Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Robert Blake's performance in the battles in which he commanded

The Battle of Portland was an example of what had happened at the Kentish Knock and at Dungeness: Robert Blake rushed into battle with his fleet in great disorder. That resulted, in each case, with a situation where the Dutch were able to achieve a local superiority.

At the Kentish Knock, the result was that the Dutch losses were small (one ship blown up and one captured). When comparing paper strenghts, the Dutch should have been devastated. Instead, they escaped serious losses.

At Dungeness, the Dutch concentrated against the head of the English fleet. In this case, Blake was locally supported by the Garland and Anthony Bonaventure. Tromp, in the Brederode, was very hard pressed by them. If Jan Evertsen, in the Hollandia, had not rescued him, he could have even been captured. Despite this, Blake was largely unsupported, and his flagship took heavy damage. The rest of his fleet was scattered across a great space, in disarray, and a light air.

At Portland, the English fleet came into battle in disarray, as well. The Dutch had the weather gauge, and the English were spread out over at least four miles, to the leeward. George Monck's squadron was the most distant, to the South. Blake was very anxious, as always, to make contact with the Dutch. They accommodated him, and came close to taking the flagships. They were boarded, and only just managed to repel the Dutch. As it was, several ships were taken (but only temporarily).

In this case, the battle stretched out over three days, and the English superiority in size and broadside weight overcame the Dutch. The only reason the Dutch escaped was due to English timidity, which seems strange, given Blake's headlong attacks. On the evening of the third day, when the Dutch were approaching the French shoals, the English shied away, and let the Dutch escape.

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