Cromwell had been coveting the port of Dunkirk and hoped to take it from the French. In France, Prince Conde had "revived the Fronde". Prince Conde had asked for help from both Spain and England. Cromwell was reluctant to get involved. Cromwell's emissary, Fitzjames, proposed to the governor of Dunkirk, Estrades, that Dunkirk be "ceded to England". Estrades had communicated with his government, which gave their consent to Estrades to continue negotiations, hoping that Dunkirk might receive an English garrison. Cardinal Mazarin was now back in charge in France, and he took steps to supply Dunkirk, which was beseiged by Spain. The French garrison had munitied, however, as they had not received their pay. In March, when Estrades was ready to bring in the English, they balked. Cardinal Mazarin had also reservations that caused him to be opposed to the plan. They had suppressed the mutiny, and a relief expedition with supplies was being prepared.
The squadron consisted of 8 ships and 6 fireships:
Triton 31 guns flagship Captain Du Menillet captured "Shepherd" 29 guns Captain Boismorand csptured "Gift of God" 30 guns Captain La Carte captured "Duchess" 22 guns Captain La Roche captured "Crescent" 26 guns Captain Villedot captured "Hunter" 28 guns Captain Verdille St. Louis 28 guns Captain De Gorris captured Le Fort Captain Verger 6 fireships The "Caesar", "Virgin", and "Anna", along with fireships, stayed at Dieppe.There is less information about the English fleet, but we know that they had the Sovereign (86 guns) and Resolution (68 guns), Blake's flagship. The Sovereign led the attack, which took 14 ships, including the 6 fireships and an 8-gun Calais frigate. The supply ships for Dunkirk were dispersed. Another report included the "Hunter" in the list of ships captured. A French report says that only the "Shepherd" escaped to Le Havre.
The list prepared by Pierre Le Conte includes mention of ships taken by the English in 1652. This list omits the article (l', le, la). The ship list includes the following:
Fort 26 guns Built in Holland in 1646 400-500 tons Triton 26-30 guns Built in Holland in 1638 and purchased 400-500 tons Duchesse 16 guns Built at Brest in 1644 200 tons Don de Dieu 26 guns hired in 1652 480 tons Neptune Saint-Louis Croissant Chasseur de Saint MaloThis list may include a ship or two taken at some other time. Sources:
- Pierre Le Conte, Lists of Men of War, Part II: French Ships, 1648-1700, 1935.
- J. R. Powell, "Blake's Capture of the French Fleet before Calais, 4 September 1652", Mariner's Mirror 48 (1962), pp.192-201.