In 1666 during the second Anglo-Dutch War the Royal Navy broke through the siege of the Thames in the Battle of North Foreland.
The First Anglo-Dutch War was fought between the Dutch and Oliver Cromwell’s English Republic. England was victorious and had established itself as a formidable naval force against the most powerful naval fleet of the time.
After the Death of Oliver Cromwell on the 3rd of September 1658, and the failed Successive leadership of his son Richard, Charles II was invited to return to England and Claim the throne of the UK once more. Charles returned to the throne on the 29th of May 1660 and hostilities between the Dutch and England grew once more.
By the 4th of March 1665 War broke out once more and while the Dutch had created a new fleet supported by new trade roots, the English were under much more financial constraints. In 1665 the Great Plague of London took a massive toll on the war effort and killed 100,000 Londoners. Further to this on the 2nd of September 1666 the “Great Fire of London” broke out and raged for three days. This again took a huge financial toll on the UK and led to the majority of the Capitals residents being made homeless.
Victory of the first conflict of the second Anglo-Dutch war went to England in the Battle of Lowestoft on the 13th of June 1665 who destroyed many of the Dutch ships. The Dutch soon replenished its lost ships, financed from its spice trade in the Far East. The Dutch Navy continued to grow in the fastest ship production program to date and an added threat revealed itself with the French plan to join with the Dutch against the English. A small English fleet was sent to tackle the French while a larger fleet was sent to destroy the Dutch before they became un-manageable. The English fleet of just 56 ships confronted the 84 strong Dutch fleet. On the 1st of June 1666 the huge “Four Day Battle” began and both fleets gave their all until no ammunition remained. The English had lost 10 ships while the Dutch lost just 4. By the 4th the Dutch had set up a blockade just outside the Thames Estuary, trapping the Royal Navy inside.
On the 25th of July 1666 (using the Julian calendar as used by the English at the time or 4th of August using the Gregorian calendar) the Battle of North Foreland or St James’ Day Battle began. As with many naval battles of the day the correct weather conditions and wind direction could make or break a fleet. The English Fleet of 89 ships were heading towards North Foreland with a fair wind behind them. The wind changed and the fleet changed course to match it. The Dutch fleet had begun to pursue the English but when the wind changed the Dutch fleet found themselves without any acceleration. They were sitting ducks while the English were heading towards them and with the combined firepower of the fleet they opened fire on the Dutch fleet one ship at a time. The Dutch lost many men but only two ships were sunk. Nevertheless the English won the battle and returned home. Soon a year of peace and negotiations began which was drawn out by both sides attempting to broker a better deal. The Dutch continued their huge ship building program while the English finances were ravaged by plague and fire. Finally on the 9th of June 1667 a Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames destroying the Royal Navy’s main Fleet as it was docked in Chatham. 13 British ships were destroyed and two, HMS Unity and HMS Royal Charles were captured by the Dutch. The defeat led to more favourable terms for the Dutch in the Treaty of Breda and was the worst defeat the Royal Navy had suffered.