Jan van Brakel

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Rear Admiral Jan van Brakel

Jan van Brakel (ca. 1638 – 10 July 1690) was a Dutch Rear Admiral who distinguished himself on many occasions during the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch wars and the Nine Years War. Almost nothing is known about Van Brakels early career; we know neither his year of birth (estimates have varied from 1618 till 1642) nor his backgrounds. It used to be thought that he was the son of Commodore Pieter van Brakel, who was killed in the Second Anglo-Dutch War while defending a convoy of merchant ships, but this has become very unlikely now that we know Pieter van Brakel was himself born in 1624.

The first time Van Brakel appears in the documents is in 1666 when he was appointed by the Admiralty of de Maze (Rotterdam) as acting captain (with the rank of lieutenant) of a fireship, the Rotterdam, that participated in the Four Days Battle. Apparently he already had been a lieutenant in 1665. Fireships were often manned by the most desperate elements in society; the humility of his origins might explain the fact they were never mentioned. At the St. James's Day Battle, having spent another fireship and returning with his crew in sloops, he saved the Gelderland, the flagship of Lieutenant-Admiral Willem Joseph van Ghent from an attack by an English fireship. Because of the courage shown he was on 22 September 1666 promoted captain of a regular ship, which was rare for a fireship commander. In 1667, while in command of the frigate Vrede, he became one of the heroes of the Raid on the Medway and was given the honourable task of triumphantly towing the captured English flagship Royal Charles out of the Medway River. The same year he was promoted full captain on 17 December.

In 1672 at the Battle of Solebay (the first battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War), van Brakel served as captain of the Groot Hollandia, and played a major part in the burning of the HMS Royal James. In 1673 he continued to fight with distinction at the battles of the Schooneveld and Texel, as captain of the Voorzichtigheid.

On 5 April 1684 he was promoted to Rear Admiral for the Admiralty of Amsterdam); four years later he, as a temporary Vice-Admiral (from October 1688 till January 1689), was part of the fleet that brought William III to England in the invasion that led to the Glorious Revolution. From 1688 forward he served on the amalgamated Anglo-Dutch fleet until he was killed in the Battle of Beachy Head. His grave memorial is in the St. Laurens Church in Rotterdam.

The Hr.Ms. Jan van Brakel was a Dutch naval vessel (frigate) named after him.