Battle of Dover

Battle of the Goodwin Sands

19th May 1651/52
Fought at : Dover
Part of : The First Anglo-Dutch War (1652 - 1654)
Next action : Action of 1652-05-22 22nd May 1652


Dutch Republic

Squadron, Jan Thijssen
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Groote Liefde (38) 38Bruijn van Seelst
Gideon van Sardam (34) 34Hector Bardesius
Sint Salvador (34) 34Matheeus Corneliszoon
Witte Lam (28) 28Cornelis van HoutenSquadron Flagship
Gouden Leeuw (24) 24Gilles Thijssen Campen
Gouden Leeuwin (30) 30Johannes Regermorter
Vergulde Haan (36) 36 
Sint Laurens (30) 30Bastiaan Tuynemans Captured
Alexander (28) 28Jan Maijkers
Prinses Royaal (28) 28Maarten Graeff
Vergulde Zon (28) 28Jacob Claseszoon Duijm
Liefde (26) 26Frans Mangelaer
The Vanguard, Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Brederode (54) 54Abel Roelantszoon VerboomFleet Flagship
Groningen (40) 40Abraham van der Hulst
Neptunus (28) 28Cornelis Mangelaer
Groote Fortuin (36) 36Frederik de Coninck
Sint Matheeus (34) 34Cornelis Naeuoogh
Prins Maurits (44) 44 
Zeelandia (34) 34Jacob Huyrluyt
Prinses Royaal (40) 40Cornelis Albertszoon 't Hoen
Prins Maurits (28) 28Cornelis Pieterszoon Taenman
Wapen van Hoorn (24) 30Pieter Allertszoon
Wapen van Enkhuizen (34) 34Cornelis Maartenszoon Tromp
Burg van Alkmaar (30) 30Gerrit Nobel
Faam (28) 28Jacob Corneliszoon Swart
Sint Vincent (28) 28Andries Douweszoon Pascaert
Valck (28) 28Cornelis Janszoon Brouwer
Blauwe Arend (28) 28Dirck Pater
Rozeboom (32) 32Gerrit Schuyt, Bartolomeus Riesbeeck
Arke Trojane (28) 28Abraham van Campen
Sint Maria (28) 28Sipke Fockes Captured
The Rearguard, Pieter Floriszoon
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Kroon Imperiaal (34) 34Cornelis Janszoon Poort
Burgh (34) 34Lambert Pieterszoon
Monnikendam (24) 24Pieter FloriszoonSquadron Flagship
Maagd van Enkhuizen (28) 28Gerrit Femssen
Vergulde Halve Maan (26) 26 
Sint Jeronimus (26) 26Jan Pieterszoon Deught
Samson (26) 26Willem Claesszoon HamSquadron Flagship
Monnikendam (38) 28Pieter Floriszoon

Commonwealth of England

Main Squadron, Robert Blake
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
James (48) 48John GilsonFleet Flagship
Victory (42) 52Lionel Lane
Garland (28) 40Richard Batten
Speaker (50) 50John Coppin
Ruby (42) 42John Lambert, Anthony Houlding
Sapphire (34) 34Robert Moulton, William Hill
Worcester (48) 48Sir Charles Thorowgood
Star (12) 12Robert Sanders
Portsmouth (34) 34William Brandley
Martin (14) 14Robert Clarke
Mermaid (24) 24Richard Stayner
Reuben (26) 26 
Downs Squadron, Nehemiah Bourne
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Andrew (42) 52Edward HallSquadron Flagship
Triumph (44) 60Abraham Wheeler
Fairfax (52) 52John Lawson
Happy Entrance (28) 40Edmund Chapman
Centurion (34) 34John Lawson, Walter Wood
Adventure (32) 32Robert Wyard
Assurance (40) 40Benjamin Blake
Greyhound (12) 12Henry Southwood
Seven Brothers (26) 26Henry Land
Detached Squadron, Anthony Young
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
President (34) 34Anthony Young
Nightingale (30) 30Jacob Reynolds
Recovery (20) 20Francis Allen

Notes on Action

Prelude to the BattleTRN2

This was the first fleet engagement of the First Anglo-Dutch War between the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands.

The English Parliament had passed the first of the Navigation Acts in October 1651, aimed at hampering the shipping of the highly trade-dependent Dutch. Agitation among the Dutch merchants had been further increased by George Ayscue's capture in early 1652 of 27 Dutch ships trading with the royalist colony of Barbados in contravention of an embargo.

Both sides had begun to prepare for war, but conflict might have been delayed if not for an unfortunate encounter on 29 May 1652 (May 19 in the Julian calendar then in use in England) near the Straits of Dover between a Dutch convoy escorted by 40 ships under Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp and an English fleet of 25 ships under General at Sea Robert Blake.

An ordinance of Cromwell required all foreign fleets in the North Sea or the Channel to dip their flag in salute, but when Tromp was slow to comply, Blake fired three warning shots. When the third hit his ship, wounding some sailors, Tromp replied with a warning broadside from his flagship Brederode. Blake then fired a broadside in anger and a five hour battle ensued. Both fleets were damaged, but as darkness fell the Dutch fleet withdrew in a defensive line to protect the convoy, and the English captured two Dutch stragglers: Sint Laurens, which was taken back by them but not used, and Sint Maria, which was abandoned in a sinking condition and later made its way to The Netherlands. Tromp then offered his excuses to Blake and asked for the return of the prize, but this was refused by Blake.

War was declared by the Commonwealth on 10 July 1652.

Description of the action taken from Clowes' The Royal Navy Vol IITRN2

On May 18th, Bourne was lying in the Downs in the Andrew, 42 guns, with the Triumph, 42; the Fairfax, 52; Happy Entrance, 32; Centurion, 40; Adventure, 36; Assurance, 32; Greyhound, pinnace, and Seven Brothers, hired merchantman; nine ships in all. Suddenly the Dutch fleet, forty-two strong, appeared on the back of the Goodwins. When it reached the South Sand Head, Marten Harpertszoon Tromp, who was in command, sent two ships into the Downs to Bourne. Bourne, by special leave from Blake, was then, as commander-in-chief, wearing a flag at the main. From this Tromp at first supposed that Blake himself was present. These two ships came into the Downs and saluted the flag. The captains went on board the flagship, and explained that Tromp's presence was involuntary; that it was due to foul weather, which made it impossible for him to lie longer before Dunquerque, where he had lost many anchors and cables; and that all he desired was shelter. Bourne answered that Tromp would best show his sincerity by getting away from the coast as soon as possible.

Meanwhile Tromp dropped anchor in Dover road. He had not gone into the Downs because he did not wish " to breed dispute about the flag, inasmuch as he had no order to take it down." It was not, therefore, to be expected that he would strike it to the Castle. He did not. The Castle fired a shot or two to call his attention to the fact, but all the heed he paid was to exercise his small-arm men in volley firing continually throughout the day.

Blake, meanwhile, was in Rye Bay with the main part of the fleet, consisting of his own ship, the James, 48; Victory, 42; Garland, 34; Garland, 64; Star, 12; Martin, 36; Ruby, 40; Sapphire, 38; Portsmouth, 38; Mermaid, 22; one other, and a hired merchantman. At the first sight of Tromp, Bourne had made up his mind that there was danger of an attack, and besides clearing his ships for action, had sent an express to Blake asking him to come at once to his support. The wind on the 18th was at north-east, and Blake soon received the message. He weighed at once, and wrote to Bourne to join him. This message reached the Downs by 10am on the 19th, by which time the Dutch, at the sight of Blake beating up towards them against an easterly wind, weighed together and stood closehauled towards Calais.

Bourne, who had been lying all night with two " frigates " posted between himself and Tromp, weighed about mid-day when the tide served. When he was off the South Foreland, the Dutch suddenly went about and bore down on Blake, who was then near Folkestone, Tromp, in the Brederode, leading.

As Tromp drew near, Blake, already cleared for action, fired a gun for him to strike his flag. As this had no effect, it was followed by another, and by a third, to the last of which Tromp made answer with a broadside. This was promptly returned, and, Tromp " having put abroad the bloody flag under his Holland's colours," other ships engaged as they came up.

Tromp, according to his captains, when he altered course, " came through the whole body of his fleet," and bore directly down on Blake. To the impulsive nature of this attack was due the straggling line which the Dutch fleet presented at the moment of impact. The fight at once grew hot in the van; Blake was supported by several of his heaviest ships, although a few were so far to leeward that some time passed before they could come up. The Dutch, on their part, being greatly superior in numbers, would have surrounded the English van had not Bourne come up almost simultaneously with his nine ships and fallen impetuously on the enemy's straggling rear.

The battle thus joined raged till dark. In the van the heavier English ships held their own, sustaining considerable damage, but inflicting heavy loss. From time to time boatloads of the Kentish fishermen joined the fleet with admirable spirit, and helped to fight the guns. For the time it was not seen who held the advantage, but in the morning it appeared that Bourne had taken two ships from among those cut off by him, viz., the Sint Laurens and the St Maria. The latter was abandoned by her captors as being in a sinking condition; she drifted to seaward, and on the morning of the 20th was discovered dismasted by the Dutch, who carried her into port. Her crew, however, had been put on board Lawson's ship, the Fairfax.

The advantage, then, was distinctly with the English, who had lost no ship. Of the English vessels, the flagship James had suffered the most heavily, both as being first into action and as being the chief object of the Dutch attack. In her there were six men killed, nine or ten desperately wounded, and twenty-five wounded "not without danger." She had received seventy great shot in the hull and masts, her mizzen mast had been knocked overboard, and her sails and rigging were cut to pieces.


TRN2 The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present Vol IIWilliam Laid ClowesDigital Book

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