Battle of Lowestoft
The Battle of Lowestoft on June 3 1665 (Old Style) proved a great victory for the English fleet against their Dutch enemies, but because of failure to follow it with an effective blockade the advantage was squandered. Worse, the Dutch learned more from their defeat than the English from victory, tipping the balance of naval power east across the North Sea.
Fought about 40 miles east of Lowestoft, the engagement involved very large numbers of ships and men: the English with 109 vessels had six more than the Dutch; the latter had more guns, however – but largely lighter pieces than those commanded by James Duke of York (the future James II ) backed by Prince Rupert and The Earl of Sandwich, each of those three heading a squadron. The Dutch admiral, Van Wassenaer, led one of seven squadrons, a factor of possible significance in the lack of coordination which plagued his force.
Van Wassenaer had been commanded to act aggressively; he seems to have delayed his move, however, until the wind would allow for rapid withdrawal. Wind changes and confusion saw the Dutch outmanoeuvred. Van Wassenaer was killed when his ship, exchanging broadsides with HMS Royal Charles, exploded. The Duke of York on board Royal Charles was luckier, a chain-shot that killed several companions missing him.
The Dutch fleet ran for safety, having lost 17 ships where the English lost two, both captured. Dutch dead outnumbered the 500 Englishmen lost by five to one. But James Stuart failed to give chase; and though a previous blockade had worked well, after Lowestoft that effectiveness was not in evidence.
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