Part 43: March 11 Broadcast
You are listening to BBC radio 4. In an hour, we will be presenting a documentary on the likelihood of intelligent alien life, and why more scientists believe they are real rather than fiction. 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 forty third 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 battles at Dresden and Prague.
In 1766, the Dutch were fully prepared to declared war on Britain. Their formal declaration of war came within weeks of deployment, giving the British little time to respond. Their troops were moved through their many ports in great numbers landing all across the British isles. First, a small contingent from Brest was deployed to Dublin. With little time or incentive to heavily fortify Ireland, the Dutch managed to secure the island with little trouble, though the Irish Catholic population formed a mob, slightly damaging the Dutch forces before they were suppressed.
The Dutch retake Dublin.
A second force from Brest, this of over a thousand line landed in Liverpool before marching to dislodge a British force South of York in the first days of the massive battle of York. This force had contained a small battalion of guard, another rapid firing gun emplacement, and a small contingent of infantry. The Dutch forces which had landed at Liverpool were meant to clear the landing around Newcastle for the second landing phase, and so captured those forces before they could arrive in Edinburgh to reinforce their main force.
The Dutch land a second force to clear British away from Newcastle.
Though the British were around York, this action is commonly considered the opening move to the battle of Newcastle. While the Dutch force had nothing but infantry and a single battalion of mounted infantry, their sheer numbers were imposing to the British. The Dutch simply swept down over the British forces, arraying themselves in line, defeating them in mass volleys.
The Dutch line up musket to musket to push the British off the field. With their superior numbers, this was easily sufficient.
A few of the British light infantry had kept away from the main line along the ridge overlooking the battlefield, but the Dutch infantry managed to come across them. While they had held up in a defensive position, and fired their shots into the advancing line, they too were shortly overwhelmed. Still, the distraction they presented granted the British infantry time to retreat some of their forces to further harass the Dutch.
The Dutch forces are delayed by the British light infantry who were guarding their retreat, leaving a small number of forces intact.
Still, the Dutch deemed the landing at Newcastle to be sufficiently secured, and their first wave assault was deployed. Three thousand infantry were thrown to the fore to try and clear a path to Edinburgh. A better equipped army with a superior balance of men, artillery and cavalry would be sent to assault Edinburgh directly behind, or if necessary, clear away remaining forces backed by the Liverpool army before taking Edinburgh.
The Dutch first wave attacks through Newcastle.
The first landing of Dutch troops at Newcastle followed through with a massive, rapid assault North. The British forces had massed primarily at Edinburgh itself, and so supporting armies which had to be reinforces, were smaller. This meant the British forces were in a sense, spread out, but at the same time, each of their armies had a nearly full compliment, totalling six thousand men to the Dutch three thousand. The British set to defend against the Dutch numbered one and a half thousand men, with the remainder close enough to rapidly reinforce at four thousand five hundred, the British were not at too great a disadvantage on account of their armies being spread about.
The Dutch lines move to engage the British. With an army of three thousand in the first wave alone, the Dutch were still tremendously outnumbered.
The Dutch army spread out to face the British across a two kilometer front, hoping to capture the British in a salient, and adjust their lines to counter reinforcements on the flanks. The British, had hoped to hold the Dutch in the center, and push back the flanks along both sides enveloping the Dutch along their own flanks. Their strategies were directly in a counter to one another, and as such, the battle would be decided by whoever could break the enveloped troops faster.
British forces are put to the center to delay the Dutch, and so the entirety of their forces were not formed to directly fight musket to musket, but rather hold out.
To enact this plan, both the Dutch and British forces would have to move rapidly. The Dutch army needed to crush the center fast so they could re-align their forces. The British deployed as best they could and braced themselves as their reinforcements rushed to the fore. As the Dutch forces closed in around the British, the British defenders could not have known the scope and intensity of the battle they were about to find themselves in.
The Dutch managed to execute their plan without much incidence, their formation forming into lines around the British flanks on both sides. Surrounded, the British were an easy target for the Dutch line. The British attempted a counter attack with their cavalry which was rapidly reinforced by additional cavalry rushed from Edinburgh.
The British counter attack along the right flank of the Dutch line, the rapid cavalry advance panics several battalions, but they quickly rallied when the cavalry lost their momentum.
The British had managed to forestall some of the Dutch on the right flank by rushing the brunt of their cavalry into melee. Concentrated on a single point, the British cavalry managed to break through at a few points, pushing back their forces to clear away their left flank. The Dutch did manage to rally however, and reinforce their position on the right, and with the surprise of the charge gone, the British cavalry could not force the Dutch any further back.
The Dutch push the British cavalry back, letting them rearrange their lines.
The enveloping forces of the Dutch were often several battalions too long to properly contribute to fire against the British center. This left them free to turn and face the British reinforcements, holding them up as best they could as the Dutch pushed through the British center, and they wouldnt need to for long. Completely surrounded, the British force was reduced to nothing in moments. British forces had to reinforce the center, and as more and more men were thrown into the center,
The Dutch lines had many bends, allowing them to avoid a flanking assault as well as enveloping the British center.
British assaults intensified along either flank as the day wore on, and the Dutch forces were being ground down over time. While they had managed to win a decisive blow to the main British force, their flanks were finding themselves in increasing peril. The Dutch center eventually moved forward to reinforce their flanks, but could not do so before the majority of the Dutch battalions had been sharply reduced in strength.
Even more British reinforcements arrive, the Dutch were forced to turn their right flank to counter. Already long into the battle, the Dutch right flank was down to a fraction of their strength.
The altering blow came along the right flank of the Dutch army. Late into the battle, the British guard had arrived, and managed to push through the Dutch flank. The battalions left defending the right flank were worn down to less than two hundred men, and were easily outgunned by the British guard. The Dutch right, after long hours of fighting were already faltering, and barely killed a dozen of the guard before breaking.
British guard shatter the Dutch flank.
On the left, the Dutch were holding their own, but had run out of ammunition. This meant they could no longer shore up their position, and were forced to charge their British opposite. While their desperate charge accounted for a considerable number of casualties, the Dutch were pushed from the fields back into the harbour of Newcastle. Their retreat confounded and slowed their reinforcements who were to arrive the day after, but the several hundred survivors did make it back to Rotterdam.
The first wave retreats back to the mainland.
On the second day of the battle of Newcastle, the Dutch force which had swept in from Liverpool arrived to try and cause a breakthrough of the British lines. Attacking on from further West, the Dutch were in a more tenable position, but not one that was strong enough to invoke any sense of confidence. The Dutch who had fought at York were almost entirely infantry, just as the previous wave had been, but numbered only one thousand seven hundred. By then, the British had been reduced from six thousand men to slightly over two thousand. The first wave of the Dutch assault had been brutal leaving more British soldiers dead than the Dutch had come to the field with. This didnt help the Dutch any by the second day however.
While the final wave of Dutch assailants disembark, the force which landed in Liverpool attacks.
The British guard had remained relatively intact by the time the second Dutch wave managed to arrive. With the second wave consisting of unremarkable battalions of foot infantry, outnumbered by the British, the Dutch were not expecting this force to make it to Edinburgh either, but rather to defeat enough of the British that the final wave would have no problems crushing the British defenders.
The British main line was very weak, the brunt of their strength would come in reinforcements.
One the second day, as the third wave disembarked from their ships in Newcastle the second wave advanced. The British army front line had been severely reduced from the strength of the first assault, meaning the Dutch could attempt to break through them directly, and then reform to take on the remaining British army. They didnt consider this possibility likely, but a second assault was required to guarantee victory for the third.
This wave squared off against the British force which had taken the brunt of the first Dutch assault wave letting the Dutch sweep through them with relative ease. Pushing past however, the Dutch encountered the grenadiers, line and guard of the British. The Dutch managed to form their line and go musket to musket against the British forces, causing considerable damage. Battalions that had already been weakened in their battle the day prior, already at the edge of their nerves retreated, freeing the Dutch to maneuver somewhat.
The initial waves of British troops were already demoralized enough that very little was needed to push them from the field.
The British guard however, were forcing their way through the Dutch lines. Though the Dutch managed to damage the elite British forces, the line infantry were no match, and were also pushed off the field. This time, the Dutch suffered a much more severe defeat. Only seven hundred of the British had been killed in the second day, while over a thousand Dutch were killed.
The British grenadiers and guard advance. They charge straight through the Dutch lines.
Still, this left Britain with less than one and a half thousand men to defend Edinburgh with. At the declaration of war, suspecting they would be crushed at London, the entirety of the British parliament was moved to Edinburgh, as was the royal family. Losing them would mean chaos and confusion, likely to be assuaged by the iron rule of the Dutch.
The Dutch royal family and the ministers of parliament had been moved to the castle at Edinburgh, as the British were expecting London to fall immediately.
The third Dutch wave contained approximately two thousand men, including three mortar batteries. This would be a fundamentally different battle than the prior two, as the Dutch now held every advantage over the remaining British forces. The only remaining hope for the British were their heavily outnumbered battalions of guard, but even they did not believe they could hold out a third day against the Dutch.
The third day of the battle of Newcastle. By then, the battle front had moved to the Scottish border.
The Dutch set their mortar just beyond the range of the enemy forces, and immediately set about raining shells down on the few British battalions as they advanced, forcing them forward. The Dutch were set up about a hill top with a cliff face defending their artillery. The infantry were formed out along the hills along the sides which the British would have to move up.
The Dutch third wave bombards the British from afar, forcing the British forces forward and out of the estate they were encamped in.
The British, once more were forced into a desperate fight. The army was still somewhat spread about due to fear the Dutch waves would work their way around the blockading troops to directly strike Edinburgh. The results of such an attack would have been disastrous, but the relevancy of such an action had passed. The British should have consolidated into a single force after the second day of battle.
Now they had to attack immediately without waiting for reinforcements to trickle on to the field. Their forces, many of whom were guard elected to charge directly into the Dutch center, hoping to break through the Dutch lines and demoralize the remainder enough to cause a rout. This idea was an illusion however. The Dutch line was not so poor as to flee at the first sign of minor troubles when they had more than twice their oppositions numbers.
the British guard charge through artillery to try and get to grips with the Dutch center.
A large portion of the British reinforcements came from the Dutch right flank, where a battalion of riflemen were deployed to pick them apart as they came to the fore. While these forces were not capable of any serious damage to the Dutch, they were more than capable at preventing the Dutch right flank from assisting their center.
The sole battalion of Dutch cavalry also kept their right flank cleared.
On the left however, the Dutch were mostly unopposed giving them free reign to take up the slack in the center. With their numbers down to only a handful of men, the British could not stop the Dutch left from swinging to the center where the remainder of the British army was crushed. Cavalry ran down the survivors.
The Dutch center, which had been hard pressed finds a moment respite as the British are forced to divert their attention to their right.
The battle of Newcastle had started three days prior to the actual defeat of the British forces, and had cost over ten thousand men their lives. Six thousand British, and four thousand Dutch. Each Day, the British found themselves pushed back a bit further, and so the battle actually ended at the border to Scotland.
The Dutch pursue the last of the British back to the Scottish border.
The Dutch forces made their way to Edinburgh, reaching it to find the garrison had been completely depleted in attacks on the field. Some three hundred civilians had armed themselves and were attempting to hold the old fortresses, but their prospects were grim. Dutch forces bombarded them from afar with their mortars and exploding shells, but still the few devoted Scots refused to budge.
The Scottish citizens form up a resistance around Edinburgh.
The Dutch, respecting the courage of the Scottish defenders, and not under threat from any other front opted to scale the walls directly rather than bombard them with shells. Even so, the Dutch lost only a few men in taking the walls of Edinburgh and securing the British king and parliament.
The Dutch clash with the Scottish civilians. The defenders were no match for the conquering army.
All that remained was London itself. The Blue guard had returned for the third time they intended to conquer England. The British Empire, even if victorious in this one battle could not hold out when the forces garrisoned in Scotland, and another wave from Amsterdam came to London in another assault. The end of British rule and independence was at hand.
Next we will be looking at the odds of intelligent alien life, and why aliens may not be fiction. 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.