In 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession, he had been supporting Prince Eugene’s campaign against Toulon in southern France. The action succeeded in scuttling the French fleet at the port but Toulon was not captured.
That October, Shovell sailed for England with 21 ships of the Mediterranean Fleet in his flagship, the Association. However, strong westerly winds drove his fleet onto rocks off the Isles of Scilly. Association and three other ships were sunk and 1500-2000 men died, including Shovell. Despite being an experienced and high-ranking commander, he had believed the ships were further east than they were.
A letter written by Shovell four years before his untimely end, dating from August 5, 1703, was offered at London auction house Forum (30/24% buyer’s premium inc VAT) on January 28.
Signed to Captain John Baker, commander of HMS Monmouth, it orders: ‘You are to make a Perfect List of your whole Shipps Company Including Marines… & Transmited To the Agent Victualer in The fleet Who will Pay your Men what is due To them On the Sine of Short allowance…’
Estimated at £300-400, it did rather better in selling at £1500.