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The Battle of Flamborough Head, 23rd September 1779
When the American War of Independence began in 1775, one of the earliest volunteers to the colonial cause was a Scottish immigrant John Paul Jones. His qualities as a seaman of considerable ability were quickly recognised and he soon rose to the command of the sloop Ranger, the first United States' vessel to hoist the 'Star and Stripes' as its national flag. His success in Ranger resulted in him then being given the Bonhomme Richard, flagship to a small squadron of two frigates and several smaller vessels with which to raid merchant shipping around the coasts of Britain. After an abortive foray into the Firth of Forth, Jones was off Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, in the late afternoon of 23rd September 1779, when he sighted a large homeward-bound Baltic convoy. A valuable prize, unfortunately under escort by the newly-built 44-gun fifth rate H.M.S. Serapis and the small sloop Countess of Scarborough. Watched by crowds of spectators on the cliffs, the action commenced just after 7 o'clock and soon developed into a memorable duel between the two principal ships. Serapis took an early advantage but when her Captain challenged Jones to surrender he received the American's famous retort 'I have not yet begun to fight'. Jones fought on tenaciously and gradually gained the upper hand until Serapis finally struck her colours at about 10.30p.m. Both ships were seriously damaged, so much so that Bonhomme Richard sank the following morning, but Jones got Serapis away and she was subsequently absorbed into the French Navy.