Part 38: February 24 Broadcast
You are listening to BBC radio 4. In an hour there will be live coverage of the launching of the HMS King George, first in class of the new King George aircraft carrier. 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-eighth 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 episode we discussed the industrial and technological slowdown across the Dutch Empire, and by extension, the world.
1762 had come and gone. Britain and the Dutch had joint once again to discuss the terms of the ceasefire, but despite long term negotiations were not able to attain an actual peace treaty. Britain had hoped to receive Ireland in whole back from the Dutch at the cost of one million pounds in reparations, while the Dutch wished to maintain both Ireland and acquire Rupert's Land in Canada, but had not asked for monetary compensation. Though peace was not made in agreement, the Dutch did agree to sell the technology for threshing machines to the British for seven hundred forty thousand guilders, allowing the British the technology to show that they were willing to come to a suitable set of terms.
Rupert's Land itself would not have granted much in terms of wealth, but it would open up a resource which the Dutch had limited access to. Fur. The fur trade was controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company, which is the oldest living company in North America, and one of the oldest in the world. Part of taking Rupert's Land included Dutch control over the company, a major factor causing the British to decline.
The main point, which neither side was willing to discuss directly was the declaration of war on the British by the Prussians. The act was one of hot air, as the Prussians were reduced to a single small province of East Prussia, a single army, and no navy. They had hoped that the Dutch would move to assist, but as the Prussians were both the aggressors, and too far away to respond, the Dutch could not offer any military assistance.
The Prussians had lost Berlin, and were only barely keeping their independence against the Polish.
This put the Dutch into a state where they were technically at war with the British, and what was worse, as Poland and Prussia drew themselves into a war almost as destructive and long as the war between the United Provinces and Britain. It seemed inevitable that they would soon be back at war with Britain, but it was possible that the Dutch would end up fighting by proxy by assisting Prussia through Poland, while Britain assisted Poland from the sea.
Also of 1762 was the Dutch election. Quintens managed to secure a much more solid victory this time around, mostly thanks to the abolition of hundreds of minor parties cluttering the ballots. The 50 years act was working mostly as intended, but this did mean that the surviving minor political parties had become forces in their own right. The liberal party emerged with a particularly impressive one percent.
The liberal party was the precursor to the current party of the Netherlands, the VVD or People's Party for Freedom and Democracy. Their current head, and Prime Minister is Mark Rutte
Abroad, the Dutch were finding it difficult to maintain their staggering population. Now that the army was a far less lucrative job, and men to replace the fallen were no longer required, more and more men were crowding into the city, and unemployment had become a major problem. The Dutch needed a ploy to get these men off the streets. Never before had the Dutch so wanted to find an excuse to fight without thoughts of conquest.
State propaganda to entice the poor, uneducated and unemployed is considered by some to be an action used only by totalitarian regimes, but the truth is any nation at war needs it to win. Even Britain.
To this end, the Dutch began to pull men off the streets, drill them as best they could, and send them to America to fight rebel forces held by the weak European dictators who had emerged from the fall of France and Spain. These small dictators had held several small, poor cities, and the action was far from profitable, but at the very least it pulled out men from cities that were bursting at the seams.
Cities were becoming a horrid place to be, but often times, it was the only hope for a living for many. The army offered a life of glory, glamour and wealth, even though it gave a life of hard marching, near poverty and bloodshed.
The Dutch would not deploy these men to America however, and peace was not to last as long as they believed or hoped. In 1762, Poland, possibly at behest of the pope in Dutch controlled Rome, declared not just war on the Federation, but a crusade. The declaration was poorly made. The Dutch were backed by the Federation, the Ottomans, the member states of Hannover and Portugal and the controlled territory of Genoa. Over a quarter of the population which had been declared an ally of Islam were actually Catholics. However, as the pope had officially excommunicated them, few felt any particular reason to jump to his defence. Especially as the Dutch military were breathing down their necks.
The call to arms for a crusade. When calling for a crusade, one would have to rely on numbers of inexpensive men, and not of well trained soldiers.
Poland was not well equipped to manage the war with the Dutch by 1762. The problem with the declaration of a crusade against an excommunicated state was that they were often times slow to mobilize after the call. One of the major advantages of a crusade over a normal war was that it incited much of the population to go to war against the infidels, but these men would take time to move to the appropriate centers, and time to train for war. While many devout yet foolish men would undoubtedly take to the field as rabble, most others had enough sense of self preservation to at least ensure they were familiar with their firearms and basic formations.
An exception to the rule that the crusades brought the worst soldiers to the fore were the knightly orders, and other knights of the crusades. Often brutal murderers who sought to repent for their sins, or warrior monks who were meant to protect and heal the weak. However, the only surviving order of knights of the crusader states were the Knights of Malta, also known as the Knights of St. John, or the Knights hospitallers. These men were sorely antiquated, and by 1762, unfit to follow the Polish in their crusade. The other orders, the Teutonic knights of the kingdom of Prussia were sworn enemies of the Polish, and the Templar knights, which had been excommunicated and purged by the Vatican.
Anna Zofia the first was the Queen of Poland at the time. Her rule had started when she was younger when her brother Frederick the second had died. Unlike many second in line Queens who ruled in their dead siblings place, Anna Zofia had been brought up from a young age to become the Queen, as Augustus had not thought that he would survive line. He lived only to the age of 41, and even that was considered an accomplishment. Therefore, when Anna Zofia had taken the throne, she immediately proved to be competent, but even so, she found it more necessary to impose an iron will over her ministers. It was a combination of this iron hand, as well as her staunch Catholicism that encouraged her to lead the crusades against the Dutch.
Queen Anna Zofia the first of Poland.
Ironically, it was this religious zealotry that prompted Polands greatest ally, Russia to decline from entering the war. As followers of the Eastern Orthodox church, and not Catholicism, the Russians had no true desire to get involved in a religious war between two branches of Christianity. The limit of their support was a continued effort against the Ottoman Empire, the Dutch ally.
The Eastern Orthodox church had its roots in countries that were now the middle east, and had more similarities to Islamic architecture than Roman Catholic architecture. Despite this, they were long time enemies of the Ottomans, but not enough so that they were willing to attack the Protestants.
In a sense, the Russians were also indirectly assisting the Polish army. By fighting down the Ottomans, it removed the Dutch allies from the theater, leaving the Dutch alone to fight the Polish. By diverting a tremendous amount of man power in the form of the armies rallied to fight Russia, and due to an almost crippling inability for the Dutch to deploy their overwhelming navy to attack vulnerable Polish outposts, the Polish were able to bring their entire force to bear along one front, while the Dutch had to defend miles upon miles of vulnerable coastline from treacherous invaders and the Polish navy.
Poland was very secure, their only borders were exposed to either their firm ally, while the other was along their path of advance.
Massed along the border between Poland and the Western Atlantic Federation was the Hannover army to the North, though they inexplicably recalled their forces into Germany to fend off a more central attack. The Dutch had massed in Bavaria and Vienna directly to the West and South, ready to cross the border at a moments notice.
Hannover's movement left Berlin unchecked, and the Munich garrison potentially defending against attacks to both their ally to the North, and their own army in Bavaria.
Poland had risked their position on the ability to call up thousands of zealots to defend Catholicism to the last, and had positioned their troops defensively around Saxony, Warsaw and Moravia, meaning to engage in battle, the Dutch would have to siege and assault Polish fortresses. If the Dutch refused to do so, the odds were fairly high that the Polish would acquire a massive influx of infantry.
Worse still, the Dutch could not risk waiting out the Polish garrison. With a tremendous number of reserves around Gdansk and Vilnius, the Polish were well prepared to push back Dutch forces. On the other hand, the Polish could not have estimated the sheer power of the Dutch banker. While the Polish were hoping to mass recruit men with faith in their Lord God, the Dutch had a different god stamped on gold with which to recruit the masses. With industry suddenly crying out for the Dutch to stop pouring money into their businesses, lest the economy be left in ruins by even lower costs and even further saturation, the Dutch were left with hundreds of millions of guilders to invest in reinvigorating the military.
The Dutch recruit thousands in Amsterdam. These men were armed with the newest and best in weapons, and were trained in modern doctrine.
Of course, the Dutch had wanted to negotiate peace, but given the cause of war against them, peace could not easily be attained. At the very least, the Polish demanded freedom of the Vatican from Federation control, but in truth, even had the Dutch acknowledged that demand, it would have accounted for little. Once branded an infidel, the masses would not be willing to allow the Dutch peace until they had been destroyed.
The current situation for the Dutch was questionable. If they wished to advance on the Polish, the Dutch had merely three armies, and perhaps six thousand men to capture the Polish fortresses along the front. However, the Kingdom of Hungary, was only questionably out of the war. The Ottoman Empire was variably in control, or pushed out of Budapest, and they were variably in a state of peace and war.
Hungary was lost to the Ottomans on several occasions, but Rebels were reclaiming it and declaring their independence just as often.
When the crusade had been called, the Hungarians were both at peace with the Ottoman Empire and in control of Budapest, meaning the Dutch in Vienna were only capable of moving around to the Polish outpost with the risk that the Hungarians would attack or join the Crusade. As one of the few Catholic nations free of Dutch rule, the call to crusade was one that could very well appeal to the Hungarians.
The state of Hungary at the start of the Polish Crusade.
The force in Hannover had misunderstood the Strategic position of the Dutch, and had moved their forces South, rather than East to check the Polish in control of Berlin. This meant the force in Munich also could not advance, as they would find the Polish forces from Silesia, Berlin and Warsaw ready to counter attack, outnumbering the Dutch eight thousand to two thousand. While the guard had pulled off a similar feat in London, the Munich force was much less competent.
The Munich force was far from incompetent, but they were also not the cream of the crop like the Dutch guard. They could not fire as fast, withstand as much fire, or fight hand to hand as well as the Guard.
And so this means the Dutch were forced to accumulate more men before assaulting the Polish. With money to spend, rifles, artillery, foundries and thousands of line were brought up at great expense biting deep into the pockets of the Dutch Empire. The Dutch would have to draw up over five thousand men, and could train approximately four thousand men a year, meaning the Dutch would attack in 1764.
The location of Hannoverian troops would Prompt the Dutch to recruit an additional thousand men in France, as the government feared treachery.
However, the Dutch were still wary of extending their borders further. Sweden was only held back at their border by Hannover, and could not reach Dutch shores through the channel fleet. If the Dutch took Berlin, the port at Kolobrzeg would present the Swedish army ample room to invade the Federation without having to cross through the well defended land of Hannover.
Kolobrzeg was the only port capable of accommodating a landing invasion force in West Prussia.
The Dutch were at war once more. Their peace had been brief, lasting only four years. Now, the Polish and British were in essence at war with the Federation and Prussia. While Britain and the United Provinces had managed a facade of civility in not directly attacking one another, they were most certainly at war. Their renewed ceasefire would last another year before their diplomats were forced to the discussion table, their embassies remained open, and trade continued to flow between them, but they were at war. Britain holding back thousands of able bodied, elite soldiers of the Federation to keep watch over the channel as the Dutch mobilized thousands of men to attack the British allies.
Poland had not actually fought a battle conducted by the Dutch other than outdated border patrols which were kept to the East. The best the Dutch had to offer were all located in Amsterdam, with the best and most modern weapons available. These troops and weapons were formed into the nucleus of the vast new Dutch armies which would march East to meet the Polish forces head on. Of a completely different nature when compared to the forces the Polish were accustomed to, the Dutch were dramatically underestimated by their Polish adversaries.
The Dutch army of Vienna. The Polish had assumed that this quality was what could be expected of the Dutch, but in reality, the Dutch had elite formations which could far outperform the Vienna garrison.
Poland on the other hand had remained much as they had been. Still staunchly traditional and unable to pull ideas from hundreds of scholars from dozens of universities across a vast Empire, they had accumulated far fewer of the technical advances the Dutch had made over the decades, and what little had diffused to them was often misunderstood or poorly applied. This meant the Polish sharpshooters often had faulty rifles, firing a fraction of the distance a Dutch rifle could, and with a slower rate of fire, while Dutch artillery could rain down shells and fire from a distance that the Polish considered unfathomable.
The contact fuse shell made the howitzer and mortar some of the deadliest weapons on the field. The Polish were accustomed to most bombs bursting well above their heads, or burying themselves deep into the ground before detonating, but the contact fuse shell would detonate at a much deadlier height. An explosion landing amid the ranks of a line infantry battalion could kill dozens of men in an instant.
The short peace of 1758 to 1762 had been good for the Dutch. Industry had expanded, and for once, the total tax take had put the Dutch net revenue above their trade revenue, meaning they could lose every trade partner in their Empire, and still be profitable. Earning a total of approximately one hundred fifty million guilders per year, the government was bloated with cash which they could not spend fast enough.
Next we will at the launching of the HMS King George carrier, which will be followed by world news. 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.