Part 32: February 6 Broadcast
You are listening to BBC radio 4. In an hour, we will be presenting a special on holidays in New Zealand as the local holiday of Waitangi dawns. For the next hour, Professor David Stephenson will be presenting a documentary on the second 80 years war of the eighteenth century. This series will be running every third day, up to 50 episodes. If you want news of the current war in the Middle East please channel in to BBC radio 1.
Good evening, and welcome to BBC radio 4. Im Professor David Stephenson, professor of Dutch historical studies at Cambridge. This is the thirty-second part of our 50 episode special on the second 80 years war over Europe. Joining me for these broadcasts are fellow researchers and scholars Doctor Albert Andrews, specialist in German studies from the Berlin academy, Professor Robert Lowe, specialist in French studies at Cambridge, and a graduate student and technical assistant, Anton Thatcher. Last week we discussed the Dutch finally making land fall on the shores of Britain.
The Dutch had landed a feint to the west hoping to draw the British forces while the Dutch landed the guard south of London. Even so, the second battle of Bristol had not concluded, occurring on the same day as the Dutch landings. As the guard came ashore, Crieckenbeecks forces pushed into a British force of over six thousand men. Aware of only three thousand, Crieckenbeeck was forcing his army forward foot by bloody foot into the British artillery.
Dutch forces continue to push through the British forces, but are being rapidly worn down.
The battle had been going moderately for Crieckenbeeck, killing over a thousand British, but losing approximately the same of his own. It looked as though the British forces that were constantly falling back were down to approximately the same strength the Dutch were, but the British reinforcements were coming straight into the Dutch left flank.
The Dutch line is rearranged crossing the former position of the British. The British forces which had fallen back and to their left were still off in the distance, manoeuvring to guarantee their reinforcements would appear on the Dutch flank.
While a disoriented and confused British artillery train moved straight into the Dutch line and was gunned down, confused that the main British line had displaced Northward, and that the Dutch had moved into their former position, the following British reinforcements were more aware, forming a second line on the Dutch left. These grenadiers were countered by Dutch cavalry, but had cut through the entire Dutch cavalry force.
The Dutch were fortunate enough to catch a disoriented British artillery train appearing as reinforcements.
The Dutch cavalry swarm the isolated British grenadiers to hold off the advancing flanking reinforcements. The British grenadiers gallantly kill the entire Dutch cavalry contingent by themselves, even as they were surrounded from all sides.
The Dutch were then put on the back foot, the British pushing forward their infantry in waves to overwhelm and destroy the Dutch army. After the British had put the Dutch into the defensive and shattered their left, they moved forward in a powerful central charge. This charge broke through their lines, killing most of their forces.
The British sensing weakness charge the Dutch lines. Outmatched and without secure flanks, the Dutch are pushed back.
The Dutch managed to continually pull back and rally their lines, turning to fight wherever the British had overstretched their lines, but soon thereafter, the British lines would form up and push the Dutch back again. Often, even equivalent British numbers were proving superior to the Dutch infantry, in many places because the British grenadiers were facing line infantry, but the British line infantry were overwhelming the Dutch as well. The desperation of defending their homelands seemed to help the British keep the Dutch at bay.
The first line of Dutch defenders are overrun. While their reinforcements were positioned to take their place, these reinforcements were too battered to win the fight.
Dutch reinforcements pulled into the fray to replace the retreating battalions, but these reinforcements were often below half strength. Some were down to as few as a quarter of their optimal strength meaning the new Dutch line, formed essentially where they had started the battle was incredibly weak. These thin lines were quickly crushed, but as those reinforcements were put forward, the remnants of Crieckenbeecks army managed to retreat. Numbering only a few hundred survivors, the Dutch had lost at Bristol, as they had expected.
More Dutch troops came in to cover the retreating army of Crieckenbeeck, and even managed to repel a few battalions of British assailants that had overextended, but they were few in number. They too were soon overrun.
The British, detecting a ruse rushed forces back to London, but could not move most of their forces back. Small remnants of their army around Bristol which could not make it to London finished off the shattered forces of Crieckenbeeck. The more western fragment was run down without much ceremony as they tried to flee to the sea, hoping the Dutch fleet would still be within hailing distance, instead, they were forced to turn and fight but were butchered by the British cavalry.
Dutch forces which managed to retreat from the battle of Bristol are hounded and run down by British cavalry.
Crieckenbeeck however, had a much more courageous last stand. With scarcely seventy men left with him, they lined up along a shallow hill. Their lone howitzer fired as often as they could as the entire British army approached. The few Dutch defenders moved to form a pair of back to back lines around Crieckenbeeck and their howitzer. The British didnt attack all at once, but instead surrounded the Dutch forces. Crieckenbeecks last words were reportedly a retort to British demands to surrender which went If you bring me back dead, well be made immortal in the House of Somerset. Make a hero of us, and let the Dutch celebrate me in the streets of a conquered London.
Crieckenbeeck's last stand.
As the British forces slowly closed in, the cavalry led the charge in, followed by innumerable infantry. Crieckenbeeck fought the British regiment of horse along with his line infantry while their grenadiers held the front line. The melee was brutal, swarms of British red pouring over the Dutch blue. Crieckenbeeck himself accounted for many of the British cavalry and infantry, but a bayonet punctured his lung as the grenadiers broke. Only five men were captured, the remainder were dead. Twice their number had been killed.
Crieckenbeeck fighting off the British. While he had been considered a middling general before, he was immortalized as a hero after his last stand.
Crieckenbeeck was indeed correct. His sacrifice was well publicized in Amsterdam and the Dutch forces moving towards London were well moved by his actions, even if only because his last stand drew away forces that could otherwise have strengthened the defenses at London.
British forces were still spread across the south and west of England, which gave the Dutch an opportunity to attack London.
The general sent to London itself was not actually a Dutchman. Born in Cologne after the conquest of the Rhineland, Heinz Schafter was the general leading the Dutch into London. A firm pawn of the republican party who was directly responsible for his promotion to general, he was sent to London when he should have been sacrificed in place of Crieckenbeeck, who like Vrooman, favoured the Orange party, even though he was paid primarily by the V.O.C. Thus, his superior political connections won him the more prestigious task which Crieckenbeeck paid his life for.
The city of Cologne and the surrounding towns were old, wealthy and heavily industrialized cities. Though with a fraction of the population and land of France, Cologne was a fair contender in terms of economy.
Much like Vrooman, Crieckenbeeck was from the American theatre, and did not have the same political clout or skill as the European officers. Schafter on the other hand, had grown up in Amsterdam despite his German birth, and his father, uncle and brother were all wealthy industrialites, each firmly entrenched in the politics of Amsterdam, financing and backing many Republican ministers. The Rhineland was one of the most influential provinces in the Empire by population, possessing far more industry than their population would suggest, and so the exceedingly wealthy factory owners very often held more sway even than their French competition. This gave Heinz Schafter far more political backing than the relatively low born Vrooman, even though the latter was far more experienced in military matters.
While Vrooman was fond of Florida, Crieckenbeeck was more accustomed to the even more lax region of Cuba leaving him ill prepared for the politics of continental Europe.
This meant the force attacking London was relatively poorly led. Certainly, the Dutch could have eventually found a superior general that the Republican party had backed, but Schafter was found in less than a month before the assault departed. He led the Dutch blue and Holland guard, as well as many more generic line infantry and howitzers. The entirety of their lines numbered two and a half thousand men, and with the destruction of Crieckenbeecks forces, they were without reinforcements. The British by contrast had a one and a half thousand garrison with thousands of men prepared to either reinforce London, or take it back if necessary. Schafter would have to take London without many losses to his forces.
Schafter travelled with his forces to the east of London before attacking giving him more time before the British reinforcements could arrive and stopping them from arriving to his rear if they did.
On the other hand, as his troops pulled up to the fortifications around London, Schafter was aware that the British would be sending an indeterminable number of men to lift the siege of London, prompting him to assault the walls directly and without delay. While the Dutch normally preferred waiting for the garrison to sally forth, to die of abandonment and attrition, or to surrender, the Dutch were forced to scale the walls before they had even bombed the forces along the walls with quicklime shells. While the artillery had been set up, and were firing onto the walls, they did so as the infantry advanced instead of waiting for the British forces to be weakened dramatically.
The Dutch blue guard and ornate Holland guard prepared for battle in the rain.
This meant the walls were lined with over a thousand English soldiers rather than a few hastily armed denizens of urban London. The blue guard of Amsterdam and the Holland Guard moved across the left flank while the remainder of the line infantry swept up the right of the British wall. The British hoping to scatter the weaker element of the Dutch army, and perhaps demoralize the remaining Dutch troops fired primarily into the line infantry rather than the guard, though it was possible that the British infantry were afraid of the returning blue guard who had taken London before.
The British atop their walls can see the Dutch advancing through the rain. Both forces had opted on focusing on a single side of the fortress rather than spreading across the entirety of the structure.
Attacking in pouring rain, the Dutch advanced into range. The weather made finding purchase on the edge of the British fortifications difficult, and hundreds of Dutch were killed as they came over the top. The guard however made it safely atop the walls, moving rapidly into the courtyard.
Dutch infantry were rushed as they made the wall. The press of British soldiers made headway near impossible.
There, the Holland guard found themselves running against the British life guard of horse which forced them into square. They had hoped to rush the artillery emplaced within the British fortress, to prevent the constant patter of grape shot being fired onto the battlements, but could not push past the British guard cavalry.
The Dutch Holland guard find themselves charged by the British life guard of horse. While the Holland guard could have pushed past a normal squad of the regiment of horse or of hussars, the life guard forced them into squares.
The walls of the British were being slowly overrun by the Dutch assailants. Though the Dutch initially had difficulties in pushing onto the walls, once they had secured just a small foothold, their numbers were able to make space along the battlements, then finally taking the walls. The British had expected this however, and blew apart several of the British walls that were lined with the Dutch attackers, killing dozens of them.
The British collapse one of their own walls, killing the Dutch who had taken it.
But with the walls completely taken, the rest of the Holland Guard and the blue guard could safely move down to the courtyard, pushing back the rest of the life guard of horse and letting the Dutch destroy the British cannons. Sensing the end, the Dutch blue guard moved to secure the fortress center, raising the Dutch flag. The remaining British guard cavalry charged straight for them, but were pulled down and killed, unable to match the blue guard, and securing London for the Dutch.
The Dutch guard can take the courtyard en masse after taking the walls, pushing back the last of the British defenders.
Once again the Blue guard paraded down the streets of England, but unlike the last time, it was not to the jubilation of the masses. Unlike the conquest under William the third, this assault wasnt to overthrow a catholic tyrant to restore the proper rule to the throne. In this war, the Dutch were to take over England, destroy her allies and take her colonies. The English populace was in a state of revolt, and worse, much of the English army remained intact. Unless two thousand men could be sent to England, the Dutch would not be capable of holding it. Schafter would burn London to the ground and depart from Portsmouth back to Rotterdam.
The blue guard taking London.
The taking of London however was a momentous occasion for the Dutch. In Amsterdam, the press was declaring the war over and won. The soldiers and men who were fond of the army touted Crieckenbeeck as a national hero, the wealthy elite raised their toasts to Schafter, but all agreed that the Dutch were nearing true peace. All those that is, except the politicians, generals and soldiers.
Schafter was in a state of panic. Outnumbered at least two to one, and with reports of tremendous support from Edinburgh in the form of newly raised Highland battalions to retake London, he was considering himself to be well out of his league. Even if London was raised and the Dutch guard made their way to the sea, every port was filled with British ships. Even if the army forced them from port, there was no guarantee that the Dutch would break through the navy with enough time to extract him and his forces, and worse yet, with every port occupied by the British, the Dutch could receive absolutely no reinforcements until the blockades had been broken, and a port taken.
Schafter was in control of London, but not England. The British had lost their main hub and their politicians were forced to retreat to Edinburgh, but England itself was still loyal to the British crown.
Their only consolation was in the power of the guard and the strength of the British fortifications. It was possible that the Dutch could throw back a British assault. What he feared most was that the British would starve out his forces or force a sally, dispensing the advantage of their fortifications. Either way, he hoped desperately that the navy would break through to relieve him, or send more men. Meanwhile, the countryside simmering with discontent was preparing a revolt. Locked in London, the Dutch could do nothing to stop the populace from arming, and armed rebels marched the roads from city to town with complete confidence, training and rallying more men and even building cannons.
Much of the Dutch army was kept encamped and fortified from within the Somerset house. Dutch forces moved in battalion strength to try and control London, but were severely strained.
While the Dutch celebrated in the streets of Amsterdam, France, Cologne, Seville and even as far as Mysore for the end of the war, the truth was vastly different. With the odds of holding England diminishing by the day, the Dutch were starting to consider ways to defeat England without having to hold London. Even as the war was celebrated, construction of new guns, cannons, ships and uniforms continued apace, and the Dutch recruited dozens of men every day.
Next Professor Wilkins will be discussing indigenous holidays in New Zealand. In half an hour, we will be presenting world news before returning to Shakespeare for the rest of the evening. If you want news of the current war in the Middle East please channel in to BBC radio 1. David Stephenson will be presenting more on the 80 years war in 3 days.