Action off Plymouth, 16 August 1652

The action off Plymouth of 16 August 1652 was a convoy battle early in the First Anglo Dutch War in which Admiral de Ruyter successfully defended a large Dutch convoy against an English fleet.

Michiel Adrianszoon de Ruyter had been appointed to command the Dutch fleet after the outbreak of the war, replacing Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp. His first orders were to escort a convoy of fifty merchantmen through the Channel, and with that in mind he reached Calais on 3 August. Eight days later he was reinforced by eight men-of-war and a number of armed East Indiamen, and with his combined fleet he set off to the west to join the convoy. The English Western Guard was commanded by Admiral George Ayscue, who had also only recently been appointed to his post. 

The exact size of neither fleet is known, but they were roughly equal in size. Ayscue had around thirty-eight major warships and eight smaller craft, while de Ruyter had at least thirty major ships, an unknown number of smaller craft, and the aide of at least twenty of the East Indiamen in the convoy.

The two fleets clashed off Plymouth in 16 August 1652. Little is known about the overall course of the battle, which appears to have lacked any structure. The battle began at about one pm and continued until dusk. Both fleets suffered some heavy damage, but no major ships are recorded as having been lost. The most senior casualty was the English Rear-Admiral Pack, who died after his leg was shot off.

Both sides claimed a victory, but it was de Ruyter who achieved his aims, preventing the English from seizing the valuable convoy which was able to continue on its journey west.

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), Action of Plymouth, 16 August 1652 ,

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