I’ve always been interested in history, enjoyed it at school and went on to do A-level history; I did a degree in History and English, and have continued to read about past events, visit sites of historical interest, watch and listen to programmes about the events which happened before I was born, or may parents, way back to the earliest human times. Obviously there are periods in history I know more about, but in general I would say that I pretty much know the course of the history of our country. There are some periods I never studied at school or for my degree – from about C13-C18 I have only a patchy knowledge, but in general (or for the purpose of the pub quiz!) I am OK on the main outline.
I guess I might possibly have heard of The Battle of Medway, but I would have to have a bit of a think to remember where the Medway ( in Kent) actually was, where it rose and where it entered the sea. As for when the battle took place, or who was involved in it, I am very ashamed to say I just had no idea. I might have guessed we fought against the French – wrong, I might have guessed it was in roughly the Tudor period – wrong, I would almost definitely have guessed that we won – resoundingly wrong!
The Battle of The Medway is also known as ‘The Dutch Raid’, and that gives you a great clue about who was attacking us! In the Netherlands it is called ‘Tocht naar Chatham’ – The Battle of Chatham, it took place in 1667 and it could be called one of the greatest fails in our naval history. The River Medway became a river of fire!
We have very dear friends in the Netherlands and we’ve always felt very at home there and feel that the Dutch people we have met are very similar in many ways to us. I knew that the Dutch Prince William of Orange became our King William III, and Vermuyden was erroneously supposed to have been responsible for drainage in the East Anglian fens, so I thought we had always had a peaceful relationship – not so! Four, yes four Anglo-Dutch Wars:
- 1652–1654 – First Anglo-Dutch War
- 1665–1667 – Second Anglo-Dutch War
- 1672–1674 – Third Anglo-Dutch War
- 1781–1784 – Fourth Anglo-Dutch War
In 1667 the Dutch captured a fort at Sheerness and then sailed up the Medway to Chatham, where they attacked the English fleet, captured England’s flagship the Royal Charles, and burned several other ships. Our Navy took defensive action by sinking about thirty more ships!! Military action saved the day, but the Dutch sailed away the victors! One result was that after that there was huge financial investment in the English navy, which became one of, if not the most powerful in the world.
In reading up about The Battle of The Medway, it’s been a puzzle to me, and to many other writers and reporters (reporters of the events to commemorate the event) that the battle is so unknown. Several people have written that it’s typical of ‘us’ to brag about our triumphs but to forget all about our defeats – well, I refute that. There is still hot debate about the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Invasion or the Norman Conquest, and even more about the events surrounding Dunkirk!
If you are in the Medway area – here are some links to events there: