Admiralty of Friesland - History - Second Anglo-Dutch War

Second Anglo-Dutch War

In 1661 the States-General, to compensate losses, ordered the Frisian Admiralty to build three ships (out of eighteen across all the Admiralties), and five more in 1664, but none were ever delivered. The States-General became irritated and stated that they were "displeased in the highest possible extent". In response, that same year two Frisian warships were built, the Sevenwolden and the Princes Albertina. The threat of war with England rapidly increasing, the Admiralty began to adopt a more active attitude towards ship construction. Ships like the Oostergo (with 225 men and 56 guns) and d'Elff Steden with 175 men and 46 guns were then still seen as sufficiently heavy. However, in the autumn of 1664 the States-General became convinced it had at last become unavoidable to match the English fleet in strength and firepower; in December 1664 they ordered the construction of 24 new and much heavier vessels along with a number of lighter ships, the Frisian share being a fleet of nine vessels with a total crew of 1930 sailors and 416 cannon. In January 1665, a second order of 24 heavy vessels was placed, the Frisian Admiralty having to build three of them and also two yachts, two galiots, two fireships, and an ammunition supply vessel. Now that war was imminent and the Orangist province of Friesland—contrary to the predictions of the English ambassador George Downing--fully participated in the confederal war effort, lack of money was no longer an obstacle, and the Admiralty immediately began construction on these ships.

When the Second Anglo-Dutch War finally broke out, the Frisian fleet sailed. In the course of February 1665 the Frisian squadron gathered at the Texel. The crews were mostly recruited among seamen of the merchant navy forbidden to sail their merchant ships until the navy vessels were fully manned. The crew of the Westergo included a Polish sailor, who discovered a way of setting an enemy sail on fire with burning arrows. On 1 May, all the captains were gathered by Lieutenant-Admiral Stellingwerf and given their orders. The next day, however, a contrary wind meant they could not sail out. In the last few days, marriages were hurriedly concluded, for the fleet was to sail on 24 May. The ships Zevenwolden, Groeningen, Prinses Albertine, d'Elf Steden, Westergo, Omlandia, Frisia, De Postillon van Smirna, Hollandia, and Oostergo finally sailed, with a combined crew of 2279 sailors and 700 cannon. The great fleet finally arrived in the North Sea, sinking several British merchantmen. In June, however, the combined Dutch fleet engaged the English in the Battle of Lowestoft and suffered a heavy defeat, Stellingwerf being among the admirals killed. He was succeeded as Lieutenant-Admiral of the Frisian fleet by Tjerk Hiddes.

In 1666, while Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter was supreme commander of the rebuilt and expanded Dutch fleet, Frisian ships were present at the Four Days Battle near Dunkirk. In this battle the British lost ten ships and 2,800 men, compared with the four ships and two thousand man lost by the Dutch. Tjerk Hiddes distinguished himself by his bravery. This was to be the zenith of Frisian naval power, for not six weeks later the Dutch fleet was defeated in the St James's Day Battle with the thirteen Frisian ships being badly mauled. Tjerk Hiddes was mortally wounded, Rudolf Coenders killed.

Still, the next year, 1667, the Frisian Admiralty again equipped eleven larger vessels. It rendered only a modest contribution to the decisive Raid on the Medway — its fleet was initially too late — but such ships as the Groningen (between 276 and 300 crew members and 70 guns), the flagship of the new Frisian operational commander Vice-Admiral Enno Doedes Star, were used to cover the national fleet.

Read more about this topic:  Admiralty Of Friesland, History

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