The History of Kent
Copyright Kent Past 2010
Dutch Raid of 1667
In an early morning in June 1667, the Dutch fleet sailed, unchallenged up the river
Medway, their target the British Navy at anchor in Chatham. No alarm was raised,
and the coastal defences were scattered far and wide. Most of the home army were
based in London, although they had not been paid in months.
No challenge came from the British, either on water or ashore. Apart from the odd farmer or fisherman, the place seemed abandoned. They prayed for the morning sun to pierce the fog as their tired eyes scanned the shores. All they could hear was the lapping of the waves and the creaking of their vessels. The raid became the climax of the second Anglo-
The story started some 20 years earlier, when the civil war had erupted in Britain and the newly independent state of the Netherlands had taken advantage of the gap in trade. They expanded their trading routes to North America, the Caribbean and the Far East and vigorously developed a stock market on the continent. Once Oliver Cromwell had consolidated his power base, he set about re-
By the 1660s, Cromwell had been replaced by Charles II, who appointed his brother the Duke of York as Lord High Admiral. However, relations between the English and Dutch had not improved with the change at the top; they had, in fact, been made worse by the large sums Charles owed to the Stadtholder of the Netherlands, Prince William III. It was only a matter of time before the two nations would be at war again.
The second Anglo-
In 1665, a plague decimated London and a great fire in 1666 destroyed its financial institutions. Charles could no longer afford the war, and naval cutbacks were the only option. He began to put out peace-
The politician Johan de Witt planned the Dutch raid, while his brother Cornelius went along to supervise. The Dutch assembled a fleet that included 62 ships of the line together with lighters and fire ships, and on 4 June 1667 set sail to find the shores of the Medway virtually abandoned.
The Dutch landed marines at the fort in Sheerness, which was quickly captured. Although the alarm was raised, the response in London was slow. The only defence encountered were a string of shore batteries, having little effect, and a chain across the Medway, which was soon broken.
The fire ships were lit and floated towards the hapless fleet. The caretaker crews on board were panicked into setting fire to their own ships to prevent capture. A few brave souls put up a fight, most notable being Captain Archibald Douglas, who fought the flames although, perished with fire and smoke. Many fine vessels went to the bottom of the Medway that day, though several were later re-
It was then that the Dutch saw the Royal Charles, the jewel in the English crown, and with the crew having already jumped ship, it was a simple matter to tow her back to Holland.
The Dutch had planned to demolish the dockyard at Chatham, however, before the engineers could complete their task a force arrived from London and they sailed away with a great propaganda coup.
The Royal Charles, was dry-
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