The Dutch attack in 1667

From 1650 to 1780 England was involved in a series of short wars with Holland during which fortunes ebbed and flowed.

After the civil war both army and navy were built up to become an effective force but once Charles II came to the throne spending slowed and the forces became less effective.

This coincided with a build up in the Dutch Navy to levels that they no longer feared the English Navy.

When disputes began over the water borne trade that was vital to both countries this led to war in 1642 which ended in 1654 with a settlement favourable to England.

By 1665 a second war had begun and this time Holland took the advantage by sending it's fleet to the English shores where in a daring raid on the Medway they succeeded in destroying most of the English fleet at anchor.

Regular skirmishes took place off the Essex coast as it was the nearest point of landfall to the Dutch coast.

For this reason lookouts were established in many parts of Essex, often using Parish Church towers.

By 1667 the situation had worsened and Sir Jas. Altham and John Bramston who were deputy Lieutenants of Essex feared an invasion.

A lookout point was established at Southminster Parish Church and two companies of foot soldiers were based in the south at Burnham on Crouch and in the north at Bradwell on Sea. At Southminster in the centre of the peninsula was based a Company of horse soldiers commanded by Captain Capel.

On 18th June 1667 the lookout at Southminster church saw at least three Squadrons of Dutch vessels out at sea including at least 40 ships. The fleet was not making good progress as the wind was in the wrong Quarter. Once this fleet cleared the mouth of the River Blackwater Eastern Essex was safe and Harwich was thought to be the target.

Warnings were sent along the coast and Captain Capel's mounted men were sent to Manningtree in case the landing was made on the wide estuary of the River Stour.

The early warning seemed to have been a success in preventing a raid although on 2nd July 1677 the fleet returned but this time further from the coast so they were not spotted from Southminster. The Dutch launched a raid by 1500 men on Landguard Fort at Felixtowe. Although greatly outnumbered the attack was repulsed by only 400 defenders which saved the harbour at Harwich from a repeat of the Medway destruction.

This was to be the last time that a foreign army landed and fought on English soil

View Peter Layzell's profile on LinkedIn