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Apart from his role in planning world-scale strategy, in 1745 and 1746 Anson and his colleagues amalgamated the various squadrons in home waters into a single fleet, cruising in the western approaches to the English Channel. From that position, the fleet satisfied all the vital strategic requirements. While protecting the islands against invasion, the squadron also monitored incoming trade and watched for French sorties from Brest, Lorient, and Rochefort. 

Anson, Sandwich, Bedford, and Admiral Edward Vernon all played significant parts in the developing concept, but Anson made the proposal to unite different squadrons in July 1746, and as commander-in-chief of the new force put the idea into practice.

The decision was justified north of Cape Ortegal in May 1747 at the First Battle of Cape Finisterre. Anson intercepted two French convoys, bound for India and America, enjoyed significant numerical superiority, and captured all of the escorting warships and most of the merchant vessels in the convoys. 

In July the Vice Admiral became Baron Anson of Soberton and returned to the Admiralty leaving his deputy, Sir Peter Warren in command of the Western Squadron. When Warren fell ill with scurvy, Rear-Admiral Edward Hawke took over, and on 14 October, in the Second Battle of Cape Finisterre, intercepted a French convoy of 252 assorted vessels escorted by eight ships of the line. 

Hawke's fourteen vessels took six of the escorts and seven ships from the convoy.  While most of the merchant vessels and two of the escorts escaped and made their way across the Atlantic most were intercepted and captured in the West Indies. The losses were enough to persuade the French government that further efforts to fight convoys through the maritime blockade would end up the same way. 

Losses in the colonies, particularly in the West Indies, were enough to bring France back to the peace negotiations despite military successes on the continent, and the psychological influence of the two battles of Cape Finisterre could be seen in the French reluctance to send men and supplies to Canada and other colonial outposts during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763).

© Ian Hughes 2017