At daylight on the 17th February, Alexander sighted ships to windward, and Lt. Harrington fired a gun and made the appropriate ‘enemy in sight’ flag signal.
Nelson on Foudroyant, in company with Northumberland, Audacious and El Corso, saw Alexander in chase of a line-of-battle ship, three frigates, a corvette and some transports. At 0800 hrs, one of the armed store ships, the Ville De Marseilles, struck after a few shots were fired at her by Alexander, and Capt. Gould of Audacious and Capt. Rickets of El Corso took charge of her. She was loaded with salt meat, brandy, wine and clothing.
By this time the main squadron was seen approaching from southward. Nelson had got Foudroyant under way, and making all possible sail joined chase, with Northumberland hard on his heels. By 1330 hrs they were nine miles N.W. of Gozo, when the smaller French ships tacked together, and managed to pass to windward out of gunshot of Alexander and other ships; they turned out to be the 28-gun frigate Badina with two corvettes and several transports, carrying some 3,000 troops and supplies fresh out of Toulon, and now they managed to make good their escape.
But the French ship of the line could not follow their example, or she would have come within gun range of Alexander, here Success, being to leeward, made her move, captain Peard altering course towards the enemy. Success raked the line-of-battle ship with several broadsides, suffering several casualties as she did so from the heavier broadside of the French ship.
By 1630 hrs the heavier Alexander and other ships came within gunshot and Nelson ordered two rounds to be fired at the French ship, to see if it still wanted to fight such superior force. After firing one broadside to preserve her honour the French ship struck her colours and surrendered. She turned out to be the 74-gun Genereux, bearing the flag of Rear Admiral Perree. Perree had received a splinter wound in his right eye, and then had his right thigh torn off in the battle with Success; this had affected the fighting spirit of the ship.
Nelson sent Andrew Thomson, 1st lieutenant of Foudroyant, together with Northumberland, to take charge of the prize Genereux, receiving from her some 147 French prisoners. Alexander set course with the three ships to Syracuse at 1800hrs arriving on February 21st. Some other French troops caught prisoners were put ashore at Marsaxlokk.
By 1st March Alexander was back off Valletta in the blockading squadron and the siege went on.
For more details read the HMS Alexander-Research by Andrea Portelli, a member of this unit.
HMS Alexander’s Marine-Grenadiers