Battle of Scheveningen, 31 July 1653

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The battle of Scheveningen (31 July 1653) was the final major battle during the First Anglo-Dutch War and ended as an English victory that confirmed their dominance won at the Gabbard Bank in June.

The battle is also known as the battle of Camperdown, Texel or Ter Heide.

After the English victory at the Gabbard Bank the Dutch had been forced back into port, and the English began a blockade of the Dutch coast. Peace negotiations began again, but at the same time the Dutch successfully rebuilt their fleet. Maarten Tromp gathered 85 ships in the Maas, while Witte de With commanded a smaller squadron of around 31 ships in the Texel.

Once the two Dutch squadrons were united the fleet contained 107 men-of-war and nine fireships. As normal during the First Anglo Dutch War the English ships were larger and carried more guns, but the Dutch were better sailors.

The English fleet, under Admiral George Monck, contained 104 men-for-war and around five fireships. Some of the ships damaged at the Gabbard Bank were still out of action, but the fleet was still close to its full strength.

The Dutch made their first move on 24 July when Tromp left his anchorage in the Maas, and began to sail to and fro across the mouth of the river. On 26 July de With moved to the outer part of the Texel channel, and the English realised the Dutch were about to try and combine their fleets. On 27 July Monck held a council of war, and the English decided to concentrate their fleet against Tromp.

The English found Tromp before noon on 29 July, sailing north from the Maas towards the Texel. Tromp's immediate response was to turn S.S.E. to draw the English away from de With. The English followed, and at about five in the afternoon caught up with the rear of Tromp's fleet off Katwijk (between Texel and The Hague). About thirty English fleets became involved in the fighting, sinking two Dutch ships without losing a ship of their own, although casualties were high onboard the ships engaged. 

On 30 July the wind was too fierce to allow for a battle and both fleets concentrated on staying safely off the shore. By the end of the day the two Dutch squadrons had joined, and the two fleets were off Scheveningen (on the coast close to the The Hague).

The weather was more suitable for a battle on 31 July. Just before 7 a.m. the English, formed into lines of squadrons, attacked the Dutch. The Dutch responded by breaking into and through the English line, and a melee followed. Early in the fighting Tromp was killed by a musket-ball, although his flag was kept flying to prevent the fleet from becoming discouraged. Jan Evertsen took over command of the fleet.

The calm seas and light winds suited the English, allowing them to make the best use of their heavy guns. The general melee lasted until around 1.00pm, at which point the Dutch fleet slowly began to break up. Both de Ruyter and Jan Evertsen had to be towed to safety, while de With, with thirty ships, fought a successful rearguard action. Fighting continued until eight at night, and only then did the Dutch survivors flee the scene.

The English lost the Oak to a fireship attack, while the Worcesterwas burnt to the waterline while engaged with a Dutch ship. English casualties were at least 250 dead and 700 wounded, and amongst the dead were Thomas Graves, Rear-Admiral of the White and James Peacock, Vice Admiral of the Red along with five captains.

The sources disagree on the scale of the Dutch losses. De With stated that fourteen ships were sunk. On the English side Penn claimed that they had destroyed twenty or thirty ships. 1,300 prisoners were taken, amongst then five captains. Tromp's death was the most important, although eight captains were also lost.

In the aftermath of the battle neither fleet was in any state to remain at sea, but the advantage was clearly with the English, who were able to return to the Dutch coast two weeks after the battle (although the formal blockade was not renewed).

Although a series of smaller skirmishes followed, the English victory at Scheveningen effectively ended the war. Serious peace negotiations finally resumed, and peace was agreed on 5 April 1654. The Dutch accepted the terms of the Navigation Act, agreed to dip their flags to acknowledge the English claim to sovereignty of the seas around the British Isles, paid £900,000 in damages

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]
Fireship: The Terror Weapon of the Age of Sail, Peter Kirsch. A lavishly illustrated look at one of the most feared weapons of the age of sail. This is a very impressive piece of work – well written and researched, wide ranging in scope and with detailed accounts of most of the key fireship attacks from the sixteenth century wars against Spain to the Greek War of Independence. An essential read for anyone interested in naval warfare in the age of sail. [see more] cover cover cover

Subject Index: Anglo-Dutch Wars

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 August 2009), Battle of Scheveningen, 31 July 1653 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_scheveningen.html

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