The action was the culmination of a campaign that had criss-crossed the Bay of Biscay over the previous month. Both sides had captured numerous merchant ships and minor warships and had engaged in two partial, but inconclusive, fleet actions. The aftermath of 1 June 1794 left both fleets shattered and in no condition for further combat. Despite losing seven ships of the line, Villaret bought enough time for the French grain convoy to reach safety. However, he was also forced to withdraw his battle-fleet to port, leaving the British free to conduct a campaign of blockade for the remainder of the war. Both sides claimed victory. The result of the battle was seized upon by the press of both nations as a shining example of the prowess and bravery of their respective navies.
The Glorious First of June demonstrated some of the major problems inherent in the French and British navies at the start of the Revolutionary Wars—both admirals, faced with disobedience from their captains and ill-discipline and poor training among their crews, failed to control their fleets effectively. Both fleets suffered further from a shortage of crewmen and reliable officers.
Protected from immediate invasion by the English Channel, Britain prepared for an extensive naval campaign and dispatched troops to the Netherlands for service against the French. Throughout the remainder of 1793, the British and French navies undertook minor operations in Northern waters, the Mediterranean and the West and East Indies, where both nations maintained colonies. The only major clash was the Siege of Toulon, a confused and bloody affair in which the British force holding the town—alongside Spanish, Sardinian, Austrian and French Royalist troops—had to be evacuated by the Royal Navy to prevent its imminent defeat at the hands of the French Republican army. The aftermath of this siege was punctuated by recriminations and accusations of cowardice and betrayal among the allies, eventually resulting in Spain switching allegiance with the signing of the Treaty of San Ildefonso two years later. Nevertheless, the siege produced one major success: Sir Sidney Smith, with parties of sailors from the retreating British fleet, accomplished the destruction of substantial French naval stores and shipping in Toulon. More might have been achieved had the Spanish raiding parties that accompanied Smith not been issued with secret orders to stall the destruction of the French fleet.
The situation in Europe remained volatile into 1794. Off Northern France, the French Atlantic Fleet had mutinied due to errors in provisions and pay. In consequence, the French Navy officer corps suffered greatly from the effects of The Terror, with many experienced sailors being executed, imprisoned or dismissed from the service for perceived disloyalty. The shortage of provisions was more than a navy problem though; France itself was starving because the social upheavals of the previous year had combined with a harsh winter to ruin the harvest. By this time at war with all her neighbours, France had nowhere to turn for overland imports of fresh provisions. Eventually a solution to the food crisis was agreed by the National Convention: food produced in France's overseas colonies would be concentrated on board a fleet of merchant ships gathered in Chesapeake Bay, and augmented with food and goods purchased from the United States. During April and May 1794, the merchantmen would convoy the supplies across the Atlantic to Brest, protected by elements of the French Atlantic Fleet.
Since the Spanish armament of 1790, the British Royal Navy had been at sea in a state of readiness for over three years. Due to extensive preparations under First Lord of the Admiralty Charles Middleton, the Navy's dockyards were all fully fitted and prepared for conflict, lessons having been learnt from the disasters of the American Revolutionary War ten years earlier. Then, an ill-prepared Royal Navy had taken too long to reach full effectiveness. As a result the Navy had been unable to support the North American campaign, which ended in defeat at the Battle of Yorktown due to lack of supplies. With British dockyards now readily turning out cannon, shot, sails, provisions and other essential equipment, the only remaining problem was that of manning the several hundred ships on the Navy list.
Gathering sufficient manpower proved problematic, and was never satisfactorily accomplished throughout the entire war. The shortage of seamen was such that the press gangs were forced to take thousands of men with no experience of the sea, and whose training and preparation for naval life would take quite some time. The lack of Royal Marines was even more urgent, and soldiers from the British Army were drafted into the fleet for service at sea. Men of the Queen's Royal Regiment and the 29th Regiment of Foot served aboard Royal Navy ships during the campaign; their descendant regiments still maintain the battle honour "1 June 1794".
Despite these difficulties, the Channel Fleet was possessed of some of the best naval commanders of the age; its commander-in-chief, Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe, had learned his trade under Sir Edward Hawke and fought at the Battle of Quiberon Bay. In the spring of 1794, with the French convoy's arrival in European waters imminent, Howe had dispersed his fleet in three groups. George Montagu, in HMS Hector, was sent with six ships of the line and two frigates to guard British convoys to the East Indies, West Indies and Newfoundland as far as Cape Finisterre. Peter Rainier, in HMS ''Suffolk and commanding six other ships, was to escort the convoys for the rest of their passage. The third force consisted of 26 ships of the line, with several supporting vessels, under Howe's direct command. They were to patrol the Bay of Biscay for the arriving French.
In contrast to their British counterparts, the French Navy was in a state of confusion. Although the quality of the fleet's ships was high, the fleet hierarchy was riven by the same crises that had torn through France since the Revolution five years earlier. Consequently the high standard of ships and ordnance was not matched by that of the available crews, which were largely untrained and inexperienced. With The Terror resulting in the death or dismissal of many senior French sailors and officers, political appointees and conscripts—many of whom had never been to sea at all, let alone in a fighting vessel—filled the Atlantic fleet.
The manpower problem was compounded by the supply crisis which was affecting the entire nation, with the fleet going unpaid and largely unfed for months at times. In August 1793, these problems came to a head in the fleet off Brest, when a lack of provisions resulted in a mutiny among the regular sailors. The crews overruled their officers and brought their ships into harbour in search of food, leaving the French coast undefended. The National Convention responded instantly by executing a swathe of senior officers and ship's non-commissioned officers. Hundreds more officers and sailors were imprisoned, banished or dismissed from naval service. The effect of such a draconian move was devastating, seriously degrading the fighting ability of the fleet by removing at a stroke many of its most capable personnel. In their places were promoted junior officers, merchant captains and even civilians who expressed sufficient revolutionary zeal, although few of them knew how to fight or control a battle fleet at sea.
The newly-appointed commander of this troubled fleet was Villaret de Joyeuse; although formerly in a junior position, he proved to possess a high degree of tactical ability. However, Villaret's attempts to mould his new officer corps into an effective fighting unit were continually hampered by another new appointee, a deputy of the National Convention named Jean-Bon Saint-André. Saint-André's job was to report directly to the National Convention on the revolutionary ardour of both the fleet and its admiral. He frequently intervened in strategic planning and tactical operations. Although a thorn in the side of Villaret, Saint-André's dispatches to Paris were published regularly in Le Moniteur, and did much to popularise the Navy in France.
The French Atlantic fleet was even more dispersed than the British in the spring of 1794: Rear-Admiral Pierre Vanstabel had been dispatched, with five ships including two of the line, to meet the much-needed French grain convoy off the American eastern seaboard. Rear-Admiral Joseph-Marie Nielly had sailed from Rochefort with five ships of the line and assorted cruising warships to rendezvous with the convoy in the mid-Atlantic. This left Villaret with 25 ships of the line at Brest, to meet the threat posed by the British fleet under Lord Howe.
The convoy had also been augmented by the United States government, in both cargo and shipping, as repayment for French financial, moral and military support during the American Revolution. In supporting the French Revolution in this way, the American government, urged especially by Ambassador Gouverneur Morris, was fulfilling its ten year old debt to France. However, the friendly relationship between the two nations did not long survive the atrocities of The Terror; four years later the two would be at loggerheads in the Quasi War.
The French convoy, escorted by Vanstabel, departed America from Virginia on 2 April, and Howe sailed from Portsmouth on 2 May, taking his entire fleet to both escort British convoys to the Western Approaches and intercept the French. Checking that Villaret was still in Brest, Howe spent two weeks searching the Bay of Biscay for the grain convoy, returning to Brest on 18 May to discover that Villaret had sailed the previous day. Returning to sea in search of his opponent, Howe pursued Villaret deep into the Atlantic. Also at sea during this period were the squadrons of Nielly (French) and Montagu (British), both of whom had met with some success; Nielly capturing a number of British merchant ships and Montagu taking several back. Nielly was the first to encounter the grain convoy, deep in the Atlantic in the second week of May. He took it under escort as it moved closer to Europe, while Montagu was searching fruitlessly to the south.
Despite Howe's pursuit, the main French sortie also found success, running into a Dutch convoy and taking 20 ships from it on Villaret's first day at sea. For the next week Howe continued to follow the French, seizing and burning a trail of French-held Dutch ships and enemy corvettes. On 25 May Howe spotted a straggler from Villaret's fleet and gave chase; Audacieux led Howe straight to his opponent's location. Having finally found Villaret, on 28 May Howe attacked, using a flying squadron of his fastest ships to cut off its rearmost vessel Révolutionnaire. This first rate was at various times engaged with six British ships and took heavy damage, possibly striking her colours late in the action. As darkness fell the British and French fleets separated, leaving Révolutionnaire and her final enemy, HMS Audacious, still locked in combat behind them. These two ships parted company during the night and eventually returned to their respective home ports. By this stage Villaret knew through his patrolling frigates that the grain convoy was close, and deliberately took his fleet to the west, hoping to decoy Howe away from the vital convoy.
Taking the bait, the following day Howe attacked again, but his attempt to split the French fleet in half was unsuccessful when his lead ship, HMS Caesar, failed to follow orders. Much damage was done to both fleets but the action was inconclusive, and the two forces again separated without having settled the issue. Howe had however gained an important advantage during the engagement by seizing the weather gage, enabling him to further attack Villaret at a time of his choosing. Three French ships were sent back to port with damage, but these losses were offset by reinforcements gained the following day with the arrival of Nielly's detached squadron. Battle was postponed during the next two days because of thick fog, but when the haze lifted on 1 June 1794, the battle lines were only 6 miles (10 km) apart and Howe was prepared to force a decisive action.
Although Howe was in a favourable position, Villaret had not been idle during the night. He had attempted, with near success, to distance his ships from the British fleet; when dawn broke at 05:00 he was within a few hours of gaining enough wind to escape over the horizon. Allowing his men to breakfast, Howe took full advantage of his position on the weather gage to close with Villaret, and by 08:12 the British fleet was just four miles (6 km) from the enemy. By this time, Howe's formation was strung out in an organised line parallel to the French, with frigates acting as repeaters for the admiral's commands. The French were likewise in line ahead and the two lines began exchanging long-range gunfire at 09:24, whereupon Howe unleashed his innovative battleplan.
It was normal in fleet actions of the 18th century for the two lines of battle to pass one another sedately, exchanging fire at long ranges and then wearing away, often without either side losing a ship or taking an enemy. In contrast, Howe was counting on the professionalism of his captains and crews combined with the advantage of the weather gage to attack the French directly, driving through their line. However, this time he did not plan to manoeuvre in the way he had during the two previous encounters; each ship following in the wake of that in front to create a new line arrowing through his opponent's force (as Rodney had done at the Battle of the Saintes 12 years earlier). Instead, Howe ordered each of his ships to turn individually towards the French line, intending to breach it at every point and rake the French ships at both bow and stern. The British captains would then pull up on the leeward side of their opposite numbers, cutting them off from their retreat downwind, and engage them directly, hopefully forcing each to surrender and consequently destroying the French Atlantic Fleet.
Although Queen Charlotte pressed on all sail, she was not the first through the enemy line. That distinction belonged to a ship of the van squadron under Admiral Graves—HMS Defence under Captain James Gambier, a notoriously dour officer nicknamed "Dismal Jimmy" by his contemporaries. Defence, the seventh ship of the British line, successfully cut the French line between its sixth and seventh ships; Mucius and Tourville. Raking both opponents, Defence soon found herself in difficulty due to the failure of those ships behind her to properly follow up. This left her vulnerable to Mucius, Tourville and the ships following them, with which she began a furious fusillade. However, Defence was not the only ship of the van to break the French line; minutes later George Cranfield-Berkeley in HMS Marlborough executed Howe's manoeuvre perfectly, raking and then entangling his ship with Impétueux.
In front of Marlborough the rest of the van had mixed success. HMS Bellerophon and HMS Leviathan were both still suffering the effects of their exertions earlier in the week and did not breach the enemy line. Instead they pulled along the near side of Éole and America respectively and brought them to close gunnery duels. Rear-Admiral Thomas Pasley of Bellerophon was an early casualty, losing a leg in the opening exchanges. HMS Royal Sovereign, Graves's flagship, was less successful due to a miscalculation of distance that resulted in her pulling up too far from the French line and coming under heavy fire from her opponent Terrible. In the time it took to engage Terrible more closely, Royal Sovereign suffered a severe pounding and Admiral Graves was badly wounded.
More disturbing to Lord Howe were the actions of HMS Russell and HMS Caesar. Russell's captain John Willett Payne was criticised at the time for failing to get to grips with the enemy more closely and allowing her opponent Téméraire to badly damage her rigging in the early stages, although later commentators blamed damage received on 29 May for her poor start to the action. There were no such excuses, however, for Captain Anthony Molloy of Caesar, who totally failed in his duty to engage the enemy. Molloy completely ignored Howe's signal and continued ahead as if the British battleline was following him rather than engaging the French fleet directly. Caesar did participate in a desultory exchange of fire with the leading French ship Trajan but her fire had little effect, while Trajan inflicted much damage to Caesar's rigging and was subsequently able to attack Bellerophon as well, roaming unchecked through the melee developing at the head of the line.
Howe and Queen Charlotte led the fleet by example, sailing directly at the French flagship Montagne. Passing between Montagne and the next in line Vengeur du Peuple, Queen Charlotte raked both and hauled up close to Montagne to engage in a close-range artillery battle. As she did so, Queen Charlotte also became briefly entangled with Jacobin, and exchanged fire with her too, causing serious damage to both French ships.
To the right of Queen Charlotte, HMS Brunswick had initially struggled to join the action. Labouring behind the flagship, her captain John Harvey received a rebuke from Howe for the delay. Spurred by this signal, Harvey pushed his ship forward and almost outstripped Queen Charlotte, blocking her view of the eastern half of the French fleet for a time and taking severe damage from French fire as she did so. Harvey hoped to run aboard Jacobin and support his admiral directly, but was not fast enough to reach her and so attempted to cut between Achille and Vengeur du Peuple. This manoeuvre failed when Brunswick's anchors became entangled in Vengeur's rigging. Harvey's master asked if Vengeur should be cut loose, to which Harvey replied "No; we have got her and we will keep her". The two ships swung so close to one another that Brunswick's crew could not open their gunports and had to fire through the closed lids, the ships battering one another from a distance of just a few feet.
Behind this combat, other ships of the centre division struck the French line, HMS Valiant passing close to Patriote which pulled away, her crew suffering from contagion and unable to take their ship into battle. Valiant instead turned her attention on Achille, which had already been raked by Queen Charlotte and Brunswick, and badly damaged her before pressing on sail to join the embattled van division. HMS Orion under John Thomas Duckworth and HMS Queen under Admiral Alan Gardner both attacked the same ship, Queen suffering severely from the earlier actions in which her masts were badly damaged and her captain John Hutt mortally wounded. Both ships bore down on the French Northumberland, which was soon dismasted and left attempting to escape on only the stump of a mast. Queen was too slow to engage Northumberland as closely as Orion, and soon fell in with Jemmappes, both ships battering one another severely.
Three other British ships failed to respond to the signal from Howe, including HMS Alfred which engaged the French line at extreme range without noticeable effect, and Captain Charles Cotton in HMS Majestic who likewise did little until the action was decided, at which point he took the surrender of several already shattered French ships. Finally HMS Thunderer under Albemarle Bertie took no part in the initial action at all, standing well away from the British line and failing to engage the enemy despite the signal for close engagement hanging limply from her mainmast. The French rear ships were no less idle, with Entreprenant and Pelletier firing at any British ships in range but refusing to close or participate in the melees on either side. The French rear ship Scipion did not attempt to join the action either, but could not avoid becoming embroiled in the group around Royal George and Républicain and suffered severe damage.
Russell had not broken the French line and her opponent Témeraire got the better of her, knocking away a topmast and escaping to windward with Trajan and Eole. Russell then fired on several passing French ships before joining Leviathan in attacking the centre of the French line. Russell's boats also took the surrender of America, her crew boarding the vessel to make her a prize (although later replaced by men from Royal Sovereign). Royal Sovereign lost Admiral Graves to a serious wound and lost her opponent as well, as Terrible fell out of the line to windward and joined a growing collection of French ships forming a new line on the far side of the action. Villaret was leading this line in his flagship Montagne, which had escaped from Queen Charlotte, and it was Montagne which Royal Sovereign engaged next, pursuing her close to the new French line accompanied by Valiant, and beginning a long-range action.
Behind Royal Sovereign was Marlborough, inextricably tangled with Impétueux. Badly damaged and on the verge of surrender, Impétueux was briefly reprieved when Mucius appeared through the smoke and collided with both ships. The three entangled ships continued exchanging fire for some time, all suffering heavy casualties with Marlborough and Impétueux losing all three of their masts. This combat continued for several hours. Captain Berkeley of Marlborough had to retire below with serious wounds, and command fell to Lieutenant John Monkton, who signalled for help from the frigates in reserve. Marlborough was rescued by HMS Aquilon, who towed her out of the line as Mucius freed herself and made for the regrouped French fleet to the north. Impétueux was in too damaged a state to move at all, and was soon seized by sailors from HMS Russell.
Dismasted, Defence was unable to hold any of her various opponents to a protracted duel, and by 13:00 was threatened by the damaged Républicain moving from the east. Although Républicain later hauled off to join Villaret to the north, Gambier requested support for his ship from the fleet's frigates and was aided by HMS Phaeton under Captain William Bentinck. Phaeton was fired on by Impétueux as she passed, to which Bentinck responded with several broadsides of his own. Invincible, the only ship of the forward division of the British centre to engage the enemy closely, became embroiled in the confusion surrounding Queen Charlotte. Invincible's guns drove Juste onto the broadside of Queen Charlotte, where she was forced to surrender to Lieutenant Henry Blackwood in a boat from Invincible. Among the other ships of the division there were only minor casualties, although HMS Impregnable lost several yards and was only brought back into line by the quick reactions of two junior officers, Lieutenant Robert Otway and Midshipman Charles Dashwood.
The conflict between Queen Charlotte and Montagne was oddly one sided, the French flagship failing to make use of her lower-deck guns and consequently suffering extensive damage and casualties. Queen Charlotte in her turn was damaged by fire from nearby ships and was therefore unable to follow when Montagne set her remaining sails and slipped to the north to create a new focal point for the survivors of the French fleet. Queen Charlotte also took fire during the engagement from HMS Gibraltar, under Thomas Mackenzie, which had failed to close with the enemy and instead fired at random into the smoke bank surrounding the flagship. Captain Sir Andrew Snape Douglas was seriously wounded by this fire. Following Montagne's escape, Queen Charlotte engaged Jacobin and Républicain as they passed, and was successful in forcing the surrender of Juste. To the east of Queen Charlotte, Brunswick and Vengeur du Peuple continued their bitter combat, locked together and firing main broadsides from point blank range. Captain Harvey of Brunswick was mortally wounded early in this action by langrage fire from Vengeur, but refused to quit the deck, ordering more fire into his opponent. Brunswick also managed to drive Achille off from her far side when the French ship attempted to intervene. Achille, already damaged, was totally dismasted in the exchange and briefly surrendered, although her crew rescinded this when it became clear Brunswick was in no position to take possession. With her colours rehoisted, Achille then made what sail she could in an attempt to join Villaret to the north. It was not until 12:45 that the shattered Vengeur and Brunswick pulled apart, both largely dismasted and very battered. Brunswick was only able to return to the British side of the line after being supported by Ramillies, while Vengeur was unable to move at all. Ramillies took Vengeur's surrender after a brief cannonade but was unable to board her and instead pursued the fleeing Achille, which soon surrendered as well.
To the east, Orion and Queen forced the surrender of both Northumberland and Jemmappes, although Queen was unable to secure Jemmappes and she had to be abandoned later. Queen especially was badly damaged and unable to make the British lines again, wallowing between the newly reformed French fleet and the British battleline along with several other shattered ships. Royal George and Glory had between them disabled Scipion and Sans Pareil in a bitter exchange, but were also too badly damaged themselves to take possession. All four ships were among those left drifting in the gap between the fleets.
In fact, the British fleet was unable to pursue Villaret, having only 11 ships still capable of battle to the French 12, and having numerous dismasted ships and prizes to protect. Retiring and regrouping, the British crews set about making hasty repairs and securing their prizes; seven in total, including the badly damaged Vengeur du Peuple. Vengeur had been holed by cannon firing from Brunswick directly through the ship's bottom, and after her surrender no British ship had managed to get men aboard. This left Vengeur's few remaining unwounded crew to attempt to salvage what they could—a task made harder when some of her sailors broke into the spirit room and became drunk. Ultimately the ship's pumps became unmanageable, and Vengeur began to sink. Only the timely arrival of boats from the undamaged Alfred and HMS Culloden, as well as the services of the cutter HMS Rattler, saved any of the Vengeur's crew from drowning, these ships taking off nearly 500 sailors between them. Lieutenant John Winne of Rattler was especially commended for this hazardous work. By 18:15, Vengeur was clearly beyond salvage and only the very worst of the wounded, the dead and the drunk remained aboard. Several sailors are said to have waved the tricolour from the bow of the ship and cried "Vive la Nation, vive la République!
Having escaped to the east, Villaret made what sail his battered fleet could muster to return to France, and dispatched his frigates in search of the convoy. Villaret was also hoping for reinforcements; eight ships of the line, commanded by Admiral Pierre-François Cornic, were patrolling near the Ushant headland. Behind him to the west, the British took the whole night to secure their ships and prizes, not setting out to return to Britain until 05:00 on 2 June.
Casualties in the battle are notoriously hard to calculate exactly. With only one exception aboard Scipion, records made by the French captains of their losses at the time are incomplete. The only immediately available casualty counts are the sketchy reports of Saint-André and the records made by British officers aboard the captured ships, neither of which can be treated as completely reliable. Most sources accept that French casualties in the campaign numbered approximately 7,000, including around 3,000 captured, but these figures are vague and frequently do not agree with each other on details. British casualties are easier to confirm but here too there are some discrepancies; overall British casualties are generally given as around 1,200.
Howe benefited from Montagu's withdrawal, as his own battered fleet passed close to the scene of this stand-off on 10 June, pushing north into the English Channel. With Villaret and Cornic fortuitously pursuing Montagu to the south, Howe was free to pass Ushant without difficulty and arrived off Plymouth on 12 June, joined soon afterwards by Montagu. Villaret had anchored with Cornic in Bertheaume Bay the day before, but Saint-André refused to allow him to enter Brest until the republican attitudes of the town's population had been assessed. On 12 June, the convoy from America finally arrived off France, having lost just one ship in passage during a storm.
Ultimately the revolutionary excesses of the period would prove disastrous for the French Navy. Poor leadership, conflicting and arbitrary orders and the decimation of the experienced seamen in the ranks promoted a negative attitude in the French officer corps. The French battlefleet did not contest British dominance in Northern European waters again, and their raiding operations repeatedly ended in failure at the hands of more confident British squadrons and the unforgiving Atlantic weather. By 1805, when the last great French fleet to take to the sea was crushed at the Battle of Trafalgar, poor training and low investment in the Navy had reduced its efficiency to levels unthinkable 20 years earlier.
In Britain, numerous honours were bestowed on the fleet and its commanders. Admiral Howe, already an earl, refused any further elevation, and King George III was dissuaded from making him a Knight of the Garter by one of Howe's political opponents. Vice-Admiral Graves was elevated to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Graves, while Vice-Admiral Hood was made Viscount Bridport. Rear-Admirals Bowyer, Gardner, Pasley and Curtis (the last-named was promoted from Captain on 4 July 1794) were all made baronets, and Bowyer and Pasley also received pensions of £1,000 a year to compensate them for their severe wounds. All first lieutenants were promoted to commander and numerous other officers were promoted in consequence of their actions. The thanks of parliament were unanimously passed to all who fought at the action and various other gifts and awards were distributed among the fleet. A memorial to Captains John Hutt and John Harvey, both of whom had died of their wounds on 30 June, was raised in Westminster Abbey.
There was, however, a bitter consequence of the awards, rooted in Howe's official dispatch to the Admiralty concerning the battle, which according to some accounts was actually written by Curtis. Howe had appended a list to his report containing the names of officers whom he believed merited special reward for their part in the battle. The list included Vice-Admirals Graves and Hood, Rear-Admirals Bowyer, Gardner and Pasley, Captains Seymour, Pakenham, Cranfield-Berkeley, Gambier, John Harvey, Payne, Henry Harvey, Pringle, Duckworth, Elphinstone, Nichols and Hope. Also mentioned were Lieutenants Monkton and Donnelly. The list had omitted a number of officers who had served in the battle, and the justice of their omission was a highly controversial issue in the Navy. Rear-Admiral Caldwell was the sole British flag officer present not to receive a hereditary honour, although he was promoted to Vice-Admiral on 4 July (as were Bowyer and Gardner). After studying the ship's logs and reports of the battle, the Admiralty minted a medal to be awarded to the living captains on the list only (although Captain William Parker of HMS Audacious was awarded one as well). The captains excluded from the list were furious, and the furore from this selective commendation lasted years: in 1795 Vice-Admiral Caldwell quit the service in anger as a result, while Cuthbert Collingwood, flag captain of Barfleur, refused all awards for future service until the Glorious First of June medal was presented to him as well. He eventually received it after the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797.
Bitterest of all was the whispering campaign directed at Anthony Molloy, captain of HMS Caesar. Molloy was accused of cowardice by fellow officers for his failure to follow Howe's orders on both 29 May and 1 June. Requesting an official court-martial to clear his name, Molloy's legal bid failed, and although his personal courage was not called into question, his professional ability was. Molloy was dismissed from his ship, a punishment which effectively fired him from the Navy.
Of the captured ships, several enjoyed long careers in the Royal Navy, in particular the two 80-gun ships HMS Sans Pareil which was decommissioned in 1802 but not broken up until 1842, and HMS Juste, which was a popular command until her decommissioning in 1802 at the Peace of Amiens. Of the four 74-gun prizes, Achille and Northumberland (both 74s built in the late 1770s) were broken up as unserviceable soon after arrival in Britain, while Impétueux was destroyed in a dockyard fire on 24 August 1794 while undergoing repairs. America, the final prize, was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS America but renamed HMS Impetueux in July 1795 and remained in service until 1813.