Order of battle at the Battle of Camperdown

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Amid a bank of thick smoke, parts of five sailing warships can be seen. The clearest one is in the act of firing into another, which has lost its masts. In the foreground, a boat and wreckage float on choppy waters.
The Battle of Camperdown, William Adolphus Knell, pre-1875, National Museums Scotland

The Battle of Camperdown was an important naval action of the French Revolutionary Wars, fought off Camperduin on the North Holland coast on 11 October 1797 between a British fleet under Admiral Adam Duncan and a Dutch fleet under Vice-Admiral Jan de Winter. The French Republic had overrun the Dutch Republic two years earlier, reforming it into the Batavian Republic. In early 1797, the Dutch Navy was ordered to sail to Brest and unite with the French Atlantic Fleet in preparation for an invasion of Ireland.[1] Shortly afterwards, the British fleets were paralysed by the Spithead and Nore mutinies, in which the sailors refused to take their ships to sea until they were awarded better pay and conditions.[2] For two months, the English Channel was undefended, but the Dutch failed to take the opportunity to sail from their harbour in the Texel: their preparations were not complete, and a small squadron of loyal British ships under Duncan convinced de Winter that the British fleet was at sea by sending nonsensical signals to fictitious ships over the horizon.[3]

By October 1797, the plan to attack Ireland had been abandoned and the British North Sea Fleet was again at full strength. During a brief period replenishing supplies at Yarmouth, news reached Duncan on 10 October that the Dutch had sailed on a raiding cruise and he returned to the Dutch coast, intercepting de Winter's fleet on its way back to the Texel.[4] The Dutch formed a line of battle in shallow coastal waters to meet Duncan's attack, which was conducted in a confused mass, the British fleet separating into two groups that struck the vanguard and rear of the Dutch fleet,[5] overwhelming each in turn and capturing eleven ships, including de Winter's flagship Vrijheid.[6] On the return journey, three of the captured ships were lost, and none of the surviving Dutch prizes was ever suitable for active service again.[7] Both sides suffered heavy casualties during the battle as each fleet had been trained to aim at the hulls of their opponents, maximising the damage to personnel.[8]

Although the sailors of both fleets fought hard, they were suffering from popular unrest; the mutinies in Britain continued to overshadow the Royal Navy, while the Dutch sailors were unhappy with French dominion and, in marked difference to their officers, were generally supporters of the exiled House of Orange.[9] In addition, the Dutch were disaffected and poorly trained due to the long months blockaded in their harbours, which made them inferior seamen and gunners when compared with the highly experienced British crews,[10] and the Dutch ships were more weakly constructed than their British counterparts with a shallower draught, a necessity in the shallow waters of the Dutch coast but a liability when fighting warships built for the open ocean.[11] The Dutch did, however, have the advantage of weight of shot, especially when their well-armed frigates and brigs are included statistically. Unlike their British equivalents, these lighter craft were intended to contribute in battle, covering the gaps in the line between their larger companions.[12]

Orders of battle[edit]

The ships in the orders of battle below are listed in the order in which they appeared in the respective battle lines. Listed in the casualties section are the totals of killed and wounded as best as can be established: due to the nature of the battle, Dutch losses were hard to calculate precisely. Officers killed in action or who subsequently died of wounds received are marked with a † symbol. As carronades were not traditionally taken into consideration when calculating a ship's rate,[13] these ships may have actually been carrying additional or fewer guns than indicated below.

  •       * Ships in this colour were captured during the battle

British fleet[edit]

Admiral Duncan's fleet
Ship Rate Guns Commander Casualties Notes
Killed Wounded Total
Windward division
HMS Triumph Third rate 74 Captain William Essington
29
55
84
Hull and masts damaged, ten guns dismounted
HMS Venerable Third rate 74 Admiral Adam Duncan
Captain William George Fairfax
15
62
77
Hull and masts very badly damaged
HMS Ardent Third rate 64 Captain Richard Rundle Burges  
41
107
148
Hull and masts very badly damaged
HMS Bedford Third rate 74 Captain Sir Thomas Byard
30
41
71
Hull and rigging badly damaged
HMS Lancaster Third rate 64 Captain John Wells
3
18
21
Lightly damaged
HMS Belliqueux Third rate 64 Captain John Inglis
25
78
103
Hull and rigging badly damaged
HMS Adamant Fourth rate 50 Captain William Hotham
0
0
0
Undamaged
HMS Isis Fourth rate 50 Captain William Mitchell
2
21
23
Lightly damaged
HMS Circe Sixth rate 28 Captain Peter Halkett
0
0
0
Not engaged in the action.
Leeward division
HMS Russell Third rate 74 Captain Henry Trollope
0
7
7
Lightly damaged
HMS Director Third rate 64 Captain William Bligh
0
7
7
Masts and rigging damaged
HMS Montagu Third rate 74 Captain John Knight
3
5
8
Lightly damaged
HMS Veteran Third rate 64 Captain George Gregory
4
21
25
Three guns dismounted, otherwise lightly damaged
HMS Monarch Third rate 74 Vice-Admiral Richard Onslow
Captain Edward O'Bryen
36
100
136
Hull and masts very badly damaged
HMS Powerful Third rate 74 Captain William O'Bryen Drury
10
78
88
Hull and masts badly damaged
HMS Monmouth Third rate 64 Captain James Walker
5
22
27
Lightly damaged
HMS Agincourt Third rate 64 Captain John Williamson
0
0
0
Very lightly damaged
HMS Beaulieu Fifth rate 40 Captain Francis Fayerman
0
0
0
Undamaged
Minor warships
HMS Martin Sloop 16 Commander Charles Paget
0
0
0
Not engaged in the action.
Rose Hired cutter 10 Lieutenant Joseph Brodie
0
0
0
Not engaged in the action.
King George Hired cutter 12 Lieutenant James Rains
0
0
0
Not engaged in the action.
Active Hired cutter 12 Lieutenant J. Hamilton
0
0
0
Not engaged in the action.
Diligent Hired cutter 6 Lieutenant T. Dawson
0
0
0
Not engaged in the action.
Speculator Hired lugger 8 Lieutenant H. Hales
0
0
0
Not engaged in the action.
Total casualties: 203 killed, 622 wounded
Source: Clowes, p. 326, James, p. 380

Dutch fleet[edit]

Vice-Admiral de Winter's fleet
Line of battle
Ship Rate Guns Commander Casualties Notes
Killed Wounded Total
Gelijkheid * Third rate 68 Commander H. A. Ruijsch 40 killed[14] Badly damaged and may have been dismasted. Captured at 15:10, later became HMS Gelykheid
Beschermer Fourth rate 56 Captain Hinxt   Unknown Lightly damaged
Hercules * Third rate 64 Commander Ruijsoort Unknown Hull very badly damaged and set on fire, mizenmast collapsed. Captured and became HMS Delft.
Admiraal Tjerk Hiddes De Vries * Third rate 68 Captain J. B. Zegers Unknown Badly damaged and ship may have been dismasted. Captured at 15:00, later became HMS Devries
Vrijheid * Third rate 74 Vice-Admiraal Jan de Winter
Commander L. W. van Rossum  
58 98 156[14] Hull very badly damaged and ship dismasted. Captured at 15:15, later became HMS Vryheid
Staaten Generaal Third rate 74 Rear-Admiral Samuel Story 20 40 60[15] Hull badly damaged, masts and rigging lightly damaged
Wassenaar * Third rate 64 Commander A. Holland   Unknown Damaged. First captured at 14:00, subsequently rejoined the combat and was captured again. Later became HMS Wassenaer
Batavier Fourth rate 56 Commander Souter Unknown Lightly damaged
Brutus Third rate 74 Rear-Admiral Johan Bloys van Treslong
Commodore Polders
10 50 60[15] Lightly damaged
Leijden Third rate 68 Commander J. D. Musquetier Unknown Lightly damaged
Mars Fifth rate razee 44 Commander D. H. Kloff 1 14 15[15] Mizenmast collapsed
Cerberus Third rate 68 Commander Jacobsen 5 9 14[15] Lightly damaged
Jupiter * Third rate 72 Rear-Admiral Hermanus Reijntjes dagger 61 killed[14] Hull and rigging severely damaged, main and mizenmasts collapsed. Captured at 13:45, later became HMS Camperdown
Haarlem * Third rate 68 Captain O. Wiggerts Heavy casualties Hull severely damaged and mizenmast collapsed. Captured at 13:15, later became HMS Haerlem
Alkmaar * Fourth rate 56 Captain J. W. Krafft 26 62 82[15] Hull severely damaged and ship dismasted in the immediate aftermath of the battle. Captured at 14:30, later became HMS Alkmaar.
Delft * Fourth rate 56 Captain Gerrit Verdooren van Asperen 43 76 119[14] Hull severely damaged. Captured at 14:15. Sank during journey to Britain with the loss of an additional 34 lives.[16]
Frigate line
Atalante Brig 18 Commander B. Pletsz Unknown
Heldin Fifth rate 32 Commander Dumenil de Lestrille Unknown
Galathée Brig 18 Commander Riverij Unknown
Minerva Sixth rate 24 Commander Eijlbracht Unknown
Ajax Brig 18 Lieutenant Arkenbout Unknown
Waakzaamheid Sixth rate 24 Commander Meindert van Nierop Unknown
Ambuscade * Fifth rate 36 Commander J. Huijs Unknown Captured but later driven ashore on the Dutch coast and retaken by Dutch forces
Daphné Brig 18 Lieutenant Frederiks Unknown Badly damaged
Monnikkendam * Fifth rate 44 Commander Thomas Lancester 50 killed[14] Badly damaged. Captured at 14:00 but subsequently wrecked on the Dutch coast
Haasje Advice boat 6 Lieutenant Hartingveld Unknown
Total casualties: 540 killed, 620 wounded
Sources: Clowes, p. 326, James, p. 381, Lloyd, pp. 145–150

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pakenham, p. 29
  2. ^ Gardiner, p. 165
  3. ^ Clowes, p. 325
  4. ^ Clowes, p. 326
  5. ^ Lloyd, p. 139
  6. ^ Padfield, p. 103
  7. ^ Clowes, p. 331
  8. ^ James, p. 71
  9. ^ Lloyd, p. 128
  10. ^ Padfield, p. 99
  11. ^ Gardiner, p. 179
  12. ^ James, p. 74
  13. ^ James, Vol. 1, p. 32
  14. ^ a b c d e Clowes, p. 330
  15. ^ a b c d e James, p. 381
  16. ^ James, p. 76

Bibliography[edit]