Sunday, January 25, 2004
A concise critique of Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp I am not so familiar with Lt-Admiral Tromp's performance prior to the First Anglo-Dutch War, so I wll confine my remarks to the latter period. I find a great deal to criticize about his leadership in the war. My theory is that Tromp started the war, due to his response, off Dover. He was angry and refused to strike his flag and lower his topsails, as the English desired in their home waters. Instead, he answered a signal shot with a broadside, and the battle and war had commenced. In July, he showed very per judgement in taking the fleet North. Even the authorities reacted to the resulting disaster. Almost concurrently, he had some culpability for allowing their 12 fishery protection cruiser (24 to 28 guns) to be bagged or sunk. The fallout from the abortive "Voyage to the North" was that Tromp was relieved of his command, and the fleet was given to the only officer who was acknowledged to be capable of commanding the fleet: Witte Cornelis de With. Given the bias toward Tromp, a Royalist, and against De With, a Republican, De With's credible performance at the Battle of the Kentish Knock was discounted, and Tromp was placed back in command. I have simulated the battle, and my opinion is that the English should have been able to heavily damage the Dutch. Instead, they only destroyed one and captured another. The English had two first rates and four second rates. They also had numerous fourth rates equipped with culverins (18-pounders). They Dutch were mostly equipped with 12-pounders on the lower tier. They were heavily outgunned. At Dungeness, Tromp almost succeeded in getting taken by the Garland (44 guns) and Anthony Bonaventure (36 guns). He was saved by Jan Evertsen, who came alongside and took one and then the other English ship. Tromp's flagship, the Brederode (54 guns) was devastated. You can see my drawing from my website: The Brederode under repair after Dungeness. At the Battle of Portland, in early 1653, Tromp had bombarded English shore installations, wasting precious shot and powder. They Dutch paid for that during the three days, when many ships ran low or even out of ammunition. Many captains were killed and many ships captured or sunk. By my count, 7 ships were sunk and 5 were captured at Portland. The Dutch fleet was so devastated at Portland (and the English were badly shot up) that there was a hiatus until late May 1653. The Battle of the Gabbard was another disaster, in early June 1653. By my count, they lost 14 major warships sunk or captured. Tromp had lost control, and allowed the English frigates to catch the Dutch without a rearguard. At Scheveningen, after Tromp was killed, Witte de With, Jan Evertsen, and Michiel De Ruyter were determined to keep another route, such as the Gabbard, from happening again. They were somewhat successful, because the Dutch lost somewhat fewer ships. My count is 10 sunk. At Scheveningen, Monck refused to take prizes. Any ships captured were burnt. Tromp was a "fair-haired boy", while Witte de With was hated. Part of Tromp's reputation is due to his association with Piet Hein's captured of the Spanish silver fleet in 1629. He also won the Battle of the Downs, in 1639, against the Spanish. He was also a Royalist, which was popular among the sailors. Witte de With was a Republican, so he was hated. Witte de With was also harsh and would take severe action against those who showed a faint heart. Those sorts seem to have been coddled by Tromp, until after the Gabbard.