Thursday, April 20, 2006

Strategy in the First Anglo-Dutch War

The First Anglo-Dutch War was a purely naval war. What is significant is that both the English and Dutch followed a fundamentally battlefleet-oriented naval strategy. The Dutch position was complicated by the fact that they needed to protect commerce at a time when they were unable to win battles. As long as Robert Blake commanded the English fleet, the Dutch were able to be competitive, even if they ended up losing, such as at the Kentish Knock or the Three Days' Battle (Portland). After George Monck became fleet commander, at first with Richard Deane, and then on his own, his mastery of line tactics made the Dutch position untenable. Even when the Dutch started to tentatively fight in an informal line, the disparity of ship strength and gunpower was so great as to render them unable to win. The Dutch answer was the building program that was started in early 1653 (with some purchases prior to that). The first larger ships came into service for the later battles, but they were insufficient to counteract the presence of so many small ships, so lightly armed. The problem was not really solved until the finish of the Second Anglo-Dutch War building program, when a large number of new ships were completed. By the beginning of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch finally solved their gun supply problem, so that ships like De Ruyter's flagship Zeven Provinciën were able to carry their full armament (in this case, a complete lower tier of 36 pounders).

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