US Ranger and HMS Drake.

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The duel between USS RANGER and HMS DRAKE:

The North Channel naval duel was a single action between USS RANGER (captain John Paul Jones) and the Royal Navy ship HMS DRAKE (captain George Burton) fought in April 1778 in the North Channel separating Ireland from Scotland .

Ranger entered Belfast Lough with the intention of seizing HMS DRAKE moored off Carrickfergus .

DRAKE had been preparing for action, taking on Irish volunteers to be used for close-quaters combat although there  was a shortage of ammunition. Also absent were the gunner, master’s mate , boatswain and lieutenant. DRAKE got underway at about 8am but with wind and tide against it. A boat was sent to have a closer look at RANGER but the crew was captured and they revealed the number of volunteers onboard DRAKE .

With wind and tide more favourable in the afternoon RANGER moved slowly out but making sure never to get too far ahead of DRAKE. HMS DRAKE was no match for RANGER being build as  a merchant ship and the hull had the wrong shape for rapid battle manoeuvres not designed to resist cannon fire.

The formalites completed they started to exchange broadsides with DRAKE having problems with their cannon and charges of powder. The combatants were very close together but RANGER made sure never to get too close for grappling knowing the presence of the hidden men on board DRAKE. Just under an hour of fight the captain of DRAKE was killed by musket fire. By that time DRAKE’s sails and rigging had been reduced to tatters and therefore being more or less immobilised and shortly after DRAKE had to strike their collars. The duel lasting only one hour and five minutes .


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