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Battle of Kentish Knock

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Battle of Kentish Knock - Slag bij de Hoofden


8 October 1652

28 September 1652 (OS)


On the afternoon of 28 September, the Dutch were near the Kentish Kngock, a sandbank in the Thames Estuary when they sighted Blake's fleet of 68 men-of-war approaching from the south. Blake, flying his flag in the Resolution, had the advantage of the wind and led the attack on the Dutch line. As Blake broke through, de With tacked to the south trying to gain the wind, only to be attacked by Vice-Admiral Penn's squadron. The battle became a confused mêlée, with ships engaging in individual combat, rather than a concerted fleet action. The action began at about 5 p.m. and lasted for three hours until darkness brought it to an end. One Dutch ship was sunk and another captured but many were badly damaged because of the superior firepower of the English fleet. Some 20 Dutch ships held back from joining in the action because of discontent among their crews. The following day, de With was unable to persuade his captains to re-engage. Blake chased the retreating Dutch fleet for two days until they found refuge at Goeree.


The Fleets at The Battle of Kentish Knock
The English Fleet

The Van Squadron of Vice-Admiral William Penn

Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes

Speaker54John CoppinFlagship

Lion50Charles Saltonsal
Portsmouth38William Brandly
Nonsuch40Thomas PenroseFlagship of John Mildmay

The Main Squadron of Admiral Robert Blake

Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes


The Rear Squadron of Rear-Admiral Nehemiah Bourne

Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes

Andrew56Thomas GravesFlagship

Foresight42Samuel Howett
President40William Graves
Ships of unknown Squadrons

Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes

James66John Gilson
Sovereign90Nicholas Reed
Triumph60Andrew Ball
Vanguard58John Mildmay
Convertine44John Lambert
Garland44Robert Batten
Advice42John Day
Diamond42William HillFlagship of Rear-Admiral Roger Martin

Pelican42Joseph Jordan
Ruby42Anthony Houlding
Assistance40John Bourne
Assurance40Benjamin Blake
Dragon40John Stokes
London40John StevensHired Merchantman

Richard and Martha40Eustace SmithHired Merchantman

Anthony Bonaventure36Walter HoxtonHired Merchantman

Hound36John Golding
Hercules34Zachariah BrowneHired Merchantman

Lisbon Merchant34Simon BaileyHired Merchantman

Convert32Isias Blowfield
Mary Flyboat32William Younger
Exchange30Henry TeddimanHired Merchantman

Giles30Henry ToopeHired Merchantman

Cullen28Thomas GilbertHired Merchantman

Prudent Mary28Benjamin SalmonHired Merchantman

Advantage26William Beck
Falmouth26John Jeffreys
Sampson26Edmund Button
Martha25Stephen JayHired Merchantman

Golden Dove24Hired Merchantman

Old Warwick24William Godfrey
Pearl24James Cadman
Acorn22Hired Merchantman

Cygnet22Phillip Holland
Little President22Thomas Sparling
Nightingale22John Humphreys
Gift pink16Hired Merchantman


Renown10Nathaniel MeadFS

Dolphin30William Badiley
The Dutch Fleet

Ship's NameGunsCommanderNotes

Prins Willem56Jacob GaeuwVOC ship, Flagship of Admiral Witte de With


Henriette Louise48Pieter Marcuszoon
Vrede42Commandeur Gideon de Wildte
Aartsengel Michiel40Emmanuel Zalingen
Graaf Willem40Jan Gideonsz Verburch
Groningen40Abraham van der Hulst
Vogelstruis40Douwe Auckes
DNS Vrede40Pieter Salmonszoon
Prins te Paard38Corstiaen CorstiaenszoonHired Merchantman

Drie Koningen36Lucas AelbrechtszHired Merchantman

Engel Gabriel36Isaak Sweers
Prinses Louise36

Zeelandia36Nicolaes Marrevelt
Hollandia32Albert Claesz de Graeff
30Johannes van Regermorter
Amsterdam30Sijmon van der Aeck
Amsterdam30Adriaan Kempen
Faam30Cornelis Loncke
Gorichem30Captain Jan Jacobsz van Nes
Gouden Leeuw30Jacob Adriaansz PenssenHired Merchantman

Haes in t Veld30Bastiaan SentsenHired Merchantman

Liefde30Frans Crijsz Mangelaer
Maria30Claes Sael
Wapen van Enkhuizen30Gerrit Femssen
Witte Lam30Cornelis van HoutenHired Merchantman

Arke Troijane28Abraham van CampenHired Merchantman

Breda28Adriaan Bruynsveld
Wapen van Zeeland30Cornelis Evertsen de Oude
Campen40Joris van der Zaan
Faam28Jacob Andriesz SwartHired Merchantman

Gelderland28Cornelis van Velsen
DNS Gouda28Jan Egbertsz Ooms
Leiden28Cornelis Cornelisz Jol
Prins Maurits28Cornelis Pietersz Taeman
Sint Francisco28Stoffel JuriaenszoonHired Merchantman

Sint Pieter28Jan Jansz van der Valch
Star28Jacob Paulusz Cort
Westergo28Tijmen Claeszoon
Witte Lam28Cornelis van HouttenHired Merchantman

Zeeridder28Gillis Janszoon
Zutphen28Ewout Jeroenszoon
26Abraham van der Hulst
26Ruth Jacobsz BuysHired Merchantman

26Adriaan Banckert
Dubbele Arend26Allert JanszoonHired Merchantman

Kasteel van Medemblik26Gabriel Antheunissen
Sint Jan26Laurens Pensier
Ter Goes26Cornelis Kuijper
Achilles24Dirk Schey
Alkmaar24Gerrit Nobel
Gelderland24Laurens Degelcamp
Gouden Leeuw24Gillis Thyssen Campen
Hector van Troijen24Reinier Sekema
Hollandsche Tuin24Hillbrandt JeroenssenHired Merchantman

Monnick24Arent Dirckszoon
Dordrecht17Pieter Gorcum
Frisia?Schelte Wiglema
HollandiaPhilips Joosten
EnkhuizenGerrit Femssen
AmsterdamDirck DirckszoonFireship

EenhoornLaurens JosiaszoonFireship

Graaf SonderlandtHendrick JanszoonFireship


Vale HaanPieter MarcuszFireship

Vergulde BuysAry CorneliszoonFireship

VosJan JacobszoonFireship

Jacob JanszoonFireship

Description of the Action taken from Clowes' The Royal Navy Vol II

The English fleet that had collected from the westward, with the exception of some of Ayscue's ships which were refitting, joined the force in the Downs, and weighed to seek the Dutch early on the morning of September 28th, 1652. The force passed the North Foreland with a fresh westerly breeze; and at about noon the Dutch hove in sight. The wind shifted to the south-west and fell light, and the greater part of Blake's fleet was left some distance astern, " by reason of their late weighing from the Downs." Blake, in the Resolution, and Penn, the vice-admiral, were well up with the enemy, who were standing west close-hauled on the port tack; but as some little time would elapse before Bourne, the rear-admiral, could come up with the rest of the fleet, Blake refrained from attacking. The enemy, meanwhile, was hove-to close under the lee of the Kentish Knock, which lies at the north-east end of the Long Sand, about fifteen miles north-east from the North Foreland. The English came upon them somewhat as a surprise and de With, having no time to hold a council of war, had to rest content with sending advice vessels round the fleet. Nevertheless, his position was one of strength, the ships being drawn up so close to the shoal that there was little chance of the English weathering them without grounding. Just before the action de With was seen to leave his own ship, a forty, and go on board the largest of the East Indiamen, which mounted fifty-six guns. The Brederode, Tromp's old ship, was in the fleet, but her crew refused to receive the new admiral on board, and showed a spirit which boded ill for any chance of Dutch success. The Dutch fleet was organised in four squadrons: De Ruijter had the van, W C de With the centre, R. de Wildt the rear; and J Evertsen, with the fourth, formed a reserve. de With held the chief command, but De Ruijter also wore his flag at the main, in virtue of the independent command which he had exercised before the junction.


As the vessels from astern drew up, Blake and Penn with the leading ships ran down to attack the Dutch van; "but," wrote Penn, " it pleased God to disappoint us, being aground upon a sand supposed the Kentish Knock. It was reasonable smooth, and for my part, I did not feel her strike. . . . The Sovereign was near musket-shot without us, and struck several times." Others of the heaviest ships also grounded, while yet others held on with Blake. The fight in the van was hot. Two Dutch ships were dismasted at the outset. de With, whether to come to a general engagement the sooner or to avoid for a time the two or three heavy ships with Blake, whose course was taking him somewhat to leeward, tacked all together and stood south. As the Dutch came up with the English rear, Penn and the ships with him contrived to cast free from the shoal and fell in amongst them, thus turning to advantage what had threatened to be a grave mishap. To quote Penn again: “We were forced to tack our ship to clear ourselves of the sand; and, indeed, it fell out better for doing execution upon the enemy, than we could have cast it ourselves; for, as the Dutch fleet cleared themselves of our General, he standing to the northward and they to the southward, we fell patt to receive them, and so stayed by them till the night caused our separation."


Penn, together with Bourne, completed what Blake had begun. By night the Dutch were beaten and discouraged, yet de With had no thought of retiring. .He could not return beaten to Holland without forfeiting his command, and he was, in addition, a man of that stubborn type which is very slow to recognise defeat. Unhappily, his captains were not all of the same way of thinking, and many of them chose the occasion to exhibit their political prejudice. In the morning it was found that some twenty of them were at a distance to eastward of the fleet; and though further action was contemplated, these men refused to come within range. A council of war was held, and de With was eager to re-engage, although De Ruijter and Evertsen, men of known valour and reputation, did their best to prevent his risking the safety of the vessels that remained with him. They pointed out that many of the ships were crippled, and that so many men had been lost as seriously to impair their efficiency; and they spoke also, doubtless, of the disaffection existing in the fleet.


Early in the day the wind was light and treacherous, so that the English were unable to bring on more than a partial engagement; but when, at about noon, a northerly breeze sprang up in favour of the Dutch, they were able easily to avoid coming to close quarters, and though for a while " they seemed to stay," at about three they set their mainsails, and what else they could carry, and made for their own shores. The English followed, but drew off at nightfall lest they should get among the shoals of the Dutch coast. In the morning the Dutch were hull down, and as it seemed impossible to come up with them, it was determined by a council of war to return to the Downs for victuals, of which there was great need.


The actual duration of the engagement can have been little more than three hours, and it is not to be expected that very many ships were captured. The English loss was singularly slight, both in men and in ships, but the Dutch had, not unnaturally, been far more roughly treated. Two vessels at least were taken, of which one, the Mary, of 30 guns, served through the rest of the war in the English Navy. The second, also a 30-gun ship, was found to be so riddled with shot that she could not be kept afloat, and was consequently abandoned and allowed to sink.

General Blakes letter to the Couincil of State, read in Parliament 5th October 1652

Right Honourable, My last to your Honours was the 28th of the last in the morning. About noon that day we got sight of the Dutch fleet standing close by a wind to the westward, the wind then at S.W. Between 3 and 4 in the afternoon they got their fleet together, being sixty sail, and hauling their foresails upon their masts made ready to fight. There was then by me the Vice-Admiral and some others; but a great part of the fleet was astern by reason of their late weighing in the Downs, which I supposed was occasioned by the late storm we had there. As soon as a considerable part was come up to us, the Dutch then tacking, we bore in right with them, their Admiral in the head. I commanded no guns to be fired till we came very near them, so that there passed many broadsides between us and them, and by means of their tacking the greatest part of our fleet came suddenly to be engaged, and the dispute was very hot for a short time, continuing till it was dark night. That night we lay in sight of each other, refitting our ships, which were much torn. The next morning, being little wind and variable, we bore with them as fast as we could, they seeming a while to stay for us till afternoon; then, the wind coming northerly, they made all the sail they could, and stood away to the eastward towards their own coast. We followed them as much as possibly we could. They then having the wind of us, many shot passed between some of our headmost ships and their stern fleet, but nothing could engage them. Then, it beginning to grow dark, we tacked to get our fleet together, and, if we might, get the weather-gage. And being then half channel over, it was advised by the captain, master, and mates, the pilot, and others to lie close upon that tack till ten of the clock, that so we might have length enough to spend that night, presuming likewise that they would tack before the morning, which would again have brought us together if the wind had stood. But it pleased God that it proved but little wind that night, which was westerly. The next morning the wind came at S.W. and from the topmast head we discovered their fleet, and stood away after them, many of our frigates ahead of us, some so far that they saw West Gabbard. Then, perceiving they fled from us as fast as they could, and bent their course for Goeree, it growing less wind, I sent for the Vice and Rear-Admirals, and also a great part of the captains, being then come aboard for the supply of some necessaries, we advised together what was fittest to be done. And it appearing that the merchant ships were all much the most part altogether out of victuals, and ours unable to supply them, it was resolved that we should return to our own coast. What harm we have received by loss of men or otherwise I cannot yet give your Honours a just account. In our ship we have only three that we know slain, whereof our Lieutenant-Captain Purvis is one, about twenty hurt, which is a great mercy of God, considering the multitude of shot flying among us, and our nearness to each other in the fight. We are also bound with much thankfulness to acknowledge the Lord's goodness towards us in affording us such fair weather and smooth water at our engagement, otherwise many of our great ships might have perished without a stroke from the enemy, for both this and the James touched once or twice, and the great ship had 3 or 4 rubs upon the Kentish Knock. What loss the enemy had sustained we know not. Three of their ships were wholly disabled at the first brunt, having lost all their masts, and another, as he was towing off the Rear-Admiral, was taken by Captain Mildmay; and the second day they were many less in number than the first. The Rear-Admiral and two other captains are prisoners, who say that they conceive by the striking of de With's ensign, and the putting forth another of a blue colour, that he is slain. This is a true and faithful narrative of the Lord's dealing with us, and of our deportments in the late engagement.


Yesterday was brought into our company a vessel called the State of Elbing, bound for Bordeaux, the master whereof, upon examination, says that about 14 days since, three leagues off the Skaw, he met 18 sail of our men-of-war, being about 23 leagues from Elsinore, and that there were in that port, upon his coming out, but eight Holland men-of-war.


Most of our merchant ships being out of victuals I shall, I believe, be necessitated to send them into the river, where, if it please your Honours to give order for their revictualling, or else at Harwich or Yarmouth, some of them may be fit for the northern guard, in answer to your Honours commands so often received. There be many also of the States' ships whose commanders do complain very much of their defects, as the Pelican, Guinea, Ruby, the latter having lost her head. I am also informed that the Andrew is very much maimed in her masts and yards in the last engagement, and will scarce be fit to continue out much longer. Upon survey I shall speedily give your Honours a more perfect account both of her and the rest, as also of other things, in the meantime humbly recommending your Honours to His Divine grace and blessing, myself, and our weak endeavours to your favourable judgments remain,


Right Honourable,


Your Honours' most humble and faithful servant,




De With and Ruyter commanded the Dutch fleet that was to the westward, each of them wearing a flag on the maintop.


From aboard the Resolution, off the North Foreland,

October 2, 1652.


  • These lists are probably incomplete



B024Memorials of the Life and Times of Sir William Penn - Vol IGranville Penn
B029The Royal Navy - Vol IIWilliam Laird Clowes
B046The First Dutch War - Vol IISamuel Rawson Gardiner Ed

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