Friday 22 September 2023

All at Sea, Battle of Camperdown - Project Build, Part One, The Dutch 74's

The Battle of Camperdown 11th October 1797 - Thomas Whitcombe (1798).
The Vrijheid 74-guns (left) in action with HMS Venerable 74-guns (centre) and the Dutch 64-gun Hercules on fire (extreme right). The other Dutch 74-gun Jupiter is portrayed directly ahead on the bow of Venerable, beyond the unidentified British two-decker (possibly Belliqueux or Triumph). Further right is the 10-gun hired armed-cutter HMC Rose and behind her and the Hercules can be seen HMS Monarch 74-guns and flagship of Vice-Admiral Onslow.

With recent project work completed last month, I have finally been able to give my full attention to a project that has been on the top of my to-do list but, for various factors, including other work, has necessarily had to take a back-seat until now, when all the ducks had been got into their proverbial row, and I could make a start.

It seems to be a propitious time to get back into my fleet building work as I have just completed another smaller project that relates directly with this one, namely my Bantry Bay 1796 scenario, the planned French invasion of Ireland, that, as part of French plans to mass its available naval resources of its own and neighbouring allies, led to the Battle of Cape St Vincent on 14th February 1797, which I produced a game for last year in time for the 225th anniversary, (link above) and then in the October of that year a clash with another French naval ally, the Batavian Dutch Republic when it's fleet was met off the North Holland Coast at the Battle of Camperdown.

The preliminary builds for my Dutch Camperdown collection started with these frigates and a brig to compliment my 'Small Squadron and Single Ship Scenarios'.
JJ's Wargames All at Sea, Revolutionary War Batavian Dutch Frigates & Brig

There are a lot of renditions by artists over the centuries since the Battle of Camperdown was fought and I was spoilt for choice to select an eye catching option to head up this post and to herald the focus of my work over the forthcoming months, but this picture by the great contemporary artist Thomas Whitcomb seemed the most appropriate, capturing the Dutch fleet flagship Vrijheid under the command of Vice Admiral Jan Wilhelm de Winter in broadside-to-broadside action with Admiral Adam Duncan's Venerable at the Battle of Camperdown fought off the North Holland coast near the little fishing village of Camperduin.

The four part battle plan as illustrated in de Delft, J.F. Fischer FZN.

The picture is somewhat confusing as it purports to show HMS Monarch, Admiral Onslow's flagship ahead of the Venerable, Duncan's flagship in the far background, which is confusing, given that Monarch was to the rear and other ships present such as the Dutch ship Hercules which was ahead of Vrijheid is shown in the right place. Perhaps Whitcombe was keen to keep Admiral Onslow happy by his inclusion of his ship in this picture of the battle!

Plan One showing the approach to battle at 12.30 and order of sailing at the start of the British attack as seen in the illustration above. Note the position of the Dutch flagship Brutus as highlighted below - de Delft, J.F. Fischer FZN.

This point helps to illustrate the problems encountered when researching naval battles from this era in that much of the information is passed down from artwork and reminiscences from veterans who obviously couldn't see everything, and then the historical record has to rely on the ships logs, which in the case of the British were supposed to be kept by the captain and master of each ship, recording events as they occurred in a timed manner.

The Battle of Camperdown at 13.00 and the British have started to break the Dutch line, led by Onslow's HMS Monarch - de Delft, J.F. Fischer FZN.

The British logs from Camperdown are not as many would wish them to be, as quoted from 'Great Sea Fights 1794-1805 Volume 1', published in 1899 by the Navy Records Society, quote;

' The logs of the ships in Admiral Duncan's squadron at the Battle of Camperdown are the worst written and worst spelt of any that have been copied in this volume. . . Several of the logs are almost illegible.'

The Battle of Camperdown at 14.00 and the pell-mell battle brought on by the British tactics has
practically overwhelmed the Dutch rear - de Delft, J.F. Fischer FZN.

The introduction does go on to point out that the logs from the two British flagships 'give on the whole a fair account of the method of attack', with a noticeable exception in the log of general signals issued by Duncan during the approach to battle.

The Battle of Camperdown at 15.00 an with the striking of the Vrijheid, the battle is over as the surviving Dutch ships break off, headed for the Texel - de Delft, J.F. Fischer FZN.

This might explain the paucity of detailed plans of battle showing the tracks of vessels involved and where they ended up at the end of it, with the best example I have discovered coming from the Dutch book 'de Delft' by J.F. Fischer which is the plan I propose to work to for my end game, but even here we have a discrepancy, showing as it does the 74-gun Brutus, showcased in this post, to the rear of Vrijheid and Stat Generaal, instead of forward of these two ships in the van as pictured by the British artist that captured the Dutch battle array five minutes before action commenced, illustrated below, which is my main source for the look of my Dutch fleet.

The release of the small third-rate or 64-gunner propelled the idea for this collection forward and I felt compelled to test the look of the fleet with this Dutch 64, inaccurately rigged as it subsequently turned out with a gaff rigged mizzen.
JJ's Wargames - New small third-rate 64-gun

This project has been long in the gestation period which I often go through when thinking about how to proceed with a collection build, which has seen the normal research into the look of the forces involved, the models required and few proof of concept builds fitted in with other work, leading up to the moment when, with other projects finished and a clearer idea of how to proceed, I now feel emboldened to get stuck in, with these first major elements of the Dutch fleet.

Similarly the fourth-rate release by Warlord has now meant that the models are available to start working on and the lateen mizzen rig has also been solved, prompting plans to be developed for a collection from an earlier period.
JJ's Wargames - All at sea, Fourth-Rate Ships of the Line

The preparation work was a very necessary period as, during the time taken Warlord gradually released models such as the small third-rates and fourth-rates that are key component of both these British and Dutch 'Cinderella Fleets', but also further research revealed my error in presenting my Dutch 64-gunner with a gaff and boom mizzen which, on contemplating the best effective way of modelling the look of the lateen rigged mizzens carried on Dutch ships-of-the-line, led to me testing the idea on the fourth-rate seen above, and satisfied with that test build was ready to move on.

Published by Dundee City Council in 1997 for the bicentenary of the battle, the book 'Glorious Victory' has been an important resource in my planning for this project.

Another aspect that I have mulled over in my mind was the look of my British fleet, having at first settled on the idea of using elements from my Trafalgar and Cape St. Vincent collections with the idea of keeping my British line ships flagged under the white ensign regardless of the action I intended to use them in. 

British history is recorded in the names of its streets, and with associations with Lady Nelson and Sir Edward Pellew, Lord Exmouth, it is not surprising to see the Battle of Camperdown commemorated on an Exmouth street sign.

However on further reflection and despite the added work to complete the project I have decided to build Duncan's Nore Fleet in their red and blue divisional colours to better reflect the aesthetics and look of this rather unique battle, but I will come back to the British in a later post. 

A fantastically important primary source is this illustration of the opening five minutes of the Battle of Camperdown, by an unknown artist, held by the National Museum of Scotland

One of the key resources that has influenced the ideas about the look of my Dutch fleet has been the book 'Glorious Victory' published by Dundee City Council during the bicentenary year of the battle and in which is contained the amazing contemporary illustration seen above, showing the distinctive look of the Dutch ships as revealed in the close ups of this document used to emblazon the inside of the front and back cover.

Battle of Camperdown - Derek Gardner
Left to Right - Circe 28-guns, Powerful 74-guns, Bedford 74-guns, Hercules 64-guns, Triumph 74-guns, Belliqueux 64-guns, Ardent 64-guns, De Vries 68-guns, Vrijheid 74-guns, Venerable 74-guns, Staten Generaal 74-guns. British ships highlighted.

So having read up on the battle and trawled through various depictions of it I thought I would make a start by working my way through the various rates in the Dutch fleet starting with their most powerful units, the third-rate 74s of which there were four, and all of them flagships, as seen in the order of battle.

The Dutch Fleet of Vice Admiral de Winter consisting of sixteen ships-of-the-line, four frigates and eight smaller vessels. See below for a list of the other eight ships that composed his line at Camperdown. Note those ships marked with an asterisk were captured in the battle and captains killed or who subsequently died from wounds received are likewise indicated with a cross next to the name.

As can be seen, the Dutch ships are shown in the familiar black and puke-yellow broad strakes typical of the French-Revolutionary War look of warships from this period, but also some are showing a more unique look of black with a broad grubby white strake instead, with white lion figureheads predominating on all, bar the fleet flagship Vrijheid, which has a red one, the impression completed with the flag officer pennants shown flying from the respective masts of all these four 74-gun fleet flagships.

In the van and centre of the Dutch fleet, Vice-Admiral Jan de Winter aboard his flagship Vrijheid had three of his 74's with the Brutus, flagship of Rear-Admiral Johan Bloys van Treslong up front, and in close support, the Staten Generaal, flagship of Rear-Admiral Samuel Story.

By October 1797 it was more than four years since Revolutionary France had declared war on Great Britain, years characterised by disaster and defeat, mitigated by the occasional naval victory, that saw the despised armies of the French Revolution soon turn the tables after the battles of Valmy in 1792 and Tourcoing in 1794 and the defeat of Britain's continental allies one after another.

In this initial phase of the Dutch fleet build, I intend to focus on the ships-of-the-line, before turning to complete the lighter ships in the fleet.

The Netherlands and Spain were transformed from British allies into enemies while Austria withdrew from the war, and by 1796 Britain was ringed by hostile forces on land and had withdrawn from the Mediterranean partly to focus its support on its last European ally, Portugal.

In the rear was the other 74, the Jupiter, flagship of Rear-Admiral Hermanus Reijntjes.

Early in 1797 there was a serious financial crisis, with the Bank of England's bullion reserve falling to a very low point causing the government to extend the use of paper money and impose new taxes, but the naval victory against the Spanish off Cape St. Vincent on February 14th, St Valentine's Day, offered new hope.

Dutch Flag Officer's Pennant as used at Camperdown

The Dutch navy was an ancient enemy of the British and had contested naval supremacy in a series of hard-fought battles between 1652 and 1674, and though in decline, again later in 1780 to 1783 during the American War of Independence.

The Dutch were natural seamen, and always fought well in battle, but their country was too small to support a large navy and her waters too shallow to operate large ships; and by 1797 it had declined to a force of twenty-eight ships-of-the-line and thirty smaller vessels, compared to the seven-hundred operated by the Royal Navy.

There is a paucity of data available on Dutch ships, with English sources such as James quoting gun layouts on those captured by the British and noting that the Dutch 74's were similarly arranged as per the British small 74-gun types, which has formed the basis of my assumptions for the statistics I have illustrated for Kiss Me, Hardy (KMH).

Vrijheid 74-guns

Launched and commissioned in 1782 in the Amsterdam Shipyard, the Vrijheid served as the fleet flagship of Admiral Jan Willem de Winter.

Admiral Jan Willem de Winter

The Vrijheid is shown to have the following dimensions; Gundeck length 166 feet' 2 inches, breadth 44 feet, eight inches, Hold depth of 20 feet, 5 inches and a displacement of 1,526 tons BM and had a listed crew compliment of 550 men.

The Dutch 74-gun Vrijheid -

Her armament is shown as 28 x 32-pounder long guns on her lower deck, 28 x 18-pdrs on her upper deck and 18 x 12-pdrs on her quarterdeck and forecastle.

I present my best estimate based on my various sources for the look of the Vrijheid in KMH and my rendition from the first hand depiction in 'Glorious Victory'.

Thus the Vrijheid is depicted complete with Admiral de Winter’s fleet flagship pennant at her mainmast, white strakes, lateen mizzen and red Dutch lion figurehead.

Staten Generaal (nominally of 76-guns) 74-guns

The Dutch 74-gun ship Staten Generaal under Vice-Admiral Pieter Melvill. circa 1793-95

The 74-gun ship Staten Generaal was launched on the 8th April 1788 in Rotterdam and had the following dimensions; Gundeck length 167 feet' 1 inch, breadth 44 feet, seven inches, Hold depth of 20 feet, 5 inches and had a listed crew compliment of 550 men.

Rear-Admiral Samuel Story

Her armament is shown as 28 x 32-pounder long guns on her lower deck, 28 x 18-pdrs on her upper deck and 20 x 8-pdrs on her quarterdeck and forecastle.

At Camperdown she served as the flagship of Rear-Admiral Samuel Story and her KMH record card is illustrated below

Similarly I have depicted Staten Generaal with Rear-Admiral Story’s pennant flying from her mizzen, complete with puke-yellow strakes and white Dutch lion at her bow.

Brutus 74-guns

The 74-gun ship Brutus was launched in July 1785 in Rotterdam and had the following dimensions; Gundeck length 167 feet' 1 inch, breadth 44 feet, seven inches, Hold depth of 20 feet, 5 inches and had a listed crew compliment of 550 men.

Her armament is shown as 28 x 32-pounder long guns on her lower deck, 28 x 18-pdrs on her upper deck and 18 x 12-pdrs on her quarterdeck and forecastle.

Rear-Admiral Johan Bloys van Treslong

Serving as the flagship of Rear-Admiral Johan Bloys van Treslong, her action during the battle in the Dutch van saw Admiral Treslong struck by a cannonball that led to the loss of his right arm, as seen in his post battle portrait above.

My interpretation of the Brutus for KMH

The Brutus with Rear-Admiral van Treslong’s pennant at her mizzen and in similar trim to the Staten Generaal.

Unable to make her way back to support Vrijheid, in the centre, with her course likely blocked by the burning Hercules, she was forced to drop out of the battle, and on the 13th October was attacked and chased by the large 40-gun frigate HMS Endymion, but managed to get under cover of shore batteries that forced the British frigate to break off.

Jupiter 74-guns

The 74-gun ship Jupiter was launched in April 1782 in Amsterdam and had the following dimensions; Gundeck length 167 feet' 4 inches, breadth 46 feet, five inches, Hold depth of 18 feet, 2½ inches and a displacement of just under 1,559 tons BM.

Her armament is shown as 28 x 32-pounder long guns on her lower deck, 28 x 18-pdrs on her upper deck and 12 x 12-pdrs and 6 x 8-pdrs on her quarterdeck and forecastle.

Finally, to complete my four Dutch 74-gun flagships, I present Jupiter with white strakes and lion figurehead finished off with Rear-Admiral Reijntjes’ pennant at her foremast.

The Jupiter was the flagship of Rear-Admiral Hermanus Reijntjes and was soon brought to action by Vice-Admiral Richard Onslow's HMS Monarch after she had be raked by her only to have the British 74-gunner luff up alongside as recounted by William James:

'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, Cerberus, 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 Russel, 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.'

The Battle of Camperdown - Oliver Hurst

This post concludes the first build in this Camperdown project of my Dutch 74’s and in the next posts in this series I will turn my attention to some of the third-rates in the British fleet, coupled with my ideas for staging this battle using Kiss Me, Hardy.

I would like to conclude this post by thanking my friend Mr Steve W (Capt. Steve) a fellow naval wargaming enthusiast and fellow DWG club member who very kindly provided me copies of his own research and the loan of his books, de Delft, Great Sea Fights 1794-1805 Volume 1 and Glorious Victory, which, the latter, I now have my own copy of, all this having greatly informed this project and I hope the end result will serve credit to his generosity - cheers Steve.

More anon


  1. Very interesting - so many details and excellent models!

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for your comment, and glad you enjoyed the post.