First Anglo-Dutch war (1652-1654)

Battle of Leghorn (slag bij Livorno) 4 March 1653


In the early 1650s the damage caused by French and Barbary Coast pirates to Dutch Levant trade forced the Republic of Seven United Provinces to send an expedition commanded by Admiral Johan van Galen to the Mediterranean. With the start of the First Anglo-Dutch War the Dutch squadron had to face yet another enemy, the English ships under Captain Henry Appleton and Captain Richard Badiley. In the first months of 1653 Dutch and English squadrons have been chasing each other in a cat and mouse game in the vicinity of the island of Elba. A series of actions resulted in a capture of an English frigate Phoenix by the Dutch. The ship was placed under the command of a young officer Cornelis Tromp, the son of the glorious Dutch Admiral Maerten Tromp.


In March 1653 the Dutch have finally succeeded in trapping Captain Appleton and his 6 ships in the port of Livorno (Leghorn) in Italy. Livorno was a neutral territory under the Grand Duke of Tuscany. On one night the English undertook a successful sortie and recaptured the Phoenix. Cornelis Tromp was surprised in his sleep but managed to escape by jumping overboard. Later he was fished out of the water by a merchantman.


This action meant a violation of the port’s neutrality by the English. Van Galen issued a demand for the English ships to leave. By this point an English squadron commanded by Richard Badiley has arrived to join forces with the trapped ships. The Dutch sailed out to face the new threat on a favorable wind. The blockaded squadron attempted to use the chance to escape and left the port. The Dutch however abandoned their previous target and instead attacked the escaping ships. All but one of Appleton’s ships were either destroyed or captured and only Mary could outrun the Dutch and rejoin Badiley. The wind prevented the latter from coming to Appleton’s rescue. At the end Badiley found himself outnumbered (8 + Mary vs. 16 Dutch) and was forced to retreat. Admiral Van Galen was mortally wounded in the action and died on March 23.


Battle of Kentish Knock (slag bij de Hoofden) 8 October 1652


The Battle was fought near the shoal called the Kentish Knock in the North Sea about thirty kilometres east of the mouth of the river Thames. The Dutch fleet, internally divided on political, regional and personal grounds, proved incapable of making a determined effort and was soon forced to withdraw, losing two ships and many casualties.


Dutch Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp had been suspended by the States-General of the Netherlands after his failure to bring the English to battle off the Shetland Islands in August, and replaced as supreme commander of the confederate Dutch fleet by the Hollandic Vice-Admiral Witte de With of the Admiralty of the Maze. This caused an immediate rift between the provinces of Holland and Zealand as De With was the personal enemy of the commander of the Zealandic fleet, Vice-Admiral Johan Evertsen, who himself had quit service because of a conflict with the States-General. Earlier tensions had been moderated by the fact that both Tromp and Evertsen were staunch Orangists, but De With was a loyal servant of the States regime that had dominated Dutch politics since the death of stadtholder William II of Orange.De With, having for months advocated a more aggressive naval policy aimed at destroying the enemy fleet instead of passively defending the merchant convoys against English attack, now saw an opportunity to concentrate his forces, joining the squadron of Vice-Commodore Michiel de Ruyter, and gain control of the seas. He set out to attack the English fleet at anchor at The Downs near Dover, departing from the Schooneveld on 5 October 1652; immediately the fleet was hit by a storm damaging many vessels. De With also had to protect the trade routes and discovered that nine of De Ruyter's ships, that had been on sea for two months, had to return to port for repairs. De Ruyter suggested that under the circumstances it was better to simply keep luring away the English from merchant fleets while declining to really fight, but De With insisted on delivering a decisive battle, stating: "I shall lustily lead the fleet to the enemy; the devil may bring it back again!".


When the fleets finally met on 8 October, the United Provinces had 62 ships and about 1,900 cannon and 7,000 men; the Commonwealth of England 68 ships under General at Sea Robert Blake with about 2,400 cannon and 10,000 men. The van of the Dutch fleet was to be commanded by Michiel de Ruyter, the centre by De With himself and the rear by temporary Rear-Admiral Gideon de Wildt of the Admiralty of Amsterdam. In the morning the Dutch fleet, approaching from the east, had the previous evening been again scattered by a gale and was still dispersed when around noon it saw Blake coming out in force from the south. Having the weather gauge because of a south-south-western breeze, Blake intended to exploit this excellent opportunity for a direct attack on the disordered Dutch.Having hurriedly assembled his force around 14:30, with the exception of five vessels that had drifted too far to the north, De With now wanted to transfer his flag from the smaller Prinses Louise to the Brederode, Tromp's former flagship and the most powerful vessel of the Dutch fleet. However, to his mortification, Tromp's crew refused to let him on board, addressing De With the invective 'green cheese' and even threatening to fire a salvo on his boat if he did not stop waving around his commission papers from the States-General: he had a very bad reputation among common sailors — indeed hundreds had already deserted when it became known he would be supreme commander. Zealandic Commodore Cornelis Evertsen the Elder, the brother of Johan Evertsen, was called in to negotiate but to no avail. When the enemy fleet was within half a mile distance, De With was forced to hoist his flag on the large but slow VOC-ship Prins Willem where he found the majority of its officers drunk and the crew to be consisting of untrained men.


Action was joined at about 17:00 when Blake, himself moving his flag from the too large Sovereign to the more manoeuvrable Resolution (former HMS Prince Royal), engaged the Dutch. Blake intended to break the Dutch line, but on the approach of the English fleet the mass of Dutch ships began to give way to the east. At the same time the wind slackened considerably. As a result both fleets slowly passed each other in opposite tack. This was very unfavourable for the Dutch; normally being in a leeward position would have given them a longer range, but with such gentle winds this advantage was absent while the English ships were larger and better armed than their opponents, inflicting severe damage. Nevertheless some English ships at first got into trouble: the Sovereign and James ran aground on the Kentish Knock sandbank and only with much difficulty worked themselves free; the Resolution and the Dolphin, venturing too far forward, became isolated and surrounded but were saved by the encroachment by the other English vessels. The Prins Willem was disabled, meaning that De With was greatly hampered in his efforts to lead his forces. But soon, by 19:00, the fighting stopped due to the onset of darkness, the fleets just having finished this single manoeuvre. At this moment one Dutch ship, the Maria, had been captured while another captured ship, the Gorcum, was abandoned by the English in a sinking condition but re-occupied and saved by the Dutch. The Burgh van Alkmaar blew up. Several Dutch ships, their morale shaken by the devastating English fire, left their formation.


The next day, early in the morning, about ten Dutch ships, mostly commanded by captains from Zealand who resented the domination of Holland and severely disliked De With, had broken off the engagement and simply sailed home. This is usually attributed to the fact that De With in the battle council in the morning of the second day had called all Zealandic captains cowards and had warned them that in Holland there was still sufficient wood left to erect gallows for any of them. The situation had become hopeless for the Dutch who now had 49 ships left in their fleet while the English fleet had during the night been reinforced to 84, yet De With still wanted to make a last effort.On his directions the Dutch fleet, now positioned to the southeast of the English force, sailed farther south in the hope of gaining the weather gauge. This design failed however: first some ships, with difficulty beating up the wind, coursed too far to the west and were badly mauled by the fire of the English rear; and hardly had the Dutch fleet moved to its intended position when it all proved to have been in vain because the wind turned to the northeast, giving the English the weather gauge again. Michiel de Ruyter and Cornelis Evertsen now managed to convince De With to accept the inevitable and the Dutch fleet late in the afternoon withdrew to the east followed by Blake; as De With angrily described it: "like a herd of sheep fleeing the wolves". Assisted by a westerly De With and De Ruyter nicely covered the retreat with a dozen ships and the Dutch would not lose any more vessels.The English fleet halted its pursuit when the Flemish shoals were reached; De With now decided to quickly repair the fleet at sea in the Wielingen basin and then make another attempt at defeating the enemy. This order was met with utter disbelief by his fellow flag officers. De Ruyter tactfully pointed out: "Such courage is too perilous". Understanding he was alone in his opinion De With at last agreed to withdraw the fleet to Hellevoetsluis, where it arrived on 12 October).


The Dutch recognized after their defeat that they needed larger ships to take on the English, and instituted a major building program that never really came to pass until the Second Anglo-Dutch War. According to De With this, besides a lack of a sufficient number of fireships, had been the main cause of the Dutch failure; he pointed out that many a light English frigate could outshoot the average Dutch warship. However according to public opinion there was only one to blame for the defeat: De With himself. As one of the more polite pamphlets put it, a week after the battle:

From this disorder and unwillingness to fight it can be seen and noticed what difference it makes whether one has or appoints a Head of a fleet who is judicious, polite and popular — or whether one imposes on the men a Head who is unloved, despised by the men and unsavoury to them. Vice-Admiral De Witt is, we all know this, an excellent soldier and bold Sailor, who fears no danger, nor even death itself. Likewise Commodore de Ruyter is an audacious and fearless Hero, who would not hesitate to engage the worst of enemies, heeding no danger. Notwithstanding all of this, we also know that Admiral Tromp possesses all these same qualities; and besides these uncommon virtues: of being an extraordinary careful, Godfearing and virtuous man who does not call his men dogs, devils, or devil's brood; but children, friends, comrades and similar loving and endearing words to address them with. By which he so much endears those serving under him that they, as they say, would go through fire for him and risk their lives, yes, by manner of speech, would not hesitate to fight the devil. If such a loved and respected Head is then kept from the fleet and replaced by those who displease the men, now it is shown what calamity and disaster this brings with it.

The same evening the States-General learned of the defeat, they sent a letter to both Tromp and Johan Evertsen, asking them to return.


The English believed that the Dutch had been all but defeated, and sent twenty ships away to the Mediterranean, a mistake that led to a defeat at the Battle of Dungeness but didn't prevent the defeat of the not yet reinforced English Mediterrenean fleet at the Battle of Leghorn. In the former battle the Dutch were led again by Tromp; De With had suffered a mental breakdown and would be officially replaced as supreme commander in May 1653.

Battle of Dungenes (slag bij de Singels) 10 December 1652


The Battle took place near the cape of Dungeness in Kent. In September 1652 the English government, mistakenly believing that the United Provinces after their defeat at the Battle of the Kentish Knock would desist from bringing out a fleet so late in the season, sent away ships to the Mediterranean. This left the English badly outnumbered in home waters. Meanwhile the Dutch were making every effort to reinforce their fleet.


On 1 December 1652 Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp, again (unofficial) supreme commander after his successor Vice-Admiral Witte de With had suffered a breakdown because of his defeat at the Battle of the Kentish Knock, set sail from Hellevoetsluis with 88 men of war and 5 fireships, escorting a vast convoy bound for the Indies. With the convoy safely delivered through the Straits of Dover, Tromp turned in search of the English, and on 9 Devember 1652 he encountered the English fleet of 42 ships commanded by General at Sea Robert Blake. The English promptly left their anchorage in the Downs, either because Blake did not realize how large the Dutch fleet was, or he did not want to become trapped like the Spanish had some years earlier in the Battle of the Downs. The wind was now strong from the north-west, so the English could not return to the Downs in either case, having to settle for Dover. Next morning, the two fleets moved south-west, with the English hugging the coast and the Dutch unable to engage until the curve of the shoreline forced the English to turn on a southerly course. At about 15:00, near the cape of Dungeness, the leading ships of both fleets met in a "bounteous rhetoric of powder and bullet".


The wind prevented a large part of the Dutch fleet from engaging Blake, whose fleet by nightfall had lost five ships of which the Dutch captured two, and damaged many more. The Dutch lost one ship through fire. Blake retreated under cover of darkness to his anchorage in the Downs. Tromp could not be satisfied with the result however as the Dutch had missed an opportunity to annihilate the English. The battle resulted in several reforms in the English Fleet. Part of Blake's force consisted of impressed merchant vessels that retained their civilian captains/owners. Many of them refused to participate in the battle. Some naval captains insisted on their traditional right to enter and leave the battle at times of their choosing, and to leave formation in order to secure any prize. Blake threatened to resign if something was not done. The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty responded by: requiring all impressed vessels to be under the command of naval captains; dividing the fleet into squadrons under junior flag officers for better command and control; issuing Sailing and Fighting Instructions which significantly enhanced an admiral's authority over his fleet.


The victory gave the Dutch temporary control of the English Channel and so control of merchant shipping. A legend says that Tromp attached a broom to his mast as a sign that he had swept the sea clean of his enemies, but in his book The Command of the Ocean, N.A.M. Roger doubts the legend as such a boasting action would have been out of character for Tromp. Additionally, at the time, a broom attached to a mast was the way of showing that a ship was for sale. Also Dutch contemporaneous sources make no mention of it. The battle not only showed the folly of dividing forces while the Dutch still possessed a large fleet in home waters, but exposed "much baseness of spirit, not among the merchantmen only, but many of the state's ships". It seemed that the captains of hired merchant ships were reluctant to risk their vessels in combat, while the state's ships lacked the men to sail and fight them.

By Willem van Diest (fl. between circa 1629 and circa 1668)

The following day the English were the first to begin the engagement, with the wind in their favor. The initiative of the English fleet was not gone from the previous day, but five attempts failed to break the Dutch line. The day also saw 12 Dutch merchantmen caught by Blake's frigates after attempting to make a run for it, against Tromp's explicit orders. After the second day most of the Dutch warships were out of powder and shot, and there was none to resupply with.


The third day ended just the same, with a failure to break the Dutch line. Several Dutch captains attempted to flee after completely running out of ammunition but Tromp ended their flight with a few shots across their ships. The battle ended for the day when Blake drew off, after forcing the Dutch to fight to the point where they only had around half an hour worth of shot left. Blake's reasoning for the disengagement has been attributed to the fact that he received a wound to the thigh that day.


On the fourth day the English again attempted to resume action, but they found the sea empty of Dutch warships. Tromp had guided the remainder of his fleet along the coastline, escaping certain defeat the next day, leaving eight warships and a number of merchantmen behind. Although both sides claimed victory after the battle, the fact remains that it was Tromp who left the field, not Blake, and in the end, it was Blake who was able to commandeer 20 to 40 Dutch merchantmen and at least eight Dutch warships back to his homeport.


The Battle of Portland restored English dominance over the English Channel. While Dutch propaganda tried to paint the battle as a Dutch victory or a "glorious defeat" and the populace publicly rejoiced at the heroism shown, Admiral Tromp and the other flag officers knew better, all coming home in an extremely dark mood. They concluded that the adoption of line tactics by the English would make it impossible for the Dutch to compensate inferior firepower with better seamanship and they urged the States-General to finally start building real heavy warships instead of replacing losses by recruiting armed merchants. In a desperate attempt to at least keep the North Sea open, an under-equipped Dutch fleet engaged the English again at the Battle of the Gabbard

George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle , part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series from the studio of Sir Peter Lely, painted 1665–1666

George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle, studio of Sir Peter Lely, painted 1665–1666

Battle at the Gabbard, 12 June 1653 by Heerman Witmont, shows the Dutch flagschip Brederode,to the right, in combat with the English ship Resolution, the during the Common Wealth temporarily named HMS Prince Royal.

Slag bij Livorno (Battle of Leghorn), Willem Van de Velde the Elder
Het praalgraf voor Jan van Galen in de Nieuwe Kerk te Amsterdam

Act of Seclusion

The seas are Dutch

The first Anglo-Dutch war (1652-1654)

Prelude to the first Anglo-Dutch war


Battle of Goodwin Sands (slag bij Dover) 29 May 1652


Battle of Plymouth (slag bij Plymouth) op 26 August 1652


Battle of Kentish Knock (slag bij de Hoofden) 8 October 1652


Battle of Dungenes (slag bij de Singels) 10 December 1652


Battle of Leghorn (slag bij Livorno) 4 March 1653


Battle of Portland (driedaagse zeeslag) 28 February- 2 March 1653


Battle of the Gabbard (slag bij Nieuwpoort tweedaagse zeeslag 12-13 juni 1653


Battle of Scheveningen or Texel (slag bij Ter Heijde) 8-10 August 1653



Sites of the battles of the First Anglo-Dutch War

Prelude to the first Anglo-Dutch war


1650. After the 80 years' war, the Dutch Republic was 'Stadholderless'. The young Willem II of Orange had died suddenly and his son was just one week old. While trade was booming, the Dutch were divided in pro and any Orangist with the latter in power. The Dutch transported the majority of all goods over sea and much envied by the English. The English with Cromwell in power brooded on an opportunity to decrease Dutch supreacy and Parliament passed the so called Navigation Act in October 1651. It ordered that only English ships and ships from the originating country could import goods to England. This measure was particularly aimed at hampering the shipping of the highly trade-dependent Dutch and often used as a pretext simply to take their ships; as General Monck put it: "The Dutch have too much trade, and the English are resolved to take it from them". Agitation among the Dutch merchants was further increased by George Ayscue's capture in early 1652 of 27 Dutch ships trading with the royalist colony of Barbados in contravention of an embargo imposed by the Commonwealth. Over a hundred other Dutch ships were captured by English privateers between October 1651 and July 1652. Moreover, the death of Dutch stadtholder William II, who had favoured an expansion of the army at the expense of the navy, had led to a change in the defence policy of the United Provinces towards protecting the great trading concerns of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Accordingly, the States General decided on 3 March 1652 to expand the fleet by hiring and equipping 150 merchant ships as ships of war to allow effective convoying against hostile English actions.


The news of this decision reached London on 12 March 1652 and the Commonwealth too began to prepare for war, but as both nations were unready, war might have been delayed if not for an unfortunate encounter between the fleets of Dutch Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp and General at Sea Robert Blake in the English Channel near Dover on 29 May 1652. An ordinance of Cromwell required all foreign fleets in the North Sea or the Channel to dip their flag in salute, reviving an ancient right the English had long insisted on, but when Tromp was tardy to comply, Blake opened fire, starting the brief Battle of Goodwin Sands. Tromp lost two ships but escorted his convoy to safety. The States of Holland sent their highest official, the Grand Pensionary Adriaan Pauw, to London in a last desperate attempt to prevent war, but in vain: English demands had become so extreme that no self-respecting state could meet them. War was declared by the English Parliament on 10 July 1652. The Dutch diplomats realised what was at stake: one of the departing ambassadors said, "The English are about to attack a mountain of gold; we are about to attack a mountain of iron." The Dutch Orangists were jubilant however; they expected that either victory or defeat would bring them to power.

Battle of Goodwin Sands (slag bij Dover) - 29 May 1652


The naval Battle of Goodwin Sands (also known as the Battle of Dover), fought on 29 May 1652 was the first engagement of the First Anglo-Dutch War between the navies of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands.TheNavigation Acts cause agitation among the Dutch merchants which further increased by George Ayscue's capture in early 1652 of 27 Dutch ships trading with the royalist colony of Barbados in contravention of an embargo. Both sides had begun to prepare for war, but conflict might have been delayed if not for an unfortunate encounter near the Straits of Dover between a Dutch convoy escorted by 40 ships under Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp and an English fleet of 25 ships under General-at-Sea Robert Blake.


An ordinance of Cromwell required all foreign fleets in the North Sea or the Channel to dip their flag in salute, but when Tromp did not comply because he saw no reason to lower his flag for the English, Blake fired three warning shots. When the third hit his ship, wounding some sailors, Tromp replied with a warning broadside from his flagship Brederode. Blake then fired a broadside in anger and a five-hour battle ensued.


Both fleets were damaged, but as darkness fell the Dutch fleet withdrew in a defensive line to protect the convoy, and the English captured two Dutch stragglers: Sint Laurens, which was taken back by them but not used, and Sint Maria, which was abandoned in a sinking condition and later made its way to the Netherlands. Tromp then offered his excuses to Blake and asked for the return of the prize, but this was refused by Blake.


War was declared by the Commonwealth on 10 July 1652.

Robert Blake, General at Sea, 1598–1657 by Henry Perronet Briggs, painted 1829

Robert Blake, General at Sea, 1598-1657

by Henry Perronet Briggs, painted 1829

Battle of Plymouth (slag bij Plymouth) op 26 August 1652


The Battle of Plymouth was a short battle, but had the unexpected outcome of a Dutch victory over England. General-at-Sea George Ayscue of the Commonwealth of England attacked an outward bound convoy of the Dutch Republic commanded by Vice-Commodore Michiel de Ruyter. The two commanders had been personal friends before the war. The Dutch were able to force Ayscue to break off the engagement, and the Dutch convoy sailed safely to the Atlantic while Ayscue sailed to Plymouth for repairs.


On 29 July De Ruyter was appointed Vice-Commodore, an originally Dutch creation between Captain and Rear-Admiral, with the confederate Dutch fleet and shortly after took over command, in the absence of Vice-Admiral Witte de With, of a squadron assembling in the Wielingen, off the coast of Zealand, to escort a large convoy. Around 20 August, De Ruyter took sea before the merchantmen had arrived, to seek out an English fleet of forty ships, commanded by Ayscue. De Ruyter's squadron at that moment consisted of 23 warships and six fireships, with a total of about 600 cannon and 1,700 men. As De Ruyter reported to the States-General of the Netherlands, most crews were badly trained, many ships poorly maintained and he had just two months of supplies. Nevertheless he preferred to give battle early without the burden of having to protect the convoy. To lure Ayscue out De Ruyter started to cruise off the coast of Sussex, causing an uproar with the local population, but Ayscue, despite his fleet having grown to 42 ships, did not react. Meanwhile De Ruyter had lost two ships, sent out to escort a single incoming merchantman to the mouth of the Somme river, when they collided, sinking one, the Sint Nicolaes, and severely damaging the other, Gelderlandt. On 21 August De Ruyter at last did rendezvous with the convoy of sixty merchantmen off Gravelines in the southern North Sea. He was pleased to notice that it brought ten warships with it, bringing his total to 31. On 23 August De Ruyter re-entered the Channel near Calais. His instructions were to escort the convoy to the Atlantic; there most ships would head for the Mediterranean together with their ten escorts, while the original squadron would have to wait to pick up merchantmen coming from the West Indies and transporting silver. Ayscue's fleet had then grown to 47 vessels: 38 men-of-war, among which armed merchantmen; five fireships, and four smaller vessels.


On 26 August, the English spotted the Dutch fleet off the coast of Plymouth, and took sea. Ayscue the next day, off the coast of Brittany, around 13:30 attempted a direct attack from the north against the convoy, having the weather gauge. He hoped it would scatter, allowing him to capture some very profitable prizes, but De Ruyter unexpectedly separated his naval squadron and changed course to meet Ayscue’s attack, shielding the merchantmen. Ayscue’s ships were on average more heavily armed, but extremely disorganised because the fastest vessels, among them Ayscue's flagship the George and the Vanguard of his vice-admiral William Haddock, had broken formation in the hope of catching, during a running battle, straggling Dutch merchantmen; they were now unable to form a line of battle and fully exploit their advantage in firepower over the Dutch. The Dutch squadron however, sailing to the northwest, was in a rough defensive leeward line formation, with the Frisian acting Rear-Admiral Joris Pieterszoon van den Broeck commanding the van, De Ruyter himself commanding the centre and Hollandic Rear-Admiral Jan Aertsen Verhoeff commanding the rear. Around 16:00 the Dutch fleet and seven forward English vessels met and almost immediately passed through each other – both sides afterwards claiming to have "broken the enemy line". Having thus gained the weather gauge the Dutch at once exploited this by turning and attacking from the north. They would describe this as a second breaking of the line but probably the battle soon degenerated into a confusing mêlée. With their best ships now surrounded by the mass of Dutch vessels and bearing the brunt of the fight, the slower remainder of the English fleet, largely consisting of poorly trained hired merchantmen, was, reaching the scene of the battle, not overly zealous to get involved. Their numerical superiority thus also gained the English little.


The largest Dutch vessel, the Dutch East India Company warship Vogelstruys, by Dutch standards heavily armed with a lower tier of 18-pounders, got separated from the rest of the Dutch fleet and was attacked by three English ships at once and boarded. Her crew was close to surrendering when her captain, the Frisian Douwe Aukes, threatened to blow her up first. Faced with this alternative the crew rallied, drove off the English boarding team and put up such a fight that the English vessels, much damaged and two even in a sinking condition, broke off the attack. The Dutch employed their favourite tactic of disabling enemy vessels by firing at their masts and rigging with chain shot; at the end of the afternoon Ayscue, feeling rather unsupported, decided to break off the unsuccessful engagement and to retreat to Plymouth to repair his ships before any became so damaged they would be captured. The Bonadventure could only disengage after an English fireship, the Charity commanded by Captain Simon Orton, set itself alight and frightened off the attacking Dutch vessels. De Ruyter in his journal concluded: If our fireships had been with us — they remained leeward — we would with the help of God have routed the enemy; but praised be God who has blessed us in that our enemy fled by himself, though 45 sails strong and of great force. Neither side lost a warship, but both sides suffered heavy casualties among their crews. The Dutch had about sixty dead and fifty wounded. The reports on the English losses differ: one set the number as high as seven hundred casualties including the wounded (most from the failed attack on the Vogelstruys), another mentioned 91 dead, among them Ayscue's flag captain Thomas Lisle. Rear-Admiral Michael Pack had a leg amputated and shortly afterwards died of the complications. The English spent one fireship.


De Ruyter pursued the English fleet after its retreat. On the morning of the next day both forces transpired to be still close to each other and De Ruyter hoped by aggressively pursuing to capture some stragglers; several English ships were in tow and might well be abandoned if he pressed hard enough. However Ayscue, fearing for his reputation, on 27 August convinced the English council of war to again give battle if necessary and brought his entire force safely back to Plymouth on 28 August. De Ruyter then sent two warships to escort the merchant fleet through the Channel to the Atlantic. For a while he considered trying to attack the enemy fleet at anchorage in Plymouth Sound, but in the end decided against it as he did not have the weather gauge. Then hearing that General-at-Sea Robert Blake was sailing to the west with a superior force of 72, he chose to withdraw to the west and kept assembling incoming West Indies ships throughout September. On 25 September Blake had reached Portland and sent out a squadron of eighteen sail commanded by William Penn to intercept De Ruyter, but the latter escaped east along the French coast while Blake had been forced by a storm to seek shelter in Torbay. De Ruyter escorted twelve merchantmen safely to Calais on 2 October Gregorian calendar when his supplies had nearly run out. Shortly afterwards nine or ten of the Dutch ships, among them De Ruyter's flagship the Kleine Neptunis, then had to return to port for repairs, probably because of insufficiently repaired damage from the battle.


The English ships had expected to easily defeat the Dutch in a set battle because of their superiority in armament and numbers. While the failure came as an unpleasant surprise to the English, the Dutch populace rejoiced in the tactical draw, hailing De Ruyter, who had not been well known among the larger public, as a naval hero. The English accused some merchantmen captains of cowardice. Ayscue was blamed for poor leadership and organisation: his attempt to present the encounter as a victory failed to convince. He lost command after this battle, though probably for political reasons: he had known royalist sympathies. Less important was his emphasis on capturing prizes while avoiding battle; in the first year of the war this was a very common attitude, the English mainly seeing the conflict as one large privateering campaign, allowing them to gain riches at the expense of the Dutch; only with the Battle of the Gabbard would they really try to establish naval dominion.This victory was very important to the naval career of De Ruyter: it was the first time he commanded an independent force as a fleet commander. Before, he only had had subcommand of a flotilla aiding Portugal in 1641. As a result of the battle he acquired the nickname The Sea Lion. Before he could return home, De Ruyter was first involved in the Battle of the Kentish Knock but arriving in Middelburg he was received by the States of Zealand and rewarded with a golden honorary chain of a hundred Flemish pounds for both battles because he in the first had shown "masculine courage" and in the second "courageous prudence" — having convinced Witte de With to a timely retreat.


George Ayscue

Admiraal Sir George Ayscue

(ca 1616–1671)

Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp, with the Orde van de Heilige Michaël

Admiral Witte de With by Abraham Evertsz. van Westerveld (circa 1620–1692)

The Battle of Livorno (Leghorn) by Johannes Lingelbach, 1660

The Battle of Livorno (Leghorn) by Johannes Lingelbach, 1660

Slag bij Livorno (Battle of Leghorn),

Willem Van de Velde the Elder

Mausoleum of Jan van Galen in the 'Nieuwe Kerk' in Amsterdam

The Battle of Livorno (De zeeslag bij Livorno 14 maart 1653), Reinier Nooms

Battle of Portland (driedaagse zeeslag) 28 February- 2 March 1653


The naval Battle of Portland, or Three Days' Battle took place during 28 February – 2 March 1653, when the fleet of England under General at Sea Robert Blake was attacked by a fleet of the Dutch Republic under Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp escorting merchant shipping through the English Channel. The battle failed to settle supremacy of the English Channel, although both sides claimed victory.


During the first days of February 1653, Tromp escorted a convoy of merchant ships through the Channel and put them safely into the Atlantic Ocean. He set to return to his home port, but first anchored off La Rochelle to repair and resupply his ships and waited for expected merchantmen coming from the Atlantic. He attempted to set sail on 20 February with 152 merchantmen, but was held back for three days by high winds and rough seas. On 24 February Tromp finally set sail, entering the area off Portland four days later where he spotted Blake's fleet attempting to cut them off. Immediately, Tromp set the signal for a general attack and began the offensive with the wind in his favor as he had the weather gauge. Tromp's flagship, Brederode, met Blake's flagship, Triumph, immediately, sending a broadside at mere metres distance. Turning around, without having received a response from English gunners, he put a second broadside in Triumph's other side, and finally then delivered a third after turning around again. Blake subsequently veered away and decided to fight at long range. Dutch Commodore De Ruyter was able to attack the English rear and engaged the largest English vessel in the fleet, Prosperity, ending in a boarding attempt which was repulsed by the crew of the British vessel the first time around. A second boarding attempt forced the Prosperity to surrender thereafter, however. An attempt to reclaim the ship surrounded De Ruyter, but after an intense fight the Dutch commodore was able to fight his way out. The battle continued for the day with heavy fire exchanged by both sides. Later on 28 February Blake sent a squadron of frigates to intercept and claim the Dutch merchantmen off the coast of La Rochelle. Tromp quickly responded by sending his own captains to intercept the English. Nonetheless, night brought a close to the day's battle.

3 daagse zeesag Schotel, Petrus Johannes

Driedaagsche zeeslagl, Petrus Johannes Schotel

Driedaagse zeeslag
Driedaagse Zeeslag, 1653, anoniem, Melchior Küsel (I), 1653

Driedaagse Zeeslag, 1653, anoniem, Melchior Küsel (I), 1653

Battle of the Gabbard (slag bij Nieuwpoort tweedaagse zeeslag 12-13 juni 1653


The naval Battle of the Gabbard,[b] also known as the Battle of Gabbard Bank, the Battle of the North Foreland or the second Battle of Nieuwpoort took place on 12–13 June 1653 near the Gabbard shoal off the coast of Suffolk.The English fleet had 100 ships commanded by Generals at Sea George Monck and Richard Deane and Admirals John Lawson and William Penn. The Dutch had 98 ships under Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp and Vice-admiral Witte de With, divided in five squadrons. On 2 June 1653 the Dutch attacked but were beaten back because the English employed line-of-battle tactics, making the Dutch pay a high price for attempting to board. The Dutch fleet, consisting of lighter ships, was severely damaged and lost two ships.


On 3 June the English were joined by Admiral Robert Blake, but Tromp decided to try again a direct attack though his ships were practically out of ammunition. A sudden lull however made his ships sitting ducks for the superior English guns. The Dutch were routed, the English chasing them until well in the evening, capturing many Dutch ships. The battle ended with the Dutch losing in total seventeen ships, of which six were sunk and eleven captured. The English lost no ships, but Deane was killed. Tactically this was the worst defeat in Dutch naval history with the exception of the Battle of Lowestoft; strategically the defeat threatened to be disastrous.


The victory meant that the English control over the English Channel, regained by the Battle of Portland in March after it had been lost in the Battle of Dungeness, was now extended to the North Sea.After the battle the English imposed a blockade on the Dutch coast, capturing many merchant ships and crippling the Dutch economy. The fleets met again on 29–31 July 1653 (8–10 August 1653 Gregorian calendar) at the Battle of Scheveningen.

Richard Deane, 1610–1 June 1653, General at Sea by Robert Walker, painted c. 1653.

Admiral Sir John Lawson, part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series by Sir Peter Lely

Admiral Sir William Penn, 1621-1670 by Sir Peter Lely, painted 1665–1666

Battle of Scheveningen or Texel (slag bij Ter Heijde) 8-10 August 1653


The Battle of Scheveningen (also known as the Battle of Texel or the Battle of Ter Heijde) had no clear victory. After their victory at the Battle of the Gabbard in June 1653, the English fleet of 120 ships under General at Sea George Monck blockaded the Dutch coast, capturing many merchant vessels. The Dutch economy began to collapse immediately: mass unemployment and even starvation set in. On 3 August, Dutch Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp put to sea in the Brederode with a fleet of 100 ships to lift the blockade at the island of Texel, where Vice-Admiral Witte de With's 27 ships were trapped by the English. On 8 August, the English sighted Tromp and pursued to the south, sinking two Dutch ships before dark, but allowing De With to slip out and rendezvous the next day with Tromp off Scheveningen, right next to the small village of Ter Heijde, after Tromp had positioned himself by some brilliant manoeuvering to the north of the English fleet.


The winds were fierce overnight, giving both fleets pause. Around 7 in the morning of the 9th, the Dutch gained an advantage from the weather and attacked, led by the Brederode. The ensuing battle was ferocious, with both fleets moving through each other four times. Tromp was killed early in the fight by a sharpshooter in the rigging of William Penn's ship. His death was kept secret to keep up the morale of the Dutch, but by late afternoon, twelve of their ships had either been sunk or captured and many were too heavily damaged to continue the fight. In the end, morale broke and a large group of vessels under the command of merchant captains fled to the north. De With tried to halt their flight, but had to limit himself to covering the retreat to the island of Texel. However, the English fleet, also heavily damaged and with many wounded in urgent need of treatment, had to return to port to refit and were unable to maintain the blockade.


Both sides claimed a victory: the English because of their tactical superiority, the Dutch because the strategic goal of their attack, the lifting of the blockade, had been achieved. However, Tromp's death was a severe blow to the Dutch – few now expected to beat the English; the Orangist faction lost political influence and Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt was willing to give formal treaty assurances to Cromwell that the infant William III of Orange would never become stadtholder, thus turning the Netherlands into a base for a Stuart restoration. Peace negotiations began in earnest, leading to the 1654 Treaty of Westminster.


The damage done to the Dutch fleet effectively ended the first war. The Dutch capitulated to several English demands.

De Slag bij Ter Heijde door Jan Abrahamsz. van Beerstraten

Details of the mausoleum in the 'Oude Kerk' at Delft)

Pieter Steenwijk: Vanitas van Maarten Tromp. ca. 1655



Cromwell again put forward his plan for a political union between the two nations, but this was rejected by the States General, so emphatically that Cromwell finally realised that the Dutch had not the slightest inclination to join the Commonwealth. Then, repeating the line of argument the English delegation had made two years previously, he proposed a military alliance against Spain, promising to repeal the Navigation Act in return for Dutch assistance in the conquest of Spanish America. This too was rejected. As a result Cromwell, more than a little annoyed, made a proposal of 27 articles, two of which were utterly unacceptable to the Dutch: that all Royalists had to be expelled and that Denmark, the ally of the Republic, should be abandoned in its war against Sweden. In the end Cromwell gave in. The peace was declared on 15 April 1654 with the signing of the Treaty of Westminster, ratified by the States General on 22 April and Cromwell on 29 April. The treaty had a secret annex, the Act of Seclusion, forbidding the Dutch ever to appoint the son of the late stadtholder, the later William III of England, to the position of his father. This clause, overtly a demand by Cromwell fearing the Orangists, was perhaps inserted on the covert wishes of the leading Dutch States party politicians, the new Grand Pensionary, the young Johan de Witt, and his uncle Cornelis de Graeff.


However, the commercial rivalry between the two nations was not resolved. Especially in their vast overseas empires, hostilities continued between Dutch and English trading companies, which had warships and troops of their own. The Dutch had started on a major shipbuilding programme to remedy the lack of ships of the line evident at the battles of the Kentish Knock, the Gabbard, and Scheveningen. The admiralties were now forbidden by law to sell off these 60 new ships. The Second Anglo-Dutch War was distantly in the making.


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