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350th anniversary of the battle of Medway

 
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350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/8/2017 6:26:58 AM   
zakblood


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never heard of it?

not surprised either, well not if you're from the UK anyway, as nobody celebrates it, as it's was the English largest ever defeat.

It was a battle that set a river on fire, caused panic across London, and left England nursing the wounds of one of its worst ever military defeats. Yet not many people today have heard of the Battle of Medway. Why?
The whiff of gunsmoke, burning timber, pitch and tar. Warships ablaze, flames shooting through gunports, the smoke visible for miles along the north Kent coastline.
This is the scene that would have greeted eyewitnesses following the Dutch raid along the River Medway in June 1667.
Carried out over several days, it targeted the English fleet at Chatham, leaving a large section of the Royal Navy either captured or destroyed. There were few casualties, but the loss of the realm's largest warships brought humiliation to the country and damaged the personal reputation of King Charles II.
It was the third in a triumvirate of disasters to befall the nation following on from the Great Plague and Great Fire of London. It created such panic in London that people sent their most valued possessions out of the city, fearing imminent occupation by Dutch forces.
Yet despite this, the raid is little remembered in the UK today. A full programme of commemorations is being held over the coming weeks in an effort to raise awareness of its 350th anniversary.
"Everyone knows about the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, but even people locally don't know about the Battle of Medway," said Richard Holdsworth, of the Historic Dockyard Chatham, where a series of commemorations are set to take place.
A humiliating defeat


The English forces were totally unprepared for the Dutch assault on Chatham.
Dutch forces captured Sheerness fort and forced the Unity, a 42-gun guardship, to retreat towards Chatham.
They then broke through a defensive iron chain on the Medway, allowing them to attack the fleet at its base.
Finding the ships unmanned they attacked them again, leaving many ablaze.
Most humiliating of all, the flagship Royal Charles - as well as the Unity - were captured and towed back to the Netherlands as a prize.


The cause of this English amnesia is perhaps due to the fact that they lost. As with most nations, the English do not like talking about their defeats, even 350 years on.
Jeroen van der Vliet, a curator at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam which holds a large collection of objects related to the raid, said it was an important battle in the history of both nations.

"For the Dutch you could say it was the high water mark of Dutch naval power," he said.
Burning of the English Fleet near Chatham (19-24 June 1667), Willem Schellinks, 1667

"In English history, it was not only the often-cited 'most glorious defeat' but the last time England was invaded by an enemy force."
Over the next fortnight, a series of events marking the anniversary will take place, including a dramatisation of the raid screened against the backdrop of Upnor Castle.
An exhibition at the dockyard has gathered artefacts on loan from organisations including the National Maritime Museum, the Rijksmuseum and British Library.
Full two-week programme of events
The organisers hope it will help raise awareness of a battle that is arguably still relevant to our modern times.
"The problem is that our naval history inevitably focuses on the wars we won and the great heroes who fought in them," said historian Dr David Davies.
"By any criterion, it's one of the worst British defeats of all time.
"Personally, I'd say it's important to know about it in this country as an antidote to triumphalism - the idea that English, and then British, history has been a largely unbroken succession of victories.
"Nothing brings home that message more clearly than an attack which brought enemy ships right into the heart of the country's main naval base, and which saw the fleet flagship towed away as a trophy."











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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/8/2017 11:33:34 AM   
wings7


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Thanks for the info!

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/8/2017 4:08:38 PM   
Chickenboy


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I personally am well inured to the prospect of British triumphalism. No danger there for me.

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 1:37:28 AM   
E

 

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It seems to me the English would rather remember 1807?

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 6:29:33 AM   
warspite1


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Out of curiosity, why do you mention 1807 specifically E?

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 6:53:50 AM   
altipueri

 

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Copenhagen.

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 7:46:49 AM   
E

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1
Out of curiosity, why do you mention 1807 specifically E?

Because all small flat countries in Northwest Europe look alike to me, and thus I think Copenhagen would be a better memory for the English in that general area of the world.

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 7:52:15 AM   
stuart3

 

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Hardly.

Mention the battle of Copenhagen to anyone and they may think of Sir Hyde Parker and Nelson's naval victory in 1801, although most will never have heard of Parker.

Mention the Battle of the Clogs and you will almost certainly be met with blank looks.

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 9:07:18 AM   
E

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: E
It seems to me the English would rather remember 1807?

quote:

ORIGINAL: stuart3
Hardly.

So the English would rather remember a defeat by the Dutch over a Danish victory (Yes, those are the only two options put forth or implied in my original post). Interesting theory, even if hard to believe.

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 9:39:38 AM   
stuart3

 

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Most know little, if anything, of either. For those who don't have an intrinsic interest in military history, historical military knowledge tends to be limited to the very well celebrated victories. For the English, that is mainly Agincourt (Crecy and Poitiers come much further down the scale, and don't even think of asking the average Englishman in the street how they managed to lose the Hundred Years War after winning the only three battles in it that they have heard of, ), Waterloo, and Trafalgar.

By the way, I am not English. I am a Scot, although I have lived in London for most of my life and spent 8 years working in Chatham, very close to the dockyard, which I have passed through several times, so the scene of the Danish victory is quite familiar to me.

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 9:49:08 AM   
warspite1


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I think there are a couple of things in the article worthy of comment:

The writer of the piece made the point:

The cause of this English amnesia is perhaps due to the fact that they lost. As with most nations, the English do not like talking about their defeats, even 350 years on.

The first part of his comment I will cover below, but the second part is of course pretty obvious. This does not mean that defeats are never talked or written about, but clearly they don't have the same level of coverage as the victories. And, as pointed out this is hardly an "English" thing. When I visited the naval museum in Toulon I was hardly unable to walk through the museum because of all the 1805 memorabilia on show.... in fact it appeared to me, from what was exhibited in the museum, that French naval history ended in the late 1700's.......

The second point is the following from Dr David Davies. He may of course have made other comments and so what appears here is out of context, but if so then this is the BBC so I would expect what is said below to feature prominently.

"The problem is that our naval history inevitably focuses on the wars we won and the great heroes who fought in them," said historian Dr David Davies.

"By any criterion, it's one of the worst British defeats of all time.

"Personally, I'd say it's important to know about it in this country as an antidote to triumphalism - the idea that English, and then British, history has been a largely unbroken succession of victories.

"Nothing brings home that message more clearly than an attack which brought enemy ships right into the heart of the country's main naval base, and which saw the fleet flagship towed away as a trophy."

Firstly, if he thinks this is "the problem" then he hasn't been paying attention. "The problem" is that history is not taught properly and so the vast majority of people in this country - and no, not just the millennials - have no idea that Trafalgar even took place, let alone Medway. So to them, there is no sense of triumphalism brought about by only reading about/being told about victories - because they aren't even aware.

Triumphalism, as manifested for example, by the intellectually challenged, that chant WWII 'stuff' at football matches is partly a product of poor teaching leading to a warped view of history. So is there a place for a country to be taught about the errors, the mistakes, the lost battles, the poor campaigns? Yes of course understanding what went wrong is important - we learn more from mistakes than victories - but it would be nice if the victories and what went right, was sometimes celebrated too.

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 10:37:40 AM   
E

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: stuart3
Most know little, if anything, of either.

So why, out of those (only) two options do you think The English would rather remember the Dutch defeat over the Danish victory? Do you think that preference you theorize, would be driven by Revenge? Shame? Proof for separatism? Lack of national pride?

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 11:37:35 AM   
stuart3

 

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I didn't say that they would rather remember either.

The invasion of neutral Denmark in 1807 was considered a controversial, shameful and unpopular action even in Britain, and the fact that it even happened was a mark of just how desperate Britain was at the time. Napoleon had just effectively conquered the whole of Western Europe, and the Treaty of Tilsit with Russia combined with the reverse blockade of the Continental System threatened to destroy Britain's economy. The last thing Napoleon needed to do to achieve this was to invade Denmark, take over their very considerable fleet, and use it to block British access to the Baltic. Britain preempted that move by demanding that the Danes surrendered their fleet to British protective custody for the duration of the war and sent a fleet and army designed to be big enough to intimidate the Danes into compliance. Instead, the Danes stubbornly resisted and the British forces were effectively left with the choice of crushing a brave but poorly trained and equipped militia and following that up with a two day bombardment of Copenhagen's civilian population or else sailing away and eventually having to surrender to Napoleon.

No one nowadays thinks of Holland as a feared enemy. I don't think anyone ever thinks of the Medway battle any more than they think about being invaded by Caesar's and then Claudius' legions.

Personally, I have a vague memory of the Medway Raid being covered in history lessons back in my schooldays, but I don't think I learned about the Copenhagen bombardment until much later in life.



< Message edited by stuart3 -- 6/10/2017 12:07:58 PM >

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 3:24:22 PM   
Curtis Lemay


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I figure most historically-minded English are well aware of the Battle of Hastings - which resulted in them being lorded over by the Normans for about 400 years. Medway is just too obscure. I'd never heard of it.

We Yanks are fully aware of Pearl Harbor, but how many of us have heard of Savo Island?

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 3:34:13 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Curtis Lemay

I figure most historically-minded English are well aware of the Battle of Hastings - which resulted in them being lorded over by the Normans for about 400 years. Medway is just too obscure. I'd never heard of it.

We Yanks are fully aware of Pearl Harbor, but how many of us have heard of Savo Island?
warspite1

Part of the reason surely is that Pearl Harbor needs to be told or how does the US get involved in WWII? Equally, English/British history doesn't make sense without knowing the story of how Normans came to rule our land - how the hell did all those French words and names come about?

Without wishing to downplay what the Dutch achieved at Medway, it was insignificant in terms of telling our island story. By similar measure Savo Island was a defeat and not a story that needs to be recounted to those without a wish to learn about military history.



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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 3:44:06 PM   
altipueri

 

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Arnhem and Dunkirk are two of the most well remembered or commemorated incidents and both were failures.

Wellington's Peninsular campaign had brilliant victories. Most Brits couldn't name one of them.

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/10/2017 3:51:19 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: altipueri

Arnhem and Dunkirk are two of the most well remembered or commemorated incidents and both were failures.

Wellington's Peninsular campaign had brilliant victories. Most Brits couldn't name one of them.
warspite1

I disagree about Dunkirk. The French campaign was not just a failure, it was a total fiasco. But Dunkirk itself was a miracle and - because of the expected likely outcome - seemed like a miraculous victory, which, looked at in those terms, it was.

Sadly I don't think the average person in the street could name Arnhem anymore than he could Salamanca or Vitoria or Badajoz...


< Message edited by warspite1 -- 6/10/2017 3:52:04 PM >


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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/17/2017 7:56:01 AM   
Orm


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Thank you, zakblood, for sharing.

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RE: 350th anniversary of the battle of Medway - 6/19/2017 8:55:49 PM   
Lecivius


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There is a movie on Netflix called The Admiral. It is in Dutch, but is a very good film about this period.

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