Battle of Solebay

Coordinates: 52°24′N 1°48′E / 52.4°N 1.8°E / 52.4; 1.8
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Battle of Solebay
Part of the Third Anglo-Dutch War

The Burning of the Royal James at the Battle of Solebay, 28 May 1672 by Willem van de Velde the Younger
Date6 June 1672

Dutch victory[1][2][3]

  • Anglo-French invasion of the Dutch Republic prevented
 Dutch Republic  England
Commanders and leaders
Dutch Republic Michiel de Ruyter
Dutch Republic Adriaen Banckert
Dutch Republic Willem Joseph van Ghent 
Kingdom of England James, Duke of York
Kingdom of England Edward Montagu 
Kingdom of France Jean II d'Estrées
61 ships of the line
14 frigates
32 fire ships
22 smaller ships
4,500 guns
20,700 men[4][5]
80 ships of the line
13 frigates
24 fire ships
28 smaller ships
6,158 guns
35,000-40,000 men[6][5]
Casualties and losses
1 ship destroyed
1 ship captured
≈1600 sailors killed
4 ships destroyed
≈2500 sailors killed

The naval Battle of Solebay took place on 28 May Old Style, 7 June New Style[7][8] 1672 and was the first naval battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War.

The battle began as an attempted raid on Solebay port where an English fleet was anchored and largely unprepared for battle. They were then surprised by a Dutch fleet. The battle prevented a planned allied naval invasion of the Dutch Republic and boosted the morale of the Dutch population.

The battle[edit]

Overview of the battle by Van de Velde
French flagship Saint-Philippe at the Battle of Solebay

A fleet of 75 warships, 20,738 men and 4,484 cannon of the United Provinces, commanded by Lieutenant-Admirals Michiel de Ruyter, Adriaen Banckert and Willem Joseph van Ghent, surprised a joint Anglo-French fleet of 93 warships (sources vary), 35,000-40,000 men and 6,158 cannon at anchor in Solebay (nowadays just Southwold bay), at Southwold in Suffolk, on the east coast of England.[4][9] The Dutch had the weather gauge until their withdrawal.[10][11]

The Duke of York and Vice-Admiral Comte Jean II d'Estrées planned to blockade the Dutch in their home ports and deny the North Sea to Dutch shipping. The Dutch had hoped to repeat the success of the Raid on the Medway and a frigate squadron under Van Ghent sailed up the Thames in May but discovered that Sheerness Fort was now too well prepared to pass. The Dutch main fleet came too late, mainly due to coordination problems between the five Dutch admiralties, to prevent a joining of the English and French fleets. It followed the Allied fleet to the north, which, unaware of this, put in at Solebay to refit. On 7 June the Allies were caught by surprise and got into disarray when the Dutch fleet, having the weather gauge, suddenly appeared on the horizon in the early morning. The French fleet, whether through accident or design, steered south followed by Banckert's fifteen ships and limited its action to long-distance fire.[12][a] Nevertheless, the Superbe was heavily damaged and des Rabesnières killed by fire from Enno Doedes Star's Groningen; total French casualties were about 450.

This left the Dutch vanguard and centre to fight it out with the English, and the latter were hard pressed, as they had great difficulty to beat upwind to bring ships out.[b] The Duke of York had to move his flag twice, finally to London, as his flagships Prince and St Michael were taken out of action. The Prince was crippled by De Ruyter's flagship De Zeven Provinciën in a two hours' duel. De Ruyter was accompanied by the representative of the States-General of the Netherlands, Cornelis de Witt (the brother of Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt) who bravely remained seated on the main deck, although half of his guard of honour standing next to him was killed or wounded.

Lieutenant-Admiral Aert Jansse van Nes on the Eendracht first duelled Vice-Admiral Edward Spragge on HMS London and then was attacked by HMS Royal Katherine. The latter ship was then so heavily damaged that Captain John Chichely struck her flag and was taken prisoner; the Dutch prize crew however got drunk on the brandy found and allowed the ship to be later recaptured by the English.

The flagship of Admiral Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, HMS Royal James, was first fiercely engaged by Lieutenant-Admiral Van Ghent, who in 1667 had executed the Raid on the Medway, on Dolfijn. Van Ghent was however killed by shrapnel. Then captain Jan van Brakel made his Groot Hollandia attack to the Royal James, incessantly pounding the hull of that ship for over an hour and bringing her into such a condition that Lord Sandwich considered to strike his flag but decided against it because it was beneath his honour to surrender to a mere captain of low birth. He then ordered sloops from other ships to board the Groot Hollandia; his upper deck soon swarming with Englishmen Van Brakel was forced to cut the lines and retreat between friendly vessels to drive the boarding teams off. The Royal James now drifted away, sinking, and was attacked by several fire ships. She sank two, but a third, Vrede, commanded by Jan Daniëlszoon van den Rijn, its approach shielded by Vice-Admiral Isaac Sweers's Oliphant, set her on fire. She burnt with great loss of life; Sandwich himself and his son-in-law Philip Carteret drowned trying to escape when his sloop collapsed under the weight of panicked sailors jumping in; his body washed ashore, only recognisable by the scorched clothing still showing the shield of the Order of the Garter.

During the battle the wind shifted, giving the English the weather gauge, and in the late afternoon the Dutch withdrew.

Losses were heavy on both sides: one Dutch ship, the Jozua, was destroyed and another, the Stavoren, captured, a third Dutch ship had an accident during repairs immediately after the battle and blew up. The battle ended inconclusively at sunset.

In a strategic sense, it can be seen as a Dutch victory as it deterred Anglo-French plans to blockade Dutch ports and land troops on the Dutch coast.[c] Tactically both sides sustained heavy damages; two English ships were sunk, including the fleet's flagship the ‘’Royal James’’, as well as two French ships sunk. The Dutch also lost two large ships, in addition to many fire ships.

The fleets met again at the Battle of Schooneveld in 1673.

Ship list[edit]

Not all fireships are listed; there were about 24 of them on the Allied, 36 on the Dutch side.

England and France (The Duke of York and Albany)[edit]

White Squadron (French) Guns Captain
Terrible 70 (Rear Admiral Abraham Duquesne)
Illustre 70 Marquis de Grancey
Conquérant 70 M. de Thivas
Admirable 68 M. de Beaulieu
Téméraire 50 M. de Larson
Prince 50 Charles Davy, Marquis d'Amfreville
Bourbon 50 M. de Kervin
Vaillant 50 Chevalier de Nesmond
Alcion 46 M. Bitaut de Beor
Hasardeux 38 M. de la Vigerie
Saint Phillippe 78 (Vice Admiral Jean II, Comte d'Estrées; cp. M. Pierre de Cou)
Foudroyant 70 M. Louis Gabaret
Grand 70 M. Gombaud
Tonnant 58 M. Des Ardents
Brave 54 Chevalier Jean-Baptiste de Valbelle
Aquilon 50 Chevalier d'Hally
Duc 50 Chevalier de Sepville
Oriflamme 50 M. de Kerjean
Excellent 50 M. de Magnon
Eole 38 Chevalier de Cogolin
Arrogant 38 M. de Villeneuve-Ferriere
Superbe 70 (Chef d'escadre Des Rabesnières, killed in battle)
Invincible 70 Comodorre de Verdille
Sans-Pareil 66 M. de la Clocheterie
Fort 60 Comte de Benac
Sage 50 M. Anne Hilarion de Contentin, Comte de Tourville
Heureux 50 M. Francois Panetie
Rubis 46 M. de Saint Aubin d'Infreville
Galant 46 Chevalier de Flacourt
Hardi 38 M. de la Roque-Garseval
Red Squadron (English) Guns Captain
London 96 (Vice Admiral Edward Spragge)
Old James 70 John Haywood
Resolution 70 John Berry
Dunkirk 60 Francis Courtney
Monck 60 Bernard Ludman, killed in battle
Monmouth 70 Richard Beach
Royal Katherine 86 John Chicheley
Dreadnought 62 Arthur Herbert, 1st Earl of Torrington
Adventure 44
Dartmouth 32 Richard Sadlington
Supply 6
Prince 100 (James Stuart, Duke of York and Albany, Lord High Admiral; First Captain John Cox, killed in battle, Second Captain John Narborough)
St Michael 96 Sir Robert Holmes
Victory 82 Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory
Cambridge 70 Frescheville Holles, killed in battle
York 64 Thomas Elliot, killed in battle
Fairfax 60 George Legge
Yarmouth 54 Robert Werden
Portland 50 Thomas Guy
Diamond 50 Thomas Foulis
Phoenix 40 Richard Le Neve
Robert 26
Charles 96 (Rear Admiral Sir John Harman)
Rainbow 64 James Storey
Revenge 62 John Hart Sr.
Greenwich 60 Levi Greene
Anne 58 John Waterworth, killed in battle
Advice 50 Dominick Nugent
Dover 48 Sir John Ernle (or Ernley)
Forester 40 Henry Killigrew
Blue Squadron (English) Guns Captain
St Andrew 96 (Rear Admiral John Kempthorne)
French Ruby 80 Thomas R. Cole
St George 70 Jeffrey Pearce, killed in battle
Warspite 70 Richard White
Gloucester 62 William Coleman
Bonaventure 48 Richard Trevanion
Antelope 48
Success 32 George Watson
Royal James 100 (Admiral Sir Edward Montagu, Earl of Sandwich (killed in battle); Captain Richard Haddock)
Henry 82 Francis Digby, killed in battle
Edgar 72 John Wetwang
Rupert 66 John Holmes
Montagu 62 Thomas Darcy
Leopard 54 Peter Bowen
Crown 48 William Finch
Falcon 40 Charles Montague
Alice & Francis 26 George Yennes, killed in battle
Royal Sovereign 100 (Vice Admiral Sir Joseph Jordan)
Triumph 74 Willoughby Hannam, killed in battle
Unicorn 68 Richard James
Mary 62 John Brooks
Plymouth 60 Sir Roger Strickland
Princesse 54 Sir Richard Munden
Ruby 48 Stephen Pyend
Mary Rose 48 William Davies
Tyger 44 John Turner

The Netherlands (Michiel de Ruyter)[edit]

Admiralty of Amsterdam Guns Captain
Akerboom 60 Jacob Teding van Berkhout
Woerden 70 Jacob Binckes
Jaersveld 48 Nicolaes de Boes
Stad Utrecht 66 Jan Davidszoon Bondt
Callantsoog 70 Hendrik Brouwer
Stavoren 48 Daniël Elsevier
Amsterdam 60 Anske Fokkes
Provincie van Utrecht 60 Jan Pauluszoon van Gelder
Dolphijn 82 Lt-Admiral Willem Joseph, Baron van Ghent (killed in battle), Flag-Cpt Michiel Kindt
Gouda 72 Schout-bij-Nacht Jan de Haan
Leeuwen 50 Jan Gijsels van Lier
Reigersbergen 72 Commodore Jacob van Meeuwen
Gideon 58 Pieter Middelandt
Essen 50 Philips de Munnik
Waesdorp 72 Francois Palm
Steenbergen 68 Jan Roetering
Deventer 60 Engel de Ruyter
Agatha 50 Pieter Corneliszoon de Sitter
Oosterwijk 60 Volckert Hendrikszoon Swart
Olifant 82 Vice-Admiral Isaac Sweers
Beschermer 50 David Swerius (Sweers)
Oudshoorn 70 Tomas Tobiaszoon
Komeetstar 70 Hendrik van Tol
Kruiningen 56 Balthazar van de Voorde
Edam (frigate) 32 Jacob Willemszoon Broeder
Bommel (frigate) 24 Pieter Klaaszoon Dekker
Asperen (frigate) 30 Barent Hals
Damiaten (frigate) 34 Jan Janszoon de Jongh
Popkensburg (frigate) 24 Mattheus Megank
Haas (frigate) 24 Hendrik Titus, Graaf van Nassau
Overijssel (frigate) 30 Cornelis Tijloos
Postijljon (frigate) 24 Roemer Vlacq
Brak (frigate) 24 Cornelis van der Zaan
Egmond (advice yacht) 10 Jan Bogaart
Triton (advice yacht) 12 Huibert Geel
Kater (advice yacht) 8 Jan Kramer
Walvis (advice yacht) 12 Jan Klaaszoon van Oosthuys
Eenhoorn (advice yacht) 10 Jacob Stadtlander
Kat (advice yacht) 12 Abraham Taelman
Galei (advice yacht) 12 Marcus Willemszoon
Velsen (fireship) ? Hendrick Hendricksen
Windhond (fireship) ? Willem Willemsen
Beemster (fireship) ? Hendrick Rosaeus
Sollenburg (fireship) ? Jan Janssen Bout
Draak (fireship) ? Pieter van Grootveldt
Leydtstar (fireship) ? Sybrant Barentsen
St. Salvador (fireship) ? Andries Randel
Sollenburgh (fireship) ? Klaas Pietersen Schuit
Admiralty of de Maze (Rotterdam) Guns Captain
De Zeven Provinciën 80 fleet flag, Lt-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, 1st Lieutenant Gerard Callenburgh
Wassenaer 56 Philips van Almonde
Groot Hollandia 60 Jan van Brakel
Gelderland 64 Laurens Davidszoon van Convent
Zeelandia 44 Jan de Laucourt
Maagd van Dordrecht 68 Vice-Admiral Jan Evertszoon de Liefde
Reigersbergen 72 Jacob van Meeuwen
Schieland 60 Nicolaes Naalhout
Eendracht 76 Lt-Admiral Aert Janszoon van Nes
Ridderschap van Holland 66 Schout-bij-Nacht Jan Janszoon van Nes
Dordrecht 50 Barend Rees
Delft 62 Gerolf Ysselmuyden
Utrecht (frigate) 36 François van Aarssen
Schiedam (frigate) 20 François van Nijdek
Harderwijk (frigate) 24 Mozes Wichmans
Faam (advice yacht) 12 Cornelis Jacobszoon van der Hoeven
Rotterdam (advice yacht) 5 Wijnand van Meurs
Gorinchem (fireship) 4 Dirk de Munnik
Vrede (fireship) 2 Jan Daniëlszoon van den Rijn
Swol (fireship) ? Abraham Schryver
Eenhoorn (fireship) ? Pieter Besançon
Admiralty of the Noorderkwartier Guns Captain
Alkmaar 62 Klaas Anker
Wapen van Holland 44 Cornelis Jacobszoon de Boer
Jupiter 40 Jacob de Boer
Gelderland 56 Maarten Jacobszoon de Boer
Jozua 54 Jan Dick
Justina van Nassau 64 Jan Heck
Westfriesland 78 Johan Belgicus, Graaf van Hoorne
Wapen van Nassau 62 Peiter Kerseboom
Caleb 48 Jan Krook
Noorderkwartier 60 Jan Janszoon Maauw
Pacificatie 76 Vice-Admiral Volckert Schram
Drie Helden Davids 50 Claes Corneliszoon Valehen
Wapen van Medemblick 46 Hendrik Visscher
Wapen van Enkhuizen 72 Schout-bij-Nacht David Vlugh
Wapen van Hoorn 62 Claes Pieterszoon Wijnbergen
Helena Leonora (fireship) ? Pieter Syvertsen Bokker
Admiralty of Zeeland Guns Captain
Walcheren 70 Lt-Admiral Adriaen Banckert
Kampveere 50 Adriaan van Cruiningen
Zierikzee 60 Vice-Admiral Cornelis Evertsen de Jonge
Zwanenburg 44 Cornelis Evertsen de Jongste
Middelburg 50 Willem Hendrikszoon
Oranje 70 Schout-bij-Nacht Jan Matthijszoon
Vlissingen 50 Salomon Le Sage
Visscher Harder (frigate) 26 Barent Martenszoon Boom
Delft (frigate) 34 Simon Loncke
Ter Goes (frigate) 34 Karel van der Putte
Bruinvisch (advice) 6 Cornelis Hollardt
Zeehond (advice) ? Anteunis Matthijszoon
Zwaluw (advice) 6 Karel de Ritter
Middelburgh (fireship) ? Willem Meerman
Prinsje (fireship) ? Cornelis Ewout
Hoop (fireship) ? Antony Janssen
Admiralty of Friesland Guns Captain
Elf Steden 54 Wytse Johannes Beyma
Prins Hendrik Casimir 70 Schout-bij-Nacht Hendrik Bruynsvelt
Westergo 56 Yde Hilkeszoon Kolaart
Groningen 70 Vice-Admiral Enno Doedes Star
Vredewold 60 Christiaan Ebelszoon Uma
Oostergo 62 Jan Janszoon Vijselaar
Windhond (frigate) 34 Joost Michelszoon Kuik
? (advice yacht) ? snauw, Pieter Pauw

In popular culture[edit]

  • The battle is described in verse, as if in an eyewitness account seen from the coast at Dunwich, in the ballad "A Merry Song on the Duke's late glorious Success over the Dutch", which appears in print (apparently taken from a broadside ballad) in the Suffolk Garland of 1818.[15]
  • Leeds Central Library has a 50 ft (15m), step by step, pictorial record of the sea battle which dates from around 1910. It is based on contemporary parchments and also features scenes depicting the Battle of Texel. It forms part of the Gascoigne collection.[16]
  • The battle is described in the novel "An Affair of Dishonour" published in 1910 by William de Morgan who was also an artist in glass and ceramics. A wounded survivor becomes an important character in the story.[17]
  • The Battle of Solebay forms the historic background to children's adventure novel The Lion of Sole Bay, the fourth book in the Strong Winds series by Julia Jones[18]
  • The Adnams Brewery created a beer, named Broadside, in commemoration of the battle's tercentenary.[19][20]

In his novel, “The Black Tulip”, Alexandre Dumas refers to the historical role of Cornelius de Witt in the battle. (Chapter 2, “The Two Brothers”)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mahan comments in defense of d'Estrées manoevre: "...both the English and Ruyter thought that the French rather avoided than sought close action. Had d'Estrées, however, gone about, and attempted to break through the line of experienced Dutchmen to windward of him with the still raw seamen of France, the result would have been as disastrous as that which overtook the Spanish admiral at the battle of St. Vincent a hundred and twenty-five years later, when he tried to reunite his broken fleet by breaking through the close order of Jervis and Nelson.[12]
  2. ^ Mahan comments: "The truth ... is that the Duke of York, though a fair seaman, and a brave man, was not an able one; that his fleet was not in good order and was thus surprised; that his orders beforehand were not so precise as to make the French admiral technically disobedient in taking the opposite tack from the commander-in-chief, and so separating the squadrons; and that Ruyter profited most ably by the surprise he had himself prepared, and by the further opportunity given him by the ineptness of his enemies."[13]
  3. ^ Admiral Mahan commented: "The substantial results of Solebay fight were wholly favorable to the Dutch. The allied fleets were to have assisted the operations of the French army by making a descent on the coast of Zealand. Ruyter's attack had inflicted an amount of damage, and caused an expenditure of ammunition, which postponed the sailing of the fleet for a month; it was a diversion, not only important, but vital in the nearly desperate condition to which the United Provinces were reduced ashore. It may be added, as an instructive comment on the theory of commerce-destroying, that after this staggering check to the enemy's superior forces, Ruyter met and convoyed safely to port a fleet of Dutch merchantmen".[14]


  1. ^ Hannay, David (5 September 2022). A Short History of the Royal Navy, 1217 to 1688.
  2. ^ Firth, Robert (February 2013). Beat the Drum Slowly. ISBN 9781456608408.
  3. ^ Grant, R. G. (3 May 2010). Battle at Sea 3000 Years of Naval Warfare. Dorling Kindersley Limited. p. 138. ISBN 9781405335058.
  4. ^ a b Blok 1928, p. 321.
  5. ^ a b Van Nimwegen 2020, p. 116.
  6. ^ Blok 1928, p. 320.
  7. ^ "Battle of SOLEBAY". Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2007.
  8. ^ "Battle of Solebay". 14 March 2007. Archived from the original on 14 March 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  9. ^ John A. Lynn, The Wars of Louis XIV: 1667-1714 (Longman Publishing: Harlow, England, 1999) p. 113.
  10. ^ "Battle of Solebay, 7 June 1672". Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  11. ^ "Southwold at War - The Battle of Sole Bay". Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  12. ^ a b Mahan, p. 147
  13. ^ Mahan, pp. 147-148
  14. ^ Mahan, pp.148-149
  15. ^ J. Ford (ed.), The Suffolk Garland: or, A Collection of Poems, Songs, Tales, Ballads, Sonnets and Elegies (&c.) (John Raw, Ipswich/Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, London 1818), pp. 143-46 (Google).
  16. ^ "Leeds: Step-by-step account of Battle of Solebay is unveiled". BBC News. 28 January 2023. Archived from the original on 28 January 2023. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  17. ^ William de Morgan, An Affair of Dishonour. Heinemann, London, 1910. Chapters 7 and 8.
  18. ^ "The Lion of Sole Bay by Julia Jones" book review on The Bookbag website, viewed 2013-10-17
  19. ^ "Adnams Broadside". Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  20. ^ "Adnams Broadside (Bottle)". Retrieved 22 July 2020.


52°24′N 1°48′E / 52.4°N 1.8°E / 52.4; 1.8