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The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, James I became King of England. During his reign there was relative peace and so little incentive for good management of naval affairs, allowing corruption within the naval administration to take hold. Consequently the Fleet deteriorated and with it, control of the sea. When Charles I succeeded James I, he introduced a Ship Tax to raise more money for the Navy to restore its power, but corruption by this time was endemic in the Navy and its administration, and the additional money raised, served mainly just to line more pockets.
During the first English Civil War (1642-1646), the Navy was as divided as the country was, and thus became too weak to effectively protect England’s trade routes. Consequently, by the mid-seventeenth century, England had lost much of its trade, particularly that of North America, to the United Provinces of the Netherlands, whose Navy was now superior to that of England.
Following the establishment of the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell, the entire naval administration was dismissed. The Navy was reorganised, rebuilt and expanded until, in 1651 it was felt strong enough to challenge Dutch dominance.
Diplomatic attempts were made in 1651 to negotiate an alliance between the English Commonwealth and the United Provinces of the Netherlands, but these ended in failure, and in the aftermath, Parliament passed the first of the Navigation Acts in 1651. Although it applied generally, it was aimed primarily at limiting Dutch trade in favour of English traders. It stipulated that goods could be imported into territories of the English Commonwealth only by English ships, or by ships of the country originally producing the goods being carried. In later years, the same restrictions were widened to include the export trade.
As a result of this and for other reasons, there followed three Anglo-Dutch Wars within the next twenty two years. The first was from 1652 to 1654, the second from 1665 to 1667 and the third from 1672-1674.
The First Anglo-Dutch War was ended by a peace treaty without any of the issues which started it being resolved, and only set the stage for the next war.
Between the first and second wars, in 1658, the death of Oliver Cromwell signalled the beginning of the end of the Commonwealth of England, following which, in 1660, the Monarchy was restored in the person of King Charles II. His brother James, Duke of York (later King James II), became the Lord High Admiral of England.
Of the three wars, perhaps the most interesting was the second war which, like the first, was principally a naval war. The actual date on which it began is unclear. For financial reasons, Parliament used 1 September 1664, but there had been many clashes before the actual declaration of war on 4 March 1665.
Hostile Acts and Provocations
In the fifteen months prior to the official declaration of war, a state of war existed in all but name. During this period there were many hostile acts by both sides, with the English being the worst offenders, seemingly wanting to provoke another war.
Raids on the Guinea Coast
Captain Robert Holmes with a squadron of five ships, Henrietta, Sophia, Amity, Griffin, Kinsale, sailed to the Guinea Coast with orders to "promote the interests of the Royal African Company", of which the Duke of York was a director.
Holmes was a man who preferred to interpret his orders rather than just obey them, and from December 1663 to May 1664, he sank and captured ships of the Dutch West India Company; captured forts, and took Cape Coast Castle, the main Dutch base in West Africa.
His actions caused a diplomatic uproar, for which, on his return, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for exceeding his orders, mainly as a scapegoat to appease the Dutch, but he was soon released.
Later that year, the Dutch sent Admiral Michiel De Ruyter, who recaptured most of what Holmes had taken.
Capture of New Amsterdam
In 1664, the Dutch colony of New Netherland, comprised of modern day New York City, parts of Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. Its capital, New Amsterdam, was situated on the southern tip of Manhattan Island.
On 25 May 1664, on the orders of the Duke of York, an English naval squadron of four frigates under Colonel Richard Nicolls, set sail from Portsmouth and arrived in New Amsterdam on 27 August.
Nicolls sent a letter to the Dutch Governor, Peter Stuyvesant, demanding surrender. Stuyvesant could muster only 150 soldiers, had no gunpowder for his cannons, and was in no position to resist the demand. Despite the odds, he wanted to fight. Generous terms were offered which, when the townsfolk learned of them, they wanted to accept. Stuyvesant argued against it, but as he was unpopular, his Dutch subjects refused to support him, forcing him to sign the surrender on 8 September.
Following this, Colonel Nicolls, with the Duke of York’s warrant, assumed the position of Deputy Governor General, and New Amsterdam's name was changed to New York, in honour of the Duke.
Capture of merchantmen
In August 1664, Captain Thomas Teddeman captured a fleet of twenty Dutch merchantmen and two men-of-war, homeward bound with cargo from Bordeaux, which he took into Portsmouth.
Seizure of Masts
In November 1664, a Swedish ship St. Jacob, sailing from the Baltic with a consignment of mast timber, part of the largest order for masts for the naval shipyards, was seized by the Dutch. It was the Netherlands’s first act of hostility, and was considered by the English to be an act of war.
Following all the hostile acts which the Dutch had suffered, they finally announced on 22 February 1665, that they would retaliate against English shipping, which was taken to be a declaration of war. The English formally declared war on 4 March 1665.
In the course of the war which lasted two and a half years, the following actions (which will be described in later posts) were its main events.
The Battle of Lowestoft (13 June 1665)
Battle of Vågen (12 August 1665)
The four Days Battle (11-14 June 1666)
Battle of North Foreland (4-5 August 1666)
Holmes's Bonfire (19-20 August 1666)
The Raid on the Medway (17-22 June 1667)
In addition to these there were many other incidents involving the capture or destruction of merchant vessels.
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."
Last edited by emason : 07-06-2012 at 18:32.
Re: The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Battle of Lowestoft (13 June 1665)
Following the formal declaration of war on 4 March 1665, it was only a matter of time before the naval fleets of England and the Netherlands clashed. The first of these engagements took place on 13 June 1665.
[Note: At this time, England was still using the Julian calendar, which was ten days behind the Gregorian calendar which the rest of Europe was using. All dates shown are Gregorian, often written as N.S. – New Style.]
During the first war, the English had blockaded the Dutch ports, which had led to a collapse of their economy and an extreme shortage of food. The Dutch were anxious to prevent this happening again.
But the British put to sea first, on 1 May, and took up a blockading position off the Dutch coast. On 18 May, after two weeks, they withdrew to attempt to intercept de Ruyter (believed to be on his way home from West Africa). They were unsuccessful and returned to Harwich.
The commander of the Dutch fleet, Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam, was a reluctant Admiral having been appointed to the post, against his wishes, following the death of Maarten Tromp in the first war. He was ordered to sea by the Dutch political leader, Johan de Witt, to prevent the English establishing another blockade.
Obdam was inexperienced at sea and didn’t have much confidence in his ships fighting ability, which goes some way to explaining his apparently tentative actions at the start of the second war. He put to sea on 24 May, and on 30 May captured a number of English merchantmen trading with Hamburg. Obdam was ordered by de Witt to attack the English aggressively during a period of stable easterly winds which would have given him the weather gauge.
But Obdam had felt that his fleet didn't have the training and firepower to engage the English in full battle. So he had developed tactics which were contrary to the conventional wisdom of attacking the enemy while holding the weather gauge. He would attack a section of the enemy's fleet from the leeward side where his ships, heeling against the wind, had their cannon elevated giving a longer range. Whereas the enemy would, by the same token, have their guns depressed, thus reducing their range. Also, the enemy’s lower gun ports (where the heaviest guns would be) may be closed to prevent flooding. By these tactics he hoped to outrange and outgun his enemy, while being in a position to disengage quickly should it become necessary.
On learning of the capture of the English merchantmen, the English fleet put to sea to sea, and at midday on 11 June the two fleets sighted each other.
The two fleets
Both the English and Dutch fleets of warships were augmented by armed merchantmen, of which the English had twenty four, and the Dutch twelve, some of which were large, heavily armed, Dutch East India Company (VOC) ships, specially brought over from the Indies. Although on paper the two fleets appeared roughly equal in strength, the Dutch ships were generally smaller with lighter cannon than the English.
The English fleet
103 warships and twenty smaller vessels including fireships, carrying 4,542 guns and 22,055 men consisted of three squadrons of three divisions each.
1. James Stuart, Duke of York and Lord High Admiral in Royal Charles, commanded the Red Squadron in the van;
2. Prince Rupert of the Rhine in Royal James, commanded the White Squadron in the centre;
3. Edward Montague, 1st Earl of Sandwich in Prince Royal, commanded the Blue Squadron in the rearguard.
The Dutch fleet
110 ships and 25 smaller vessels, of which eleven were fireships, carrying 4,869 guns and 21,613 men, consisted of seven squadrons from the five Admiralties of the seven Dutch provinces, and were commanded by:
1. Lieutenant-Admiral Jacob Van Wassenaer Obdam in Eendracht;
2. Lieutenant-Admiral Johan Evertsen in Hof van Zeeland
3. Lieutenant-Admiral Egbert Bartholomeusz Kortenaer in Groot Hollandia;
4. Lieutenant-Admiral Auke Stellingwerf in Sevenwolden;
5. Vice-Admiral Cornelis Tromp in Liefde;
6. Vice-Admiral Cornelis Evertsen in Vlissingen;
7. Vice-Admiral Volckert Schram in Wapen van Nassau.
Each squadron consisted of three divisions, each commanded by a flag officer, making twenty one flagships.
On 11 June, the two fleets sighted each other, forty miles east of Lowestoft. But as there was no wind, neither fleet could manoeuvre, so no battle could take place.
On 12 June the wind started to blow from the east, giving Obdam the weather gauge. However, despite de Witt’s orders, he didn't attack as it didn’t suit his preferred tactics of attacking from leeward. It could also have been because an easterly wind would have prevented the Dutch fleet from disengaging and returning to Netherlands.
But the next morning of 13 June, when the fleets were fourteen miles north-east of Lowestoft, the wind had turned to the southwest giving the English the weather gauge. This also suited Obdam, who now approached the enemy fleet, signalling his intentions to do battle.
The Battle (phase 1)
In the early morning of the 13th the Dutch fleet was positioned to the southeast of the English, and at about 04.00 the two fleets started to manoeuvre. Obdam tried to engage the English from his preferred leeward position, and both fleets passed each other on a NW-SE line, on opposite tack, too far apart to do any real damage. They then turned at about 05.30. During the turn, the Great Charity became isolated, was attacked and captured by the Dutch who immediately sailed it to the Netherlands as a prize; a practice that was later forbidden.
[Note: It seems that the English turned by squadron, reversing the position of the van which now trailed; while the Dutch turned in succession, which maintained their line but was slower to accomplish.]
After turning, the fleets passed for a second time. While the English had some trouble controlling these manoeuvres due to signalling confusion, the Dutch failed to maintain a line of battle because their squadrons seemingly acted independently instead of together. Those Dutch squadrons whose commanders were more aggressive, increased speed and began to block the slower squadron's line of sight, while the merchantmen, which hadn't been trained in these tactics, simply got in the way, causing disorder.
Several Dutch ships came under the concentrated fire of the English and took heavy damage, loosing two squadron commanders in the process: Lieutenant-Admiral Stellingwerf and Lieutenant-Admiral Kortenaer.
Following this, at about 10.00, while both fleets were executing a second turn, the wind changed which had the effect of slowing the Dutch ships which hadn’t completed their turn, while others collided with the English van and centre. This opened up a gap in the Dutch battle line, through which the English rear squadron, under Edward Montague, sailed. He then engaged the Dutch fleet from the leeward, using Obdam’s own tactics against him.
At this point, the English main force was to the west of the Dutch and had the weather gauge. Montague’s rear squadron was east of the Dutch to leeward, which meant that the Dutch were now fighting the battle from two sides.
The Battle (phase 2)
Soon afterwards, the battle between the two fleets disintegrated into a general melee, with dozens of separate actions taking place over several hours. In one of these, Montague’s flagship Royal Prince came under attack from Obdam’s flagship Eendracht and the East Indiaman Oranje, but was saved from heavy damage by the intervention of the Duke of York's squadron.
The Royal Charles then fell in alongside the Eendracht, and the flagships of the two commanders began pounding each other. At about noon, three courtiers standing next to James on the quarterdeck of the Royal Charles were decapitated by a single chainshot, and the heir to the throne was splattered with their blood and brains. Obdam, too, was killed, and a little later, at about 2.30 the duel between Royal Charles and Eendracht ended abruptly when Eendracht exploded, killing all but five of the crew.
Lieutenant-Admiral Kortenaer, in Groot Hollandia, was second in command to Obdam, but had himself received a mortal wound and was unable to take command. The other Admirals were unaware of this, so assumed he was now in command as his flag captain had kept his pendant flying. For hours afterwards the Dutch fleet was therefore without effective command, which wasn’t helped by Vice-Admiral Cornelis Tromp and Lieutenant-Admiral Johan Evertsen, both assuming command.
After Eendracht had exploded, the Dutch were effectively leaderless and became hesitant, whereupon the English immediately became more aggressive. Many Dutch ships turned away rather than face this new onslaught and fled, with small groups of ships cut off and forced to surrender. Others were pursued by the English squadrons, although they were held up for some time by the heroic, single handed attack of the East Indiaman Oranje, which took on the Royal Charles before finally succumbing to the gunfire of the other ships of the Duke of York’s squadron as they came up in turn.
By evening, most of the Dutch fleet was in full flight, pursued by the English. Some of the worst losses were suffered during this stage of the battle. One group of three ships and another of four became tangled in the chaos, and were destroyed by fireships.
Other sections of the Dutch fleet continued to fight bravely, most notably the ships of Cornelis Tromp in Liefde who, by fighting a rearguard action and covering their flight, made possible their escape, thus preventing complete catastrophe. The surviving Dutch ships were led into the Maas by Evertsen, and the Texel by Tromp.
However, the English failed to exploit their victory. In the course of the evening, the Royal Charles inexplicably reduced sail and the rest of the English fleet followed suit, allowing the Dutch to escape without further loss.
A Note on Fireships.
Hitherto, fireships had been used mainly against ships at anchor in harbour and were, with a following wind, sailed unmanned and already alight. To use them in battle against ships under sail on the open sea required a different technique. A Dutch fireship attack on the Henrietta, during the Battle of Lowestoft, is described in "When London Burned" by G.A.Henty:
"They then rushed to the starboard side, just as a small ship came out through the cloud of smoke that hung thickly around them. There was a shock as she struck the Henrietta, and then, as she glided alongside, a dozen grapnels were thrown by men on her yards. The instant they had done so, the men disappeared, sliding down the ropes and running aft to their boat. Before the last leaped in he stooped. A flash of fire ran along the deck, there was a series of sharp explosions, and then a bright flame sprang up from the hatchways, ran up the shrouds and ropes, that had been soaked with oil and tar, and in a moment the sails were on fire. In spite of the flames, a score of men sprang on to the rigging of the Henrietta and cut the ropes of the grapnels, which, as yet--so quickly had the explosion followed their throwing--had scarce begun to check the way the fire-ship had on her as she came up."
The number and names of ships lost does not include the expendable fireships.
Only one ship, the Great Charity was captured, although the Dutch claimed to have captured another, the John and Mary, which is a mystery as no ship of that name was present.
Some 700 men were lost, of which about 250 were killed; 340 wounded; and a hundred or more taken prisoner.
Among the killed were two flag-officers, Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson of the Royal Oak, and Rear-Admiral Robert Sansom of the Resolution. Three captains were also killed, Captain James Ley, Earl of Marlborough, of the Old James, Captain Robert Kirby of the Breda, and Captain James Abelson of the Guinea.
About seventeen ships were lost in the battle: two to gunfire (Eendracht, Oranje); six to fireships (Tergoes, Maarseveen, Swanenburg, Koevorden, Stad Utrecht, Prinse Maurits); and nine were captured (Carolus Quintus, Hilversum, Delft, Geldersche Ruiter, Jonge Prins, Mars, Nagelboom, Wappen van Zeeland, Bul).
In addition, at least four more ships were so badly damaged by gunfire that they were written off and scrapped.
There were about two thousand casualties, which included the fleet commander and two other flag officers who were killed. 2,844 prisoners of war were landed in Suffolk in the immediate aftermath of the battle.
The outcome of the battle was a decisive victory for the English, due partly to their more aggressive tactics and their heavier firepower. This remains the heaviest naval defeat ever suffered by the Dutch, but they had already embarked on an ambitious expansion programme, building many heavier ships.
Despite this great success, the Duke of York was removed from active service by King Charles, partly because of the failure to pursue the Dutch, and partly to protect the heir to the throne from danger, but he retained the title of Lord High Admiral until 1673.
The English failed to take advantage of their victory. They never did manage to establish an effective blockade of the Dutch coast and couldn't prevent the VOC (East India Company) fleet from returning from the Indies.
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."
Re: The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
Great reading and obviously well researched. I look forward to reading the rest.
Re: The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."
Re: The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Battle of Vagen, or Raid on Bergen (12 August 1665)
The Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the 1660's had become the richest private company in the world, with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees, and a private army of 10,000 soldiers. From Dutch possessions in the East Indies (now Indonesia), it frequently transported goods bought and traded there, back to the Netherlands in a fleet of merchantmen escorted by their own warships, which were among the largest armed vessels of their day. One particularly valuable fleet, with its cargoes of spices, ebony, silk, porcelain, rubies, pearls and diamonds, valued at eleven million Guilders (about £15 million then, or £640 million today), was the richest so far transported. It departed Batavia on Christmas Day 1664, with fifty merchantmen escorted by ten warships under the command of Commodore Pieter de Bitter.
A second fleet from the Americas, under Michiel de Ruyter, was due to arrive at about the same time as the East Indies fleet. De Ruyter, after having retaken the Dutch possessions in Africa captured by Robert Holmes in early 1664, had sailed across the Atlantic to the Americas, attacking English merchant ships, and raiding English possessions there. In April 1665, while attacking ships in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, he was considerably damaged by fire from the shore batteries. After making repairs in Martinique, he sailed northwards, but deciding against trying to recapture New York from the English due to the condition of his ships, raided Newfoundland instead, then headed back home.
Both fleets had received news of the outbreak of war and had decided to return to the Netherlands the long way round, to the north of Scotland, to avoid being attacked in the English Channel.
Sir George Downing, the English ambassador to the Netherlands, had reported in June that the East India convoy would take the northern route home round Scotland. He suggested that naval vessels should patrol these waters and that it would also be possible to intercept De Ruyter on his homebound voyage. After their victory at Lowestoft, the English knew that the Dutch fleet was in no condition to support either fleet so soon afterwards.
If the English could capture the whole VOC convoy, its value could finance the entire war. It would also inflict great commercial damage on the VOC, and undermine the public's confidence in the States General (the government of the United Provinces).
At this time there was a union between Norway and Denmark, with Frederick III being King of both Denmark and Norway. For any plan to succeed, the co-operation of Denmark was needed. When war broke out, the English envoy at Copenhagen, Sir Gilbert Talbot, was sent to obtain the neutrality of the Danes. Since Danish shipping had suffered at the hands of the Dutch on the Guinea coast, they might be expected to be compliant.
Following the battle of Lowestoft, with England apparently in command of the North Sea, Frederick was more willing to listen to Talbot. When Talbot had ascertained that Frederick’s sympathies lay with the English, he proposed that Frederick should connive at an attack upon Dutch merchant vessels which might put in to a Danish controlled port, and guarded himself by making it as a private person.
The possibility of valuable vessels seeking refuge in Danish controlled ports gave prospects of a rich booty and Frederick, who was deep in debt to the Dutch, became interested. At first he demurred because he didn’t think he had a strong enough force to confront the Dutch. Talbot then offered him an English squadron, and clinched the bargain by offering an equal share of an almost certain prize, which could be estimated in millions. When they had concluded their compact, which out of necessity was purely verbal, Talbot sent the proposition to England.
The English plans
King Charles and the Duke of York were pleased by Denmark's apparent goodwill, and on 10 July in the King’s letter to Talbot expressing his approval, he promised: "that the motions of our fleet shall be directed to attend it with all possible care, by lying so in the other passages, as may oblige the enemy to shelter himself in the ports of Norway, and following them thither to secure it, with all fitting orders accordingly."
In other words, the English fleet preferred not to attack the VOC convoy at sea, where the prize could be lost by fire or sinking, but would position itself in order to block its passage home, forcing it to seek refuge in a 'neutral' Norwegian port, most probably Bergen, where it could be captured intact and undamaged.
On 11 July, Edward Montagu, Lord Sandwich, was appointed commander of the fleet, but couldn’t take up the appointment for a few days. So for the sake of dispatch Sir William Penn (naval commissioner and father of the founder of Pennsylvania) was put temporarily in charge of the fleet to prepare it for Sandwich's arrival.
In the sailing instructions of 12 July intended for Sandwich, which Penn also received, was the warning that "De Ruyter being upon his way from the Newfoundland, and therefore may be so speedily expected home as that the neglect of a few hours may loose the opportunity of a very important service either upon De Ruyter or the Dutch East India fleet, which are also suddenly expected.".
But Penn, who was also Vice-Admiral of the White Squadron, had laid too much emphasis upon the need for haste, and the instructions he had been given were intended for the fleet commander to execute. Instead he took the instructions as being directed to himself, and put to sea with his ships inadequately provisioned. So quickly did he depart that no copy of the instructions were left for Sandwich, the real fleet commander who was yet to take command.
When, on 14 July, Sandwich took up his command, and finding much to his annoyance that Penn had already put to sea, he boarded the Prince off Gravesend and set off in pursuit. Penn's squadron had been under sail a whole day and was making for the Texel (one of the Dutch Frisian Islands) to blockade it. Sandwich had therefore to set his course for the open sea, and on the following day he met up with Penn who immediately came on board the Prince, and put the command of the fleet into the proper hands.
It hadn't taken Sandwich long to discover that many of his ships had been too hastily patched up after Lowestoft; some of which should have been taken were still on the stocks. A whole division had to be left behind for Sir Thomas Allin, the Admiral of the Blue, to bring along at a later date. "This fleete hath been hasted away, though with a very greate defect of men (2,500 fewer than they had before). I hope care is taken to send them in the fleete from Sould [Southwold] bay." A day or two in Southwold Bay would have enabled better provision to be made, and from the outset the fleet would have been at full strength.
On 21 July the flag officers came on board the Prince for a conference at which it was resolved that the design on Bergen should be postponed until the remainder of the fleet came up. Two days later the council met again. Since the wind was southerly, present hopes of intercepting De Ruyter or the East Indiamen, both coming from the north, were put aside, and a letter was sent, begging that the rest of the ships should be hurried to the Dogger. It wasn't until 27 July that Allin, with twenty five sail, of the Blue Squadron, finally joined Sandwich, giving him a fleet of some eighty ships.
Sandwich had been instructed to keep station on the Dogger Bank from where he could intercept De Ruyter and mount guard upon the trade route to the Texel, although he was given complete discretion once at sea. His instructions stated that, if the Dutch went towards Norway, they were to be attacked, plundered, and destroyed, "though they should go into any harbour belonging to the King of Denmark in those parts."
When the fleet was up to full strength, it was decided that their present station on the east Dogger served no purpose, as De Ruyter's most likely course would be to hug the coast of Norway, sailing southwards which he could do with his shallower draught ships.
Dutch fleet movements
They were right, but too late. De Ruyter, having rounded Scotland to the north, had either to make a dash across the North Sea or to hug the coast of Norway. In the first case there was every chance of meeting the vastly superior English fleet, so he chose the latter course, his ships being better adapted to the shallows than those of the English.
On 23 July he was off Bergen and, aided by fog and a Flemish scout vessel, he gave the English ships the slip. That was the same day on which Sandwich and his council decided to await the reinforcements from England, in the vain hope that a southerly wind was sufficient to delay De Ruyter's southward progress.
On the day the English left the Dogger Bank he was within fifty miles of them, off the Naze of Norway. From there he worked his way down the coast of Denmark until, on 6 August, he sailed into the shallows of the Ems and arrived safely in Delfzijl with nineteen ships with rich prizes and received a hero’s welcome.
De Ruyter, on his arrival, was immediately asked to command a fleet to sail to Bergen to escort the VOC merchantmen. On 11 August he was appointed Lieutenant-Admiral of the Rotterdam Admiralty and supreme commander of the Dutch fleet. This Admiralty was the oldest of all five and its Lieutenant-Admiral was officially the highest officer in the fleet.
Meanwhile, scout vessels had been sent to warn the returning VOC fleet. On 5 August they met and the order was passed to sail to the port of Bergen in Norway to await a naval escort to the Netherlands. They arrived in Bergen in drips and drabs, having been dispersed by a storm in July.
Sandwich first heard about the VOC ships in Bergen from a merchantman on 2 August. When, on 9 August, another merchantman, two days out from Bergen, reported the arrival of ten more East Indiamen. It was decided to send a small task force to Bergen, either to capture or at least blockade the convoy.
Sandwich entrusted the expedition to Captain Sir Thomas Teddiman, and dispatched him at once with a force consisting of one third rate, eight fourth rates, four fifth rates, nine merchantmen and three fireships. With him went Sydney Mountagu, Sandwich’s son; his cousin Edward Montagu and Sir Thomas Clifford.
Arrival at Bergen
The weather was wild and stormy and, on the evening of 10 August, with great difficulty the ships reached Bergen, with "the yard-armes sticking in the very rocks" for the roadstead was narrow and the waters shallow. Teddiman's flagship, the Revenge, ran aground at Cape Nordnes, but managed with difficulty to work itself free.
The night of 11 August was spent in taking up suitable berths and in negotiations with the Governor. The English had expected cooperation; instead they met with obstruction, and found themselves involved in troublesome disputes, for the Governor protested against the entrance into his port of more than five men-of-war. By treaty, a force of five warships of any nation might enter the harbour, and the Governor indicated he wouldn't allow anything else as he had received no instructions to the contrary.
The English negotiations were conducted by Thomas Clifford, to whom it seemed that the Danes played fast and loose. So critical was the situation that Edward Mountagu went ashore in a last effort to cajole the Governor. The Governor had heard rumours of a secret deal between King Charles II of England and King Frederick III of Denmark-Norway, but no definite orders had arrived.
The delay caused by these conferences was invaluable to the Dutch, for when Teddiman first reached Bergen, the Dutch ships were moored one on another "incapable of execution". In the time gained, four of their largest ships were moved and moored athwart the harbour, their broadsides were trained upon the English, and the vessels were able to cover and hamper any attack upon the remainder of the fleet. Both the Dutch and the Danes strengthened the castle; powder and shot were taken ashore, cannon dragged up from the ships, and Dutch sailors put to man the batteries.
The entrance to the port of Vagen was only about 400 yards wide, so Teddiman ordered his captains "to warp in close to the Dutch ships in the port and under the Castle", and "got eight sail in a line". (Prudent Mary, Breda, Foresight, Bendish, Happy Return, Sapphire and the Pembroke). This manoeuvre blocked the entrance and brought his broadsides to bear on the Dutch ships; the other seven vessels he placed against the castle. Teddiman’s ships were opposed by a line of De Bitter’s ships (Slot Hooningen, Catherina, Walcheren, Gulden Phenix and Rijzende Zon).
The situation grew desperate. The Governor begged Teddiman to retire, and asked for a few days' grace that he might get directions from the King. To the English this seemed a mere delaying tactic, as every minute the forts were being strengthened and manned by thousands of sailors from the lighter of the Dutch ships.
Teddiman's patience was at its limit. Delay was dangerous as his provisions were low, and rapid action offered the best prospect of success. He did not attack, however, until he had held a council, and given his captains charge not to fire at the castle. At dawn on 12 August he "let fly his fighting colours," and poured a broadside into the enemy. The castle and forts replied, and poured their fire upon the English ships.
Three hundred guns were trained upon the English ships, and supported the fire from the Dutch ships. The wind was with the Dutch; it blew out of the harbour, blinded the English with smoke, and prevented the use of fireships. In the confusion, vessels ran foul of one another, their rigging was torn, and their cables cut away by chance shots.
For three hours Teddiman was exposed to an attack, twice as fierce as he expected. At length he withdrew, but there was no anchorage outside the harbour, and he was obliged to take his ships to Jettifiord. He brought off all his vessels, though six or seven were much damaged and could hardly sail. The loss of men was considerable - over four hundred, among whom was Edward Mountagu and six captains.
While the attack upon Bergen was in progress, Sandwich had remained for a few days off the Norwegian coast, but so strong was the wind that for a whole day and night the vessels were driven northwards; on 14 August, a lull permitted a meeting of flag officers.
There Sandwich considered the needs of the fleet. In view of their shortage of water, it was decided that the fleet should attempt to reach Shetland or some part of the English coast. A message was dispatched to Teddiman, and on 17 August, Sandwich brought the fleet to Shetland, and anchored in Bressa Sound.
No sooner had water been taken on board than a new problem arose. "Divers high spotted fevers" broke out among the men. It seemed as if the plague raging on the mainland had reached the high seas. Sickness and the shortage of provisions forced the fleet to return. It was resolved to sail with all speed, making for Flamborough Head. On 23 August the fleet set sail, and was scarcely out of Bressa Sound when the Sapphire brought the bad news from Bergen.
On the 28th, during the voyage down the English coast, Teddiman's returning squadron was sighted and joined Sandwich off Flamborough Head, and three days later the fleet was once more in Southwold Bay. Immediately, Sandwich wrote to the naval Commissioner George Monck (Duke of Albemarle), begging for men and provisions, as he was still eager to engage De Ruyter.
The victualling problem
Sandwich blamed his forced return and the Bergen failure on his victualling, saying that: "owing to the evil of working without a reserve, and to the hurry with which Penn had set out in July, he was hampered in his preparations. His ships were half manned, his sailors were underfed. He knew that had he remained at sea during the whole of August, and not put into Southwold, it would have been in vain, since he was so ill-provided with victuals".
His papers showed glaring discrepancies between the victuallers' statement of the drink said to be provided and that actually on board. The victuallers had miscalculated by three weeks. Samuel Pepys in his administrative capacity of Clerk of the Acts, wrote "I am grieved at the heart to see your Lordship in this streight, which shall be eased as far as any paynes of mine will stand in steade."
The entire system of victualling was at fault, being plagued by abuse and corruption. The whole of the business of contract lay with a single contractor; "had he died, all would have stood still". Sir William Coventry (another Commissioner), wrote "if the Dutch staid any time in Norway, the fleet would once again be forced back, and another opportunity lost".
To sea again
With De Ruyter in command, the Dutch fleet sailed to Bergen, arriving on 29 August, ready to escort the merchantmen to the Texel, and to reassert control over the trade routes. To meet this formidable enemy, Sandwich prepared again to put to sea.
The plan he adopted was one which should ensure a decisive action; the fleet was given a position off the Dogger Bank, 55" N.N.W., and twenty leagues from the Texel. The object was to risk an open blockade, in order to strike at the enemy some distance from their own ports. The task was formidable, and was rendered more difficult by the increasing uncertainty of the autumn weather.
At the council of war held before sailing, Sandwich issued a memorandum to his captains, which embodied his fighting instructions, and which in parts reads like Nelson’s famous memorandum delivered 140 years later. He urged upon the commanders that the order of battle should be kept, but "if they were hindered of that by any accident then to be sure to putt themselves in a line any where to have theire broad sides to the enimye." [Note: See "Sandwich's orders" below.]
The fleet sailed on 9 September. Two days later they arrived within fifteen leagues of the Texel, and in the direct path of De Ruyter, his fleet and the East Indiamen.
A second bite at the cherry
September was a stormy month, and one after another De Ruyter's fleet and charges were dispersed, and attempts to reassemble them were in vain. Laden with riches, but foul after their long journey, they broke away from their convoy, and rolled helplessly about in the North Sea, at the mercy of the storm and their enemy.
On the morning of 13 September the English sighted seven or eight of these stragglers. Frigates were sent to chase them. For a whole day the pursuit lasted, and in the evening the English took a fine prize - two great East Indiamen, a Straitsman, a Malagaman, and four men-of-war, several small vessels, and 1,300 prisoners. The only English loss was the Hector, a fifth rate carrying twenty guns. Immediately the prizes were taken the whole fleet tacked to the westward, and ran about six leagues towards the English coast, in order to avoid running onto a lee shore.
Then for two days, they captured scattered ships of the Dutch fleet one by one. The prizes were rich, and their security gave anxiety. They were manned and formed into a small squadron convoyed by merchantmen. In case of imminent danger, the men were to be taken from the prizes, and the ships burned or sunk.
There was again some prospect of a battle. Sandwich was under no delusions about the strength of the Dutch fleet, nor about the resource and persistence of its leader; but having already made considerable gains, he adopted a cautious policy. He was determined to keep what he had, and to add to his riches rather than to risk losing them.
The day after this decision was made excitement began again. Eighteen sail of the enemy were sighted, chased, and attacked. Four men-of-war were taken, one of seventy guns; some merchantmen and a thousand prisoners. The English lost only one captain, Lambert, and a few men.
After this encounter, Sandwich stood westward, and met thirty sail more, one a Vice-Admiral (Van Nes). There was a short but intense action in which the Revenge lost her captain, Langhorne. But the Dutch, to facilitate their escape, fired some of their slower merchant ships. But fog and thick weather prevented a chase; the ships could scarcely see one another, and the wind was rapidly rising. The Dutch were within about eight leagues of their own coast, and tried to draw the English on to a lee shore. Sandwich was not to be caught so easily; he wouldn't risk tacking in the night, but kept his fleet together, and stood westward towards the English coast.
With a north-east wind the fleet sailed down the English coast, and on 23 September about sunset, anchored off the Nore. The ships were all safe and their prizes intact. This time, Sandwich had reason to be pleased.
What went wrong at Bergen?
There is little doubt that the Governor of Bergen had received no orders from the King and was entitled to refuse entry to the English warships. But it does not explain why the ten warships of the VOC fleet were permitted entry. As so far as can be ascertained, all the VOC ships were present in Bergen that day, including the ten warships. Perhaps they were classified as heavily armed merchant ships, so bypassing the five warship restriction, of they may have been a more sinister reason.
There are many possible reasons for the Governor’s action:
1. Simple bad communications. This is unlikely as at least five weeks had elapsed since the agreement with Sir Gilbert Talbot, and King’s orders as important at these would have been quickly despatched.
2. Despite the assurances of Talbot, Frederick may have developed cold feet about risking war with his powerful neighbour.
3. Talbot may have misunderstood the extent of Frederick's compliance, and overstated the case to King Charles.
4. Frederick may have been playing a double game.
5. The Dutch may have learned about the plot and paid Frederick to refuse entry to English ships. This would have been easy money for Frederick which entailed no risk, other than annoying the English. . . . etc.
But all this is speculation; the real reason remains to be discovered.
Sandwich’s Orders of 9 September
LORD SANDWICH'S FIGHTING AND SAILING INSTRUCTIONS - August 30, 1665 (O.S.)
At the Councell of Warr I did admonish the Commanders of some shipps for our advantage in fightinge and saylinge:
In Order to Fightinge
1. To be in theire place accordinge to the order of battle, at the first if possible.
2. If they were hindred of that by any accident, then to be sure to put themselves in a line anywhere to have theire broad sides to the enimy.
3. In tackinge and saylinge in tyme of fight to have especiall care of fallinge foule one of another, which is the greate occasion of destruction.
4. If by accident they be out of the line, take heed not to fire at the enimye through our friends, but watch an opportunity to have the enimye clear.
5. Wee meetinge now with a mixt Fleete of men of warr. East India men etc., noe man to seize a merchant until victory obtained and certaine.
In Order to Saylinge
1. Give good berth to avoid disablinge our shipps by tackinge or fallinge foule.
2. Take speciall heed not to lose Company of the Fleete, which whoso does shall justify himselfe at a Court Martiall.
3. None to chase but by order of the Flagg, the contrary to be examined at a Court Martiall.
4. Sayle in such an order as you may most readily fall into the posture of battle.
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."
Re: The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Four Days Battle (11-14 June 1666)
Following the unsuccessful attack on the returning Dutch East India fleet at Vagen, and the more successful attacks on it later, Lord Sandwich had been forced from his command of the English fleet over the scandal of prize distribution. In his place General George Monck, Duke of Albemarle, was appointed together with Prince Rupert.
Since their defeat at the Battle of Lowestoft, the Dutch fleet had been reinforced by the return of De Ruyter's fleet from the Americas, and by a substantial shipbuilding program which constructed ships much faster than the English were able.
[Note: As usual with accounts of historic battles, no two versions agree and are often contradictory. Where times, actions and events are not clear, I have used those which seem the most credible, given the circumstances of the time. Consequently, this account doesn't agree fully with any other, but which I hope is more balanced. This applies also to other accounts of battles of this same war.]
In the winter of 1666, the Dutch, in order to strengthen their position, formed an alliance with France and Denmark against England. While the Danish contribution was small, that of France was considerable.
From the 1660's onwards, King Louis XIV of France had secret ambitions of expanding French territory eastwards to give France the defensible frontier of the Rhine. To do this he had to seize the Spanish Netherlands, the southern half of the Netherlands currently occupied by Spain, or roughly the Belgium of today. Were this to happen, they would find themselves in a war, not only with the Spanish, but also with the Dutch who wanted to reunite their lands and certainly did not want them occupied by the French. But Louis didn't mind this as France had strong militarily land forces, whereas Spain's power had diminished and the Dutch concentrated their strength at sea. But what he feared was that if the Dutch were to be defeated by the English at sea, he would have to contend with England, who could raise a strong army and make things difficult for him.
So he cynically agreed to the alliance with the Dutch and Danes to defeat the English at sea so that he could realise his territorial ambitions at a later date unhindered by the English. The alliance was welcomed by the Dutch, as with the addition of the French fleet, this combined fleet would be much superior in numbers to the English.
When the alliance was agreed, France and Denmark declared war on England. But it is now clear that from the start, Louis didn't intend to fight the English and was content to let the Dutch do the fighting with the later prospect of an easy victory over a weakened United Provinces. He made the gesture of sailing the French fleet from Toulon, under the command of the Duke of Beaufort, but unknown to the Dutch, secretly ordered it to stop at Lisbon, Portugal, having no intention of sailing through the English Channel alone.
There followed what is described as the "Four Days Battle", which in reality was four separates battles fought on successive days by the same adversaries. It is still one of the longest naval engagements in history.
From Mahan's "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History":
"The Four Days' Battle of June, 1666, which claims special notice, not only on account of the great number of ships engaged on either side, nor yet only for the extraordinary physical endurance of the men who kept up a hot naval action for so many successive days, but also because the commanders-in-chief on either side. Monk and De Ruyter, were the most distinguished seamen, or rather sea-commanders, brought forth by their respective countries in the seventeenth century. Monk was possibly inferior to Blake in the annals of the English navy; but there is a general agreement that De Ruyter is the foremost figure, not only in the Dutch service, but among all the naval officers of that age."
The opposing fleets
Since the Battle of Lowestoft, the Dutch had reorganised their fleet. Instead of the previous five squadrons, roughly corresponding to each province, they now had only three, much along the lines of the English fleet.
The English had 80 major warships under George Monck and Prince Rupert, and the Dutch had 85 ships under de Ruyter, while the French fleet of about 36 ships under the Duke of Beaufort was still at Toulon in the Mediterranean; thus only the Dutch and English fleets were in the North Sea in the Spring of 1666, and were fairly evenly balanced in numbers.
In general, the English ships were more heavily armed than their opponents, giving them the advantage when formed in a line of battle, but the Dutch ships were more manoeuvrable and better suited to fighting when the battle line descended into a general melee, as it usually did.
At the beginning of June 1666, news was brought to King Charles that the Duke of Beaufort with the French fleet had sailed from Toulon to rendezvous with the Dutch in the North Sea. But what he didn't know was that it had been ordered to wait at Lisbon, so it was not the immediate threat he thought it to be. After discussions, he ordered Prince Rupert to take twenty four ships and engage Beaufort in the English Channel before he could join up with de Ruyter. This was a strategic error, as it left Monck only fifty six ships with which to oppose de Ruyter's eighty five. Both Rupert and Monk put to sea from Southwold Bay on 10 June. While Rupert sailed south and into the Channel, Monk anchored in the Downs.
The Dutch had sailed with a fair easterly wind, which was also hastening Rupert's separation from Monck. De Ruyter, to avoid being driven too far westwards, anchored near Dunkirk. The wind changed later to the southwest and freshened, so that the fleet then rode with its head to the south-southwest and the van on the right; while Tromp, who commanded the rear division, was on the left, which was most to windward, the centre squadron under de Ruyter being to leeward, and the right under Evertsen, to leeward again.
This was the position of the fleets at daylight on 11 June 1666.
Friday 11 June-the first day
Early in the morning, the Bristol, scouting ahead of the English fleet, discovered several sail and signalled to the rest of the fleet. About 08.00, about twelve more were seen; and other ships discovered about twenty or thirty more, towards Dunkirk and Ostend. Assuming that they were part of the Dutch fleet, Monck called his flag officers to a Council of War where it was decided, that despite their depleted numbers, they should attack. Monck sent the Kent to sail after Prince Rupert to recall him to reunite the fleet.
The English fleet had Monck in the Red Squadron, with George Ayscue in the centre White Squadron and Thomas Teddiman in the Blue Squadron bringing up the rear. The Dutch fleet had de Ruyter in the centre squadron, with Cornelis Evertsen in the van and Cornelis Tromp in the rear squadron.
During the night, the wind had changed to the southwest, and Monck, seeing the Dutch fleet to leeward, and having the weather gauge, decided to attack at once, hoping that by keeping the advantage of the wind he would be able to isolate and engage only part of the Dutch fleet which was disposed in a line from west to east. He therefore sailed towards the westmost squadron, which was the rear squadron commanded by Tromp, intending to leave De Ruyter’s right and centre squadrons out of cannon shot.
At about 13.00, Monck's first thirty-five ships were well in line; but the rear had opened and was straggling, as is apt to be the case with long columns. With the thirty five he then ran downwind for Tromp, who seemingly surprised by his action, cut his cables and made sail on the same tack, with both heading towards the French coast. The Dutch centre and rear also cut their cables, and followed the movement, but being too far to leeward, couldn’t yet join the action. The first few hours of the battle were thus between the thirty-five ships that had managed to keep up with Monck, and Tromp's squadron.
The southwest wind heeled the ships over, and the rough sea, prevented the English from using their heaviest lower-deck guns, and made it easier for the Dutch to fire high with their chainshot to disable the English ship’s masts and rigging. (These were Obdam’s intended tactics at Lowestoft.)
As they drew near Dunkirk the English went about together; so in the return to the northwest, the English line was reversed, with the van, now in the rear. The engaged ships had naturally drifted to leeward, towards de Ruyter coming from the east, enabling him to catch up and engage the rearmost ships of the English van, who were severely mauled by him. Monck had most of his rigging taken clean off by chainshot, together with his standard, so that he was forced to fall out of line, being relieved by the Royal Oak. He quickly re-rigged with jury masts and new sails, then rejoined the battle.
The battle continued unabated all afternoon. From the first shots until about 17.00, the two fleets sailed past each other, approaching and drawing back as wind and waves dictated, while they exchanged broadside after broadside. The Rainbow, one of the ships that had first spotted the Dutch fleet, became isolated and fled to neutral Ostend, chased by ships from Tromp's squadron.
At about 17.00, Monck signalled for a tack towards the English coast. While the fleet executed this order, Vice-Admiral Sir William Berkeley's squadron, bringing up the rear, was attacked and his flagship Swiftsure disabled when his rigging was destroyed by chainshot from the Reiger, whose crew then boarded and captured her, killing the twenty seven year old Vice-Admiral.
A contemporary wrote: "Vice-Admiral Berkeley, who, though cut off from the line, surrounded by enemies, great numbers of his men killed, his ship disabled and boarded on all sides, yet continued fighting almost alone, killed several with his own hand, and would accept no quarter; till at length, being shot in the throat with a musket ball, he retired into the captain's cabin, where he was found dead, extended at his full length upon a table, and almost covered with his own blood."
During the afternoon’s fighting, several ships on both sides had been disabled and had to be taken into harbour for repairs, mainly to the masts and rigging, including that of Tromp, who transferred his flag. One of the English ships was very lucky to survive long enough; this was the Henry, Vice-Admiral Sir John Harman’s flagship:
"Being in a short time completely disabled, one of the enemy's fire-ships grappled him on the starboard quarter; he was, however, freed by the almost incredible exertions of his lieutenant [Thomas Lamming], who, having in the midst of the flames loosed the grappling-irons, swung back on board his own ship unhurt. The Dutch, bent on the destruction of this unfortunate ship, sent a second which grappled her on the larboard side, and with greater success than the former; for the sails instantly taking fire, the crew were so terrified that nearly fifty of them jumped overboard.
The admiral, Sir John Harman, seeing this confusion, ran with his sword drawn among those who remained, and threatened with instant death the first man who should attempt to quit the ship, or should not exert himself to quench the flames. The crew then returned to their duty and got the fire under; but the rigging being a good deal burned, one of the topsail yards fell and broke Sir John's leg. In the midst of this accumulated distress, a third fire-ship prepared to grapple him, but was sunk by the guns before she could effect her purpose. The Dutch vice-admiral, Evertsen, now bore down to him and offered quarter; but Sir John replied, "No, no, it is not come to that yet," and giving him a broadside, killed the Dutch commander; after which the other enemies sheered off."
Fighting continued throughout the evening, but petered out at some time between 21.00 and 22.00, when both sides were content to retire for the night and dropped anchor about two miles apart, with the English to the southwest of the Dutch.
While both sides had sustained losses, the English had suffered most having only about forty five of the fifty six ships left capable of fighting, while the Dutch were reduced to about seventy. Despite this disparity in numbers, Monck still intended to resume battle the next day.
Saturday 12 June–the second day
On the morning of the second day, Monck's fleet had been reduced to forty five ships, whereas De Ruyter still had about seventy warships (other than fireships), although a dozen ships of Tromp's squadron were not present, but were making their way back from Dutch ports. Tromp himself had to abandon two of his flagships that had been shot from under him, and was now in his third.
At about 06.00, Monck, lying about two miles southwest of the Dutch fleet, decided that despite his inferior numbers, attacking the Dutch aggressively would produce the best results, so sailed directly towards them, with the advantage of the wind which had moderated. The sea was somewhat calmer, enabling the English ships to use all their guns to full effect. The two fleets ran past each on opposite tacks other several times, exchanging broadsides and damaging each other. At the end of each pass they repaired their damages before returning to the charge. During one such pause, the wind suddenly calmed, and neither could approach the other.
When at 11.00 the wind freshened again, de Ruyter gave the order to run past the enemy again, but as he approached the enemy line, a heavy cannonade attracted his attention and noticed Tromp with several ships, on the other side of the English line. Whether by design or accident, Tromp with five or six ships had, unnoticed by De Ruyter, become detached from the main body of the fleet and was on the opposite side of the English fleet. Tromp had tried to break through the English line to rejoin the fleet, but had become surrounded by enemy ships who were giving his ships a pounding.
De Ruyter took half of his fleet went to rescue Tromp, while the other half headed south to attack the English rear. He broke through the English line, forced the English to give way and re-form. Tromp and his ships were saved, but at a price; two ships were burned and sunk, while four others had been so damaged that they had to be sent home.
De Ruyter was not amused with Tromp, who had lost yet another flagship and had to find a fourth. Immediately after his salvation, Tromp went on board De Ruyter's flagship to report, only to be told: "This is no time for rejoicing, but rather for tears. Indeed, our position was bad, each squadron acting differently, in no line, and all the ships huddled together like a flock of sheep, so packed that the English might have surrounded all of them with their forty ships. The English were in admirable order, but did not push their advantage as they should, whatever the reason."
So badly had Tromp’s ships suffered that, on his own ship, one man in every three was killed or wounded; his Vice-Admiral was killed, and barely half his officers were alive when De Ruyter prevented his total destruction. Both fleets now reformed into lines and resumed normal battle with great ferocity, passing three times on opposite tacks. During the second pass, de Ruyter’s own ship, De Zeven Provincien, was damaged and had to withdraw temporarily for repairs.
Then, late in the afternoon, twelve Dutch ships appeared on the horizon; greatly surprising Monck because he hadn’t expected de Ruyter’s superior force to be further reinforced. But these were only the ships which had pursued Rainbow to Ostend, and others which had escorted captured English ships to Dutch ports.
The battle continued, but with the addition of these twelve ships, the Dutch were simply too strong for Monck, who ordered his ships to report on their condition. When only thirty four of them reported being capable of further fighting, and having received no news of the return of Prince Rupert’s squadron, he decided to withdraw for the night, and turned westwards with de Ruyter following. That night, Monck was heartened when he received news that Prince Rupert had been contacted and was at last on his way back.
Sunday 13 June-the third day
The whole of the night and the following day the flight and the pursuit continued. Although the English ships were normally faster than the Dutch ships, in order to maintain cohesion the fleet sailed leisurely together at the speed of the slowest of the many disabled ships. These, Monck placed in the front of the fleet, and protected them on the flanks and rear with those that were still seaworthy, placing the most powerful, with their 32 pounder stern guns at the rear. The Dutch followed on a broad front.
Consequently, the Dutch were able to keep up and harass the English. So In order to hasten his progress, Monck decided to abandon the slowest of the damaged ships and set fire to three of them. The Dutch, avoiding the rear cannons of the English were still able to snipe at him from the wings, trying to draw him into combat, but Monck just replied to their fire without engaging them, and steadily continued his fighting retreat westwards towards the Thames.
About 17.00, with the chase at its most intense, Rupert’s squadron of twenty four ships, returning from their fool’s errand, and attracted by the sounds of gunfire, was sighted approaching from the south. Monck ordered a turn towards him, but at the time they were very close to the Galloper sands (about 20 miles off the Suffolk coast), and several ships, including Monk’s flagship Royal Charles, ran aground.
Most were quickly freed, but Sir George Ayscue’s flagship of the White Squadron, the Royal Prince, one of the largest and finest vessels in the English fleet, carrying 90 guns and 620 men, was stuck fast. Ayscue raised a distress signal, only for Monck to signal back that he couldn’t stay to help, and that Ayscue must act as he found best.
The men of Royal Prince did all they could to get her afloat, but in vain. Tromp, in Gouda his fourth flagship, seeing her predicament, attacked her at once, sending flaming fireships to attack her on both sides. Ayscue's men fought hard, and when about 150 of his men had been killed, with no assistance forthcoming, and surrounded by an enemy bent on his destruction, he hauled down his flag and surrendered; the first and last time in history an English admiral of so high a rank would be captured at sea.
The Royal Prince couldn't be freed from the sands, so de Ruyter ordered her to be burned, much to the chagrin of Tromp who saw his valuable prize go up in smoke. He tried to claim compensation for this for the next fifteen years.
When Rupert’s squadron was sighted by De Ruyter, he sent about thirty of his ships to intercept him, with the remainder continuing to harass Monck. Rupert, not knowing Monck's situation or wishes, sent a vessel to contact him and receive advice, while at the same time prepared to meet the Dutch. At a pre-arranged signal, Monck fired two guns to indicate to Rupert that he was not to engage the Dutch, so he just fended them off until he met up with the rest of the fleet. De Ruyter, seeing that he couldn't prevent Rupert and Monck combining, and realising that he had yet another day's heavy fighting before him, signalled his fleet to disengage.
In the evening, Rupert's squadron joined up with Monck who had now about sixty ships, of which Rupert's twenty four were fresh and undamaged with full magazines and fully manned. Whereas De Ruyter had been reduced to about sixty four ships, all of which had three day's heavy fighting behind them, had suffered damage, and whose men had been greatly reduced by sickness, wounds and death. So for the first time in three days, the balance of strength tilted in favour of the English.
Later that evening, Monck briefed Rupert and it was decided that, the next day, they would attack the Dutch.
[Note: When Rupert was initially found near the Isle of Wight and recalled, it seems that he was not told of the battles being fought in the North Sea. Consequently he didn't appreciate the urgency with which he was needed, so against contrary winds, he didn't hasten his return and, on 13 June, called in at Dover for information and instructions. Samuel Pepys wrote despairingly:
"How bad we are at intelligence that should give the Prince no sooner notice of any thing but let him come to Dover without notice of any fight, or where the fleete were, or any thing else, nor give the Duke any notice that he might depend upon the Prince's reserve; and lastly, of how good use all may be to checke our pride and presumption in adventuring upon hazards upon unequal force against a people that can fight, it seems now, as well as we, and that will not be discouraged by any losses, but that they will rise again."]
Monday 14 June-the fourth day
Early in the morning, the English fleet was joined by five more warships and a fireship, replacing six of the most damaged ships which were sent for repair. The wind was very fresh from the southwest, as were the Dutch, giving them the weather gauge. De Ruyter had impressed on his flag officers that the forthcoming battle would be decisive for the entire war. He planned to disrupt the English line by breaking it in three places cutting off parts of the English fleet before dealing with the rest.
The English fleet was led by Sir Christopher Myngs in the van, followed by Rupert with the centre squadron, and Monck with the rear squadron. Monck, instead of attempting to pass on the opposite tack, came up from astern of the Dutch, relying upon the speed and manoeuvrability of his ships.
At about 08.00, the battle began when the Dutch Vice-Admiral De Liefde leading the fleet in Ridderschap, came alongside Myngs in the Victory and began pouring fire into each other in a close quarters duel, during which, Myngs was hit by two musket balls and fatally wounded.
The rest of the two fleets gradually engaged, and for the next two hours they exchanged broadsides so ferociously that any one would have thought it the first day's encounter, rather than their fourth. De Ruyter had on board his ship, two French generals, the Prince of Monaco and his brother, Count de Guiche. Both confessed that "they had never witnessed anything so dreadful in the whole of their career, and that the horrors of a battle on land were not to be compared with it." The resolve of both sides seemed to increase rather than diminish as the battle progressed.
There followed a more confused stage of the battle with both fleets breaking through each others lines several times, resulting in both becoming fragmented. De Ruyter still commanded the larger part of the Dutch fleet, while Monck had the larger part of the English fleet around him.
And so it continued with De Ruyter and the English main body keeping up a sharp action, beating to windward all the time. Tromp, having overtaken Van Ness, returned bringing the van back with him; but owing to the constant plying to windward of the English main body he came up to leeward of it and could not rejoin the main fleet which was to windward. For the second time, Tromp had managed to separate himself from De Ruyter.
The Dutch fleet was divided north and south of the main body of the English, with De Ruyter to windward and Tromp to leeward. De Ruyter, seeing this, and knowing from the three previous day’s fighting that Monck commanded the weakest squadron, raised a red flag, the signal for a general attack, and all ships made simultaneously for the English centre and Monck. The wind was very strong: "Thus in less than no time we found ourselves in the midst of the English; who, being attacked on both sides, were thrown into confusion and saw their whole order destroyed, as well by dint of the action, as by the strong wind that was then blowing."
De Ruyter sailed to attack Monck from behind, firing at Rupert as he passed, dismasting his flagship, the Royal James, which had to withdraw, towed and protected by the other ships of his squadron. Monck was attacked and received two shots in the powder stores, and his mast so damaged that he had to extricate himself. "This was the hottest of the fight. We saw the high admiral of England separated from his fleet, followed only by one fire-ship. With that he gained to windward, and passing through the North Holland squadron, placed himself again at the head of fifteen or twenty ships that rallied to him."
The English rear was struck hard by this manoeuvre, and the battle continued over the next few hours with the English getting the worse of it, finally breaking off the action and retreating, pursued by the Dutch until, at about 19.00. Rear-Admiral Sir Joseph Jordan of the Red Squadron: "At seven at night, most of our great ships disabled in masts, yards, rigging, the want of men to ply our guns, and powder and shot nearly all spent, forced our retreat, in which the Black Bull and the Essex falling
aboard each other, and one to leeward which I suppose was the Convertine, are in the hands of the enemy."
At about 19.00, a dense fog spread over the water, and De Ruyter seeing that a further approach would bring him close to the sands, decided to break off the pursuit and return home, as his own fleet was also heavily damaged, but his logbook speaks only of a fear for the English shoals.
Thus ended this great sea battle; possibly the most remarkable in some of its aspects that has ever been fought upon the ocean.
Because both sides claimed victory, the outcome is sometimes described as inconclusive, although it is clear that the English suffered the greater losses. The Dutch fleet was also severely damaged, but they had managed to cripple the English fleet. Exact figures for losses are hard to establish, because both sides exaggerated their enemy’s losses, while minimising their own. The following figures are believed only to be roughly accurate.
Over the four days, the English lost sixteen ships, with ten being burned or sunk, and six captured; two Vice-Admirals and 1,000 men killed, and 2,000 taken prisoner including a Vice-Admiral. The Dutch lost nine ships burned or sunk; three Vice-Admirals and 1,500 men killed.
There is no doubt that the English had much the worst of it, and that this was due wholly to the original blunder of weakening the fleet by a great detachment sent in another direction. But the English had sustained the fight against the odds, due in great measure, to the skill and valour of the admirals, but not a little, also, to the good discipline and seamanship of the men and officers.
This was the most terrible sea battle fought in this, or perhaps in any other war, as the Dutch admirals themselves say; and the Dutch political leader Johan de Witt said of the battle, "If the English were beaten, their defeat did them more honour than all their former victories; their own fleet could never have been brought on after the first day's fight, and he believed none but theirs could; and all the Dutch had discovered was, that Englishmen might be killed, and English ships burnt; but that the English courage was invincible."
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."
Re: The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The St. James’s Day Battle (4-5 August 1666)
The St. James’s Day Battle (also known as the Second Battle of North Foreland, the Battle of Orfordness or in Netherlands as the Two Day Battle), took place on 4-5 August 1666, between the English fleet (of about 90 ships), under George Monck, the Duke of Albemarle, and Prince Rupert, and the Dutch fleet (also of about 90 ships) under Michiel De Ruyter. It is called the St James’s Day Battle because it started on the Julian calendar date of 25 July 1666.
Following the Four Days Battle (11-14 June), both the Dutch and English worked rapidly to repair their ships, ready for the expected next encounter. The Dutch fleet, whose ships were not so badly damaged, was readied first, and put to sea on 15 July, again commanded by De Ruyter. The intention was to land at the Medway and attack the English fleet in its harbour before it could be readied for sailing.
To do this, De Ruyter was joined by ten fluyt (cargo) ships carrying 2,700 marines or sea soldiers. But head winds and storms delayed his arrival, and the same bad weather prevented the landing, so De Ruyter sent the marines back to the Netherlands, while the fleet remained.
The English fleet, again under Monck and Rupert, sailed on the 1 August and anchored of Orfordness. The next day a calm, followed that night by a storm, prevented further movements by either side. It was not until late afternoon of 3 August, between Orfordness and North Foreland, that the two fleets came into sight of each other. Both fleets anchored for the night, with the English to the north-east of the Dutch.
The White Squadron (the van) was commanded by Sir Thomas Allin in Royal James; the Red Squadron (the centre) by Monck in Royal Charles, and the Blue Squadron (the rear) by Sir Jeremiah Smith in Loyal London.
(Amongst these ships are some famous names, including Victory, Vanguard, Dreadnought, Warspite and others.)
The Dutch van was led by Johan Evertsen in Walcheren; Michiel de Ruyter commanded the centre in Zeven Provincien; while the rear squadron was under Cornelis Tromp.
-----"-----4 August-Day 1
At about 02.00, the two fleets prepared for battle and weighed anchor, and for the next eight hours they slowly approached each other in the light airs. What little wind there was favoured the English, blowing from the north. The two fleets drew slowly and deliberately towards each other, and by 06.00 were about two leagues apart. Both sides formed into a line of battle; with Allin's squadron leading the English, and Evertsen's squadron leading the Dutch.
As they closed, the wind veered to the NW which didn’t affect the English line much, which remained at regular intervals, or regular as a line of at least five or six miles could be. But it caused the Dutch line to bend, and their ships became unevenly distributed, with the van (Evertsen) and centre (de Ruyter) crowded together, and the rear (Tromp) became somewhat isolated.
The first engagements
It was about 10.00 when the leading vessels of the two lines arrived within cannon range of each another, with the Dutch being to leeward. Allin, as he came up with the van, engaged Evertsen and the Dutch van, the squadrons holding parallel courses on the port tack. So light was the wind that it was another hour before Monck and Rupert with the English centre, could engage with De Ruyter and the Dutch centre as it came up. Similarly, it was not until about 12.00 that Smith and Tromp with the two rear squadrons engaged in turn. By noon all ships of the two fleets were fully engaged.
The English van started quickly to get the better of the Dutch van and, strengthened by a number of extra ships sent by Monck, Allin attacked Evertsen with increased vigour. De Ruyter seeing his van disintegrating, tried to send more ships to his assistance, but the light wind delayed them for another hour, even then many of them lagged behind. They arrived too late; the Dutch van was overpowered, and having lost three flag officers killed (Evertsen, de Vries, and Coenders), was leaderless and lacked cohesion, and at 13.00 turned away, pursued by Allin.
When the two centre squadrons engaged at about 11.00, the English didn’t have it so easy for, as usual, De Ruyter fought skilfully and stubbornly. Monck in the Royal Charles made towards de Ruyter in the Zeven Provincien and soon they began firing broadsides at each other, and continued firing "without intermission" as they edged closer to each other, until they were within half a musket shot range, and fired small shot at each other for the next half hour. The Royal Charles was disabled in her yards, masts and rigging and about 13.30, Monck was forced to pull out of line and transfer his flag.
About the same time, Rear-Admiral Holmes of the Red, in the Henry, also became embroiled in a savage duel with De Ruyter's flagship, resulting in both ships being forced to pull out of line for repairs, after which, Holmes was so far away from the main body that he joined Smith's Blue Squadron in the rear.
At 16.00, with both sides badly damaged, and only seven ships of De Ruyter's centre squadron remaining together, the Dutch centre gave way, and bore away to the southeast, followed by the English who were in no position to take advantage. On the way, De Ruyter collected more of his damaged ships together, often endangering himself and his ship to help others, skilfully fighting a rearguard action.
Meanwhile, a completely separate battle was being fought between Tromp and Smith in the rear squadrons. When they first engaged at about 12.00, the maverick Tromp put his helm over, sailed out of line and crossed Smith's line ahead of him. Thus, as on two previous occasions (in the Four Days Battle), separated his squadron from the rest of the Dutch fleet.
Tromp's squadron was the strongest of the Dutch, and Smith's was the weakest of the English. They engaged in a somewhat confused melee, eventually going away westwards on the starboard tack in the direction of the English coast, and were presently lost to sight of the Dutch van and centre squadrons which, being fully engaged with their English counterparts, were heading eastwards.
Tromp seems to have had the upper hand when, at 14.00, the Resolution was attacked by a fireship and burnt. Smith's flagship Loyal London was disabled and he was forced to have her towed away. By 18.00, Smith's Blue Squadron "were all in a smoke intermixed with the Dutch colours".
The two squadrons, while still fully engaged, continued sailing westwards towards the English coast. Tromp, who by separating himself further from De Ruyter, didn’t know about his desperate plight, and therefore could offer no much needed assistance to him.
At about 19.00 the English Red (Monck) and White (Allin) Squadrons joined together and took two more Dutch ships, firing them both. The battle was effectively over, but the Dutch still had to get home.
-----"-----5 August-Day 2
In the morning, Tromp, far to westwards, received news of De Ruyter's defeat and his retreat. Realising that his squadron was now alone, and the English fleet was between him and the Dutch coast, he broke off the pursuit of Smith's squadron and turned eastwards for home, knowing that he may have to face the entire English fleet before he arrived there. Seeing Tromp turn away, Smith followed with those of his ships that were still operational, pursuing him eastwards.
The previous night, Monck had ordered Allin to take two frigates and follow De Ruyter closely, reporting any change of course by signal lamps. So close did he keep that by first light, Allin found himself not much above musket shot from de Ruyter's lee, and then tacked back towards the fleet. Monck drew the fleet into line, and made all the sail they could, to get up with the Dutch; but there was so little wind, that they couldn’t reach them.
In the morning, De Ruyter’s position was desperate; with no sign of Tromp’s squadron and his force reduced to less than twenty ships. Vice-Admiral Banckers appeared later, bringing the total up to about forty ships, many of which were disabled, being survivors of the van. The English van and centre of about fifty ships, was now on three sides of him, and the wind was still very light, preventing a quick retreat. Vice-Admiral Banckert, with eighteen of the least damaged ships, was positioned as a rearguard to protect their rear as they made slow passage towards the Dutch coast.
The lack of wind made it difficult for either fleet to make any headway. For light relief, Rupert’s personal pleasure yacht Fan Fan, was rowed across to De Ruyter’s flagship and from beneath Zeven Provincien’s guns, fired her two little guns broadside into the Dutch ship. The flagship couldn’t depress its guns enough to bring them to bear on the little boat, and in the light airs, neither could any other Dutch ship. This entertainment continued for nearly an hour, much to the amusement of the English, until at last the Dutch contrived to hit her, at which she retired.
Soon after this, the wind increased a little, enabling Monck to make way towards De Ruyter, who bore away before him. As they approached the shallows of the Dutch coast, in which the English ships couldn't follow, Monck ordered a last attack, which was executed ferociously. The Dutch were saved by Banckert’s rearguard action and their proximity to the shallows, which enabled them draw away and reach safety. At 23.00 the English van and centre anchored off the Dutch coast.
Meanwhile, Tromp, who was still thirty miles from safety, and still pursued by Smith, was seen by Monck, who was too far to leeward to intercept them. Smith had been unable to engage Tromp, who prevented the English capturing him, and he joined De Ruyter the next day.
The English had won a convincing victory with very little loss. Only the Resolution and about six fireships were lost, with four captains and 300 men killed.
The Dutch had lost two major ships and about sixteen of their fireships. Four flag officers, and about ten captains and four thousand men were killed.
The following day, Monck decided to send home his damaged ships, and the rest were to keep station on the Dutch coast, hoping for some further action. They stayed there until late in August.
De Ruyter was furious with Tromp for going off on his own and deserting him, accusing him of disobeying orders, dereliction of duty, and blaming him for the Dutch defeat. After acrimonious arguments, Tromp was dismissed from naval service.
In England, the firebrand Rear-Admiral Robert Holmes, accused Admiral of the Blue, Sir Jeremiah Smith, of having withdrawn through cowardice, and blamed him for letting Tromp escape. Monck wrote to King Charles in support of Smith, "to clear a gallant man's reputation…. I can assure Your Majesty that he had more men killed and hurt than in any of the fleet". After investigating the matter, Smith was exonerated.
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."
Re: The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
Holmes's Bonfire (19-20 August 1666)
After the St James’s Day Battle, George Monck with the English fleet had, on 5 August 1666, pursued the remnants of the Dutch fleet back to the Netherlands. The Dutch fleet would be in no condition to challenge them for many weeks; therefore it was discussed between the English flag officers how best to exploit their advantage.
A blockade seemed obvious, but would require some time to become effective, and time is what the English lacked, having sufficient supplies for only a few weeks more before they would be forced to withdraw.
To make best use of the time available, it was thought that something more aggressive than blockading was called for; therefore it was decided to attack one of the Dutch ports – but which one? The main ports were either too well defended or too far inland, but there was one which had possibilities.
The English had with them a Dutch captain Laurens Heemskerck, who had fled to England after being accused of cowardice at the Battle of Lowestoft. He suggested to Monck that the islands of Vlieland and Schelling, two of the Friesland Islands, were a suitable target as there were several very rich East India Company warehouses located there.
Stretching between the islands and beyond was a stretch of mudflats and shoals called the Vlie, which was often used as moorage for merchant ships while waiting to assemble in convoy bound for the Baltic ports. The shoals of the Vlie were generally considered sufficient protection against enemy attack, and so the islands were usually poorly guarded.
On 8 August the English fleet set course for the Vlie, but the wind being contrary it didn’t arrive in the area until 17 August. Heemskerck was sent out with Little Mary and Fan Fan to reconnoitre.
Rear-Admiral of the Red Squadron, Robert Holmes was given command of a small force which was to carry out the attack. Because of the shallowness of the waters in the Vlie, only a force consisting of the smaller vessels of the fleet would be suitable for the operation. This force was made up from five 4th rate ships (Advice, Hampshire, Tyger, Dragon, Assurance); three 5th rates (Sweepstake, Garland, Pembroke), five fireships and seven ketches. With him went Sir William Jennings as a secondary commander in case it was found expedient to attack both islands at once.
A makeshift marine force of 900 men was formed from one third seamen and two thirds landsmen (sea soldiers); 300 coming from each of the three squadrons. They formed nine companies of 100 men, each commanded by a captain. There were two further companies of 100 men, presumably as a reserve.
Holmes’s orders were to attack Vlieland (which was thought to be where most of the warehouses were) with five companies of men, while Jennings with 400 men was to attack Schelling, simultaneously if possible.
Holmes's orders stressed that plunder of the warehouses was the objective, and burning what could not be taken away. Any merchant ships present were a secondary target, seizing as many as were needed to carry away their booty, and burning the rest. The local population was not to be harmed if they did not resist.
Thursday 19 August
On 19 August at about 07.00, Holmes’s small force weighed anchor, separated from the rest of the fleet and sailed towards the Vlie coming to anchor about a league from the buoyed channel between the islands. There they rendezvoused with the returning FanFan which reported that a large fleet of about 150–160 merchantmen, guarded only by two warships, was lying in the Vlie, and that the islands of Vlieland and Schelling appeared unguarded.
Holmes’s primary objective was the destruction of those island’s warehouses, but the presence of so many Dutch ships, presented a threat should large numbers of armed men be mustered from them. Consequently, he decided to attack these ships first, and leave the islands until later.
The previous day, having received news of the approaching English fleet, the Amsterdam Admiralty had ordered the removal of all the buoys from the marked channels. But this had been interrupted by the arrival of the fleet, leaving most of the buoys in the outer channel undisturbed.
Leaving the Advice and Hampshire to prevent the removal of the remaining buoys, Holmes took the rest of his force into the Schelling Roads, But the southeasterly wind being against him, anchored, transferred his flag to the FanFan and held a meeting, at which he ordered the Pembroke, which drew the least water, with all five fire ships and three ketches to attack the enemy's fleet.
Not wanting to risk his frigates running aground on the shoals, these stayed off Vlieland, and at about 13.00, with the five fireships leading, the Pembroke with three ketches and one foot company, and Holmes in the FanFan, sailed towards the merchant men.
The Dutch, on seeing the English approaching, had positioned the two warships and three large armed merchantmen to protect the others. The first of the fireships attached itself to one of the Dutch warships, setting it ablaze. The second fireship ran aground, but its crew managed to board the second warship, firing it, its crew having abandoned it. The other three fireships successfully fired the armed merchantmen, causing the crews of the other merchant ships to abandon them in panic, escaping in their boats.
Seeing this, Holmes decided to immediately exploit the situation, sending firing parties in teams of a dozen men each in long boats, to set fire to as many vessels as they could, without wasting time plundering them. In the following hours, one after another of the Dutch ships was attacked until, by 20.00, all except nine were on fire. These nine, a Guineaman, three small privateers, and five others had sought the refuge of a narrow channel, and protected by the Guineaman, had managed to save themselves.
Numbers vary greatly, but about 130 ships were destroyed; the Dutch admit to 114, but there were probably other small vessels lost that were not recorded. Almost all of their crews had managed to save themselves. Monck, with the main English fleet lying to seaward, on seeing the huge pall of smoke rising from the conflagration about twenty miles away, assumed the warehouse's destruction, and dispatched a premature congratulatory message to Holmes.
While the smaller ships were busy attacking the Dutch merchantmen, the larger English frigates had stood off Vlieland. From their position, only a low lying land consisting mainly of sand dunes could be seen. There was only one small village; no towns or substantial buildings that would be expected, if the reported presence of large warehouses was true. So reconnaisance parties were landed which, on taking and questioning prisoners, established that there were no important buildings on the island.
Friday 20 August
Holmes, on hearing about the lack of targets on Vlieland, decided to concentrate his forces on the neighbouring island of Schelling. Leaving Tyger, Assurance, Dragon, Garland and Sweepstakes in the Schelling Roads with five foot companies for protection, the remainder landed on Schelling.
The town, which the English called Brandaris after the nearby lighthouse of the same name, and called ter Schelling by the Dutch, is now known as West Terschelling. The town was wealthy, being home to the Dutch whaling industry and warehouses of the Dutch East India Company.
At about 05.00, Holmes's forces landed, opposed only by a few armed men who withdrew when the foot companies arrived. Leaving one company to guard the landing place, three companies entered the town from which most of the population had by now fled, while Holmes with two other companies remained on the outskirts.
Holmes, in addition to the warehouses, had ordered the town itself to be burned. After the warehouses were burning, and seeing his men were slow in executing the order, being more interested in looting than destroying the town, he set fire to a few houses on its windward side. It had been a very dry summer and the fire quickly spread, so that within only a few hours it had spread to almost the entire town. Only about thirty houses, the town hall, church and the lighthouse escaped the flames.
With their work done, Holmes withdrew his forces and rejoined the main fleet the next day, having lost of only twelve men in the action.
The financial cost to the Dutch of the loss of 130 ships, several warehouses and a town destroyed was estimated at eleven million Guilders, or about £1,100,000 sterling.
Following on from their defeat at sea, the news of this second calamity and the destruction of an entire town caused rioting in Amsterdam, where an angry mob attacked the house of De Ruyter.
When, three weeks later on 12-16 September, the Great Fire of London consumed a large part of that city, the Dutch connected the two events, interpreting it as divine retribution, "the sparks of the fire of Schelling crossing the sea, blown by the same easterly that would relentlessly burn London".
The Great Fire of London was considered by most Dutch to have avenged the destruction of Terschelling, so no special retaliation was planned. Their initial anger was replaced by a determination to repair the damage and continue the war.
After leaving the Vlie, the English fleet remained in Dutch waters for a few more weeks, disrupting trade and shipping. Towards the end of August, having spent all their provisions, and much of their ammunition, the fleet returned to England, leaving a few vessels for intelligence gathering.
On 5 September, after having repaired his ships, De Ruyter, taking advantage of the English fleet's departure, put to sea with a fleet of eighty sail, then sailed directly towards France, with the intention of joining up with the French fleet.
The news was quickly brought to England and the fleet was made ready, putting to sea to intercept the Dutch. On 11 September, Monck found them harboured in Boulogne; he prepared for action, but the Dutch stayed in harbour. The weather was by now very stormy with strong easterly winds, and being unable to weather it, and perceiving the enemy unwilling to fight, Monck withdrew the fleet to St. Hellens Bay, a safe harbour from where they could intercept the joining of the Dutch and French fleet, then lying in Rochelle.
On 18 September, King Charles recalled Monck to England to assist him and the Privy Council in the task of rebuilding London following the Great Fire; and there he remained for the rest of the year. The fleet stayed out, and although the Dutch and French fleets eventually united, they showed no aggressive intentions.
This lack of action on the Dutch side can be explained by, "a contagious and dangerous disease broke out in the fleet, and while De Ruyter was one day standing on deck by the side of a gun, a piece of burning fuze entered his throat and caused so painful a wound that he was in a few days reduced to a most alarming condition, and had to be transported to his own house."
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."
Re: The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Raid on the Medway (17 June 1667)
By the end of 1666, both England and Holland were weary of the war, in which neither side had gained a decisive advantage. An end to the war was desired in England by the King, Parliament, financiers and merchants alike, with similar feelings and reasons in Holland, as both were essentially trading countries. England was especially so, as the exchequer was drained trying to pay for the war and reconstruction of London following the Great Fire earlier that year. Tentative overtures were made, and in April 1667, negotiations were opened in Breda, Holland with the Swedish Ambassador acting as an intermediary.
King Charles’s treasury had been so depleted by royal extravagance, that the navy had been living on credit for many years, with one year’s budget entirely taken up by paying the previous year’s debts. Consequently, many suppliers and tradesmen became unwilling to extend further credit until they had paid. Owing to these financial difficulties and the opening of peace negotiations with Holland, it was decided not to fit out the fleet for 1667.
So bad were the finances that many sailors hadn’t been paid for several years, being issued with tickets (official IOUs) in lieu of wages instead. But it was almost impossible to get these tickets honoured. Some sailors were so desperate for money to feed their families that they were forced to sell their tickets, for only five shillings in the pound. So it was no wonder that mutiny, and even desertion to the ranks of the enemy, were of frequent occurrence. It was often said that there were 3,000 English and Scottish seamen in the Dutch fleet, and that even English prisoners sometimes refused to be sent home, preferring to take service in Holland.
Holland, through its well informed contacts in London, knew very well the English navy’s situation and meant to exploit this at Breda, where they intended to negotiate from a position of strength, having continued to prepare her naval fleet for war as before.
England, on the other hand, with her fleet laid up, was relying on a successful outcome to the negotiations, and acted as though that was already a done deal, making no efforts to bring the fleet to readiness, despite rumours, as early as March 1667, that the Dutch fleet had refitted and was preparing to sail. The Medway’s defences were almost non-existent, so on 9 March, King Charles and the Duke of York, the Lord Admiral, visited Sheerness and ordered the construction of the fort to be completed. To strengthen the defences of the Medway, a chain was ordered to be placed across the river at Gillingham to protect the ships of the fleet laid up beyond there, and Upnor Castle was to be put in order and strengthened.
Following their success in the Four Days Battle, the Dutch leader Johan de Witte, had devised a plan to attack the English fleet in its home port in order to force a decisive victory. But reverses at the St. James's Day Battle and at Terchelling, caused him to put aside his plan until a more opportune time arose. That time had now arrived.
Rumours of the Dutch fleet
Reports of the Dutch fleet preparing to put to sea started to circulate in March 1667, and as early as 13 April, the Lord Admiral’s secretary wrote in answer to an application for a convoy escort ship, "another frigate can scarcely be had, the Dutch fleet being so suddenly expected abroad." Numerous other reports of Dutch and French preparations followed. It was said that in France (Holland’s ally), 80 men-of-war and 20 fire-ships were preparing; and that in Holland great preparations for war were still going on; and that both were preparing to block up the Thames and other ports.
The Dutch signalled their intentions when, on 29 April, a squadron of their ships under Van Ghent, sailed up the Firth of Forth, where they were hotly engaged at Burntisland with the 20 cannon of the coastal defences; the firing lasting the whole day. The Dutch eventually withdrew and then loitered for some time about the coasts of Yorkshire.
On May 20, it was reported from Amsterdam that the Dutch fleet of 80 men-of-war would be ready for sea in eight days, and was preparing for the English coast to block the Thames and other ports. On the same day, other reports stated that the French fleet had sailed for the Channel. On 2 June, the entire Dutch fleet was said to be under sail.
The neglect of the fleet
But despite this, so great was the blind confidence in a successful conclusion to the treaty, that on 3 June, the King wrote to the Lord Admiral, to say that, " . . . he has resolved on further diminution of the fleet, and will not even keep in pay the third-rate ships, ordered to be retained on 6th Feb.; but that all those requiring considerable repairs are to be discharged, and laid up in Portsmouth, as soon as they can be paid off; and only a squadron of small ships retained to distract the enemy and disturb their trade."
On 8 June Lord Arlington, the King’s secretary, wrote to the Lord Lieutenants of the eastern and southern maritime counties. His letter starts, "His Majesty understanding that the Dutch are ready in few days to put to sea with their fleet, and believing they will not fail to appear before the coast, and to give the alarm to the country, and possibly, if they find the occasion easy, make an attempt to land, with design at least to spoil, burn, and sackage what part they can of the country . . .", and goes on to authorise the mobilising of a militia to repel the invaders.
On the very same day, 8 June, the Lord Admiral’s secretary wrote to the Navy Commissioners, "The fireships that lie in harbour at Portsmouth, Dover, Harwich, and Chatham, being intended only for doing service near those places, as occasion shall present, I desire you will consider whether the King’s charge may not be eased by reducing their complements of men, leaving them only a sufficient number to do service, or at the most, so many as may suffice to weigh their anchors upon any occasion."
They were actually proposing to reduce the crews of these few fireships in the face of a strong enemy fleet that was expected imminently. It seems that the entire defence of England depended upon ill-equipped coastal forts, a few undermanned fireships and a hastily assembled militia.
The enemy at the door
The Dutch fleet, once more commanded by De Ruyter, had sailed from Holland on 11 June, arriving in the Gunfleet (near Clacton) on 17 June, having been delayed by adverse weather.
The first news of the Dutch was received on 12 June when a fleet of forty ships was reported making for the Gunfleet in the Thames estuary. The next day it was reported that the French fleet was seen off the Isle of Wight.
On 17 June, the Dutch fleet of 50 or 60 sail was next seen off North Foreland, and later anchored in the Gunfleet. In the previous weeks, it was not known where the expected attack would fall, and therefore at Burlington, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and other more remote sea ports, fortifications were in progress, but it now became evident that the coasts of Essex and Kent were the threatened areas.
That the Dutch had aggressive intentions was now obvious, for on the very same day, Henry Coventry, one of the English plenipotentiaries from Breda, landed at Dover in a Dutch vessel flying a white flag, bearing the preliminary articles of peace for the King’ signature. It seems that the Dutch presence was to exert pressure for the treaty to be signed and concluded.
The English reaction
The appearance of the Dutch fleet caused near panic, and finally roused the government to take some belated action.
On 20 June the Lord Admiral's secretary wrote to the Naval Commissioners:
"His Royal Highness doth not expect your attendance this morning, but wishes your time employed in getting and fitting fire-ships, in which pray lose no time. I wish, where you put the fire-ships to fit, you would order all other work to be laid aside, and that one of you would be present to see the work followed; it is of utmost importance. I have written to the Tower to have ingredients ready; if you send for them, they will, I presume, be delivered. If you find fit men for gunners of the six fire-ships, and to fit them, employ them, and stay not for warrants or orders. The time will not permit the observation of these forms. Pray use all possible dispatch."
Later the same day he wrote again to the same Commissioners:
"An order will this night be sent you for delivery of the carvel, and her rigging and furniture. Lest press warrants should be wanting, I send you the enclosed blanks, though I hope volunteers may be found to do the service; yet perhaps for rigging and labouring, pressing may be necessary. Besides the six fire-ships you mention, I heartily wish you could get as many more to be fitted in some other place, as Blackwall, or any private yards. The money employed to hasten this work is well bestowed. I have given Sir Frescheville Holles two blank press warrants. Pray get more fire-ships, if possible; it is our greatest help, as the case now stands. By the morning, at farthest, I will send you blank commissions for the commanders of the fire-ships you have named."
Again on the same day, George Monck was ordered to go to Chatham to take charge of its defences. He first went to Gravesend and Tilbury where he noted there were only a few guns present, so ordered all available artillery from London to Gravesend. The next day, he went to Chatham, expecting the place to be well prepared for an attack, but found instead that only twelve of the eight hundred dockyard men needed, could be recruited; and of the thirty sloops, only ten were present. Little or no munitions or powder was available for the protecting forts, so he immediately ordered the artillery to be moved from Gravesend to Chatham.
Monck found that the chain protecting the upper reaches of the Medway, was itself unprotected by batteries, for which there were no gun platforms, so he ordered these to be built and guns to be brought up. He also found that the chain hung nine feet below the surace, low enough to allow light vessels to pass over it, so it was raised somewhat by placing stages under it.
The main ships of the fleet, which was laid up in the Medway, were moved up river towards Chatham, and behind the iron chain stretching across the river before Gillingham. The most important of these were the Royal Charles and the Royal James, so the next morning, the Royal James was moved above Upnor Castle, but there were not enough men and boats available to move the Royal Charles. The Sancta Maria, while being towed upstream, had grounded between Upnor and Gillingham. She was abandoned there after several unsuccessful attempts to refloat her.
Many other measures were taken including sinking vessels in the narrowest part of the river at Mussel Bank to block it, but there were not enough vessels available to block completely the two navigable channels.
The Dutch make a move
De Ruyter’s fleet stayed in the Gunfleet for three days (presumably waiting for news that the treaty had been signed); then set sail on 19 June towards the mouth of the Thames. But the Thames, with its many sands and dangerous shoals, made navigation difficult. So De Ruyter selected seventeen of the lightest and strongest men-of-war, and put them under Admiral Van Ghent, with orders to sail up the Thames, take the fort at Sheerness, then sail up the Medway and destroy as much of the English fleet as they could. At 04.00 on 19 June they set sail.
They had earlier learned that there were some merchantmen lying near Gravesend, and so Van Ghent first went after them, but the wind slackened, and although by evening the ships could be seen in the distance, they couldn't reach them, and were obliged to drop anchor. By the next morning the English ships had disappeared, so Van Ghent sailed back to the mouth of the Medway, where ten of De Ruyter's men-of-war joined him.
Attack on Sheerness
In the afternoon of 20 June, Van Ghent with three warships attacked the incomplete fort at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey which protected the east side of the mouth of the Medway. They were opposed only by a few ketches and the frigate Unity, which after she was attacked by a fireship, withdrew up the Medway having fired only a single broadside.
After bombarding the fort for about two hours, the Dutch landed about 800 men about a mile away, with the intention of storming the fort. The garrison, having suffered many casualties, abandoned the fort as their position had now become untenable in the face of such a strong force.
From a Dutch report: "Our people found there an entire royal magazine, with very heavy anchors and cables, and hundreds of masts. Our people took on board the ships as many of the cables, masts, and round woods as they could, and they also acquired 15 heavy pieces, shooting balls of 18 lbs.; the rest was destroyed or rendered useless, and the magazine burnt. The damage done to the English at this island was estimated at more than four tons of gold. It is a beautiful and fruitful island. Every one was strictly forbidden, on pain of heavy punishment, to injure the inhabitants, in life or goods."
Advance on the Medway
The next day, 21 June, Van Ghent ordered two yachts and six sloops to reconnoiter the Medway and sound its depths. They discovered the seven ships that had been sunk in the river at Mussel Bank. A small opening was found between them and some of the sunken ships were dragged away to make a gap large enough for Van Ghent’s heavier ships to pass through later.
The next obstacle, one mile further on, was the chain stretched across the river before Gillingham. It was now protected on both sides by batteries on the river banks and several sunken warships in front of it. The Unity, which had arrived from Sheerness too late to pass through the chain, was positioned broadside on in front of it. Behind the chain and also broadside on, were the Charles V and Matthias at either end, and the Monmouth, a little further away covering the gap between the two. All three were previously captured Dutch ships.
Assault on the chain
On 22 June, Van Ghent’s ships sailed up the Medway, but the channel's narrowness obliged the Dutch to sail in line. Consequently, on reaching the chain, they effectively had their "T" crossed by the chain’s defences, and were unable to bring enough fire power to bear; and because of the chain itself they could go no further.
This impasse was broken when Van Brakel in the Vrede volunteered to sail up to the chain alone to draw the English fire, to enable following fireships to attack the chain and the guardships beyond. At high tide, he got his ship the Vrede under way, and squeezed past the leading Dutch ships, followed by two fireships. Under heavy fire from both banks and the guardships, he sailed on straight towards the Unity, and when near enough fired at her, at which a number of her crew abandoned ship. The Vrede came quickly alongside her and Van Brakel boarded, and easily captured her.
[Note: The weak defence of the Unity was not surprising, as she didn’t have a full complement of crew as volunteers couldn’t be found. Those aboard had had been scraped together from pressed men, Thames watermen and anyone else. This situation had arisen from the Admiralty’s failure to pay the real sailors, some of which were owed several years pay. This is also true for the other English ships, but other than the guardships, most had no crews at all.]
Meanwhile, as van Brakel was engaging the Unity, the first of the two fireships, the Susanna, following the Vrede charged at the chain and stuck on it, failing to break it. The second fireship, the Pro Patria, followed close behind, rode hard at the chain, and broke through it. She then clamped herself to the Matthias, lying just above the chain, and set her on fire. She burned for several hours and then blew up.
A third fireship, the Delft, aiming for the other guardship, Charles V, was sunk by gunfire, but another managed to get herself alongside the Charles V and set her on fire. The third guardship lying beyond the chain, the Monmouth, seeing the other two ablaze, and fearing a similar fate, withdrew further up the river, towed by longboats. After going aground near Upnor Castle, she was freed and taken still higher up river.
The improvised batteries, which no longer had a chain to protect, were abandoned after coming under heavy gunfire from the first warships to advance up to the chain. The way was now clear for the rest of Van Ghent’s ships to follow through unimpeded.
Beyond the chain
Though the Monmouth had escaped, a much greater prize could be seen a little way off. This was the Royal Charles, unrigged and with only 32 of her guns still on board, with a few pressed men and little ammunition. These men had been ordered, from the crews of several of the pinnaces and long-boats, to man her under "pain of death". The Royal Charles was captured almost unopposed, as the crew, on seeing the Dutch approaching, promptly abandoned her, fleeing in the longboats. The only fighting that took place was between the Dutch themselves as to who had actually captured the ship.
Further up river lay the grounded and unmanned Sancta Maria, which was taken and fired as she could not be refloated. It was feared by the English that the Dutch would continue their advance and threaten ships lying higher up the river. So Monck ordered that those ships, about sixteen in total, to be moved to the shallows and sunk. Holes were cut in their hulls to prevent the Dutch removing them should they reach that far.
As the tide was ebbing, this was as far as the Dutch got that day, as the risk of grounding in unfamiliar waters was too great. Van Ghent halted his advance for the day and sent a message to De Ruyter asking him to send more fireships and to come in person to confer about what they should do the next day. There were many targets to chose from; including the great ships Royal Oak, Loyal London, and Royal James laying above Upnor Castle. There was also Chatham Dockyard with its storehouses and other installations to tempt them.
Thursday 23 June
It was decided that four men-of-war and three armed yachts would engage Upnor Castle to cover the five fireships following them that were to attack the grounded great ships laying beyond. The Dutch, helped the morning by a NE wind, were waiting for the tide to turn, so that they could advance towards Upnor. By midday, the wind had slackened, slowing their progress so that they didn't reach the castle until about 14.00, which gave the garrison time to prepare for them. But Upnor, being at one of the narrowest parts of the river, forced the Dutch to engage at short range, and came under heavy and sustained fire from the castle and batteries on the opposite bank, causing them many casualties.
Immediatley beyond Upnor castle were four warships. The first three, the Royal Oak, Loyal London and Royal James, although sunk, had enough of their upper works still showing above water to make a worthwhile target. This enabled the fireships to attack and burn them, but the Dutch had used their last five fireships to achieve this. The fourth ship, the Catherine, escaped destruction.
The captain of the Royal Oak, a Scotsman called Douglas, having received orders to defend his ship, did so with the utmost resolution, refusing to leave it, preferring death to the dishonour of deserting his command. He perished in the flames of his burning ship, saying, "It has never been known that a Douglas left his post without leave".
Because of the fierce opposition received from the defences at Upnor, and the river above Upnor being obstructed by a number of vessels which had been sunk or had run aground the day before, they decided to abandon thoughts of venturing further up the river that day. They feared that they might find themselves trapped on a falling tide, and unable to withdraw.
Friday 24 June - withdrawal
De Ruyter, aware of increased English resistance, decided to withdraw the next day, taking with him the Royal Charles and Unity as prizes. This cautious approach saved the English from further humiliation. Had Chatham Dockyard been burnt and destroyed, it would have taken a generation to rebuild.
After high tide in the late afternoon, the Dutch left the scene of their victory and began to withdraw down the Medway, helped by the ebbing tide. Just before Mussel Bank, the Harderwijck with de Ruyter on board, went aground on the falling tide, and could not get off, so De Ruyter transferred to another ship. Other vessels also grounded, but were quickly got off; and the Harderwijck was refloated on the next tide.
Despite the difficulties which they were meeting navigating the Medway, they still had time to burn the upper works of the ships sunk at Mussel Bank, before they finally reached the broader and safer waters of the Thames Estuary.
The feat of navigation involved in bringing the Royal Charles down the river Medway won for the Dutch a tribute from the English themselves. In his diary on 22 June 1667(O.S.), Pepys wrote that two naval officers had informed him of this feat, "they did carry her down at a time, both for tides and wind, when the best pilot in Chatham would not have undertaken it, they heeling her on one side to make her draw little water, and so carried her away safe".
After their withdrawal from the Medway, the Dutch continued to make a nuisance of themselves around the coasts of England from Harwich to Plymouth, by attacking, blockading and skirmishing with English frigates, until the Treaty of Breda was signed on 31 July 1667.
The Medway raid greatly damaged England's pride and a scapegoat had to be found. The real culprits were those who had made the decision to lay up the fleet and rely on the coastal defences, but they quickly pointed to Peter Pett, the naval Commissioner who was responsible for Chatham’s defences; and on 27 June he was arrested and committed to the Tower of London. He was later released when it was realised that should there be a trial, many prominent persons (including the King) would be shown to be the real culprits, but he still lost his job.
What happened to the chain?
Almost every account of the raid states that the chain was broken; other merely state that it was forced or broken through. But Samuel Pepys, who as Clerk to the Naval Commissioners, was responsible for its procurement, later examined it personally, and wrote that he could not find a break.
"So to the chaine, and there saw it fast at the end on Upnor side of the River; very fast, and borne up upon the several stages across the River; and where it is broke nobody can tell me. I went on shore on Upnor side to look upon the end of the chaine; and caused the link to be measured, and it was six inches and one-fourth in circumference. They have burned the Crane House that was to hawl it taught. . . I met with no satisfaction whereabouts the chaine was broke." - entry for 30 June 1667.(O.S.)
On 1 July (O.S.) he wrote "did write to my Lord Bruncker to give me a little satisfaction about the certainty of the chain’s being broke, which I begin to doubt".
The simplest way to have determined if the chain was broken would have been to wind it in from the Crane House. Bearing in mind that Pepys visited the chain over two weeks after the event, that this wasn't done suggests that the mechanism was inoperable.
If the chain wasn’t broken by the Dutch, then what happened to it? The following are possibilities:
1). Because of the great weight of the chain, it hung nine feet below the surface just as Monck found it. The fact that the chain hung so deep indicates that the winch, windlass or whatever was used to tighten it, was not powerful enough to raise it any further, and was at the limit of its capability. The extra weight of one or two ships acting on the chain may have been enough to break the retaining mechanism and release the chain, which then sank under its own great weight.
2). The stages ordered by Monck to raise the height of the chain, although achieving this, would not have removed the slack. The chain was attacked by the first fireship which became stuck on it, suggesting that the ship had ridden over the chain and had been lifted far enough to become stuck, pushing the chain deeper in the process. The chain may have been depressed low enough to allow the second fireship to pass over it, especially if it was a smaller vessel, giving the appearance of the chain having been broken.
Once the chain’s defences had been defeated and abandoned, the Dutch could land their marines (of which they had hundreds) and capture the chain’s anchor points. We know that the building which housed the winch was captured and later destroyed, as Pepys states "They have burned the Crane House that was to hawl it taught." After the Crane House was captured, it is reasonable to assume that the Dutch could have lowered the chain themselves to allow the passage of their deeper draught vessels, before setting fire to it.
The first mention of the chain was in a report on 26 June (16 June O.S.) in the London Gazette which stated that "though their first ship stuck upon the chain, the second broke through it", not that the chain was broken. As there were, apparently, no English witnesses to exactly what happened, it may have been an English assumption that the chain was broken, which has been repeated down the centuries.
London Gazette Report 16 June 1667 (O.S.)
This is the first report published of the Raid on the Medway.
"The Dutch fleet having the tenth instant in the evening made themselves master of Sheerness. On the eleventh they advanced up the river of Medway, and though with much difficulty, passed by several vessels which had been sunk about Muselebank, which was the narrowest part of it, the better to put some stop to them in their passings and with 22 sail came up towards the chain, where the Lord General was in person with considerable force to oppose them; but the enemy taking advantage of an Easterly wind and the tide, which both served them, pressed upon; and though their first ship stuck upon the chain, the second broke through it; and notwithstanding a stout resistance, in which our men showed infinite courage, with considerable loss to the enemy, yet they clasped their fireships aboard the Matthias and the Unity, that lay at an anchor, as a guard to the chain, and then upon the Charles the fifth, all three of them Dutch ships, that had been formerly taken from them. The same day they possessed themselves of the Royal Charles, which was twice fired by our men, and as often quenched by the enemy.
On Thursday the 13th instant, about one o'clock, taking their advantage of the wind and tide, they advanced with six men of war, and five fireships, and came up towards Upnor Castle, but were so warmly entertained by Major Scot, who commanded there, and on the other side by Sir Edward Spragg, from the battery at the shore, that after very much damage received by them in the shattering of their ships, in sinking several of their long boats manned out by them, in the great number of their men killed, and some prisoners taken, they were at the last forced to retire, having in this attempt spent in vain two of their fireships, which attempted the Royall Oake, but were forced off, and burned down with effect; but a third had its effect, the two others coming also aboard the Royall James, and the Loyal London, which are much injured by the fire, but in probability may be again made serviceable, having been sunk before their coming up, and the greater part of the laid under water.
Since this they have not made any considerable attempt. and by some prisoners we have taken, we find that the loss we have received, has been hitherto so fully returned upon them, that they can have but little reason to brag of their success, and less encouragement to make any further attempts on these parts.
Part of the enemy's fleet had since this action continued about Musele-Bank, where on Friday were seen 24 sail, on Saturday only 14, which 'tis believed stay there only to get off the Royall Charles which is on shore.
On Friday about 30 more of their fleet were discovered between the Buoy of the Nore; and on Saturday only 12 in the Buoy of the Nore, the rest being faln down, and it is thought will attempt no farther this way. However, our batteries are all in the necessary places, both in the Thames and Medway, very well perfected and furnished with cannon.
This day we are confidently told by a person arriving here from Chatham, that yesterday two Dutch men of war, whereof one of 80 guns, endeavouring to pass up towards Upnor Castle, ran ashore and were by a fireship of their own party burnt, to prevent their falling into our hands. He says further, that eight of their man of war were yesterday endeavouring to tow off the Royal Charles from the Musele-Bank, and are their run aground; upon which news twenty of their men of war are returning to lie in the river, to prevent out fireships, till they can find some way to bring them off, or otherwise to dispose of them."
A sketch of the Medway
This part of a larger sketch, shows the positions and names of the English ships in the Medway, was made by the diarist John Evelyn and sent to Samuel Pepys on 30 June 1667. The dates shown on it are Old Style.
Evelyn Sketch of Medway.jpg
The Royal Charles
The Royal Charles, originally the Naseby, was an 80-gun First Rate, renamed Royal Charles after the Restoration. She had served as flagship for such famous admirals as Blake, Monck and Duke of York, and was the most prestigious ship in the English Navy. Her capture was a national humiliation.
The Royal Charles was taken back to Holland, and soon after in 1673, she was sold for scrap, but the stern carving, or counter (3m wide and 2m tall, weighing 750kg), bearing the royal Coat of Arms, was preserved, and at the end of the 19th century, it was given to the Rijksmuseum, where it has been on public display ever since.
The Rijksmuseum is currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment, and when it reopens in spring 2013, the counter will be displayed in the 17th century maritime gallery.
In the meantime, after an absence of 345 years, it has been returned temporarily to England, on loan to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich as an exhibit in the "Royal River - Power, Pageantry and the Thames" exhibition which opened on 27 April 2012. On 15 March 2012, it was handed over in a ceremony by the General Director of the Rijksmuseum Wim Pijbes to Kevin Fewster, director of the National Maritime Museum.
Royal Charles Stern Carving.jpg
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."
Re: The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The Second Anglo-Dutch Naval War (1665-1667)
The end of the war
For both nations the war had been an exhaustive expenditure in money, ships and lives, without a conclusive conclusion. For Holland, the ambition of King Louis of France, and his claim to the Spanish Netherlands, had become apparent. If the war had lasted any longer, the balance of power on the continent could have been immediately lost. Neither the Dutch nor the English wanted a more powerful France.
For King Charles, the debacle of the Medway and the loss of the pride of his fleet, following as it did upon the plague and the great fire of London, and increasing civil unrest and bankruptcy, peace couldn’t come too quickly.
Peace came when the Breda Treaty was signed by both parties on 31 July 1667. It allowed the English to keep New York and the Dutch to keep Surinam, (I wonder if the Dutch ever regretted that), both of which had recently been seized from the other. The Navigation Act was also modified in favour of the Dutch.
Although a form of peace now existed between the two nations, the treaty marked only an interlude, whilst the underlying rivalry in trade remained unresolved. Overall the treaty had little impact and in 1672 Anglo-Dutch hostilities again broke out in the third Anglo-Dutch war.
1. The Breda Treaty
Treaty of Breda.jpg
The development of naval tactics in the second war
The second Anglo-Dutch war marks one of the main turning points in the development of naval warfare. In the first war, it was considered essential for the fleet to maintain the advantage of the weather gauge. But in the second war, this was subordinate to keeping the fleet in good order and compact as long as possible.
It had been established by the English that the "in line ahead" formation best suited their purposes in battle, and was to be maintained as far as possible to bring the greatest firepower to bear on the enemy. Ships in the battle line were to sail half a cable apart (about 100 yards) to concentrate their gunfire, for mutual support, and to prevent the enemy breaking the line and subjecting the English ships to raking gunfire. Concentrated gunfire was seen as the way to defeat an enemy, rather than boarding to defeat them in hand to hand combat.
A French naval writer described the reasoning behind this formation:
“A fleet of war-ships must be always ready to meet an enemy; logically, therefore, this point of departure for naval evolutions must be the order of battle. Now, since the disappearance of galleys, almost all the artillery is found upon the sides of a ship of war. Hence it is the beam that must necessarily and always be turned toward the enemy. On the other hand, it is necessary that the sight of the latter must never be interrupted by a friendly ship. Only one formation allows the ships of the same fleet to satisfy fully these conditions. That formation is the line ahead. This line, therefore, is imposed as the only order of battle, and consequently as the basis of all fleet tactics. In order that this order of battle, this long thin line of guns, may not be injured or broken at some point weaker than the rest, there is at the same time felt the necessity of putting in it only ships which, if not of equal force, have at least equally strong sides. Logically it follows, at the same moment in which the line ahead became definitively the order for battle, there was established the distinction between the ships ‘of the line,' alone destined for a place therein, and the lighter ships meant for other uses."
All this was codified in the English naval “Fighting Instructions”.
The Fighting Instructions
The earliest known Fighting Instructions in any language which aimed at a single line ahead as a battle formation, were issued by the Commonwealth's generals-at-sea on 29 March 1653, in their “Instructions for the better ordering of the fleet in fighting.”
Although the concept of united fleet actions was formalised by the issue of these Fighting Instructions in time for the first Anglo-Dutch war; it was not until the second war that they were fully (although imperfectly) put into practice. With the experience of the first war, the Fighting Instructions were amended and expanded on the eve of the second war by James, Duke of York.
The Fighting Instructions fundamentally changed the way in which a fleet was controlled by the Admiral. They specified that the fleet was to sail together into battle in line ahead, and maintain that formation. They also laid down the flag signals the Admiral would use to communicate with other flag officers. The whole purpose of these instructions was to enable the fleet to fight as a united unit, without descending into the disorganised melee which hitherto had characterised naval battles.
In these instructions, naval signalling was completely revised to cope with the new fleet requirements. They specified how an Admiral could signal various orders by hoisting flags in various locations on his ship, and what the recipients should do on receipt of such signals.
A few examples from the 1665 Instructions:
"If any squadron shall happen to be overcharged and distressed, the next squadron or ships are immediately to make towards their relief and assistance upon a signal given them: which signal shall be in the admiral's squadron a pennant on the fore topmast-head; if any ship in the vice-admiral's squadron, or he that commands in chief in the second place, a pennant on the main topmast-head; and the rear-admiral's squadron the like."
"If the admiral would have any of the ships to make sail or endeavour by tacking or otherwise to gain the wind of the enemy, he will put up a red flag upon the spritsail, topmast shrouds, forestay, or fore topmast-stay. He that first discovers this signal shall make sail, and hoist and lower his jack and ensign, that the rest of the ships may take notice thereof and follow."
"If, the fleet going before the wind, the admiral would have the vice-admiral and the ships of the starboard quarter to clap by the wind and come to their starboard tack, then he will hoist upon the mizen topmast-head a red flag, and in case he would have the rear-admiral and the ships on the larboard quarter to come to their larboard tack then he will hoist up a blue flag in the same place."
That the “in line” formation was strictly adhered to by the English, was remarked upon by the Frenchman Count De Guiche, after witnessing the Four Days' Battle from aboard De Ruyter’s flagship:
"Nothing equals the beautiful order of the English at sea. Never was a line drawn straighter than that formed by their ships; thus they bring all their fire to bear upon those who draw near them. . . . They fight like a line of cavalry which is handled according to rule, and applies itself solely to force back those who oppose; whereas the Dutch advance like cavalry whose squadrons leave their ranks and come separately to the charge."
The Dutch, after their defeat at Lowestoft, started to appreciate the superior English tactics and attempted to adopt the same formation, but not always successfully. Dividing the fleet was seen as the reason for the English defeat in the Four Days Battle, and failing to keep together the cause of the Dutch defeat in the St. James's Day Battle.
The battle formation of "in line ahead" dominated, with few exceptions, naval battle formations for the next 250 years.
The 1665 Fighting Instructions
Instructions for the better ordering his majesty's fleet in time of fighting - 10 April 1665.
1. Upon discovery of a fleet receiving a sign from the admiral, which is to be striking of the admiral's ensign, and making a weft, one frigate appointed out of each squadron are to make sail and stand in with them so nigh as conveniently they may, the better to gain a knowledge of what they are and what quality, how many fireships and others, and in what posture the fleet is; which being done the frigates are to meet together and conclude on the report they are to give, and accordingly to repair to their respective squadrons and commanders-in-chief, and not engage if the enemy's ships exceed them in number, except it shall appear to them on the place that they have an advantage.
2. At the sight of the said fleet the vice-admiral, or he that commands in chief in the second place, and his squadron, and the rear-admiral, or he that commands in chief in the third place, and his squadron are to make what sail they can to come up and put themselves into the place and order which shall have been directed them before in the order of battle.
3. As soon as they shall see the admiral engage or shall make a signal by shooting off two guns and putting out a red flag on the fore topmast-head, that then each squadron shall take the best advantage they can to engage with the enemy according to the order prescribed.
4. If any squadron shall happen to be overcharged and distressed, the next squadron or ships are immediately to make towards their relief and assistance upon a signal given them: which signal shall be in the admiral's squadron a pennant on the fore topmast-head; if any ship in the vice-admiral's squadron, or he that commands in chief in the second place, a pennant on the main topmast-head; and the rear-admiral's squadron the like.
5. If any ship shall be disabled or distressed by loss of masts, shot under water or the like, so as she is in danger of sinking or taking, he or the [ship] thus distressed shall make a sign by the weft of his jack and ensign, and those next to them are strictly required to relieve them.
6. That if any ship shall be necessitated to bear away from the enemy to stop a leak or mend what else is amiss, which cannot otherwise be repaired, he is to put out a pennant on the mizen yard-arm or on the ensign staff, whereby the rest of the ship's squadron may have notice what it is for - and if it should be that the admiral or any flagships should do so, the ships of the fleet or of the respective squadrons are to endeavour to get up as close in a line between him and the enemy as they can, having always an eye to defend him in case the enemy should come to annoy him in that condition.
7. If the admiral should have the wind of the enemy and that other ships of the fleet are in the wind of the admiral, then upon hoisting up a blue flag at the mizen yard or mizen topmast, every such ship is then to bear up into his wake or grain upon pain of severe punishment. If the admiral be to leeward of the enemy, and his fleet or any part thereof to leeward of him, to the end such ships may come up into a line with the admiral, if he shall put abroad a flag as before and bear up, none that are to leeward are to bear up, but to keep his or their ship or ships luff, thereby to gain his wake or grain.
8. If the admiral would have any of the ships to make sail or endeavour by tacking or otherwise to gain the wind of the enemy, he will put up a red flag upon the spritsail, topmast shrouds, forestay, or fore topmast-stay. He that first discovers this signal shall make sail, and hoist and lower his jack and ensign, that the rest of the ships may take notice thereof and follow.
9. If we put a red flag on the mizen shrouds or the mizen yard-arm, we would have all the flagships to come up in the wake or grain of us.
10. If in time of fight God shall deliver any of the enemy's ships into our power by their being disabled, the commanders of his majesty's ships in condition of pursuing the enemy are not during fight to stay, take, possess, or burn any of them, lest by so doing the opportunity of more important service be lost, but shall expect command from the flag officers for doing thereof when they shall see fit to command it.
11. None shall fire upon ships of the enemy that is laid on board by any of our own ships but so as he may be sure he doth not endamage his friends.
12. That it is the duty of all commanders and masters of the small frigates, ketches and smacks belonging to the several squadrons to know the fireships belonging to the enemy, and accordingly by observing their motion do their utmost to cut off their boats if possible, or if opportunity be that they lay them on board, seize and destroy them, and for this purpose they are to keep to wind[ward] of the squadron in time of service. But in case they cannot prevent the fireships from coming aboard of us by clapping between them and us, which by all means possible they are to endeavour, that then in such case they show themselves men in such an exigent and steer on board them, and with their boats, grapnels, and other means clear them from us, and destroy them; which service if honourably done to its merit shall be rewarded, and the neglect thereof strictly and severely called to an account.
13. That the fireships in every squadron endeavour to keep the wind, and they, with the small frigates, to be as near the great ships as they can, to attend the signal from the admiral and to act accordingly. If the admiral hoist up a white flag at the mizen yard-arm or topmast-head all the small frigates of his squadron are to come under his stern for orders.
14. If an engagement by day shall continue till night, and the admiral shall please to anchor, that upon signal given they all anchor in as good order as may be, the signal being as in the Instructions for Sailing; and if the admiral please to retreat without anchoring, then the sign to be by firing of two guns, so near one to the other as the report may be distinguished, and within three minutes after to do the like with two guns more.
15. If, the fleet going before the wind, the admiral would have the vice-admiral and the ships of the starboard quarter to clap by the wind and come to their starboard tack, then he will hoist upon the mizen topmast-head a red flag, and in case he would have the rear-admiral and the ships on the larboard quarter to come to their larboard tack then he will hoist up a blue flag in the same place.
16. That the commander of any of his majesty's ships suffer not his guns to be fired until the ship be within distance to [do] good execution; the contrary to be examined and severely punished by the court-martial.
[Note: These are essentially the same as the 1653 Fighting Instructions, with the addition of instructions 15 and 16. There followed soon after, two sets of additional instructions which seem mainly concerned with keeping the fleet together.]
Additional Instructions for Fighting - 18 April 1665
1. In all cases of fight with the enemy the commanders of his majesty's ships are to endeavour to keep the fleet in one line, and as much as may be to preserve the order of battle which shall have been directed before the time of fight.
2. If the enemy stay to fight us, we having the wind, the headmost squadron of his majesty's fleets shall steer for the headmost of the enemy's ships.
3. If the enemy have the wind of us and come to fight us, the commanders of his majesty's fleet shall endeavour to put themselves in one line close upon a wind.
4. In the time of fight in reasonable weather, the commanders of his majesty's fleet shall endeavour to keep about the distance of half a cable's length one from the other, but so as that according to the discretion of the commanders they vary that distance according as the weather shall be, and the occasion of succouring our own or assaulting the enemy's ships shall require.
5. The flag officers shall place themselves according to such order of battle as shall be given.
6. None of the ships of his majesty's fleet shall pursue any small number of ships of the enemy before the main body of the enemy's fleet shall be disabled or shall run.
7. In case of chase none of his majesty's fleet or ships shall chase beyond sight of the flag, and at night all chasing ships are to return to the flag.
8. In case it shall please God that any of his majesty's ships be lamed in fight, not being in probability of sinking nor encompassed by the enemy, the following ships shall not stay under pretence of securing them, but shall follow their leaders and endeavour to do what service they can upon the enemy, leaving the securing of the lame ships to the sternmost of our ships, being [assured] that nothing but beating the body of the enemy's fleet can effectually secure the lame ships. This article is to be observed notwithstanding any seeming contradiction in the fourth or fifth articles of the fighting instructions formerly given.
9. When the admiral would have the van of his fleet to tack first, the admiral will put abroad the union flag at the staff of the fore topmast-head if the red flag be not abroad; but if the red flag be abroad then the fore topsail shall be lowered a little, and the union flag shall be spread from the cap of the fore topmast downwards.
10. When the admiral would have the rear of the fleet to tack first, the union flag shall be put abroad on the flagstaff of the mizen topmast-head; and for the better notice of these signals through the fleet, each flagship is upon sight of either of the said signals to make the said signals, that so every ship may know what they are to do, and they are to continue out the said signals until they be answered.
Additional Instructions for Fighting - 27 April 1665
1. When the admiral would have all the ships to fall into the order of 'Battailia' prescribed, the union flag shall be put into the mizen peak of the admiral ship; at sight whereof the admirals of [the] other squadrons are to answer it by doing the like.
2. When the admiral would have the other squadrons to make more sail, though he himself shorten sail, a white ensign shall be put on the ensign staff of the admiral ship.
1. When the admiral shall put a flag striped with white and red upon the fore topmast-head, the admiral of the white squadron shall send out ships to chase; when on the mizen topmast-head the admiral of the blue squadron shall send out ships to chase.
2. If the admiral shall put out a flag striped with white and red upon any other place, that ship of the admiral's own division whose signal for call is a pennant in that place shall chase, excepting the vice-admiral and rear-admiral of the admiral's squadron.
3. If a flag striped red and white upon the main topmast shrouds under the standard, the vice-admiral of the red is to send ships to chase. If the flag striped red and white be hoisted on the ensign staff the rear-admiral of the red is to send ships to chase.
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."