of the main protagonists. Click
the pictures for a closer look.
There was an urgent
call to arms and at 5.30am the English
ships at anchor on the lee shore
put to sea. The Anglo-French fleet
was commanded by James, Duke of
York – later to become James
II – and the Earl of Sandwich,
both of whom had spent the night
at their headquarters, Sutherland
House in the High Street. This was
one of the few buildings to have
escaped the great fire of 1659.
The fleet had
71 ships each with over 40 guns,
plus frigates and fireships: 90
in all. It amounted to over 5,500
guns and 24,000 men. But the French
fleet, whether through accident
or design, steered south and left
the scene of battle.
the Dutch fleet of 61 warships to
fight it out with the English, and
the battle raged much of the day.
The Duke of York had to transfer
twice, as his flagships Prince Royal
and St Michael were taken out of
action. The flagship of Lord Sandwich,
HMS Royal James, the biggest and
newest ship in the English fleet,
was set on fire. Sandwich drowned
trying to escape, his body washed
ashore further down the coast and
was only recognisable by the Star
and Garter on his clothing.
As the noise of
the battle grew, crowds gathered
on the cliffs. The thunder of the
guns brought people hurrying from
nearby villages. However, they saw
little of the battle taking place
some ten miles out tosea. Clouds
of smoke billowed from burning fireships
– vessels deliberately set
alight to destroy enemy ships. And
when the day seemed to be doing
badly for the English, an order
went out that no person should leave
the town, but remain to repel the
Dutch in case they landed.
Losses were heavy
on both sides – the Dutch
lost two ships and about 1800 men,
and the English also lost two ships
and some 2000 men. The battle ended
inconclusively at sunset. Predictably,
both sides claimed victory.
The people of
Southwold had to deal with around
800 injured sailors, not to mention
the many bodies which washed up
along the shoreline for many weeks
afterwards. Click here to download an account of Southwold's front-line casualty arrangements.
other war stories below.
First World War
Second World War