Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Tromp's voyage to the Shetlands
I have had more thoughts about Hendrick de Raedt's pamphlet, since yesterday. The list of ships is impressive. By mid-July 1652, the Dutch had managed to collect a very effective fleet to dispute control of the Channel and North Sea. There were other ships on various patrolling and convoying duties, as well. This was the time when De Ruyter's fleet that was tasked with convoying in the lower Channel was being assembled. There were other ships that were protecting the Dutch fishing fleets. The Dutch had more than 150 ships in service at this time, including those already in the Mediterranean Sea. I don't know this for sure, but I suspect that there were more losses in the voyage to the Shetlands than are generally acknowledged. For example, there is the case of Jan Maijkers, who commanded the Alexander. He never appears again, in any list or published source. We know all about his ship. It first appearedon 13 March 1652, in a list of Amsterdam Directors ships. The dimensions were: 131-1/2ft x 27-3/4ft x 13ft. The height between decks was 6-3/4ft. She carried 28 guns: 12-12pdr, 8-8pdr, 6-6pdr, and 2-3pdr. Her crew was 95 men. The 1652 Hollandsche Mercurius mistakenly gave her 38 guns and a crew of 100 men. That list is filled with what we can only call "typos" or misreadings of handwritten documents. For example, that is where Jan Maijkers was listed as "Jan Deyckers". The "D" is wrong, but the rest is a reasonable variant spelling of Jan Maijkers name. I can only be confident as to his name after seeing it written at least two times in copies of original documents. In any case, the voyage to the Shetlands was a major disaster. One of the misfortunes was the capture of 13 Dutch fishery protection vessels (20-28 guns), and the harrassing of the Dutch fishermen by Blake. The other, greater problem, was the dissolution of the fleet by the storm they encountered in the Shetlands. After the storm, Tromp resigned rather than be fired. Witte de With was given command of a fleet that he had yet to assemble. He had about 40 ships, the survivors of the previous fleet. He aborbed about 20 ships of De Ruyter's convoying fleet. The other 1o were too damaged by their participation in the Battle of Plymouth, to stay at sea. Witte de With performed creditably at the Battle of the Kentish Knock, with a scratch force that included too many hired merchantment and timid regular naval captains. They went up against the largest English ships, including the Sovereign (90 guns) and Resolution (88 guns), and only lost two ships. Witte de With was politically unacceptable to the Dutch royalists (Orangists), so they used the defeat as an excuse to restore Tromp to command of the fleet.