1702 – English expedition against Terre-Neuve

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1702 – English expedition against Terre-Neuve

The campaign lasted from August to October 1702


At the time of the declaration of war in 1702, Thomas Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was Lord High Admiral of Great Britain. However, Queen Anne appointed Prince George of Denmark to supersede him. It was intended to open the war with an expedition against Cádiz to encourage a rising in Andalusia on behalf of the Habsburg candidate. In June, it was also decided to send an expedition against the French settlements and fisheries on the southern coast of Newfoundland.

On 20 June 1702, the Admiralty informed Captain John Leake that he had been chosen to take command of a squadron for an expedition against Newfoundland.

On 5 July, Leake received his commission as commodore along with instructions to investigate the military strength of the French in Newfoundland, and to "annoy them there in their fishing harbours and at sea".

In fact most French settlements on Newfoundland were used only during summer by fishing ships making the journey from France each year. Plaisance was the only permanent French settlement (a few hundreds inhabitants). It was fortified and guarded by a small garrison under the command of Philippe Pastour de Costebelle, a captain of the colonial troupes de la marine. The only other permanent settlement was located on Saint Pierre Island, located south of Newfoundland. This small settlement was weakly fortified. Its governor was Sébastien Le Gouès, Sieur de Sourdeval.


Map of the English expedition against Newfoundland in 1702 based on a map published in Wikimedia Commons by user Coach.nyta and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license


On 2 August 1702, Leake sailed from Plymouth with a squadron consisting of 9 vessels:

  • Exeter (60)
  • Assistance (50)
  • Montagu (60)
  • Lichfield (54)
  • Medway (60)
  • Reserve (48)
  • Charles Galley (36)
  • Looe (32)
  • Firebrand (28)

On 6 September, Leake's squadron arrived at Bay Bulls on Newfoundland where he was informed that 2 French fishing ships were currently at Baie des Trépassés (present-day Trepassey Bay) and that 2 French warships were at anchor near Plaisance. Leake immediately sailed for the French settlements.

On 8 September, Leake's squadron captured a French ship arriving from the West Indies, the two fishing ships loading at Baie des Trépassés and 2 other ships who had been chased and captured by the Lichfield (54). Meanwhile, the Montagu (60) set in pursuit of other ships.

On 9 September, Leake's squadron captured another French ship in Baie Sainte-Marie (present-day St. Mary's Bay). The Montagu (60) rejoined the squadron with 3 prizes.

Leake then sent the Montagu (60), Lichfield (54) and Charles Galley (36) against the French settlement of Colinet while he sailed for Sainte-Marie (present-day St. Mary's) with the rest of his squadron.

At Sainte-Marie, Leake chased a ship who ran aground. He then sent out boats to refloat her and landed parties who destroyed fishing stages, houses, shipbuilding equipment, unfinished ships, and many small boats. Meanwhile, the detachment sent against Colinet destroyed the fishing facilities there.

On 10 September, the detachment rejoined Leake's squadron. Leake detached a few ships to escort his prizes to St. John's, instructing them to cruise off Cape Race for 14 days looking for prizes. He also detached the Montagu (60) and Lichfield (54) to destroy Saint-Laurent (present-day St. Lawrence). Leake then sailed for Saint-Pierre Island with the rest of his squadron.

On 7 October, Leake landed a detachment to lay siege to the small fort on Saint-Pierre.

On 8 October, Leake landed a second detachment (400 men). After an exchange of fire that lasted a few hours, Governor Sourdeval surrendered the place. Leake destroyed most fishing facilities and, leaving 52 prisoners captured on Newfoundland, sailed away.

After reuniting his squadron, Leake divided it for the return to England:

  • Montagu (60) and Looe (32) escorted merchants and prizes sailing for Portugal
  • Reserve (48), Charles Galley (36) and Firebrand (28) escorted merchants and prizes sailing for England
  • Exeter (60), Assistance (50), Lichfield (54) and Medway (60) remained with Leake

With his 4 remaining ships, Leake cruised off Cape Race for several weeks, capturing 8 additional prizes.

At the end of October, Leake sailed for England, leaving 2 ships at St. John's for its defence.


During this expedition, Leake had captured 51 ships and destroyed 6 French settlements: Trépassés, Sainte-Marie, Colinet, Great and Little Saint-Laurent and Saint Pierre.

Leake was promoted to rear-admiral for his actions.

However, the destruction of 6 seasonal settlements was far from a decisive victory and war continued for several years in Newfoundland.


Dictionary of Canadian Biography – Leake, Sir John

Wikipedia – Newfoundland expedition (1702)