Model of the port of Brest and sight of Penfeld, by Guy Rossignol
In 1756, probably influenced by Clément de la Jonquière, a relative of the de Galaup family at Graulhet, Lapérouse hopes to become a career naval officer, for which he receives his father’s permission. Clément will be his mentor at the École des Gardes Maritimes in Brest, more than 20 days by stagecoach from Albi, where he will spend the next seven years. He carries out a multi-year course of study that incorporates theoretical studies, embarkations, and artillery training. Because the rules require that young guardsmen have a sufficient income to help them maintain a suitable rank, his family gives him a property it has recently acquired: the “domaine de Lapeyrouse,” the name he will add to his family name, de Galaup. Brest will be his home port, and he will live there much longer than at Albi.
[Picture: The Formidable (80-cannon ship) is captured by the English in 1758 during the battle near Belle Isle (at les Cardinaux-large rocks near the entrance to Quiberon Bay at the mouth of the Vilaine).]
Very rapidly, Laperouse will make voyages to Canada and will record our constant setbacks in face of the English because of the lack of an adequate naval force. Even off our own coasts, we are harassed by the English fleet, and Lapérouse, at the age of eighteen, participates in our defeat at the Cardinaux (Quiberon Bay), where he is wounded and taken prisoner, then exchanged. Soon thereafter he will become an aid to his future “maritime father,” de Ternay, from Touraine. He will help rescue several ships that had gone aground at the mouth of the Vilaine and bring them back to Brest without the knowledge of the English, who at the time controlled the seas. There will then be a waiting period during which time he will participate in the reconstruction of the French fleet by transporting, from Bayonne to the arsenals, wood from the Pyrenees to be used for making masts. This activity is interspersed with short voyages to Newfoundland and Haiti and hydrographic and signaling work on the French Atlantic coast.