The Dutch Raid on Chatham (Medway)

In the 1660’s, one of the two greatest trading nations, England, grew jealous of the Dutch trade, and so they declared war. In the first Anglo-Dutch war, the English won many of the sea battles, and peace was declared. Not long after, England declared war again, and won two major victories, the St. James day fight, a major sea battle, and Holme’s bonfire, in which a large Dutch trading fleet was destroyed and a Dutch town plundered and burned with it’s citizens slaughtered. The Dutch were outraged, and in 1667 the Dutch fleet under Admiral Michiel De Ruyter set sail to the Medway River.

The first ships under Willem van Ghent were sighted, and the alarm was sounded, preperations made the fleet sailed up the river. The English were afraid mainly of an attack on London, so they concentrated there. But the Dutch were after the English fleet anchored further up the river.

The Dutch began by attacking Sheerness castle, which was protecting the mouth of the river. They bombarded it for a while until the garrison fled. Against orders a party of the Dutch plundered the castle, and their leader, Jan van Brakel, was relieved of command of that regiment.

The Dutch continued up the river where they found seven sunken ships blocking the passage through. After searching, they found a gap and once some of the ships were towed away, the Dutch fleet sailed through. The next obstacle was a giant chain across the river, with artillery positions on either side and ships guarding in front.

The Dutch sent fireships into the Carolus V and Matthias, which both caught fire and blew up. The Unity, a Dutch-captured English ship, was boarded and captured by Jan van Brackel, hoping to regain his command.  After another board, the great 80-gun Royal Charles, the pride of the English fleet, was captured, to the utter humiliation of the English. One of the Dutch ships sailed onto the chain and broke it. Finally, the only ships left were the Royal James, Royal Oak, and Loyal London. The English realized the only way to prevent their capture, and so they were filled with water and sunk, the river being shallow enough so the deck was still in open air. So the Dutch sent fireships into them and they were burned. De Ruyter had seen enough destruction, so the Dutch fleet sailed away leaving the burning hulls of English ships behind them.

 

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