Battle of Texel-1673

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The naval Battle of Texel or Battle of Kijkduin took place on 21 August 1673  between the Dutch and the combined English and French fleets and was the last major battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, which was itself part of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-1678), during which Louis XIV of France invaded the Republic and sought to establish control over the Spanish Netherlands. English involvement came about because of the Treaty of Dover, secretly concluded by Charles II of England, and which was highly unpopular with the English Parliament.

The overall commanders of the English and Dutch military forces were Lord High Admiral James, Duke of York, afterwards King James II of England, and Admiral-General William III of Orange, James’ son-in-law and also a future King of England.

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Neither of them took part in the fight. The Battle of Texel was joined when a Dutch fleet sought to oppose the landing of troops by a combined Anglo-French fleet.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine commanded the Allied fleet of about 92 ships and 30 fireships, taking control of the centre himself, with Jean II d’Estrées commanding the van, and Sir Edward Spragge the rear division. The Dutch fleet of 75 ships and 30 fireships was commanded by Lieutenant-Admiral-General Michiel de Ruyter, with Lieutenant-Admirals Adriaen Banckert in charge of the van and Cornelis Tromp the rear.

The Dutch were under an even greater disadvantage than the above numbers show, as Dutch warships were on the average smaller than both their English and French opponents.

De Ruyter first decided not to leave his defensive position in the Schooneveld, from which he had successfully engaged the allied fleet in the double Battle of Schooneveld. However the Dutch Spice Fleet was returning from the Indies, filled with precious cargo. With half the country under French occupation for almost a year, the Dutch Republic’s finances were in disastrous straits. The Dutch could not afford to lose the wealth the Spice Fleet was bringing, let alone allow it to be captured by the enemy. As such stadtholder William ordered De Ruyter to seek to engage the enemy.

Although outnumbered, De Ruyter gained the weather gauge and sent his van under Adriaen Banckert in to separate the Allied van (under D’Estrées) from the main fleet. His ploy was effective, and the French ships were unable to play a significant part in the remainder of the battle, which became a gruelling encounter between the bulk of the Dutch fleet and the English centre and rear divisions. Both suffered badly during hours of fierce fighting.

Spragge and Tromp, commanding their respective rear divisions, clashed repeatedly — Spragge had publicly sworn an oath in front of King Charles that this time he would either kill or capture his old enemy Tromp — each having their ships so damaged as to need to shift their flags to fresh ships three times. On the third occasion, Spragge drowned when his boat took a shot and sank.

Because of Spragge’s preoccupation with duelling Tromp, the English centre had separated from the rear, clashing with the Dutch centre under De Ruyter and Lieutenant-Admiral Aert Jansse van Nes. The fight raged for hours, due to turnings of the wind each side suddenly gaining or losing the advantage of the weather gauge. Banckert managed to disengage from the French and joined the Dutch centre, upon which Rupert decided to move north to the rear squadron to prevent that he would have to fight a superior Dutch force, followed by De Ruyter with the mass of his ships. The fight then focused on an attempt by the Dutch to capture Spragge’s isolated flagship, the Prince, which in the end failed.

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With both fleets exhausted, the English eventually abandoned their attempt to land troops (the landing force known as the Blackheath Army was still waiting in England to be shipped), and both sides retired. No major ship was sunk (although several fireships were expended on each side), but many were seriously damaged and about 3,000 men died: two-thirds of them English or French. After the battle Prince Rupert complained that the French had not done their share of the fighting, but historians ascribe the lack of French impact on the battle to de Ruyter’s brilliant fleet handling. It is true however that Count d’Estrées had strict orders from Louis XIV not to endanger the French fleet, as he himself admitted after the battle. Despite its inconclusive finish, the battle was a clear strategic victory for the Dutch.

The Spice Fleet arrived safely, bringing the much needed financial reprieve. In the months following, the Netherlands formed a formal alliance with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. The threat posed by German and Spanish invasions from the south and east forced the French to withdraw from the territory of the Republic. The Third Anglo-Dutch War came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Westminster between the English and the Dutch in 1674. Fourteen years later the Glorious Revolution, which saw Stadtholder William III ascend the throne of England, put an end to the Anglo-Dutch conflicts of the 17th century. Only in 1781 would the Dutch and British fleets fight each other again in the battle of Dogger Bank.

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The Raid on the Medway-ending the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

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The Medway raid of 9-14/19-24 June 1667 saw a Dutch fleet sail into the Thames and attack the British fleet in its anchorage in the Medway, causing a panic in London and winning a victory that helped bring the Second Anglo-Dutch War to an end.

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At the end of the summer of 1666 the British controlled the Channel, after the victory on St James’s Day and the devastating raid on Dutch shipping on 10 August (‘Holmes’s Bonfire’), but this was a short-lived success. The Great Plague of 1665 had already lowered Charles II’s income, and this was followed by the Great Fire of London (2-5 September 1666). Over the winter of 1666-67 the British fleet was laid up in the Medway, and at the start of the campaigning season of 1667 only two small squadrons put out to sea. Peace negotiations had already begun, and to a certain extend Charles’s decision was linked to this, while many in Britain believed that the Dutch would be unable to fund a powerful fleet of their own.

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This was not the case. The Grand Pensionary, Johan de Witt, was opposed to peace on the terms then available, and decided to launch a daring raid into the Thames to attack the British at anchor. The Dutch slowly built up the strength of their fleet at sea. A relatively small fleet sailed north to raid Scotland before returning south, and by 4 June a fleet of 54 ships of the line was off the Thames. This increased to sixty four on 6 June, and finally, on 7 June, Michiel de Ruyter arrived with the rest of the fleet.

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The Medway was very poorly defended in the summer of 1667. A strong iron chain supported by pontoons had been stretched across the river at Gillingham, and thirty pinnaces were available to fend off fireships. Only on 12 June, by which time the Dutch were already in the Medway, was George Monck ordered to build a gun battery at Gillingham.

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De Ruyter decided to send a small squadron up the Thames as far as Northfleet Hope, at Tilbury. This squadron would then turn back and sail into the Medway, where it would attack British shipping and if possible seize the defences of Sheerness. Lieutenant-Admiral Van Ghent was given command of the squadron, which contained seventeen men-of-war of between 60 and 36 guns, most of the ten fireships in the fleet and all of the smaller galliots.

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The Dutch attack began in 9 June, when Van Ghent made slow progress up the Thames against a south-westerly wind. The wind prevented the Dutch from attacking some British ships in the Hope and at Gravesend, and on the night of 9-10 June Van Ghent moored just below Gravesend.

On 10 June the Dutch entered the Medway and captured the fort at Sheerness. Charles II responded by sending George Monck, duke of Albemarle, to Kent to organise a defence. Only now was the iron chain put in place at Gillingham, and a small gun battery built at each end while the Unity was posted just below the chain.

The crucial moment of the raid came on 12 June when the Dutch reached the chain. The Vrede, under Captain Jan van Brakel, and with two fireships in support, led the attack.

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While the Vrede attacked and captured the Unity, the fireships attacked and broke the chain. One then destroyed the British guardship Matthias. Van Brakel then went on to capture the Charles V, and used her guns against the British coastal batteries.

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The rest of the British fleet in the Medway was now virtually defenceless. The Royal Charles was quickly captured, and began Van Ghent’s flagship for the day, before being towed across the Channel (as was the Unity). The Monmouth was also burnt during the day.

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On 13 June the Dutch pushed further up the Medway. Although Upnor Castle and a battery on the opposite bank offered more resistance, the Dutch were still able to burn the Royal Oak, the  Loyal London and the Old James, while a larger number of ships were forced to run aground to save themselves.

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On 14 June, with most of his fireships gone, De Ruyter withdrew from the Medway and moored close to Queenborough, before moved into the mouth of the Thames. For a short period London was blockaded, and everything that normally arrived by sea was quickly in short supply (the price of coal rose from 15s to 140s per ton). De Ruyter considered mounting an attack up the Thames towards London, but a combination of improving British defences and the non-appearance of a French fleet forced him to abandon that plan. Finally, at the start of July, de Ruyter left the Thames and entered the Channel. An attack on Landguard Fort (2 July 1667) failed, ending a plan to attack Harwich.

The Dutch victory in the Medway forced Charles II to take the peace negotiations more seriously, and within a few weeks the war came to an end (Treaty of Breda, 31 July 1667).

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The Navigation Acts were modified to allow Dutch and German goods to enter Britain in Dutch ships, and most colonies taken during the war were returned, although the Dutch kept Surinam and Britain kept New York and New Jersey.

The peace was short-lived. After a brief period in which Holland, Britain and Sweden allied together to oppose Louis XIV, the French king managed to bribe Charles II to change sides, only five years after the Peace of Breda, in 1672, the Third Anglo-Dutch War broke out.

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