Sunday, November 06, 2005

The actions on 3 September and 9 September 1665

The Dutch fleet sailed in early August with Michiel De Ruyter as its new commander. The real commander was Johan de Witt, who was with De Ruyter in the Delfland. The fleet sailed to Bergen to join the merchant ships that had been sheltering there. They sailed, but were scattered by one of the fall storms that proved so devastating during the mini-ice age that lasted until the early 1700's. The weather in northern waters seemed to be worse than usual than when the climate was warmer. After the storm, De Ruyter was only able to find 47 ships, while 80 had become separated.

Edward Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, had pushed for the English fleet to sail, in hopes of intercepting De Ruyter on the homeward voyage. On 3 September, English frigates found a group of Dutch ships 90 miles to the northwest of the Texel. The Dutch attempted to flee, but the Hoop (40 guns) was taken by the 3rd Rate Mary, the Groningen (50 guns) was taken by the 4th Rate Adventure, the Westfriesland (50 guns) was taken by the 4th Rate Assurance, and the Zevenwolden (56 guns) was taken by the 4th Rate Antelope. The 5th Rate Hector and the 4th Rate Adventure chased and took a 60-gun East Indiaman, the Phoenix. The East Indiaman Sloot Honingen was taken by the 5th Rate Milford and the 3rd rate Plymouth. The Hector was lost abruptly, when it foundered after the Phoenix had surrendered.

On 4 September, another 7 merchantmen were taken, one by the Adventure. The English fleet then took some time to search along the east side of the Dogger Bank. At that date, De Ruyter, with part of his fleet was to the south of the Dogger Bank. On 3 September, he found Tjerk Hiddes de Vries with several ships which joined the fleet. Now, both the Dutch and English fleets sought each other. The state of scouting doctrine at this date was abysmal, so the fleets were blindly sailing, hoping to find each other.

In the early morning of 9 September, 15 of the missing Dutch ships blundered into the English fleet. By 9am, 7 more ships were taken, along with 4 East Indiamen which had been serving with the fleet as warships. The captured East Indiamen included the former warship Huis te Zwieten (70 guns) (Witte de With's flagship in the fall of 1653), the Gelderesche Ruyter (46 guns), the Sint Paulus of Enkhuizen and the Sint Paulus of Middelburg (both 40 guns).

In the afternoon, the English sailed close to a group of 30 ships commanded by Aert van Nes. Some shots were exchanged, and Sir Thomas Allin burnt the Sint Paulus of Middelburg, as he expected a battle. The Earl of Sandwich became uneasy about having an under-manned fleet with 23 Dutch prizes, and he withdrew. This was fortunate, as another storm came up in the night. This is based on the account by Frank Fox in A Distant Storm: the Four Days' Battle of 1666 (1996).

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