The second part of a detailed analysis by Frank Fox and myself…
Last week’s post described the context and events of the Battle of the Texel, and its decisive influence on public opinion that led to Britain’s withdrawal from the Third Anglo-Dutch War. However, to understand the battle properly – as, indeed, is the case with every naval battle – it is essential to know exactly which ships were where. But one of the principal difficulties with many accounts of the battle of the Texel has been a lack of certainty about the actual composition of the British fleet, let alone its dispositions. Even general lists of individual squadrons do not provide an entirely satisfactory picture, given the importance of knowing where particular ships lay in the line-of-battle to any attempt to understand accounts penned on board those ships. An effort to assemble a reasonably comprehensive list of the British fleet was made by R C Anderson in his Journals and Narratives of the Third Dutch War (Navy Records Society, 1946), but this exercise suffered from the circumstances in which it was produced; Anderson assembled his material during and just after the Second World War, when both the (then) Public Record Office and British Museum were inaccessible to researchers, and his remark that ‘it is probable . . . that they would not add very much further information’ has proved to be well wide of the mark. In the National Archives, Kew (TNA), ADM 8/1 (fleet disposition book, 1673-89) provides a list of the Red and Blue squadrons without detail for 1 July and a complete, fully detailed order-of-battle compiled on 21 July, although the latter is out of place in the volume. An exact copy of the ADM 8/1 order-of-battle can be found in TNA PRO 30/24/5 (Shaftsbury Papers). As with all of ADM 8, lists are invariably several days (at least) outdated simply due to the slow pace of communications in the seventeenth century. The unknown compiler in this case was unaware that the fifth-rate Algier, a member of the main fleet, had been irrevocably wrecked on the Nore Sand on 17 July.
These written sources can be supplemented by examination of the many Van de Velde eyewitness drawings of the battle. For example, one drawing reveals that some ships lost their place during the series of tacks carried out by the fleet before the fighting began. The second-rate St George, an old, heavy sailer, fell back into Kempthorne’s division, which is presumably why she came up on the Prince from astern and was thus available for the transfer of Sir Edward Spragge’s flag that took place during the battle. The same drawing shows the Royal Charles sailing right alongside the Prince, thereby opening the question of whether there had been an alteration (intentional or otherwise) in the order of the vessels near Spragge’s flagship. This, it turns out, is described if not fully explained in a report written by flag-captain Thomas Fowler of the Prince.
By using the manuscript lists, drawings, and references to squadron composition in individual reports and correspondence, it has been possible to correct some of Anderson’s conjectures about the composition of the fleet and to present a more complete list of that fleet in its line-of-battle. Anderson erroneously included the Success (detached to Sheerness), and wrongly suggested that the Leopard (in the Mediterranean) and Portland (at Jamaica) could have been present at the Texel. He omitted the Nightingale, assigned the Advice and Lion to the wrong squadrons, and was unable to allocate fourteen ships to squadrons at all. Anderson assumed that both the Antelope and Constant Warwick had been detached to convoy prizes before the battle began; this was true of the Antelope, which came into Harwich Bay on 9 August with a prize, and did not return to the fleet. But the absence of the Constant Warwick is not so certain. Anderson’s source (CSPD 1673, 485) mentions only that the captured East India flute Papenburg had been sent in on 10 August, but says nothing of the Constant Warwick. She is first mentioned three days after the battle, when the Essex ketch patrolling off Aldburgh (only a little over 100 miles from the fleet) sent word to Whitehall that the Constant Warwick would escort the Papenburg into the Thames. This was acknowledged by Admiralty Secretary Samuel Pepys on the 16th, which was also when news of the outcome of the battle and Spragge’s death were received; this report might have come from the Constant Warwick, which could have been detached after the action and overtaken the prize. Afterwards, she was sent to Woolwich for refitting, which suggests battle damage. But since these possibilities require speculation either way, the ship is included in the list below with what must be described as an emphatic question mark. She is the only ship about which there is any significant doubt.
Anderson did not deal with fireships, but two of those on the fleet list, the Golden Hand under William Mather and the Marigold under John Rice, developed uncontrollable leaks in stormy weather off the Texel before the battle and foundered, the Golden Hand on 7 August and the Marigold on the 10th. Ironically, the fireship Olive Branch under William Lee is reported by many sources (including Pepys) to have sunk on 10 August, but did not. Only one vessel is recorded as joining the fleet after 1 July, and that only temporarily. The sixth-rate Greyhound, Captain John Clements, brought the commander of the intended invasion army, Count Schomberg, to confer with Prince Rupert on 18 July. The Greyhound approached with a George’s cross at the main in honour of his passenger, which so infuriated Rupert that he had Clements clapped in irons – probably the only serving captain who suffered such an indignity during the period. He was soon forgiven and restored to his ship, however, and returned Schomberg to shore at Yarmouth to await developments.
In the following amended list, only points of contention between the main sources listed above have been annotated, together with some instances in which the placing of ships is based on evidence contained in correspondence or ships’ journals rather than the main sources. Ships are listed in their sailing order within the line-of-battle, from van to rear of each of the English squadrons. As was usual from about 1665, the vice-admiral of the Blue commanded the rear division so that a relatively experienced flag-officer would be in the lead division if the fleet sailed in reversed order. Flagships and their commanders are in bold type. Ships lost in the battle and commanders killed are indicated by an asterisk. The relatively few light frigates and small vessels whose division assignments are known are indicated by a notation following their names with ‘R’ or ‘B’ for Red or Blue squadron and ‘a’, ‘v’, or ‘r’ for admiral’s, vice-admiral’s, or rear-admiral’s division. The sloops listed were fast vessels capable of both sail and oared propulsion; they usually served as tenders for large ships or ‘advice boats’ for delivering messages and dispatches. The numbers of guns and complements are from ADM 8/1 (except the Rupert for which a gunner’s return differing by two guns survives in TNA WO 55/1654). These armament figures often vary considerably from those supplied by Anderson. Except for the Rupert, the numbers of guns given by ADM 8/1 agree perfectly with those listed in the relatively few ships for which gunners’ returns from 1673 or captain’s enumerations survive.
|TEXEL FLEET LIST|
|Van Division, Vice-Admiral’s|
|4||Constant Warwick (?)||42||170||Joseph Harris|
|2||French Ruby||80||550||Thomas Roomcoyle|
|1||London||100||750||Vice-Admiral Sir John Harman
2nd William Houlding
|4||Happy Return||48||240||John Stainsby|
|Centre Division, Admiral’s|
|2||Royal Katherine||100||600||George Legge|
|3||Mary||60||300||Sir Roger Strickland|
|2||Henry||80||530||Sir John Ernle|
|3||Rupert||64||400||Sir John Holmes|
|1||Royal Sovereign||100||850||Adm Prince Rupert
2nd Sir William Reeves*
3rd John Wetwang
|3||Resolution||70||400||Sir John Berry|
|3||Edgar||74||400||Richard Le Neve*|
|2||Old James||70||500||James Storey|
|Ann & Christopher||8||40||Richard Haddock|
|St Lawrence*||6||20||John Cooke|
|Thomas & Edward||6||30||Matthew Dawson|
|Rear Division, Rear-Admiral’s|
|4||Mary Rose||48||220||Thomas Hamilton|
|2||Victory||80||530||Sir William Jennens|
|1||Charles||100||750||Rear-Admiral Sir John Chicheley
2nd Richard Dickinson
|Olive Branch||6||35||William Lee|
|Van Division, Rear-Admiral’s|
|1||St Michael||98||700||R-Adm the Earl of Ossory
2nd John Narbrough
|Hope Prize||2||16||John Martin|
|Centre Division, Admiral’s|
|2||St George||68||460||Thomas Darcy|
|4||Bristol ||48||220||Eric Sieubladh |
|3||Henrietta||60||340||Gustavus, Count Horne |
|1||Royal Charles ||102||800||John Hayward*|
|1||Prince||100||800||Adm Sir Edward Spragge*
2nd Thomas Fowler
|4||Swallow ||46||220||Edward Russell|
|Prudent Mary*||6||45||Christopher Billop|
|1||St Andrew||100||750||V-Adm Sir John Kempthorne
2nd John Archer
|Light Frigates and Small Warships, not in line|
|5||Guernsey [B-a]||30||150||Leonard Harris|
|5||Pearl [R-a] ||28||150||Thomas Booth|
|Henrietta Yacht* [B-r]||8||30||Thomas Guy|
|Roe Dogger* ||6||12||Joseph Simmons|
|Rose Dogger* ||6||12||Ralph Wrenn|
|Fox Shallop||0||7||Morgan Phillips|
|John’s Advice Hospital||?||54||Robert Elfrith|
|Chatham Double||4||36||Joseph Perriman|
|Lizard [B-r]||4||25||John Nicholson|
- Journals and Narratives, 400-3.
- At fo. 39; the date of 21 July is supplied by fo. 5, listing the distribution of ships not a part of Prince Rupert’s fleet, and which fo. 39 should have immediately followed.
- See note 10 below.
- Success: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Naval Manuscripts in the Pepysian Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, J R Tanner ed., volume ii (Navy Records Society, London, 1904), 16-18, 23, and 28; Leopard and Portland: TNA ADM 8/1, fo. 5.
- Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1673, F H Blackburne Daniell ed. (London, 1902), 488; Cat. Pepysian MSS ii, 24.
- Cat. Pepysian MSS ii, 29-30.
- Journals and Narratives, 342; CSPD 1673, 459.
- The Bristol had not been assigned a station when the battle-line in TNA ADM 8/1 was drawn up on 21 July. She was probably assigned to Spragge’s division since she was one of the options considered for changing his flag. It seems likely that she was in the station shown, in place of the Antelope which had been detached with a prize taken on 26 July (Journals and Narratives, 309).
- Sieubladh (or Sjöblad) and Horne were Swedish officers who had first served in the English fleet as volunteers during the second Anglo-Dutch war. Both subsequently returned to Sweden and held high rank during the war with Denmark later in the 1670s.
- In the battle-line in TNA ADM 8/1, the Royal Charles was stationed as the next-to-last ship in Spragge’s division. However, an account by flag-captain Thomas Fowler of the Prince in BL Egerton MSS 928, fos 143-4, relates that when the fighting began, the Royal Charles was his next-ahead, the Cambridge his next-astern, with the Swallow sailing alongside the Prince to windward. This might or might not have reflected intentional changes in the order-of-battle, but the ships are here given as Fowler indicates, with the Swallow arbitrarily shown astern of the flagship.
- The Swallow was assigned as the aftermost ship in the rear-admiral’s division of the Blue by TNA ADM 8/1. However, a casualty list for this division was compiled by flag-captain John Narbrough of the St Michael and printed in the Naval Chronicle, volume 5 (1801), 221-3. This shows that the Portsmouth, not originally assigned a station in TNA ADM 8/1, displaced the Swallow, which shifted to another division, obviously Spragge’s as reported in note 10.
- CSPD 1673, 490 and 520-1 (the latter is Rupert’s account, saying that the Pearl fought well in his division); Cf Pearl log, TNA ADM 51/3932.
- The Henrietta yacht was a tender for Ossory’s St. Michael and sank alongside her. CSPD 1673, 523, gives details.
- The Roe was sunk and the Rose captured. Doggers such as these commonly served as tenders for the warships, and there were probably other unrecorded doggers present as well.
Hans Vastenhout says
If I could bother you with a question David? Normally Fireships (Dutch side) have their guns removed but i noticed this list all fireships has still guns onboard? Because canons (Bronze for certain) were very costly.
J D Davies says
Hello Hans – in all 17th-century fleets, fireships always had a few small iron guns (2 to 8, normally) for defence and signalling – but never brass guns. Fireships also sometimes had wooden dummy guns to disguise their identity.
Hans Vastenhout says
Thank you for your explanation I knew for signaling and the dummy guns but i expected the guns listed were of the bigger variants above of 2 pounders.
I forgot the signaling part of the guns and it would be suppious if only one gun was fired.
Richard Blake says
What exactly are fire ships? Are they vessels intended to be set on fire as per the fire ships used by the English against the Spanish at Calais in 1588 or do they have another purpose? The reason I ask is that the number designated at fire ships seems rather high.
J D Davies says
Yes, exactly that, as shown in this terrific picture of the battle of Solebay in the previous year – http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/11794.html. The Dutch wars were something of a golden age for them, although apart from the burning of the Royal James, they tended to be pretty ineffective – hence the large numbers deployed and lost at the Texel, with no successes to offset that. There’s a recent book on the subject, Fireship by Peter Kirsch.
Rif Winfield says
A very comprehensive summary, David! Many thanks. I will (assuming you agree) use your fleet list for my new book on French Warships of 1626-1786, as it will include lists of all combatants in major actions during this period.
Just returned on Saturday from the Baltic, inclusing Stockholm where Fred Hocker kindly gave me a full personal tour around the insides of Vasa last week.
J D Davies says
Hello Rif, good to hear from you! Yes, by all means use the list in any way you wish. By coincidence, I’ve literally just been delving into your 1603-1714 volume for my new book on Charles II, James II and the navy. Best, David