Britain and France were at war in 1758, fighting battles across the world. Both countries held North American colonies that were rich in resources and wealth. Britain was determined to seize control of the French colonies.

At this time, a country’s power to invade lay in the strength of its navy. The Royal Navy decided HMS Invincible would play a vital role in this campaign.

Using a French ship to fight the French

Perhaps ironically, Britain used Invincible, a captured French ship, to fight the French in the North American wars.

Royal Navy Admiral George Anson had captured the ship, then named L’Invincible, as a war prize in the Battle of Cape Finisterre in 1747. After the battle the ship was taken to Portsmouth, repaired and put into the service of the Royal Navy.

A first attempt to take Fort Louisbourg

Quebec was a key French colony in North America. The fortress of Louisbourg, in present day Nova Scotia, Canada, guarded access in and out of Quebec by sea. Taking Fort Louisbourg would mean a round trip of several months for a sailing ship like Invincible.

In 1757 Britain sent a fleet of ships, including Invincible, across the Atlantic to attack the fortress. But a hurricane severely damaged the British fleet and the siege was called off. The ships limped home to Portsmouth to be repaired for a second attempt the following year.

A second attempt

By the middle of February 1758, the fleet of ships were repaired and ready to set out for another attack. Invincible was to serve as a command ship once the fleet had assembled for battle. At Portsmouth, Invincible was packed full of food, spirits, sailing gear, ammunition and army supplies, ready to invade.

Her crew numbered  almost 700 men. But she was never to reach North America, or even leave British waters.