Tag Archives: navy

The Dutch in the Medway, by PG Rogers

The Dutch burn English ships during the Raid on the Medway, 1667)(Jan van Leyden, 1669)

People are getting quite excited about Medway Council’s commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Raid on the Medway, which includes a series of events leading up to fireworks on the 17th June.

Perhaps the most excited group are Dutch yachties, who have long since booked up every space in local marinas and moorings. I expect the Medway’s creeks will be nearly as busy as the waterside that evening.

The battle itself was actually a huge humiliation for the English Navy and a daring, in some ways lucky, but carefully calculated success on the part of the Dutch United Provinces navies. There are some interesting short videos to watch on YouTube (one here and one here),  but if you really want to understand what happened at Sheerness, in Gillingham Reach and off Upnor Castle (and what is now Chatham Marina, Seaforth Publishing has just released PG Rogers’ classic work on the topic, The Dutch in the Medway.

Nab it quick, I say, while it remains on offer, for as well as explaining the background and aftermath, its chapters describing the action is as gripping as it is fascinating – even more so if you’re a North Kent sailor and know the Medway.

It’s really essential reading ahead of an event that will be a celebration for the Dutch (who call the battle ‘The Trip to Medway’). For the British it’s a bit more complicated – I’m expecting both a celebration of how our nations now get along well, but also a moment for commemoration and quiet thought about how such a national humiliation was allowed to happen. My take, which won’t surprise many who know me, is that we should never place too much trust in government decision making or propaganda.

The background was the second Anglo-Dutch war, which was sparked by continuing rivalry over trade and anger over the torture and the killing of nine British traders at the island of Amboyna by the Dutch.

In the period before the Medway, the second Anglo-Dutch war was generally thought in England to be coming to an end: there had been battles and now peace negotiations were taking place at  Breda.

But it was also a time when state finances were at a very low ebb, military procurement badly managed and payment very slow, Navy vessels unmanned, slow progress in building military defences, and a very small army, and a King who was apparently more interested in the fun of court life than the affairs of state. It was, you might think, just the right moment for a Dutch military intervention aimed at influencing the outcome of the Breda talks.

Intervene they did – and this is what Rogers describes so well.

With the help of various disillusioned English seamen and military officers, the Dutch sailed up the Thames, took Sheerness and then, aided by a handy NE breeze, sailed up the Medway for two fierce engagements in the narrow waters off Gillingham and Chatham involving cannon fire, fireships, the destruction of a defensive chain, and boardings of English ships defended by unarmed men – some of whom, not surprisingly, chose to escape rather than face certain defeat and very likely death in an unequal fight.

The second battle occurred three days later – but by this point the British defence had been strengthened, and the attackers were subjected to heavy cannon fire. The Dutch did not reach and destroy the Chatham shipyards, probably partly because the narrowness of the channel (making navigation difficult, perhaps particularly with a NE wind) and because a number of ships had been deliberately sunk to narrow the channel.

By this point a great deal of damage had been done to bthe English Navy’s vessels, its reputation and pride. Ships had been sunk or burned, and the big and symbolic Royal Charles (previously it had been the ship that brought Charles II to England) had been captured. There were attempts at propaganda belittling the Dutch victory, but it seems to have been difficult to hide the truth of a defeat so close to London.

And it wasn’t over yet – the Dutch continued to ply the Thames Estuary, preventing cargo ships from delivering good such as coal to London, and terrifying the folks of capital, who by now were half sure that the Army and Navy were in no state to protect them from the apparently fearless, well led and well informed Dutch, who had gained considerable respect.

It’s perhaps a minor point, but even the feat of  getting the half-rigged Royal Charles down the shallow Medway and safely back to Amsterdam was seen as a great achievement. Once there she was put on show as a prize, which naturally caused great anger in England.

My assessment is straightforward. The Dutch in the Medway is well worth reading, perhaps particularly at a time when we’re reconsidering our role as a trading nation and our relations with the rest of Europe.

Steam yachts of a century ago, from Jeff Cole’s collection

DODO

 

VALHALLA ALBERTA, S.V.

Dodo, Valhalla and Consuelo

Today’s gallery of photos are of steam yachts, and they belong to a collection that Jeff Cole acquired back when he was a teenager.

Except for Dodo he says they are all private steam yachts, mostly photographed at Cowes, and wonders what what happened to them?

On some odd cuttings that came with the photos, GL Watson is mentioned as a popular designer, and Thames, South Coast, Irish and Clyde yards are mentioned as building this kind of craft.

Dodo on Windemere appears in a supplement to The Yachtsman no. 504 published in  December 1900. Photo by Brunskill of Windemere.

Alberta, owned by His Majesty the King of the Belgians appears in a supplement to The Yachtsman, no. 415, March 1899. Photo by J De Muevyuck.

Valhalla on hearing that she was third in an ocean race. Jeff thinks she may be a training ship. She appears in a supplement to Yachting World, June 1905. Photo by Illustration Bureau.

Consuelo appears in a supplement to The Yachtsman, no. 522, April 1901
Photo A. Debenham, Cowes. The warship in the background appears to have side-by-side funnels and two rigged masts. Aft, Jeff has identified what seems to be a gun extended at deckhouse level consistent with a barbette, and smaller traversing turrets below it, and so he thinks this is a Royal Sovereign Class shipHMS Royal Sovereign was flagship of the Channel Squadron round this time, so it could be her.

Ombra was owned by Baron Von Schroeder appears in a supplement to Yachting World, December 1902. The designer: GL Watson, the builder D&W Henderson. She’s described as a steel twin screw schooner, with a Thames measurement of : 267 tons, and 140 by 20.1 by 12.5ft. Photo Kirk & Sons, Cowes.

Vista was owned by Mr WS Hunter, and appears in a supplement to Yachting World, May 1905. She was designed and built by W White & Sons, and is described as a composite screw schooner of 95 tons Thames measurement, and 98.4 by 14.6 by 7.7ft. Photo by West of Southsea. She has a fleur de lis at the forepeak, what appears to be a Royal Yacht Club pennant on the mizzen, and a White Ensign on the jackstaff. Under the bowsprit a full rigged ship can be seen in the distance.

Mirage owned by the Marquis of Ormonde, of the Royal Yacht Squadron. She appears in a supplement to Yachting World no.5, Vol 1, 1894. The image is a Photomezzotype by The London Stereoscopic Co. from a photo by W Kirk of Cowes. Jeff remarks that it is one of the earliest photos in his collection – some of the others are too badly foxed or undated. Note two other sailing yachts moored behind.

Erin as she was when she set out to cross the Atlantic. The image is a Photomezzotype from the Yachting World, thinks Jeff. The shot dates from the mid-1890s, but there is no other information. The ‘lights’ are white dots added to the image by hand, as are the letters ‘ERIN’ between the masts.

La Belle Sauvage appears in a supplement to Yachting World, January 1902. The photo is by Beken of Cowes. 1902 was the year of the Coronation Regatta. Note all sails are stowed in covers and the tropical awnings have been rigged.

Sabrina, Thames measurement 513 tons. She appears in a supplement to Yachting World, August 1899. Photo by Kirk of Cowes.

Oimara, 202 tons,  as shown in a supplement to Yachting World, January 1903. Photo by Adamson, Rothesay. Jeff comments that there are canvas screens on the bridge, and that although she is under way she has gangplank rigged. Also notice the figurehead.

Shemara, pictured in a supplement to Yachting World, February 1900. Photo by Debenham, Cowes.

Vanduara, 450 tons, owned by Mr Stewart Clark. The photo comes from a supplement to Yachting World October 1894. It is a badly foxed Photomezzotype, but shows a female figurehead, and, Jeff thinks, a small un-rigged keelboat yacht in davits aft on the staboard side.

Paulina from a supplement to Yachting World published in May 1900. Photo by Kirk & Sons, Cowes.

Nirvana, owned by the Countess de Bearn, shown in a supplement to Yachting World February 1904. Photo by Robertson of  Gourock. Jeff says there is a tricolor on the jackstaff, the figurehead seems a bird, and there is a crewman walking a boom rigged with a rope ladder to the dinghy.

Surf, 489 tons, as shown in a supplement the Yachting World, in November 1899. Photo by Debenham of Cowes.

Tuscarora shown in a supplement to Yachting World, February 1902. Photo Beken of  Cowes. There’s a rope ladder over stern, and boats appear to be being prepared for launching.

The steel screw steamer Titania appeared in a supplement to Yachting World published in  April 1905. She was designed and built by Day, Summers and Co and owned by Mr S. Taylor Chadwick. She was of 138 tons Thames Measurement, and measured 116.5 by 16.1 by 10.1ft. The photo is by Kirk of Cowes.

Researching the fate of these craft, Jeff found that the steam yacht Hiawatha – not pictured in this post – was acquired by the Royal Navy, which renamed her HMS Undine. She served at Sheerness and as flagship to the Commander-in-Chief of the Nore Fleet.

Thanks for the shots and information Jeff!

Steam pinnace 199 open day at Gosport, 2nd February

Pinnace 199

The Steam pinnace 199 project is holding an open day this Saturday at the Maritime Workshop, Gosport, Hampshire, from 10am to 3pm – she’s been undergoing a refit at the workshop since February 2012.

Built in 1911, Steam pinnace 199 is a wooden-hulled picket boat powered by steam machinery and is the sole operational survivor out of 634 vessels of her type. Picket boats were essential to the effective operation of the Royal Navy: their role was to defend capital ships while anchored.

Steam pinnace 199 is thought to have served alongside HMS Monarch at Jutland during the First World War, and is operated and maintained for her owners, the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Throughout Saturday there will be opportunities to learn about her history as well as to talk with volunteers who have undertaken over 3,000 hours of work so far.

The current group of volunteers were recently awarded a highly commended certificate  for their preservation work by National Historic Ships.

Entry is free, but I’m sure donations large and small will be very welcome!

To date the volunteers have raised £86,500 of the £97,500 required for the restoration project, including a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £30,000 from the Friends of the National Museum of the Royal Navy and £1,000 from National Historic Ships.

Directions: approach via Forton Road and Mill Lane. Take the third right turn into St Vincent College grounds and proceed down to the end where there is a parking area next to some moorings. Note that the workshop’s official address is 50 Ferrol Road but this through the old shipyard entrance and access is very restricted unless you are on foot.