Fox, Frank L.


Press of Sail Publications, Rotherfield, Sussex, 1st.ed., 1996. Xiii + 425 pp., 22 cold. plates + 279 b&w ills. D.j., 32 x 25cm. FINE. On Friday, 1st June 1666, a large English fleet met an even larger Dutch fleet at the mouth of the Thames and joined battle. No victor had emerged by nightfall so battle resumed next morning and the two fleets pounded away at each other all day, still with no decisive result. Sunday witnessed intermittent exchange of fire, and on Monday the two fleets all but knocked each other to pieces. That afternoon, the outnumbered English ships withdrew from what many historians consider having been the greatest sea-battle in the history of fighting sail. The fight has always been clouded in considerable controversy and speculation which explains why it has taken over 300 years for a full assessment of the battle to be published in England. In 1666, England was at war with both the Netherlands and France. The English were mistaken in their belief that the French were at sea to join the Dutch, this led to the unfortunate decision to weaken the English fleet by dispatching a strong squadron to counter a threat that was not there. By the time Prince Rupert returned to reinforce the Duke of Albemarle on the final day of battle, it was too late to make a difference and de Ruyter prevailed. The author tackles the controversy straight-on and answers many of the questions surrounding the affair. He also unravels earlier accounts of tactics and manoeuvres, finally settling even minor disputes such as the strength of the opposing fleets and where the action actually took place. There are several surprises such as the hitherto little-suspected role of Ireland in the division of the fleet. Doubts on some aspects remain un-answered but most of the vex questions and myths are finally laid to rest. A work of outstanding scholarship, the book is beautifully illustrated with 22 coloured plates and 279 black & white illustrations. A FINE copy of a SCARCE and important work.

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