The Naval history of Great Britain:
from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV

William James
London 1824.

British and Dutch Fleets engage off Camperdown
11 October 1797

The British North-sea fleet had been so thinned by the secession of the disaffected ships, that Admiral Duncan, towards the end of May, found himself at sea with only the Venerable 74, and the Adamant 50. He never the less proceeded to his station off the Texel; in which harbour lay at anchor the Dutch fleet of fifteen sail of the line (56s included), under the command of Vice-admiral de Winter. In order to detain the latter in port until a reinforcement should arrive, Admiral Duncan caused repeated signals to be made, as if to the main body of his fleet in the offing. This stratagem, it is supposed, had the desired effect. At length, about the middle of June, several line-of-battle ships, in detached portions, joined the British Admiral, and the two fleets were again placed on an equal footing.

The Venerable, having been upwards of eighteen weeks at sea, and during a part of the time exposed to very boisterous weather, was in want of almost every description of sores. Others of the ships had also suffered by the recent gales of wind, and were short of provisions. Thus circumstanced, the admiral, on the 3rd of October, put into Yarmouth roads, to refit and revictual; leaving off the Dutch coast a small squadron of observation, under the orders of Captain Trollope, consisting of his own ship the Russel, the Adamant 50, Beaulieu and Circe frigates, and Martin sloop.

On the 9th, early in the morning, the Black Joke hired armed lugger showed herself at the back of Yarmouth sands, with the signal flying, for an enemy. Immediately all was bustle and preparation; and, by a little before noon, Admiral Duncan, with eleven sail of the line, weighed and put to sea, directing his course with a fair wind, straight across to his old station. His fleet, including the ships that joined him in the course of the next two days, consisted of the

GunsShip Officers
74 VenerableAdmiral Adam Duncan

Captain William Fairfax

74Monarch Vice-admiral Richard Onslow

Captain Edward O'Brien

74RusselHenry Trollope
74MontaguJohn Knight
74Bedford Sir Thomas Byard
74Powerful William Dury
74Triumph William Essington
64 Belliquex John Inglis
64Agincourt John Williamson
64LancasterJohn Wells
64ArdentRichard Burgess
64VeteranGeorge Gregory
64DirectorWilliam Bligh
64MonmouthJames Walker
50IsisWilliam Mitchell
50AdamantWilliam Hotham
40BealieuFrancis Fayerman
28CircePeter Halkett

Sloop Martin Hon. Charles Paget

Cutters Rose, King George, Active and Diligent and Lugger Speculator On the same day the Powerful, Agincourt, and Isis joined the company; and on the afternoon of the 10th the advanced ships were near enough to count twenty-two sail of square-rigged vessels, chiefly merchantmen, at anchor in the Texel. Having received from Captain Trollope information of the course the enemy's fleet was steering, the British admiral stood along shore to the southward. On the 11th, at 7a.m., the Russel, Adamant, and Beaulieu were decried in the south-west, bearing at their mast -heads the joyful signal of an enemy in sight to lee-ward; and at 8h.30m. a.m. the Dutch fleet made its appearance in the quarter pointed out by the signal, consisting of twenty-one ships and four brigs, named as follows:

GunsShip Officers
74VryheidVice-admiral de Winter

Captain Van Rossem

74Jupiter Vice-admiral Reyntjes

Rear-admiral Menses

74Brutus Rear-admiral Bloys

Captain Van Treslong

74States-General Captain ?
64 Cerebus Jacobson
64Devries Zegers
64Gelykheid Ruysen
64Haerlem Wiggerts
64Herculse Van Rysoort
64Leyden Musquetier
64Wassenaer Holland
50 Alkmaar kraft
50Batavier Souters
50Beschermer Hinxt
50Delft Verdoorn
44 Mars Kolff
32 Ambuscade Capt.-Lt. Huys
32Heldia Capt.-Lt. D. L'Estrille

Two advice boats.

The Dutch fleet, thus composed, had quitted the Texel at 10a.m. on the 8th, with a light breeze at east by north. The report at the time was, that it had been ordered to try to effect a junction with the French fleet in Brest road; but, if we are to credit the French accounts, Admiral de Winter sailed with no other object in view than to seek and engage the fleet of Admiral Duncan. On the night of the same day on which the Dutch fleet, for whatever purpose, put to sea, Captain Trollope's squadron, the wind then blowing from the south-west, was discovered to windward, and immediately chased; but the Dutch ships, being very indifferent sailers, were soon left without a chance in their favour. The fleet then stretched out towards the flat of the Meuse, where Admiral de Winter expected to be joined by a 64-gun ship. Not meeting her, he stood on to the westward, followed, or rather, as the wind was, preceded, by the squadron of Captain Trollope.

The wind, continuing westerly during the two succeeding days, prevented the Dutch fleet from getting abreast of Lowestoffe on the Suffolk coast until the evening of the 10th. The extreme darkness of the night induced Admiral de Winter to detach a few of his best-sailing ships, in hope that they would be enabled, by daybreak, to get to windward of, and capture or chase away, the prying intruders; but, just as the chasers had crowded sail for the purpose, some friendly merchant ships came into the fleet and informed the admiral, that the English fleet was within eleven leagues of him, in the north-east, steering east by south. Instantly the detached ships were recalled; and the Dutch fleet, as soon as it was in compact order, edged away, with the wind at north-west, towards Camperdown, the appointed place of rendezvous.

On the 11th, at daylight, the Dutch fleet was about nine leagues off the village of Schevenningen, in loose order, speaking a friendly convoy, from whom some additional information was obtained. Shortly afterwards the persevering observers to the windward were seen with numerous signals flying, which convinced Admiral de Winter the British fleet was in sight. He accordingly ordered his captains to their respective stations, and, to facilitate the junction of the leewardmost ships, stood towards the land. On the Wykerdens bearing east distant about four leagues, the Dutch fleet hauled to the wind on the starboard tack, and shortly afterwards discovered Admiral Duncan's fleet in the north-north-west. Admiral de Winter then put about on the larboard tack; and, as soon as a close line was formed in the direction of north-east and south-west, the Dutch ships, squaring their main yards, resolutely awaited the approach of the British.

Owing chiefly to the inequality in point of sailing among the British ships, Admiral Duncan's fleet, when that of the Dutch appeared in sight, was in very loose order. To enable the dull sailers to take their allotted stations, the admiral, at about 11h. 10 a.m., having previously made the signal for the van-ships to shorten sail, brought to on the starboard tack; but, observing soon afterwards that the Dutch ships, by keeping their main topsails shivering and sometimes full, were drawing fast in-shore, he successively made the signals, for each ship to engage her opponent in the enemy's line, to bear up and sail large, and for the van to attack the enemy's rear.

At 11h. 30 a.m., the centre of the Dutch line then bearing about south-east distant four or five miles, the British fleet bore down, but, owing to the still disunited state of the ships, in no regular order of battle: some were stretching across to get into their proper stations; others seemed in doubt where they were to place themselves; and others, again, were pushing, at all hazards, for the thickest of the foe.

At 11.h. 53 a.m., Admiral Duncan signalled that he should pass through the enemy's line and engage him to leeward. Unfortunately the prevailing thick weather rendered this signal, for the short time it was up, not generally understood. It was replaced, in less than a quarter of an hour, by the signal for close action: which was kept flying for an hour and a half, until, indeed, it was shot away by the enemy.

At about half-past noon Vice-admiral Onslow, whose ship, the Monarch, was leading the larboard division of the British fleet, cut through the Dutch line, formed thus: Beschermer, Gelykheid, Hercules, Devries, Vryheid, States-General, Wassenaer, Batavier, Brutus, Leyden, Mars, Cerberbus, Jupiter, Haerlem, Alkmaar, and Delft (with the nine frigates and corvettes stationed as an inner line, for the most part facing the intervals in the outer one), between the Jupiter and Haerlem, pouring into each of those ships, in passing, a well-directed broadside.

Then, leaving the Haerlem to the Powerful, the Monarch luffed up close alongside of the Jupiter; and the two latter of these ships became warmly engaged. The rounding to of the Monarch afforded to the Monnikendam frigate and Atalanta brig, in the rear, the opportunity of pouring some raking broadsides into the former; and the Atalanta, in particular, did not retire until considerably damaged by the Monarch's shot. The remaining ships of the larboard division, more especially the Monmouth and Russell, were soon in action with the Dutch rear-ships; among the last of which to surrender was the first that had been attacked-the Jupiter.

It was a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes after the Monarch had broken the Dutch line, that the Venerable, frustrated in her attempt to pass astern of the Vryheid, by the promptitude of the States-General in closing the interval, put her helm a-port, and ran under the stern of the latter, pouring into the Dutch ship a broadside which soon compelled her to bear up; and the Triumph, the Venerable's second astern, found immediate employment for the Wassenaer, the second astern of the States-General. Meanwhile the Venerable had ranged up close on the lee side of her first intended antagonist, the Vryheid; with whom, on the opposite side, the Ardent was also warmly engaged, and, in front, the Bedford, as the latter cut through the line astern of the Vryheids's second ahead.

The Brutus, Leyden, and Mars, not being pressed upon by opponents, advanced to the succour of their admiral, and did considerable damage to the Venerable, as well as to the Ardent and others of the British van-ships. About this time the Hercules, having caught fire on the poop, bore up out of the line, and soon afterwards drifted close past the Venerable to Leeward. The Dutch crew contrived, in a surprisingly quick manner, to extinguish the flames; but, having thrown overboard all their powder, they had no further means of defence, and therefore surrendered their ship, whose mizenmast had already been shot away, to the nearest opponent.

The serious damage which the Venerable had sustained obliged her to haul off, and wear round on the starboard tack. Seeing this, the Triumph, who had compelled the Wassenaer to strike, approached to give the coup de grace to the Vryheid. That gallant ship, however still persisted in defending herself. At length, from the united fire of the Venerable, Triumph, Ardent, and Director, her three masts fell over the side and disabled her starboard guns: the Vryheid then dropped out of the line an ungovernable hulk, and struck her colours.

With the surrender of Admiral de Winter's ship the action ceased; and the British found themselves in possession of the Vryheid and Jupiter 74s, Devries, Gelykheid, Haerlem, Hercules, and Wassenaer 64s, Alkmaar and Delft 50s, and the frigates Monnikendam and Abuscade. The Wassenaer, although she struck to the Triumph, was fired at by a Dutch brig, that followed her out of the line; and which brig actually compelled the 64 to rehoist her colours. The Russell soon afterwards coming up, the Wassenaer again struck them, and surrendered to her antagonist. The Monnikendam had been engaged by the Monmouth, and was finally taken possession of by the Beaulieu.

The Dutch van-ship the Beschermer, anticipating, naturally enough, too strong an opponent in the Lancaster, had very early wore out of the line. Her example was followed, with much less reason, by several of the other Dutch ships; who, although seen making off, could not be pursued, the land being only five miles distant, and the fleet in nine fathoms of water. Thus circumstanced, the British hastened to secure their prizes, in order that before nightfall, they might get clear of the shore, which was that between Camperdown and the village of Egmont.

The appearance of the British ships at the close of the action, was very unlike what it generally is, when the French or Spaniards have been the opponent of the former. Not a single lower mast, not even a topmast was shot away; nor were the rigging and sails of the ships in their usual tattered state. It was at the hulls of their adversaries that the Dutchmen had directed their shot, and this not until the former were so near that no aim could well miss. Scarcely a ship in the fleet but had several shot sticking in her sides. many were pierced by shot in all directions; and a few of the ships had received some dangerous ones between wind and water, which kept their pumps in constant employment. The Ardent had received no fewer that 98 round shot in her hull. The Belliquex, Bedford, Venerable, and Monarch had likewise their share. As to the last-named ship, such was the entire state of her masts, rigging, and sails, that, were the topsail sheets which had been shot away hauled home, no one, viewing her from a little distance, would have believed that she had been in action.

With hulls so shattered, the loss of men could not be otherwise than severe.

The Venerable had 13 seamen and two marines killed; two lieutenants (Edward Sneyd Clay and William Henry Douglas), one lieutenant of marines, (George Chambers, both feet shot off)
[The committee at Lloyd's, besides making this officer a present of a handsome gratuity in money, settled upon him a Ј40 per annum.]
one midshipman (Mr Stewart), two petty-officers, 52 seamen, and four marines wounded;

The Monarch, two midshipmen (J.P. Tinlay and Moyle Finlay) and 34 seamen killed, one lieutenant (James Retalick), one lieutenant of marines (James J. Smith), four midshipmen (George Massey, Benjamin Clement, Daniel Sherwin, and Charles Slade), one master's mate (John Chimley), two petty-officers, 79 seamen, and 12 marines wounded;

the Bedford, two midshipmen, 26 seamen, and two marines killed, one lieutenant (George Keenor), 37 seamen, and three marines wounded; the Powerful, eight seamen and two marines killed, one lieutenant (Ulick Jennings), one lieutenant of marines (R.G.W. Walker), one midshipman (Daniel Rogers), the boatswain, and 74 seamen and marines wounded; the Isis, one seamen and one marine killed, one lieutenant of marines (Charles Rea), two midshipmen, and 18 seamen wounded;

the Ardent, her captain, master (Michael Dun [probably Dunn]), 33 seamen, and six marines killed, two lieutenants (James Rose and John Sobriel), one captain of marines (Richard Cuthbert), two master's mates (John Tracey and John Airey), to midshipmen (Thomas Leopard and John McKillier), one captain's clerk, 85 seamen, 11 marines, and three boys wounded;

the Belliqueux, one lieutenant (Robert Webster), one master's mate (James Milne), 20 seamen, and three marines killed, one lieutenant (Robert England), one captain of marines (James Cassel), one midshipman (James Scott), 63 seamen, and 12 marines wounded;

the Lancaster, three seamen killed, one lieutenant (Benjamin Morgan), one lieutenant of marines (John Sandys), 13 seamen, and three marines wounded;

the Triumph, 25 seamen, three marines, and one boy killed, her captain first and third lieutenants (Patrick Chapman and George Trollope) master (James Read), one midshipman (Mr.Jones), and 50 seamen and marines wounded:

The Monmouth, one petty-officer, one seaman, two marines, and one boy killed; 16 seamen, tow marines, and four boys wounded;
The Director, six seamen and one marine wounded;

the Montague, three seamen killed, one lieutenant (Ralph Snsyd), one midshipman (James Forbishly), two seamen, and one marine wounded; the Veteran, one lieutenant (Francis Ferrett), and three seamen killed, and 21 seamen wounded;

and the Russell, one lieutenant (David Johnson) her master (Thomas Troughton), one master's mate (George Taylor), her boatswain (John Brooks), two pilots (Thomas Abbott and Thomas Sherrard), and one sergeant of marines wounded; making a total of 203 killed,and 622 wounded.

So sat the returns in the London Gazette; but according to the report of the Committee appointed to manage subscriptions raised for the relief of the wounded, and the families or relations of those who were killed.
[Ј52,609 10s 6d was raised] the loss in this action amounted to 228 killed, and 812 (including 16 mortally) wounded: total 1040.

I’m grateful to Auke Palmhof of New Zealand for the following additional information on the Dutch fleet.


Geschiedenis van Nederland ter Zee

VRIJHEID, 58 dead, 98 wounded
JUPITER, 61 dead, 97 wounded
BRUTUS, Under command of rear admiral Bloys van Treslong, Captain ?
STATEN GENERAAL, under command of Rear Admiral Story
ADMIRAAL TJERK HIDDES DE VRIES, 30 dead, 100 wounded
GELIJKHEID, under command of Ruysch
HERCULES, 9 drowned
LEYDEN, 21 wounded
WASSENAAR, 70 dead, 90 wounded
ALKMAAR, 31 dead, 82 wounded
BESCHERMER, 7 dead, 27 wounded
DELFT, 43 dead, 97 wounded, she sank 14/15 May with the loss of 135 men.
MONNIKENDAM, 52 dead, 60 wounded, she later sank.

Altogether the Dutch fleet lost 9 ships of the line and one frigate, with a loss of life of 521 dead, 852 wounded, the British took 2872 men prisoner.



Camperdown 11 October 1797
Camperdown: map
Duncan's dispatch to Admiralty
Venerable muster roll
Portrait of Admiral Duncan