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France, early summer 1794. The French Revolution has been hijacked by the extreme Jacobins and is in the grip of The Terror. While the guillotine relentlessly takes the heads of innocents, two vast French and British fleets meet in mid-Atlantic after a week of skirmishing.

The French, in ships painted blood-red and bearing banners proclaiming ‘la République ou la mort!’ are escorting an American grain convoy to Brest to feed a starving population. Their ships are manned by a mutinous revolutionary mob that will fiercely defend their nascent Republic. The British, under the command of Lord Howe, a radical innovator and tactical genius, are bent on destroying it.

Both sides would claim victory in the ensuing battle; and both had reason to do so. For the French, it represented a strategic success since the convoy and its precious cargo made it safely through. But this outcome came at a heavy material cost. In purely numerical terms ‘the Glorious First of June’ was the greatest British naval victory over her oldest enemy for more than a century: six French ships were captured and another sunk; 4,200 French sailors were killed and 3,300 wounded – ten per cent of their entire maritime workforce. These were physical blows from which the French navy would never truly recover, the battle an important precursor of the decisive British victories that would soon follow.

In The Glorious First of June Sam Willis not only tells, with thrilling immediacy and masterly clarity, the gripping story of an epic and complex battle, he places it within the context of The Terror, the survival of the French Revolution and the growth of British sea-power.

The Glorious First of June is the last in ‘The Hearts of Oak trilogy’ and, like The Fighting Temeraire and The Admiral Benbow, is another thrilling account of the Age of Sail by one of our most exciting young historians.


'His portrayal [...] serves as a model for future studies' International Journal of Maritime History.
International Journal of Maritime History
'brilliantly described and analysed ... another truly fine book, perhaps the best yet ... one of the most important contributions to naval historiography of 2011 and is very highly recommended' Navy News.
Navy News
'With a great gift for making complex events exceptionally clear, and an authentically salty understanding of the workings of wind, sea, sail and rig ... this [is a] brilliant and subtly nuanced account of the battle' Sunday Times.
Sunday Times
'Those who would attempt to explain a great battle at sea in the age of sail need salt water in their veins, and a skilled pen. In this marvellous book Dr Sam Willis proves that he has both' BBC History Magazine.
BBC History Magazine
'Willis brings a welcome pace and energy to what might otherwise have been a dry account of a rarely remembered sea battle' Glasgow Sunday Herald.
Glasgow Sunday Herald
'staggeringly rich in detail, well-researched and with prose so finely crafted' Warships International Fleet Review.
International Fleet Review
'one of the things that makes Willis such a joy to read is the blazing clarity of his explanations. By the time you've finished his book you'll appreciate every nuance of naval tactics' Mail on Sunday.
Mail on Sunday
'Willis's matchless grasp of historical detail brings it vividly to life' Mail on Sunday.
Mail on Sunday
'It is a journey not soon forgotten' Pirates and Privateers.
Pirates and Privateers

Hearts of Oak Trilogy