Battle of Dogger Bank (1781)
The battle of the Dogger Bank was a naval battle that took place on 5 August 1781 during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, contemporaneously related to the American Revolutionary War, in the North Sea. It was a bloody encounter between a British squadron under Vice Admiral Sir Hyde Parker and a Dutch squadron under Vice Admiral Johan Zoutman, both of which were escorting convoys.
In December 1780, Great Britain declared war on the Dutch Republic, drawing it militarily into the American War of Independence. The Dutch had for several years been supplying the Americans and shipping French supplies to the Americans, in support of the American war effort.
The opening of hostilities with the Dutch meant that Britain's trade with countries on the Baltic Sea—where key supplies of lumber for naval construction were purchased—was potentially at risk, and that the British had to increase protection of their shipping in the North Sea. In order to accomplish this, the British began blockading the Dutch coast to monitor and intercept any significant attempts to send shipping into or out of Dutch ports, and began to protect merchant shipping convoys with armed vessels.
The Dutch were politically in turmoil, and were consequently unable to mount any sort of effective actions against the British. The result of this inaction was the collapse of their economically important trade. It was finally decided that a merchant fleet had to be launched. On 1 August 1781, Admiral Johan Zoutman led a fleet of some 70 merchantmen from the Texel, protected by seven ships of the line as well as a number of frigates and smaller armed vessels.
Admiral Sir Hyde Parker was accompanying a convoy of ships from the Baltic when he spotted the sails of the Dutch fleet at 04:00 on the morning of 5 August. He immediately despatched his convoy toward the English coast, and ordered his line to give chase rather than prepare for battle.:48 Zoutman, whose ships had been interspersed with the merchantmen, signalled his line to form in between Parker and the convoy.
The ships of Parker's fleet were not in the best of condition, since great demands were placed on the Royal Navy by the demands of the war, and all manner of ships were pressed into service, or did not receive necessary maintenance. Some ships were in such poor condition that the number of guns available to fire was reduced from its normal complement. The ships had had no time to practise the normal fleet manoeuvres.:46 In spite of this, Berwick and Parker's flagship Fortitude, both 74 guns, were both relatively new and in good shape. The Dutch fleet had not seen any significant action due to the British blockade.
With a calm sea and a breeze from the north-east, Zoutman manoeuvred his line onto a port tack, heading south-east by east, and awaited Parker, who held the weather gage. The British fleet closed, raggedly at first due to the poor condition of some of the ships, into a line of battle abreast in accordance with the signal raised at 06:10. Two ships were told to change places, which led to a mistake and placed the Dolphin against one of the largest Dutch ships and the Bienfaisant without an opponent.:48
When Parker raised the battle flag shortly before 08:00, for close action, the British fleet moved closer. Surprisingly, the Dutch ships did not fire as the British approached until the two fleets were about half a musket shot apart. Zoutman then also raised his flag and opened fire, raking the Fortitude with a broadside. Close action ensued, lasting for three hours and 40 minutes.:49 Around mid-morning, the Dutch merchantmen moved away from the action and headed back to Texel. At 11:35, Parker gave the signal to reform his line as the ships had become unmanageable. His fleet dropped to leeward and limped away from the Dutch.:50
Casualties on both sides were high, considering the number of ships involved. Fewer casualties were suffered, for example, in the battle of the Chesapeake, fought a month later between fleets more than twice as large. The British claimed 104 killed and 339 wounded, while the Dutch claimed 142 killed and 403 wounded. There were private reports that the Dutch casualties were actually much higher, possibly reaching 1,100. The Hollandia sank the same night. Her flag, which was kept flying, was taken away by the Belle Poule, and carried to Admiral Parker.
Both sides claimed victory although a tactical draw for no ships were captured and both convoys escaped. Strategical the battle was a however a British victory as the Dutch fleet retreated to Texel and did not leave harbour again during the war in addition their merchant trade remained crippled. At least one convoy did make it to the Baltic, but it flew under Swedish flags and was accompanied by a Swedish frigate.
Parker on his return considered that he had not been properly equipped for his task, and on arrival at the Nore, met King George III, telling him: "I wish Your Majesty better ships and younger officers. As for myself, I am now too old for the service".:52 He then resigned his command. The battle had no real impact on the general course of the war.
Order of battle
Ships of the line
Ships of the line
- Syrett p. 131
- Clowes 1898, p. 508.
- Allen 1852, p. 319.
- Edler 2001, p. 343.
- Davies 1851, p. 469.
- Edler 2001, pp. 169–176.
- Davies 1851, p. 468.
- Ross, Sir John. Memoirs of Admiral de Saumarez Vol 1.
- Davies 1851, p. 472.
- Allen, Joseph, Battles of the British navy, Volume 1 H. G. Bohn, London,(1852)
- Blok, Petrus Johannes. History of the People of the Netherlands
- Clowes, Sir William Laird (1898). The Royal Navy: a history from the earliest times to the present, Volume 3
- Davies, Charles Maurice. The history of Holland and the Dutch nation, Volume 3
- Edler, F. (2001) . The Dutch Republic and The American Revolution. Honolulu, Hawaii: University Press of the Pacific. ISBN 0-89875-269-8.
- Penrose, John (1850). Lives of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Vinicombe Penrose, K. C. B., and Captain Trevenen. J. Murray (publisher), Harvard University.
- Syrett, David (1998). The Royal Navy in European Waters During the American Revolutionary War Studies in maritime history. Univ of South Carolina Press. ISBN 9781570032387.
- Media related to Battle of Dogger Bank (1781) at Wikimedia Commons