ships", because something of the sort was probably needed, but if anybody else feels itchy about the use of that specific word to describe those specific vessels, and can think of another synonym other than "vessels", which I've already used too much- go for it... David Trochos 00:08, 1 December 2007 (UTC)

The word "guesstimate", relating to the destination of the American squadron after the battle, has just been changed to "guess"; however, I used "guesstimate" specifically because the course reports found by Peter Reaveley (see Model Ship Builder article, currently ref. 15) indicate that the squadron, before it passed out of visibility from the Yorkshire coast, was heading directly towards the northern part of the United Provinces. Can anybody think of a more encyclopedic way of expressing this? David Trochos 09:54, 1 December 2007 (UTC)

I've just had a go myself, but in the process I've lost the implication that the Navy captains might have ignored the Texel guesstimate specifically because they assumed their professional judgement was better. David Trochos 10:16, 1 December 2007 (UTC)


This article really needs to be wikified. The intro, for instance, reads more like the introduction to a book rather than an encycolpedic article. The whole article gives the impression of an essay.Lord Cornwallis (talk) 16:08, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

Yes, you're right, but the major source (the Yorkshire history website) was so awkwardly arranged that I had to write a detailed narrative just to make it all fit together in my own mind. For the same sort of reason, I regret your removal of the explanation about different witnesses keeping different time, because it is a major source of confusion in accounts of naval battles between the invention of watches and the invention of time zones- but I'll try to find a way of indicating that without explaining it in every battle description. David Trochos (talk) 19:49, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

Style ![edit]

The introduction is just fine. Like the whole article, it is an excellent example of good writing. The content is well chosen and well arranged. It is expressed clearly in plain words. I do not know what 'wikify' and 'encyclopedic' are supposed to mean but I do know that it is informative and a pleasure to read. Any article that has these characteristics is an example to everyone so do not worry about preconceptions of 'style' -- whatever that is. Trivial Quibble: The map should be arranged with North at the top and it should indicate the wind direction to help any sailors who might understand. (talk)mikeL —Preceding undated comment added 18:29, 11 July 2009 (UTC).

Grenade that started chain of explosions?[edit]

I had read (in Almost a Miracle) that a sailor on Jones's ship hurled a grenade into an opening that led to where the guns (and gunpowder) were kept. This went off and set off a chain reaction of explosions and immediately fire spread the whole length of the british vessel. This is what caused the surrender as much as anything? Is this true? (talk) 02:03, 27 October 2010 (UTC) O'Byrne

It's already covered in some detail in the third paragraph of the "Two Gunnery Duels" section of the article. David Trochos (talk) 05:46, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

Broken links - quite a few[edit]

^ Letter from Jones to editor of the Gazette de Leyde, 11 November 1779, U.S. Naval Academy: Nimitz Library,, retrieved 2007-11-02

I'm not sure how to report broken links.... I've found 3 so far — Preceding unsigned comment added by SteveO1951 (talkcontribs) 02:29, 20 February 2011 (UTC)

You can tag them with {{Dead link|date=<month> <year>}} replacing <month> and <year> with the current month and year. A BOT will fill in the date information if you do not want to bother with that. Keith D (talk) 15:37, 20 February 2011 (UTC)
I've fixed two, but I can't seem to spot the third! David Trochos (talk) 19:12, 20 February 2011 (UTC)

Infobox: Result (potential edit war)[edit]

Two editors have revised the "Result" section of this article's Infobox; one to call the result a "Strategic stalemate", the other to dismiss strategic considerations entirely and simply leave "American/French victory". The article makes it clear that neither of these changes is accptable. A "stalemate" is a situation where no worthwhile advantage is gained hy either side, but in this battle, both sides did gain worthwhile advantage (and both sides suffered significant loss). The term "draw" is thus more applicable than "stalemate".

To counter the simplistic assertion of an "American/French victory" without stratgic considerations, here's a relevant passage from the U.S. Naval Academy website ( ), by Dr. J. Scott Harmon, former Director of the Academy Museum and teacher of naval history:

"... it is a battle in which both protagonists were victors, but only one of which truly accomplished his mission. ... Pearson, undoubtedly, accomplished his mission; none of the ships in the convoy were captured, and the loss of one or two warships was little price to pay (except of course for those killed or wounded in the battle) for getting the convoy safely home. ... Jones did gain a notable victory over HMS Serapis, but his mission was not to fight enemy warships." (talk) 17:39, 30 August 2013 (UTC)