Curiosities No.4: The Dutch raid on the Medway

It’s been drilled into us British that the last time that Britain was successfully invaded was by the Normans in 1066.

While this is true, there have been numerous invasions since then, mostly by the Spanish or the French, better perhaps to call them incursions rather than invasions. There was one serious incursion by the Dutch that has generally faded from our national memory. In the mid to late 1600’s the British fought with the Dutch for control of the seas and trade routes, in which the British gained some successes, notably capturing New Amsterdam – now New York – from the Dutch.

Yet in the second Anglo-Dutch war of 1665 – 1667 it was the Dutch who were victorious. Part of that war was the Raid on the Medway, which was the worst ever naval defeat in British home waters. In the raid British naval losses were significant, losing three of the four navy’s big ships, plus the  capture, by the Dutch, of the navy’s flagship the Royal Charles. Dutch raiders got as far as Gillingham and Chatham dockyard, having sacked Sheerness and landing a raiding party of the Isle of Grain. Defensive action halted the Dutch advance up the River Thames. The Dutch retired having secured a major victory. Similar Dutch raids on Harwich and Woodbridge were repulsed. The Dutch victories were such that the British sued for peace with the Treaty of Breda.

This painting below, the Attack on the Medway, June 1667 by Pieter Cornelisz van Soest, painted c. 1667, shows the captured ship Royal Charles is right of centre

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