On 22nd of October 1707 one of the British Navy’s greatest tragedies – the Isles of Scilly shipwreck of 1707, in which four ships and over 1300 men were lost took place.
Sir Cloudesley Shovell , Admiral of the fleet, was returning to England on his flagship the Association, and 20 other navy vessels, after a failed attempt to take Toulon.
It should have been a routine voyage in well-known waters, even though they hit gales as they headed northwards. Just over three weeks later, Shovell ordered his ships to heave to and check their position by measuring the depth and sampling the seabed. This led them to believe that they were safely heading into the English Channel and could run eastwards before a favourable gale. At about eight in the evening on 22 October, however, the crews on several of the ships spotted rocks and the glow of the St Agnes lighthouse. They were fast approaching the dangerous rocks and reefs surrounding the Isles of Scilly. The ships fired their guns as warnings, but the Association struck the Outer Gilstone Rock and soon sank. The Romney and Firebrand sank on the same rocks, while the Eagle went down off Tearing Ledge. – Royal Museums Greenwich
Of the ships’ crews, only George Lawrence, quartermaster of the Romney, and 23 men from the Firebrand survived. The Isles of Scilly disaster was the Navy’s greatest loss in a non-combat situation. The exact number of officers, sailors and marines who were killed in the sinking of the four ships is unknown. See also: Scilly naval disaster of 1707
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