Friday, 22 May 2020

Action in the Channel 1666 - Part 1

Dutch Wars Fleet Action With Form Line of Battle

Having painted up a load of merchant ships I wanted to do a convoy action, but given the number of ships I knew it would have to involve some off table movement. I set up a situation on the map with the convoy escorted by three squadrons under De Ruyter, Evertsen and Tromp attempting to pass through the Straits of Dover, unaware that the English fleet is out looking for trouble. Although the fleet sizes are similar, the English have the distinct edge with their larger ships and heavier guns.

Starting situation. English top right, Dutch bottom left.

Initial Moves

After 24 hours of sailing with mostly light winds, both fleets are becalmed and anchor for the night. At dawn the fleets are in sight of one another about 8 leagues SW of Beachy Head. A light north westerly springs up, giving De Ruyter the weather gage. Ayscue's White squadron is isolated to windward of the rest of the fleet and the Dutch bear down on him. Ayscue gives ground to leeward to allow the Red and Blue squadrons to come up and De Ruyter, not wanting to  be dragged too far from the convoy, calls off the attack and hauls up on the larboard tack.

After the English tack the White squadron is again isolated from the rest of the fleet. De Ruyter decides it's now or never. If he allows the English to form their squadrons in line they might be able to cut off the convoy's advance. If the English give too much ground, then the convoy will be able to slip past them and through the straits.

The Battle

Situation at about 07:10. De Ruyter and Tromp bear down on Ayscue, while Evertsen stays to windward to guard the convoy's flank.

About 07:30. (After scrolling the table). The Dutch continue to bear down on Ayscue, but struggle in the light airs. Albemarle's Red squadron is beating upwind to support. The blue squadron are still off table.
07:10. The fourth rate Yarmouth fires the first broadside at De Ruyters flagship De Zeven Provincien.

07:15. General engagement. De Ruyter and Tromp press the attack against Ayscue. The Red squadron tacks in succession.

The Weather Changes

 From 08:00 to 08:15 the wind backs to westerly and freshens. This changes everything. The weather gage is now contested as elements of Tromp's and De Ruyter's squadrons are now to leeward of the English. Worse, the convoy's current course means that the English can form line to leeward at their leisure and still be able to head it off. It's a precarious position and De Ruyter orders his fleet to haul up on the larboard tack and signals the convoy to come about on the opposite tack.

The situation at 08:15 seen from the Dutch side of the table (the NW). The wind is now westerly (diagonally from bottom right).

08:30. The convoy is now on the starboard tack heading out into the Channel.

08:35. Ayscues White squadron engage Tromp's retreating ships, with the Red squadron forming line in their wake. In the bottom left are two of Ayscue's damaged ships forming in the lee of the Blue squadron.

Sub Plot: the Frigates

While all this was going on there was an entertaining sideshow. The Yarmouth mentioned earlier, being the last in line of the White squadron, has borne the brunt of De Ruyter's attack. Dismasted and adrift but with her colours still flying, she is set upon by two Dutch frigates - the Nijmegen and Harderwijk.

Nijmegen runs aboard the Yarmouth and boards. Yarmouth surrenders. The prisoners are taken off and, unable to tow their prize away, the Dutch set fire to the crippled ship.
During this time Harderwijk attracts the fire of the Red Squadron passing to leeward. She catches fire and although the ship is saved the crew strike their colours.

The captain of the Defiant, unable to let a prize go unclaimed, sends a boat to take control of the Harderwijk. Note the burning remains of the Yarmouth top left. The fifth rate Sweepstakes (bottom right) lends support.
Ten minutes later the fire gets into Yarmouth's magazine and she explodes, just as Defiant's prize crew pulls up to the Harderwijk. Nijmegen has been keeping her distance to windward.

Nijmegen hurtles downwind and opens up on the boat, missing.

Sweepstakes goes about and gives the Nijmegen a good talking to. The prize crew scramble on board the battered Harderwijk and get her under sail.

Nijmegen comes alongside the captured ship and fires a broadside. The Harderwijk is reduced to a shattered wreck.
Sweepstakes continues to hammer the Nijmegen causing major crew casualties and bringing down her foremast. A fourth rate from Evertsen's squadron, the Stad Gouda, comes to assist and Sweepstakes yields, turning away to leeward.

The Fleets Disengage

The Dutch come about on the starboard tack and work upwind toward the convoy.

The final turn, viewed from leeward (east). Smith's Blue squadron tacks while the Red and White squadrons wear in succession to fall in behind him.

What's the Damage?


The White squadron has suffered the worst -
The fourth rate Yarmouth sunk
The third and fourth rates Gloucester and Happy Return have lost masts and their rigging is in shreds.
The fifth rate Oxford has serious fire damage.
The second rate Swiftsure and third rate Fairfax have come through relatively unscathed.

The Red squadron -
The third and fourth rates Dunkirk and Mathias have each lost a mast, but otherwise the squadron is intact.

The Blue squadron didn't manage to engage and so is untouched.


Van (Tromp) -
Four of Tromp's largest ships have had their batteries seriously reduced, and taken some hull damage.
Only the two fifth rates remain undamaged.
Centre (De Ruyter)
Three ships with light to moderate damage - De Zeven Provincien, Eendracht and Klein Hollandia.
Fourth rate Gouden Leeuwen severely damaged by fire, but with her rigging still undamaged.
Fourth and fifth rates Dordrecht and Nijmegen heavily damaged.
Fifth rate Harderwijk sunk.

Rear (Evertsen) -
All undamaged apart from the fouth rate Stad Gouda which has medium damage.


Both fleets will need to make running repairs, which I will have to make up some rules for. I have some vague ideas how it'll work. I suspect we'll then see a running fight with small pockets of damaged ships being picked off, and hopefully we'll have the merchant ships make an appearance on the table. Should be fun, but it'll have to wait for now as I have some other things to get on with. This one's going on the back burner for a week or two.


  1. Great looking action Matt! Love the big table and fleets! Also loving your map movement prior to contact. How did FLoB work? What campaign system did you use? Also what computer app?

  2. Thanks Peter. FLoB works ok, though a bit slow and painstaking with this many ships. Also I think the Dutch Wars rules were a bit of an afterthought. They need some tweaking of the gun classes to allow for the differences in armament.

    For campaign rules I was kind of winging it. Movement is just the same as the tactical game i.e. diced for, but in leagues instead of cm, and for whole squadrons rather than individual ships. I called each move 6 hours, but I realise now my sums were a bit off! I had a weather table based on a wind rose for the south coast, with a possibility of change every 6 hours. Tides were tracked simply by picking a modern date and looking up the tide tables for the nearest point on the coast (in this case Beachy Head).

    The app is Affinity Photo, but any layer-based graphics app will do.