Archive for Raid on the Medway

“I think the Devil shits Dutchmen…”

Posted in History with tags , , on July 22, 2020 by telescoper

Just time for a short update on the aftermath of the Dutch Raid on the Medway as recounted by Samuel Pepys which I blogged about last month.

The Dutch fleet withdrew from the Medway in mid-June of 1667 (Old Calendar) but they did attempt further raids later that month and in early July. Fed by wild rumours about the intentions and whereabouts of the Dutch, London was a jittery place. Pepys summed up the mood in his Diary, ending with a quote which has become famous:

Pepys Tweets the Dutch Raid on the Medway

Posted in History with tags , , , , on June 13, 2020 by telescoper

The Dutch burn the English fleet at Gillingham

I couldn’t resist doing a quick post inspired by the fact that I follow the Twitter feed of Samuel Pepys, whereon excerpts from his famous diaries are posted as if live. The year currently being tweeted is 1667 and there is great excitement because of the Raid on the Medway in which a Dutch fleet sailed up the River Medway and destroyed many ships of the Royal Navy.

Much has been written about the background to this event (and, unsurprisingly, the version taught in Dutch schools is somewhat different than from the English side) so I’ll just post here how it panned out from the point of view of Samuel Pepys.

The first inkling of what was to come is on 3rd June (note the Old Style dates were still in use in England at the time of the events in question; add 10 days to get the New Style dates the Dutch and other European countries were using then):

That was almost a week before the battle commenced and although he was clearly apprehensive, for the next few days life for Pepys carried on pretty much as normal:

It was not until 8th June that we find

Even this news did not seem to concern him unduly, however

Later that day preparations were stepped up

(The Hope is the name given to the stretch of the Thames from Tilbury to the mouth of the Medway). Pepys was sceptical of the likely efficacy of the military commanders

The following day the sense of urgency increases

Later that day it seems to have dawned that Chatham might be the target:

Pepys is annoyed at the slow preparations:

and

On 10th June the Dutch land 800 marines and attack Sheerness, destroying Garrison Point Fort. Pepys does not know this yet when he writes:

It is only the following day that he realises Sheerness has fallen and the way is open for the Dutch to attack the Royal Navy at anchor in the Medway at Gillingham and Chatham:

Every available soldier being sent to defend Chatham, Pepys is worried that London itself is now very vulnerable:

Meanwhile, on the Medway, the only thing protecting the British fleet is the huge chain blocking the river. Pepys’s optimism about this was short-lived

It gets worse:

The flagship of the Royal Navy has been taken as a prize – the humiliation! There is now panic in London:

On 13th June, fearing all is lost and that London will be attacked, Pepys makes arrangements to send his money to the country:

That’s how things stood on 13th June 1667, with a Dutch/French invasion of England seemingly imminent and widespread unhappiness at the indolence and incompetence of those in charge.

On 14th June Pepys notes that many English sailors are either refusing to fight or even fighting on the Dutch side because they have not been paid for some time (receiving tickets in lieu of cash):

In the event, the Dutch withdrew on 14th June and there was no invasion by either them or the French, but over the next days and weeks there were lingering fears of other raids. A peace treaty was rapidly negotiated on very favourable terms to the Dutch and thus the Second Anglo Dutch War came to an end.

There was in the mind of Pepys and others the possibility of a popular uprising against the King for the ineptitude of the military response to this Raid. The monarchy had only been restored in 1660. Would it be swept away again so soon?

We know the answer to this question now, but nobody knew it then, which makes a contemporary accounts like that of Pepys so very fascinating. You get a real sense of the mixture of confusion and despair circulating at the time.