Luis Vicente de Velasco e Isla
Luis Vicente Velasco de Isla (February 9, 1711 - July 31, 1762) was a Spanish sailor and commander in the Royal Spanish Navy. He is known for his valiant defense against the British expedition against Cuba in 1762, during which action he was killed.
In 1742 he was in command of a frigate with 30 guns, when he attacked two British ships with more guns, capturing one and sinking the other. He rescued the British crew and arrived in Havana with more prisoners than his own crew. in 1746 he captured another British frigate with 36 guns and 150 men. In 1754 King Ferdinand VI of Spain gave him command of the Ship of the line, "La Reina".
Battle of Havana and death
During the Seven Years' War the British sent an expedition against Cuba in 1762 with a fleet of 23 ships, 24 frigates and 150 transport and support ships, carrying an invasion army of 14,000 men, later reinforced by another 4,000 men, under command of Admiral George Pocock. 10,000 men embarked under command of George Keppel, 3rd Earl of Albemarle and conquered the heights, which the governor of Cuba, Juan de Prado had left undefended.
Velasco defended the vital Morro Castle with 64 heavy guns and a garrison of 700 men. On July 1, the British launched a combined land and naval attack on the Morro. The fleet detached four ships of the line for this purpose: HMS Stirling Castle, HMS Dragon, HMS Marlborough and HMS Cambridge. The naval and land artilleries simultaneously opened fire on the Morro. However, naval guns were ineffective, the fort being located too high. Counter-fire from 30 guns of the Morro inflicted 192 casualties and serious damage to the four ships of the line, forcing them to withdraw.
The fortress held out for another two months despite daily heavy shelling, thanks to the energetic and valiant leadership of Velasco. The resistance came to an end when Velasco was hit by a bullet in the chest. The leader of the British attack force, Sir Reppel, allowed the transfer of the heavily wounded Velasco to Havana, where British surgeons tried to save his life, but in vain; he died on July 31, 1762. The British and Spanish concluded a truce to allow for his burial.
Two weeks later, Havana fell into British hands.
Velasco was honoured by Spanish and British for his bravery. There is a monument in his honour in Westminster Abbey and in the Tower of London, where the Spanish standard of El Morro is kept. British ships fired a salute until the beginning of the 20th century, when passing his hometown Noja.
- Pocock, Tom: Battle for Empire: The very first world war 1756-63. Chapter Six
- Thomas, Hugh: Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom 2nd edition. Chapter One