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Four Days' Battle

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Four Days' Battle


In the early 17th century the Dutch dominated the world trade. Due to increased success of the shipping firms of Holland and Zeeland, English competitors asked protection from their government. The Parliament of the Commonwealth responded by passing the Navigation Act in October 1651. It required that English exports be carried only by English ships, whilst imports could be borne only by English ships or those belonging to the country of origin of the goods. When Dutch merchantmen began to be searched and confiscated, the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654) inevitably broke out. From this the English emerged victorious, forcing the Dutch to accept the Navigation Act. However, the might of the Dutch traders was not broken.


Years later, a series of incidents brought both nations again on the brink of war. Namely the English assault on Dutch garrisons in Africa in 1660-1661, the English attack on the Dutch colony of Nieuw-Amsterdam in 1664, the unwillingness of the Dutch East India Company to hand over some of the spice islands in the East Indies as promised in the peace treaty. Inevitable leading to the Dutch declaring war on the 4th of March 1665.


With the war commencing, both parties favored a fast resolution, albeit for very different reasons. The English were restrained by their finances, disallowing multiple seasons of campaigning. Poor budgeting resulted in the spending of the 1665’s annual budget within 5 months.

The Dutch had reliable financial backing yet they encountered different problems. Their strength lay in their trade power, which was also their main weak point. The annual return fleet from the East –Indies required a cleared passage through the channel, capture would have serious financial consequences.


The war started off in favor of the English, at the Battle of Lowestoft the Dutch fleet suffered a painful early defeat effectively forcing the Dutch fleet into harbor for the remainder of the season.

The Four Days Battle was the first major engagement following the English victory, the result didn't ensure it being the last major fleet engagement of the war.


Note: When talking about the Four Days' Battle both sides talk about different dates

English: 1-4 June 1666

Dutch: 11-14 June 1666

For consistency sake dates will be avoided and the days one, two, three and four will be used.



I. The commanders

II. The flags

III. The fleets

IV. The battle



I. The commanders


Due to the thread of French assistance to the Dutch, prince Rupert lead a squadron into the Downs to meet them. Whilst the prince was away a reorganization of the command structure was needed. The result was the following (in order according to the graph):









On the side of the dutch there are no surprises, after the death of Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam the role of fleet commander passed to Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter. The command structure in the Four Day's battle was the following (in order according to the graph):







II. The flags


The English flags used by the respective admirals:



To make a distinction between the Admiral, Vice-Admiral and Rear Admiral, the English employed a rather simple yet effective method of differentiation. The Admiral of the Red would fly a plain red flag at the main mast, the Vice-Admiral at the fore mast and the Rear Admiral at the mizzen. Blue, white and green would use the same principle with their respective colors.


The dutch flag system was somewhat more complicated. The First, Second and Third squadron were indicated via the usage of the dutch tricolors as a pennant at respectively the main mast, fore mast and mizzen mast. To categorize the squadrons into sub-divisions another two-tailed flag (vluegel/wing) was used next to the initial pennant, carried at the main, fore and mizzen differentiate.

Besides the flags used to categorize ships into squadrons and sub-divisions, the jack and ensign used would illustrate which Admiralty they belonged to.




Note: There were various specific flags used like personal standards or royal ensigns. These are not included in this list, yet they don't interfere with the system described above.

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III. The fleets (part 1)

A brief ledger explaining the different markings in this list:




There will be a list included of all the captured ships and their former name at the bottom of these squadrons.

The original terminology used for the canon was different than shown in the graph. Below is included the actual name of the pieces that weren't called by their shot weight.



Regarding the armament to the ships registered below, they are mostly from the battle itself. Some missing ones are armaments from either the year 1666 or one of the years soon after.

Total ships: 56 warships + 4 fireships


























































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III. The fleets (part 3)

When looking at the weight shot of dutch ship, one needs to take into account that the dutch pound is much heavier than the English equivalent. The factor would roughly be 1,09:1 .

Regarding the armament to the ships registered below, they are all from the battle itself. The dutch put in effort to retrieve what armament was actually carried into battle, therefore the ones shown are very accurate.


A '*' means that the caliber is mentioned in sources, yet the quantity of canons is not mentioned. Some ships have near complete armaments and some have been filled up with 'unknown'.

Ledger of the Admiralities:



Interesting note when looking at the drawings of the ship. The imagery on the stern is a portrayal of the name of the ship. For example:

A ship has the sun painted. Sun = Zon in Dutch, the name of the ship therefore is 'Zon'.

Total ships: 85 ships + 6 yachts + 9 fireships.





















































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IV. The battle (day 1)


Due to diplomat relations at the time, the French pledged their fleet to assist the Dutch in their struggles. With reports of the French about to set sail Rupert took a squadron south to meet them.

Trying to link up with the French, the Dutch went to sea looking for the English fleet. The French would not set sail at all during the conflict.


Whilst Rupert was absent, Albemarle assumed command of the fleet. Nearing the end of the afternoon scouts of fleets (Dutch and English) sighted each other. Maneuvering towards each other during the late evening, it would come to blows the next morning (June 1 or 11).




The strength of the fleets is accordingly, the English: 56 warships + 4 fireships, the Dutch have 85 warships + 6 yachts + 9 fireships. The English initiated the battle, in the early morning they started their approach towards the Dutch, who were anchored to the East. Albemarle was hoping to exploit the Dutch positioning, he was trying to engage a small part of the fleet whilst the rest had to redeploy. Tromp, noticing the English advance, sailed Beam reach to engage, Just after Noon the fleets closed to firing range and the Clove Tree was the first ship to receive a broadside. The fleets were sailing parallel at a beam-reach heading. The situation looked as followed:


Tromp, as seen to the south east leading the formation, managed to keep up with the White Squadron. Soon  his squadron out sailed his English opponents and kept a more windward course. The English White, currently unopposed, followed the new course trying to force the engagement. This caused the lines to straighten out to a more upwind direction. Slowly both sides reformed their line and order settled in.


For the next couple of hours both lines pounded away at moderate distance. While Tromp's starboard batteries engaged Berkeley, he ordered the ship steered slightly to starboard so as to bring Berkeley closer to the wind.  Meanwhile, some of the Dutch vessels trailing Tromp used the opportunity to cross through the English line to engage from the other side, pinning the English in a crossfire.

The 54-gun Beschermer ventured a run through the front of White Squadron, engaging ships with both her batteries as she went.  After being met with heavy return fire, she was forced to withdraw to the safety of the Dutch line. Shortly after, the 34-gun Ijlst performed a similar maneuver, suffering damage in her rigging, with many wounds to her masts and spars.

Very few fleet wide maneuvers were made, as well as nearly no individual initiatives except for two individuals described above.


During this first pass, both fleets suffered from the usual problems of the leeward and windward position. The Dutch (leeward of the English) were faced with the holes normally above the waterline, would end up underwater at the turn. The English (Windward of the Dutch) could not utilize their lower gun decks due to heavy winds, therefore even giving a smaller Dutch opponent more effective guns. Over time the differences in firing order became visible. Gunners on English ships were trained to aim on the ‘Down Roll’, resulting at mostly hull shots with hits at the waterline. Dutch gunners aimed at the ‘Up Roll’, resulting in hits on the hull as well as rigging.

Despite over a hundred ships firing for hours on end, the damage to either side was minimal. The English were content with continuing the current engagement, giving the Dutch center and rear time to join the formation and the fight.


Whilst the Dutch center under De Ruyter trailed Tromp, the newly arrived Zeelanders and Frisians under Evertsen found an already fully occupied lee battery English fleet. Not wasting a moment they moved in windward of the English rear, consisting of the Blue Squadron.



Being under fire from 2 lines, Blue squadron was beginning to lose order. Out of nowhere, a ship sailing with Evertsen caught fire, it was the 58-gun Hof van Zeeland. Almost simultaneously the 46-gun Duivenvoorde, part of De Ruyters division, caught fire. Due to increasing fire, the helmsman abandoned his post, resulting in the ship swerving out of control. A collision with the 54-gun Klein hollandia put the fear into the crew of that latter. After a brief moment of terror the ships broke loose and they each went their own path. Sailing north, the Duivenvoorde exploded soon afterwards.


Seeing the Blue in distress, Albemarle ordered Red and Blue to tack to starboard and sail NW again. White would do a similar move, and fall in behind Blue. This maneuver was aimed saving time, since tacking by White followed by Red would take too much time. With Red tacking away, the Dutch center was unopposed and settled in for repair of the rigging and plugging of shot holes. The Red then met the Frisians and Zeelanders under Evertsen, who were in the thick of the fighting.


At the van of the White a catastrophe was about to take place. When Berkeley, Vice-Admiral of the White, closed to the Dutch, two Dutch ships collided. The 68-gun Liefde and the 80-gun Hollandia (Tromps flagship) rammed each other with a sickening crash. Both ships, as a result, fell out of line to leeward. Berkeley in turn saw an opportunity to harass the helpless ships and bore up through the Dutch line. The English ships trailing Berkeley declined to follow the Admiral and turned to engage the Dutch main line again. The Dutch closed the gap that had been created and started to work on Berkeley’s Swiftsure. She was swarmed, boarded and taken, Berkeley was killed in the process. Her captor, the 72-gun Reiger, had to disengage due to damage received and towed her prize back to port.

Whilst the White was tacking, the Dutch, who were pressing after the English, were also able to swarm and take the 54-gun Seven Oaks (formerly the Dutch: Zevenwolden) and the 42-gun Loyal George. The Seven Oaks was taken by the Beschermer, who just had finished the repairs of her hull and rigging. The Loyal George fell to the 66-gun Deventer. Tromp in the meantime switched flagship to the 66-gun Jonge Prins, ordering the damaged Hollandia to be towed home by the 34-gun frigate Asperen.


(The Hollandia depicted on the right completely disabled, having lost her fore and main mast in the ramming)



(The capture of the Swiftsure, Seven Oaks and the Loyal George.)


During the boarding of the three English ships, the fleet under Evertsen was passing the White Squadron and therefore almost being reunited with the main Dutch fleet. The Red and blue squadrons, since not engaged, repaired their rigging to the best of their ability. When De Ruyter’s division finished its repair he bore up to reengage the English. Tomp’s Division fell in behind the Bestevaer and Evertsen again would follow behind. While most of the fleet managed to get windward of the English, a part was to pass the English leeward, resulting again in two Dutch lines passing a single English one.


During this pass the wind settled, allowing for the leeward and windward battery of both fleets to be utilized. The carnage that followed lasted for several hours.

On the Dutch side: Due to heavy damage taken in the Jonge Prins, Tromp was forced to shift his flag to a new ship, the 54-gun Provincie van Utrecht.

On the English side: In the heat of the battle Admiral Albemarle took a splinter to the hand, which was only considered a light wound. Soon afterwards the 50-gun Jersey and 48-gun Portland rammed each other for some reason, whilst the Jersey was barely harmed, the Portland was send back to port.


The return of the Portland marked the end of the first day of fighting. Both fleets settled for the night and the sounds of repair lasted through the whole night, sometimes disrupted by sounds coming from the cockpits where the surgeons were working. While the sounds were slowly settling down, all crews were shook up when suddenly a terrific eruption of Dutch canons broke the silence. Albemarle was confused: ‘’An English crew must be fighting for its life.’’


The ship in distress was the 80-gun Henry, commanded by Rear-Admiral of the White Harman. In the last passing she suffered heavy damage to her rigging, rendering her incapable to tack back to her fleet. After some hours repairing, she sailed N.W. to rejoin the anchored English Fleet. Unknown to her she was about to sail through the center of the Dutch fleet and received a devastating pounding. A small miracle (and the cover of night) allowed her to successfully dodge the Dutch as well as their fireships (Vrijheid and Gouden Ruyter) but she paid a high price in blood. Nearly 100 dead and half as many wounded, on a compliment of 440, resulted in her lacking crew severely. In her parting shots aimed at her Dutch chasers, she fired a cannonball through Admiral Evertsen Sr.

With the end of this skirmish the fleets settled for the night. The Henry would continue the course and sail back to port, accompanying the Henry was the 56-gun Rainbow, who was chased of earlier in the evening. On the side of the Dutch the 62-gun Delft was send to port to repair. The 64-gun Gelderland, for unknown reason, was send back with the Delft as well.


Note: From henceforth the Usage of Admiral Evertsen will be describing the son of Admiral Evertsen Sr.


The aftermath of day 1:







IV. The battle (day 2)



On the morning of the second day of the battle De Ruyter was surprised to learn that part of his fleet was missing. Unknown to either De Ruyter or Tromp, Tromp’s squadron chased the Rainbow of the field. Tromp himself missed a tack during the night and ended up to the west of the Dutch main fleet. Whilst the Dutch were regrouping, The English bore up for the attack.


Both fleets tried to gain the weather gage, the Dutch hoping to utilize their fireships and close quarter combat, the English to prevent the usage of fireships and hoping to isolate Tromp’s squadron still catching up with the Dutch rear. It was the English won the race, yet it didn’t deter the Dutch from maintaining course. The result was a series of head-on passed between the Dutch front and the English center.



Whereas as the fighting on the first day was hard, it had its moments of ‘sportsmanlike conduct’. It was recorded that during the initial fighting crews recognized each other’s ships and aimed for each other’s ensign. Both sides recorded that the fighting on the second day was nothing short of brutal. The range which was fought at was literally point-blank in most cases. The damage sustained by both fleets was terrible. Over the course of the morning and early afternoon it roughly 7 head-on passes had been made and both fleets were getting exhausted. It was estimated that a pass would take roughly 40 minutes to complete, considering line stretched up to 5 miles. During the first two passes ships of both fleets would try and force themselves windward through the enemy lines.


To quote an account from the States-General:

‘’The two fleets made a motion, viz. The Hollanders towards the N.W., and the English toward the South, with design to follow one the other; but the English having the advantage of the wind, disputed their enemies passage, and without waiting any longer, advances to them, and fell upon them. The Hollanders, without changing their course or their countenance, stood firm in luffing, so that the two hostile fleets broke through one another and began a most furious fight.’’


During a single pass a ship would fire 4 broadsides and often receive an equivalent number. Notably the damage sustained in head-on passes is nowhere near as devastating as side-by-side passes. In the latter the fleets would sail parallel to each other until one fleet made a move or gave way.


The first two passes must have been very successful for the Dutch, the English were forced to send 7 ships back to port. Amongst the 7 were the 58-gun Anne, 48-gun Baltimore and 52-gun Bristol. The other 4 are marked as unknown. At the end of the second pass the wind died and created a prolonged interval. At roughly 11 o’ clock the wind rose again and both fleets charged for another pass. It was during this third pass that the Dutch finally managed to gain the weather gage, it was the prize of a very ferocious fight between the van of both fleets, respectfully lead by Ayscue and Van Nes.


This event marked a new stage in the battle; the Dutch were preparing for a general attack, which means each ship was to prepare for boarding and chasing. It was this position that the English feared from day one, since they were well aware of the Dutch boarding supremacy as well as their dreaded fireships. De Ruyter had given the command to hoist the ‘Bloedvlag’ (bloodflag) signaling the general assault. It was right after this command that the sounds of muskets and heavy canon fire was heard. As Albemarle remarked on day one: ‘’An English crew must be fighting for its life.’’, De ruyter said: ‘’some ships must be making their last stand.’’


It turned out to be Tromp and his squadron, it appears that he failed to break through windward. 7 or 8 ships were trapped in a swarm of the heavy English van.



The Dutch that were trapped were getting absolutely destroyed by the English guns. The 64-gun Provincie van Utrecht (Tromps flagship), 68-gun Spiegel (Van der Hulst flagship), 73-gun Pacificatie, 68-gun Liefde, 70-gun Calantsoog and the 60-gun vrijheid suffered crippling damage to mast and spars. This squadron contained a good part of the heaviest Dutch ships, which crippled the Dutch combat power in the upcoming hours. The English expended their fireship Spread Eagle as well as the Young Prince. The former failed to achieve its goal, yet the latter fell upon the Liefde and burned her to a crisp.


Whilst Tromp squadron was crawling north to get away from the fray, Jordan turned to engage parallel. One of his ships, the 52-gun Antelope went through the Dutch and boarded the Spiegel with Van der Hulst on board. During the boarding Van der Hulst was killed due to a musket ball to the chest. The Antelope was anticipating that the ship would struck her colours, however, at this time Dutch Reinforcements lead by De Ruyter appeared. Due to heavy fire the Antelope was forces to disengage the boarding and the Spiegel was able to sail to safety. In that brief moment, the Antelope suffered 21 deaths and 30 wounded, on a crew of 190!



De Ruyter’s maneuver left him and his squadron extremely exposed to attack from the windward English. De Ruyter was still on its way but whilst he was covering distance, he signaled Van Ves and De Liefde to maintain a S.E. course. Furthermore, he signaled the zeeland-friesland squadron to fall in with Van Nes. The goal was to keep the English occupied by having part of the fleet to their windward. This maneuver, unknown to De Ruyter at the time, made the English uncomfortable and hesitant to decide to turn leeward and destroy De Ruyter and Tromp.


The time given allowed Van Nes to the south to following the White squadron who were heading north. With the English not daring to assault the Dutch slowly recovered from the crisis that nearly brought them a decisive defeat, but the Dutch paid a heavy price. A whole convoy of ships departed from the battle:

The Vrijheid and Provincie van Utecht sailed under jury rig back to Texel whilst the Pacificatie was send to Vlissingen.

The Calantsoog and Spiegel were tower to Texel by the 46-gun Vrede and an unkown ship.

The 72-gun Maagd van Enkhuizen was send back to Vlissingen as well. This marked the beginning of a small interlude in this fighting.


Soon after the departure the fleets reengaged. During this brawl no major events happened, except for the Zeven Provincien (De Ruyter flagship) losing her main mast. Van Nes, the second in command took over command of the fleet whilst De Ruyters was absent. The fighting continued West causing De Ruyter to drift off to the East. Van Nes lead the Dutch fleet for another 3 passes giving the English a lot of grief. The 56-gun Loyal Subject sailed back to port under Jury rig as well. Nearing the end of the 3rd pass, at roughly 6 o’clock, the 48-gun Black Eagle sank due to heavy leaks. Dutch accounts report that she took heavy shots on her windward side and her tacking caused them to flood under the waterline.


At the end of the 3rd pass under Van Nes, sails were spotted on the horizon. The squadron turned out to be the 12 ships of Tromp’s squadron who chased the Rainbow of the field. This event had a crushing result on the moral of the English fleet, who by now were exhausted and unhappy that Rupert had not yet returned. Albemarle ordered a course West bound, deploying the most damaged ships in the front and the ships in better condition in the rear. During this tactical withdrawal, the 40-gun St. Paul signaled the fleet that he took water that could not be stopped, she sank whilst her crew was able to escape via boats. Whilst the English made west the Dutch needed to tack in order to persue yet the wind died during this process and that marked the end of the second day. The result of day 2 was very costly for the Dutch, 6 heavy ships and 2 lighter ones had disengaged as well as the loss of the big 68-gun Liefde. As well as loosing Admiral Van der Hulst, it out-weight the English losses: 2 lighter ships sank, 2 fireships expended, 8 ships disengaging. The Dutch would notice the lack of firepower in the next few days.



The aftermath of day 2:



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IV. The battle (day 3)


Both sides spent the better part of the night repairing masts and rigging. At down the English continued their retreat. With the continued absence of De Ruyter, Van Nes made the call to continue the pursuit.

When suddenly the wind changed, at around noon, the Dutch send forward their fastest ships to run down the enemy. The English, well-aware of the approaching Dutch, reorganized themselves so the still operational ship guarded the rear, whilst the most damaged ships were in the van. The rear consisted of the following ships: St. Andrew, Rupert, Monck, Fairfax, Defiance, Old James, Royal Oak, Royal Charles, Royal Prince, Royal Katherine, Lion, Unicorn, Triumph, Golden Phoenix and St. George.


Little action took place in the following hours until near the end of the afternoon, masts were spotted on the horizon. At last Rupert had returned and he brought 22 warships with him as well as 4 fireships (Kent and Hampshire are included). Unknown however to the English commanders, a shallow lay in between the two fleets. As luck would have it, with the heavy ships forming the rearguard, the shallower ship in front were able to sail unknowingly over the sandbank without problem.

Many of the great ships escaped a horrible faith, numerous ships ran aground yet were able to free themselves in time, with one exception: Royal Prince. Due to fear of the shallows the rearguard could not tack to her rescue, effectively sealing her faith. The proud flagship would be burned by the Dutch and her admiral taken prisoner. Whilst the flames were being set, the Zeven Provincien finally rejoined the fleet, now united again under De Ruyter’s command.



The English war council decided that 6 of the worst damaged ships had to be send ahead of the fleet. Whilst the decision was still to be made, 3 ships arrived from the English ports as reinforcements, the 52-gun Convertine, 50-gun Sancta Maria and the 48-gun Centurion. Of the six ship send ahead there are only 3 known by name: 52-gun Antelope, 58-gun Gloucester and the70-gun House of Sweeds.


Both parties maneuvered for the rest of the evening with several engagements happening. Nothing major happened.


The aftermath of day 3:


(including the 22 sails under Rupert)


IV. The battle (day 4)


During the night both fleets continued repairing, when morning came both fleets had lost track of each other for a while, so a few hours passed until scouts came across each other. The fleets bore up for the attack, with the Dutch being in a windward position.


The fleets now roughly numbered (Some sources mention less ships present whilst citing no names, so it’s hard to determine the actual number of ships remaining.):



Regardless of the actual amount, it seem both side agreed that they equaled in sails.


The English made good progress in their advance, very useful since it was their intent to contest the weather gage. The Dutch turned to engage the English van and cut them off in their approach.



In the clash that followed the Dutch van under Van Nes cut through the English van under Rupert in 3 separate places, mauling the ships sandwiched in between the Dutch ships. For a while the fight for the weather gage forced squadrons on both fleets to give way and others were capable of breaking through just fine. With Van Nes cutting through he forced the English to leeward. Myngs, one of the admirals arriving with Rupert, tried to cut behind Van Nes but failed in the process. Myngs and his squadron were forced to leeward of the Dutch fleet and got engaged by the leeward battery of the Dutch Fleet. De Ruyter, who was astern of Van Nes, led the Dutch main line after van Nes. Albemarle was directly opposite of De Ruyter and with quite some effort did manage to break through behind De Ruyter’s squadron. De Vries, who was astern of the Ruyter was therefore forced leeward of the English and suffered the same leeward battering Myngs would receive from the Dutch.



To elaborate on the above as well as to give an indication of how close ships actually got whilst cutting a line was provided by an account who said the yardarms of the 66-gun Ridderschap (Flagship De Liefde) and the 76-gun Victory (Myngs flagship) gently hit each other’s tips. The two flagships, seeing each other coming from a distance, saved their broadsides and prepared their soldiers on deck. What can only be described as an explosion of canons marked the clash between the ships. Whilst the engagement was very brief, the case shot from both sides was quite effective. Myngs took a case round to the mouth, soon followed by a musket ball to the spine. He died within minutes.


When Rupert saw that the Ridderschap was badly damaged by the English Canons-of-7 send in a fireship to burn her, the Little Unicorn. The 34-gun Nijmegen saw the flaming ship, who was grappling the Riddershap and rushed to engage her. What was either a bold or mental decision, the Nijmegen grappled the fireship and towed her away from the Ridderschap. During that process the Little Unicorn collided with the Dutch fireship Rotterdam. The rigging of both ships tangled and together they burnt to ashes. The Ridderschap was immediately tower out of action by the 36-gun Wapen van Utrecht. After a few miles, whilst the Ridderschap set up Jury Rid, De Liefde shifted his flag onto the Wapen van Utrecht and returning to the fight straight away.


During this rare moment, where a fireship burned a fireship, another unexpected maneuver was made. An Unknown Dutch fireship went straight to the 82-gun Royal James, Rupert’s flagship. Moments before it would have grappled the flagship the English fireship Greyhound appeared and moved in between the Dutch fireship and its target. For the second time during the battle, at the same time as the Rotterdam and the Little Unicorn, would two fireships burn each other.


Following this exceptionally rare set of events Rupert’s Royal James sailed through the Dutch van. An English account reports about the flagship:

‘’… they raked him fore & aft, plyed him on both sides … & tho his Highness received very considerable prejudice in that difficult passage in his masts & rigging yet hee answered the shot they powered on him with as many close returnes which the enemy felt & carried away with them.’’


The Dutch ships giving way enabled Rupert’s squadron to follow through and properly cut through. As mentioned earlier, a lot of cutting on both sides happened in this point of the battle. The graph above illustrates where each side cut and where the fleets were heading. The Dutch main line closed ranks and denied Blue squadron passage through.


Both fleets were in need of regrouping and reorganizing. The center of the Dutch line was still engaging blue squadron when De Ruyter tacking West to form a line windward of the English, who were simoltaniously tacking East to attack the Dutch rear to their lee. During this tack the English send forward the firship Hound. His target was the 46-gun Landman who had ran foul with Sweers’s flagship, the 72-gun Gouda. The fireship reached his target and burnt her down whilst damaging the spars of the Gouda. Sweers shifted his flag to the 50-gun Gouden Leeuw.



With Albemarle heading east he denied Tromp to follow Meppel who formed the rear of the Dutch center. Tromp as well as Sweers astern of him turned leeward knowning Van Nes was heading towards them. The situation was getting better by the minute, since De Ruyter was far southeast with roughly 35 ships. For the ships who followed Myngs earlier in the battle this meant very bad news since the three parts of the Dutch fleet were heading straight towards them. Over the next hour they were to endure the hardship that was brought forward by the Dutch guns. De Ruyter, who was far windward of the English main line, turned N.W. to re-engage.


The English at this point were in a very comfortable position effectively having split the Dutch fleet in two. They were content with several passes against the northern part of the Dutch fleet. After some time the Dutch southern part of the fleet was in range against and bore up to line against the English. The engagement on both sides wasn’t taxing on the English, yet they were faced with another problem.


After 4 days of near continues fighting the ammunition started to run low. Normally they were supplied with 40 shots per gun, or 80 broadsides, yet pre-departure from the Themes another 10 shots per gun were added. The Dutch are on record to have carried 60 shots per gun, some ships slightly lower due to capacity limits.


Nearing the end of the afternoon the English fleet split in two separate bodies: Albemarle, Holmes, Spragge and Teddiman went to engage the Dutch to their lee. Rupert and the rest of the fleet kept a windward course to engage De Ruyter. Albemarle pressed hard and closed to musket range of Tromp and his squadron. The Dutch outgunned and outnumbered were soon in chaos, which only became worse when the English fireship Happy Entrance was expended, which yielded no result. The Dutch started to disengage and some of the lame ships fell amongst the pursuers.


The 46-gun Dom van Utrecht struck it colours when the Royal Charles appeared to its side and readied itself to lay waste. The English who were still in pursue on Tromp bypassed some of the Lame ships assuming they would be taken by the ships astern of them. Tromp’s ship would be demasted shortly after and lay defenseless in the water. De Ruyter was awaiting Tromp’s squadron to engage in order to press upon the English.


The English seized their chase and tacked to engage De Ruyter who pressed from the south. Van Nes, seeing the Bestevaer charging the enemy rallied the northern part of the fleet and bore west to assist.



The English thinking that the north was routed rightfully assumed that they were in a strong position. When De Ruyter reached the English line he declined the head-on pass and sailed turned parallel. As mentioned earlier: Head-on passes are relatively mild in viciousness, parallel sailing was the real grind. It was this moment that the English realized that the Dutch still had a proper fight left in them. To quote a captain sailing under Albemarle:

‘’Most of our owne frigets to avoyed the shock runs to leeward and shelter themselves under the Royal Charles; scarne any but the Defiance (holmes flagship) diverted the enemy from powring theire whole broadsides upon us, but we bore it well enough though at this time very much disabled in our rigging and masts which indeed was the only ayme of the Dutch for the most part placing their shots above our hulls.’’ (This refers to the ‘Uproll shooting’ that the Dutch used.)


The rear of De Ruyter’s line crossed with Rupert’s squadron of who some could not continue firing due to lack of powder. In this process Rupert’s flagship the Royal James lost its mizzen mast and main topmast. Unable to persue, the approach for the Dutch was open. Seeing this event De ruyter hoisted the ‘Bloedvlag’ (blood flag), the signal for an all-out assault, and the ships slightly spread out and wreaked havoc on the Albemarle.


Van Nes was pressing after the English now as well, seeing many of sails of his fleet back in the thick of the fight. The previously surrendered Dom van Utrecht was passed by the 60-gun Oostergo, resulting in her hoisting her flag again and rejoining the attack.


At this point in the battle there is nearly no battle line intact. Dutch ships utilized their maneuverability to swarm around and in between the English. The 72-gun Groningen boarded and took the 62-gun Clove Tree. Whilst an impressive prize, the 72-gun Prins Hendrik Casimir managed to take the 56-gun Essex as well as the 40-gun Black bull simultaneously when they got entangled in their rigging. The 56-gun Convertine, who only joined the evening before, was taken by the 56-gun Wassenaar.


This charge decided the battle; the Dutch continued to rally and the English fleet was split in two. Albemarle to the west and Rupert to the south. Both bodies turned to assemble and afterwards disengage. The Dutch were occupied and satisfied consolidating the captured ships. With both fleets slowly drifting away from each other, the end of a four day struggle was finally here.


The fight had been very long, very hard with small break and the chances of victory switches hands several times.

The aftermath of day 4:








During the end of the fourth day the Dutch as well as the English sailed for port. Both fleets would come to clashes again just 2 months later: 'The St. James's Day Battle' in which the English routed the dutch but weren't able to score a decisive victory. Soon after, resulting some other events, the Dutch would dare to enter the lion's den, resulting in the (in)famous 'Raid on the Medway'.


I will make a similar post about the Raid on the Medway, which can be found here:



For folks interested in this subject, i can surely recommend the following book:

The Four Days' Battle 'The greatest sea fight of the age of sail' by Frank l. Fox.

Its a great read, loads of data and good background, which is mostly focused on the English side.


But, as the title suggests, it mainly about the four days battle, and to some extend the 2nd anglo-dutch war, but mostly focused on the battle.

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Wow! Nice work Steel :)


Are you writing a book? hehe


The 17th century ships and battles have always been interesting, sometimes I wish this game could rotate between the centuries so we get to sail those beautiful ships.

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Wow! Nice work Steel :)


Are you writing a book? hehe


The 17th century ships and battles have always been interesting, sometimes I wish this game could rotate between the centuries so we get to sail those beautiful ships.

Boy, if one server was 1600-1700 and the rest 1700-1820, i would know which one i'd play ;)


I love reading up on this subject and quite some of the canon data is coming from certain books, which ill mention and recommend for whomever is interested in some global to more detailed information regarding this battle.

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btw good site to use for the rest of the ships

you can be very specific

It is a very usefull site indeed, the problem lies in the dating of that armament. You can see that the recorded armament is from 1683.

Whilsts it is good to fill some gabs, im reluctant to use such data because it bypassed one of the biggest problems the dutch had at the time: severe lack of heavy guns.

If one is to look at the late armament of the zeven provincie , one sees as much 36-pounders as the whole dutch fleet combined in this battle.

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It is a very usefull site indeed, the problem lies in the dating of that armament. You can see that the recorded armament is from 1683.

Whilsts it is good to fill some gabs, im reluctant to use such data because it bypassed one of the biggest problems the dutch had at the time: severe lack of heavy guns.

If one is to look at the late armament of the zeven provincie , one sees as much 36-pounders as the whole dutch fleet combined in this battle.

it is also meant to be an gabfiller so but still usefull all thought not true

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I. The Commanders is complete

II. The Flags is complete

III. The Fleets is complete

IV. The battle Day 1 is complete.


To come:

IV. The battle Day 2,3 and 4


Day 1 is live, i probable have to re-rear it a few times, but it seems quite comprehensive. :)

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The Anglo-Dutch Wars were incredible. That a tiny and europe's only republic could be such a nuisance for so long, spectacular really.

not only that the dutch navy was considerd the best at that time. Because we lost very few battle, i believe mostly minor ingagements, but also thanks to De Ruyter who more or less changed the whole navy of dutch republic.

With the only exception i don't recall the battle but the one Admiral De Ruyter died that was a huge loss for the dutch navy.

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Excellent work Steel! So were's your roadmap for delivering day 2, 3 and 4 ?  :P

On paper it looks like the English lost that first day with 3 captured ships, however the Dutch had to disengage a lot of ships (cannons!) to tow those prizes back to port or other ships that were damaged.


Bit of a dilemma it seems to capture ships.... But maybe in your day 2, 3 and 4 we'll see those ships return to battle if the delivery of the prize was fast enough...

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Excellent work Steel! So were's your roadmap for delivering day 2, 3 and 4 ?  :P

On paper it looks like the English lost that first day with 3 captured ships, however the Dutch had to disengage a lot of ships (cannons!) to tow those prizes back to port or other ships that were damaged.


Bit of a dilemma it seems to capture ships.... But maybe in your day 2, 3 and 4 we'll see those ships return to battle if the delivery of the prize was fast enough...

Day 2 and 3 are coming online today :)


and your observation is correct, it is a pattern that you will see continued during day 2.

Btw, yesterday marked the end of the four days' battle exactly 350 years ago.

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Steel i was reading your text you mentioned a 4th squadron for the dutch do you know who the commandor of that squad was. I try to figure out myself but i can't find out who it was and were they regrouped with the main line

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Steel i was reading your text you mentioned a 4th squadron for the dutch do you know who the commandor of that squad was. I try to figure out myself but i can't find out who it was and were they regrouped with the main line

Could you help me via quoting where i wrote it, that would allow me to giv eyou a better answer.


In case you are referring to the 12 sails who rejoined the Dutch at the end of the second day, those ships were initially part op Tromp's squadron and in all excitement chased the Rainbow off the field during the evening and night. It would take them the entire day to rejoin the fleet and would reappear at the end of the second day.

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