On May 20, 1756, Menorca witnessed one of the greatest naval battles in its history. The island witnessed the clash between two great powers of the time, Great Britain and France, who were fighting for control of Menorca itself. In fact, the French arrived ready to take it from the British hands and that is what happened, putting an end to the 43 years of their first domination.
In an article published in the digital header of the Diario de Mallorca, www.mallorcadiario.com, it is explained that the battle took place in front of the Illa de l’Aire with a very similar balance of forces. The French, commanded by the Marquis de La Galissonière, had 12 ships and 5 frigates, while the British, under the command of John Byng, also had 12 ships and 7 frigates.
Byng’s fleet had arrived in Menorca just the day before, May 19, from Gibraltar and had found that the French had already invaded the island and only the British garrison at the castle of San Felipe was holding out. The French, led by the Duke of Richelieu, had landed in Ciutadella and had crossed the island to Mahón, being very well received by the Menorcan authorities in both places.
Thus, the two foreign fleets positioned themselves on the 19th and waited until the next day to begin combat. Byng brought his ships into line and brought them closer to the French vanguard, keeping them parallel. Although he later ordered them to surround the French ships, the operation was delayed because of confusion in signaling the orders. The French took the opportunity to make several hits on the English ships, while the English shots were ineffective. Neither ship was sunk but there were similar casualties on both sides: 38 French killed and 184 wounded, and 45 British killed and 162 wounded.