The Battle of Flamborough Head in Filey Bay


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A classic sea battle of epic proportions set against the spectacular panorama of the chalk cliffs of Flamborough and Filey Bay

"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast  for I Intend to go in harm's way" - John Paul Jones 

The Bonhomme Richard

During the American War for Independence John Paul Jones commanding the Bonhomme Richard of the newly formed Continental Navy, dared to take on the might of the Royal Navy, and fought to win...

Filey, a jewel set in the ring of Filey Bay. An ancient maritime culture stretching back beyond Viking times, and a silent witness to great maritime adventures. A fitting location for of one of the most classic, and epic battles at sea the Battle of Flamborough Head in 1779.

In the highest traditions of the Royal Navy, Captain Richard Pearson of the British frigate Serapis turns to fight an enemy of superior numbers to defend a vital supply convoy for the Royal Navy.  In an  epic and desperate conflict with Commodore John Paul Jones of the American Continental Navy in the Bonhomme Richard off this inspiring Yorkshire coast, both men were to lose their ships with hundreds dead in blood and fire. For several hours in a deadly sea battle of historical proportions, the battle unfolds with the Bonhomme Richard and the Seraphis lashed together, firing at point blank range through each other, while being attacked by ships of Jones' squadron. At the height of the battle the Richard is on fire and starting to sink. When asked if he wishes to surrender, Jones is credited with responding with the immortal words "I have not yet begun to fight!"  *NB

With his fire ravaged ship being destroyed beneath him, John Paul Jones fights to the end as in a classic action, he captures the Serapis. Fire ravaged and destroyed, the Bonhomme Richard defies all attempts to save her, and sinks close to shore below the waves in Filey Bay.

For many years investigators have searched the cold dark waters off the Yorkshire coast for Commodore Jones's elusive flagship Bonhomme Richard which is the most sought after artefact of the American War for Independence. Its final resting place has remained one of the most endearing enigmas of Filey and the Yorkshire Coast, until today - when the British Company Merlin Burrows have announced its discovery. To all those who have committed men, machines and resources to this dangerous quest and have worked hard in the hope of solving one of the greatest enigmas of our time, we salute them.

The discovery of the Bonhomme Richard allows us to shake hands with history in a manner not previously thought possible with joint cultural links. And we mark the anniversary of this battle in honour of  dead of all Nations who participated in it. 

*NB  "Je ne songe point d me rendre, mais je suis determine d vous faire demander quartier" Morison  Niles Weekly Register 2 (July 4 1812) translates from the French to mean: I do not dream of surrendering, but I am determined to make you strike.

  Anthony Green April 2021.