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Commemorating Captain Nathanial Darell and the 1667 Dutch Assault

22 June 2023

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On the 1 and 2 July 2023, Landguard Fort commemorated 'Darell’s Day', but just who is Captain Nathaniel Darell and why is Darell’s Day such an important date in the fort’s history and event calendar? Here’s why…

Commemorating Captain Nathanial Darell and the 1667 Dutch AssaultIn the 17th C. England fought three wars against the Dutch, largely over competition for trade in emerging global markets. Most of this fighting was at sea. During the St James’s Day fight in 1666, the English fleet inflicted a serious defeat on the Dutch. For the remainder of 1666 and much of 1667, the English fleet languished in port at Chatham on the River Medway in Kent, lacking money and supplies to put to sea.

Elsewhere in England, tension was high in anticipation of a Dutch counterattack. Coastal forts including Landguard were repaired and supplied, and other makeshift defences were constructed. From the 10 to 16 June 1667, the Dutch attacked the English fleet in the Medway. With little effective resistance, they destroyed the fort at the mouth of the river at Sheerness, penetrating as far as Upnor Castle. Several English warships were burnt and two were towed away as prizes, including the flagship Royal Charles.

The raid threw England into turmoil and on the 2 July the Dutch launched an attack on Harwich. Twelve warships from the 70-strong Dutch fleet of Admiral de Ruyter attempted to bombard Landguard Fort but could not get close enough for accurate fire in the treacherous waters.

A force of 800 Dutch troops landed and made two attempts to storm the fort but they were driven back by the 200-strong garrison under Captain Nathaniel Darell, aided by cannon fire from a small warship whose cannonballs had the effect of scattering the beach shingle in deadly showers. The attackers were unable to cross the fort ditch because of the hail of musket shot from Darell’s men who were placed securely behind a wall at the base of the fort rampart. The Dutch retreated, leaving eight dead. Only one Englishman was killed and Darell, who sustained a slight shoulder wound was hailed as the hero of the day.

This battle was the last opposed seaborne invasion of England, and the garrison at the fort included the Duke of York and Albany’s Regiment Of Foot later became the Royal Marines in 1802.