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1588-1916

ARMADA, THE SPANISH 1588


War with Spain 1588-96

The Spanish Armada comprised about 130 ships including thirty­three galleons and four galleasses. It was commanded by the Duke of Medina Sidonia. He sighted the Lizard on 19 July. It was his intention to sail the Armada up the Channel to link up with Parma’s invasion force already assembled at Calais.

The English fleet, the main part of which was assembled at Plymouth, was commanded by Lord Howard of Effingham, with Francis Drake as his vice-admiral.

For nine days there followed a running battle as the Armada sailed slowly up Channel in a huge crescent formation with the

English ships engaging whenever the opportunity presented itself.

On 21 July the Spaniards lost the Nuestra Senora del Rosario and the San Salvador. Two days later Frobisher’s squadron got the better of a sharp engagement off Portland Bill. Another fierce scrap took place off Dunnose Head, Isle of Wight, on the 25th. But two days later, on the 27th, Sidonia came to a good anchorage at Calais.


The English fleet was not joined by a squadron from the Downs under Lord Henry Seymour and Sir William Wynter.


In order to prevent the embarkation of the Spanish and other forces invading England, the anchored Armada was attacked by fireships on the night of 28/29th -with remarkable results. Panic set in among the Spaniards: cables were cut and the ships fell into complete confusion as they attempted to avoid the fireships.


The decisive battle -off Gravelines -was fought the next day. Three or four Spanish galleons were lost and many others seriously damaged. The wind and current were driving the Spanish ships towards the lee shore of the Flemish shoals, but a sudden change of wind enabled the fleet to claw off the dangerous shoals.


Sidonia could not fight his way back down the Channel so he determined to return home to Spain north-about Scotland and Ireland, a voyage of tragic consequences with the west coast of Ireland littered with wrecks of his Armada


Howard pursued the ships as far north as the Firth of Forth before calling off the pursuit.


Of the original 130 or so ships of Sidonia’s Armada only about 70 finally reached home.

Battle Honours:









In addition, 158 merchant ships have also been -awarded the honour

PORTLAND 1653 (The Three Days’ Battle) 18-20 February First Dutch War 1652-54

This was fought between a fleet of eighty English ships under the command of General-at-Sea Robert Blake, supported by Monck, Deane and William Penn, and a Dutch fleet of equal size escorting a fleet of about 150 merchantmen, all under the command of

Tromp. The English ships assembled at Portsmouth as the Dutch approached the Channel and sighted the Dutch convoy off Cap Le Havre. Tromp ordered the convoy to turn away while he attacked the English fleet.

Action was joined on the 18th off Portland and it soon developed into a long-running battle. Tromp was supported by De Ruyter and Evertsen, but they were all hampered by having to protect the convoy. Tromp displayed great skill and seamanship in keeping his losses to a minimum and reaching the safety of Gravelines.

Blake gave up the chase after many ships ran out of ammunition during the three-day chase.

Tromp lost eleven warships, thirty merchantmen and nearly 2,000 men killed or drowned. Blake lost one ship and nearly 1,000 killed. His was a decisive victory and it represented a turning point in the war with the Netherlands.

Battle Honours:







 GABBARD (North Foreland) 1653 2-3 June First Dutch War 1652-54

The name of this battle is taken from the Gabbard Sands off Orfordness, Suffolk. The English fleet comprised about 115 ships including five fireships all under the command of Generals-at-sea George Monck and Richard Deane. All told these ships were manned by 16,300 men and carried 3,840 guns. The Dutch fleet was equally formidable. Admiral Marten Tromp commanded a fleet of 104 ships which included six fireships. Tromp’s vice­admirals were de Ruyter and de With.

The fleets sighted each other at dawn on 2 June 1653 but light winds delayed action being joined till 11 o’clock. The first broad­side killed Richard Deane. The first day of battle found the Dutch hard pressed and they suffered losses of three or four ships.

On the following day Blake arrived on the scene with 18 sail and the Dutch were routed. They withdrew to the Flanders Shallows where the larger English ships would be unable to follow. Thus the Dutch became blockaded. Both fleets settled down to undertake extensive repairing and refitting.

The Dutch losses had been enormous. Eleven ships had been captured by the English, six more had been sunk and three more blown up. The English lost no vessels, although 126 men were killed and 236 wounded. 1,360 Dutchmen were taken prisoner.

Battle Honours


  

















                  

SCHEVENINGEN (First Texel) 165231 July First Dutch War 1652-54

 This was the last naval battle of this war. An English fleet commanded by General-at-Sea George Monck (Robert Blake was recovering from wounds) fought a bitter battle with a Dutch fleet commanded by Marten Tromp.

Both fleets were at sea around the Texel, and both numbered about one hundred ships. Admiral De With, with about twenty­seven ships and ten fireships, was blockaded by Monck. The two main fleets sighted each other at about noon on 29 July. Tromp cleverly lured Monck from his blockading area. Monck’s fleet chased Tromp’s and his leading ships engaged the last in Tromp’s line. Only about thirty ships altogether became engaged.

De With managed to slip out of harbour with his force and in a rising gale sped to join Tromp.

At about 7 am on the 31st the fleets came to close action off the tiny harbour of Scheveningen. The battle raged for six hours. Tromp was killed by a musket shot to the heart. Jan Evertsen assumed command.

After hours of desperately hard fighting, the English gained ascendancy and by 8 pm the Dutch were in full flight and the battle was over

The English lost about 250 killed, including a vice-admiral, a rear-admiral and five captains. Another 700 men were wounded and two ships were lost.

The Dutch lost at least fourteen ships, though Monck claimed to have taken or destroyed twenty to thirty Dutch ships; they also lost eight captains and 1,300 prisoners. It was a disastrous outcome for the Dutch. their one crumb of comfort was the raising of the siege of the Hague.

Battle Honours:






LOWESTOFT 1665 3 June Second Dutch War 1665-67

Lowestoft was one of the classic battles of sail, fought on an enor­mous scale between an English fleet of 109 ships commanded by James, Duke of York (the King’s brother) and 103 ships of a Dutch fleet commanded by Admiral Opdam (or Obdam) Jacob vail Wassenaer, off the Suffolk coast about 40 miles south-east of Lowestoft.

The Dutch fleet was marauding near the Dogger Bank at the end of May, capturing a convoy of twenty English merchant ships, when James, Duke of York received intelligence of the enemy activity. James, in his flagship the Royal Charles (80), led the English fleet in weighing anchor from the Gunfleet and proceeding to Southwold Bay. James had with him, commanding two of the enormous squadrons, the Earl of Sandwich (Montagu) and Prince Rupert, two of the famous generals-at-sea.

Two days of manoeuvring these vast fleets preceded the battle, which was joined at 4 am on 3 June, each fleet passing the other on opposite tacks, each ship engaging as the enemy ships came into range. Soon the battle had degenerated into a melee on a grand scale.

In the centre the two flagships Royal Charles and Eendracht (76), fought a bitter battle, the latter just failing in an attempt to board James’s ship

At one stage a chain shot killed many officers and men alongside James, who was spattered with their blood. A chronicler (probably James’s flag captain Sir William Penn) wrote: “At 12 came A shot from Opdam yt killed ye Earl of Falmouth [Charles Berkeley] Lord Musgrave [Muskerry] and Mr Boyle [younger son of the Earl of Burlington].”

Eendracht then received a shot in her powder room and exploded with devastating force. Only five of her complement of many hundl:eds were rescued. With the death ofWassenaer, Vice-Admiral Jan Evertsen took command. Another demoralizing blow to the Dutch was the death of Vice-Admiral Kortenaer aboard the Groot Hollandia.

The English gradually gained the upper hand and the Dutch began to give way. Ships fouled each other, and no fewer than seven Dutch ships were lost by fire in this way.

With great skill Evertsen and Cornelis Tromp marshalled the Dutch fleet into a controlled withdrawal towards the Texel and Maas estuary ,which was reached by the late evening. They had lost thirty-two ships, only nine of which were taken as prizes; their casu­alties amounted to about 4,000 killed and 2,000 taken prisoner.

The English losses were amazingly light by comparison. The Charity, captured early in the battle, was the only ship lost. In terms of seamen, 283 were killed and 440 wounded.

  Battle Honours:



                 







 ORFORDNESS 1666 (North Foreland)  25-26 July

Second Dutch War 1665-67

This battle was fought between an English fleet of eighty-nine ships and seventeen fireships jointly commanded by Prince Rupert and the Duke of Albemarle, and a smaller Dutch fleet of eighty-five ships, twenty fireships and ten smaller vessels, all under the command of Admiral De Ruyter -the Dutch Nelson. The result was a brilliant victory for the English, particularly important because it came so soon after the defeat in the Four Days’ Battle.

The long-drawn-out battle began at about lOam on St James’s Day, 26 July, in the North Sea about 40 miles south-east of Orfordness in Suffolk. After two hours’ battling Admiral Cornelis Tromp’s rear squadron sailed out of line, broke through the English line and became locked in combat with the English Blue Squadron, the rear squadron, under Admiral Sir Jeremy Smythe in Resolution

(74). Smythe gained the upper hand and this battle-within-a-battle became a pursuit of De Ruyter, progressing westward in a confused melee, while the main battle between the opposing vans and centres headed nearly due east. The Dutch van was in full flight by 3 pm and an hour later the center gave way too, three flag officers, including Jan Evertsen, being killed. But by then the English were too exhausted to take advantage.

Although retreating, De Ruyter handled the situation in a disci­plined and masterly fashion, even after his own flagship had been severely damaged.

Sporadic skirmishing occurred throughout the night and action flared up briskly in the early daylight hours, but the Dutch continued their retreat to the shoals of their coastline. The battle and pursuit were over.

The Dutch losses were considerable: twenty ships were lost, with 4,000 men killed or drowned and 3,000 wounded. The only English ship lost was Smythe’s Resolution, and the casualties in men killed and wounded were considerably lighter than the enemy’s.

Battle Honours:










SOLEBAY (Southwold Bay) 1672 28 May Third Dutch War 1672-74

This battle was fought between a combined Anglo-French fleet and a huge Dutch fleet in the North Sea. The result was both a tactical and a strategic victory for the redoubtable Dutch Admiral De Ruyter, who frustrated a planned invasion of the Netherlands.

Solebay, off the coast of Suffolk, was then a large curved bay, ideal as a fleet anchorage. At the end of May 1672 James, Duke of York, with his flag in the Princess Royal (120), commanded.a vast fleet of English and French warships -over seventy ships of the line, and more than this number of frigates, fireships, transports and smaller vessels. The Earl of Sandwich, commanding the rear, wore his flag in the RoyalJames (100), and Admiral D’Estres aboard the St Philippe (78) commanded the van. This huge assembly of ships lay at anchor provisioning in Solebay.

The Dutch fleet under De Ruyter in his flagship Zeven Provincien (82) discovered the combined fleet and, running before the stiff north-easterly wind, bore down on the anchorage with his fleet and with fireships.

The English centre division cut cables and stood to the north ­with difficulty in face of the wind. The Frenchman, D’Estrees, managed to get away and fled south-east. De Ruyter, the Dutch admiral, detached BanckertS with about twenty ships to contain him, evening the odds for the rest of the fleet. These two divisions, D’Estrees’ and Banckerts’, fought a battle of their own and took no further part in the main action.

The main Dutch fleet, De Ruyter in the centre, Van Ghent in the rear, included -heroes of the Medway (see MEDW A Y, pp. 272-3): Van Brakel who took the Royal Charles; Jan Van Rijn who broke the chain boom, ‘Devil’ Evertsen, and his cousin, Cornelis the Younger.

Sandwich and Van Ghent engaged first. Brakel in his Groot Hollandia (60) also found himself obliged to engage Sandwich’s Royal James in a fierce duel. Van Ghent was killed, then, as if in retribution, Jan Van Rijn’s fireships set the mighty Royal James ablaze and she had to be abandoned. Sandwich and his son-in­law, Sir Phillip Carteret, got away in a boat which became so overloaded with survivors that it overturned, everyone ~board being drowned. Sandwich’s body was recovered later. The Duke of York experienced much action too, compelling him to shift his flag three times during the day.

By the evening the Allied fleet was content to disengage and allow the Dutch divisions to withdraw to the Maas. The English losses were four ships and 2,500 men. The Dutch lost two ships, Jozua (60) and Stavoren (48), and another which blew up in the night. De Ruyter had disabled the English fleet for about a month, had wrested command in the Channel and thwarted an invasion of the Netherlands. Small reason the Dutch regard him as their Nelson

Battle Honours:






MARBELLA 1705 (ACTION OFF CABRIT A, CABARET A POINT, LEAKE’S SECOND RELIEF OF GffiRALTAR) 10 March

War of the Spanish Succession 1702-13

This action resulted from a French attempt to land troops for the recapture of Gibraltar. It was fought between a squadron of French ships of the line under the command of Commodore Baron de Pointis, and a similar squadron commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir John Leake.

The French squadron arrived in Gibraltar Bay, but a rising gale drove the French force to leeward towards Marbella.

The British squadron layoff Cabrita Point 9 miles south-west of Marbella. Leake had with him five ships of the line. At daybreak on 10 March Leake surprised de Pointis.

The British  Admiral had every advantage and he pressed home his attack with speed and vigour. In a swift and skilful action the British took the 66-gun Ardent, the Marquis (66) and Arrogant (60). Two more of the line, the flagship Magnanime (74) and Lys (66), were driven ashore and burnt by their crews to avoid capture.

  Leake had not only scored a remarkable victory but had saved Gibraltar from attack and had enhanced his already high reputation.

Battle Honours

Antelope                   Bedford                      Canterbury                      Expedition Greenwich(?)             Hampton Court         Lark                            Leopard Newcastle Nottingham              Pembroke                   Revenge Swallow          Tiger                                             Warspite (List incomplete.)

SADRAS 1758 29 April Seven Years’ War 1756-63

This was hardly a battle, more like a scrappy indecisive encounter, with some damage to both sides.

The French had a naval base at Pondicherry on the Coromandel coast of SE India, and the British had one at nearby Cuddalore, south of Madras fronting on to the Bay of Bengal. The French Admiral Comte D’Ache in his flagship Zodiaque (74) and Vice­ Admiral Pocock in his flagship Yarmouth (64) commanded the respective light squadrons Each sighted.the other at about 9 am as Pocock was preparing to leave Port St David Roads. It was afternoon when contact was made and each squadron of ships were in line. Seven British and nine French (one was a 36 gun frigate) opposed each other. Away to leeward the French had another 74 and  a frigate.

Pocock opened fire at a range of “half a musket shot” of the flag­ship. The British rear failed to give good support and later three captains were court-martialled. The French line gave way but Pocock’s ships were unable to catch the fleeing ships.

The inconclusive nature of this encounter was attributed to the strict adherence to the Fighting Instructions.

Battle Honours:

Cumberland                Elizabeth               Newcastle Protector                  Queensborough              Salisbury             Tiger                       Weymouth                Yarmouth

 


  

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