Battle of Kentish Knock, 28 September 1652

The battle of Kentish Knock (28 September 1652) was the first major battle of the First Anglo Dutch War, and ended in a narrow English victory.

The Dutch fleet saw a change of command just before the battle. In early September Vice Admiral Witt Corneliszoon de With put to sea at the head of a fleet of forty-four ships, with orders to find the fleet already at sea under Michiel Adrianszoon de Ruyter and take command of the united force. The two fleets met up at Calais on 22 September, where de With took command. Ten men-of-war and five fireships were judged to be unfit for service and sent home, leaving de With with sixty-four ships. He was at sea to seek a battle, and so the combined fleet left Calais and sailed across the Channel. By the morning of 28 September the Dutch were close to the Kentish Knock, to the north of the British naval anchorage of the Downs.

The British were able to bring together a large fleet of their own in the Downs. The Western Guard, under Blake and Penn, had been unable to stop Ruyter from sailing east up the Channel, and had been forced followed them east, joining the force already in the Downs. Blake had command of the combined fleet, with Penn as his vice-admiral and Bourne as his rear-admiral. The combined English fleet contained around 68 warships, many of which were bigger than their Dutch counterparts.

On 28 September the English sailed north from the Downs and caught the Dutch by surprise. This advantage was partly lost when Blake was forced to wait for Bourne with rear, but it did mean that the Dutch were unable to hold a council of war.

Once enough of the fleet was ready Blake lead the vanguard towards the Dutch. Disaster nearly struck when Penn and some of the larger English ships ran aground on the sands of the Kentish Knock, leaving Blake to face the Dutch fleet alone. Despite this in the early fighting the English held the advantage, dismasting two Dutch ships.

De With responded by ordering his fleet to turn south, to sail around the English right and attack Bourne and the rear. This move might have left Bourne isolated, if it had not coincided with Penn's ships turning south to get off the sand bar. As a result the Dutch fleet was forced to fight Penn and Bourne's combined forces, and suffered heavy losses during the fighting.

Two Dutch ships were captured by the English. The 30 gun Mary was taken into English service, and remained in use throughout the war, but the second was found to be too badly damaged to

On the night after the battle de With held a Council of War, where he attempted to convince his commanders to resume the fight on the following day. De Ruyter and Jan Evertsen, two of his squadron commanders, spoke out against this move, and de With was forced to order a retreat.

Their victory at the Kentish Knock gave the English command of the English Channel, but they soon squandered their advantage. Believing that the naval war was won the Council of State removed the gun batteries protecting the Downs, and scattered the fleet. Some were sent to the Sound, to attempt to break the Dutch blockade of the Baltic, while squadrons were sent to the north-east coast, to Plymouth and to the Mediterranean. Two months later the Dutch returned to sea, this time under Maarten Tromp, and won control of the Channel back at Dungeness (30 November 1652)

De Ruyter, Dutch Admiral, ed Jaap R. Bruijn, Ronald Prud'homme van Reine and Rolof van Hövell tot Westerflier. A collection of interesting essays written by Dutch historians and that examines different aspects of de Ruyter’s life and the wider world of the Dutch Republic. This is a valuable piece of work that helps explain the important of de Ruyter as a European figure (not just as a commander during the Anglo-Dutch Wars). [read full review]

Subject Index: Anglo-Dutch Wars

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 August 2009), Battle of Kentish Knock, 28 September 1652 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_kentish_knock.html

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