insideKENT Magazine Issue 61 - April 2017 - Page 58

VISITKENT

A DATE WORTHY OF YOUR DIARY :

THE BATTLE OF MEDWAY CELEBRATIONS

IN JUNE 1667 THE BATTLE OF MEDWAY WAS IN SAMUEL PEPYS ’ DIARY . PERHAPS THE 350TH ANNIVERSARY OF THIS WORLD-CHANGING EVENT SHOULD BE IN YOURS . AMY WOODLAND FROM VISIT KENT EXPLAINS WHY …
This summer a series of events , exhibitions and cultural activities have been planned to mark the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway . Culminating in a spectacular pageant on the river that is likely to attract thousands of people , the programme is a fitting commemoration of a huge naval event that shaped British and world history . Given those facts it is surprising that so many people know so little about this significant battle in Kent .
At the time , news of the Battle of Medway , also known as The Dutch Raid , travelled fast and the events were recorded by Britain ’ s most famous diarist , Samuel Pepys . For those who know little of the history , his words provide a clue as to why the event has not always been proudly remembered . He wrote : “ All our hearts do now ake ; for the newes is true , that the Dutch have broke the chaine and burned our ships .”
It was June 1667 . The English and Dutch were embroiled in a war , the second of an eventual four , over trading routes and colonies . The Dutch fleet , under the command of Lieutenant Admiral Michiel de Ruyter , carried out a daring raid on the British fleet as they were lying at anchor on the River Medway at Chatham . In the ensuing battle , defensive fire from Upnor Castle did not stop the Dutch fleet capturing two ships including the English flagship , the Royal Charles . It was taken to Amsterdam where its coat of arms remains on display at the city ’ s Rijksmuseum today . Other ships were set alight , engulfing the Medway river in flames and , to avoid the Dutch fleet capturing more English ships , the Royal Navy sank some of its own vessels . Although the Dutch ships had broken through the defensive chain , they withdrew without reaching Chatham Dockyard , almost certainly their primary objective .
The defeat on the Medway was seen as humiliating . It sent shockwaves across England with many fearing that it was the start of an invasion or assault on London itself . In fact , this defeat brought the second Anglo- Dutch War to a conclusion . It also led to the rebuilding of both the English Fleet and
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