A glorious naval past

A few days before Crisis 2016, my girlfriend and I took a tour of the museums of Amsterdam - I am fortunate that Emma has as keen an interest in history as I do. We were able to explore the Rijksmuseum and the Scheepvaartmuseum. Both have excellent collections on Holland’s majestic maritime past.

Model ships in the Rijksmuseum.

There was a time when it wasn’t Brittania ruling the waves, but the Republic of the Netherlands (aka the Seven United Provinces), even leading the last successful armed invasion of Britain in 1688. In the Battle for Gibraltar (1607), they proved themselves to be the equal fo the then naval ‘superpower’ Spain. During the Eighty Years war, really War of Independence, the Netherlands entered into the Dutch Golden Age. It built ships and traded with India, the far East, and Japan. In fact, the Netherlands was the only European power granted access to the Shogunate.

The battle of Gibraltar 1607

The Anglo-Dutch wars were fought partly over trade. They are now largely ignored - perhaps because there is little there for the English to celebrate (we do tend to remember our victories and forget our defeats). The Dutch under admirals such as De Ruyter and Tromp, defeated the English time and again, even raiding Chatham shipyard, capturing the Flagship Royal Charles (the stern decorations are still on display at the above mentioned Rijksmuseum) and burning thirteen ships of the English fleet. At the battle of Texel in 1673, the Dutch defeated the combined Anglo-French fleet.

The raid on the Medway and Chatham.

Ever pragmatic, the Dutch know their glorious maritime past has faded, but leaving a fascinating history behind them. For me, I’m left asking why more people do not game this great period when the Netherlands ruled the waves? They fought the Spanish, English, and French and defeated their foes time and again.

I guess it could be down to the Anglocentric view of the world I’ve been brought up with and the similar view the wargaming world tends to reflect this too. After all, nothing ‘happened’ between the Spanish Armada in 1588 and Trafalgar in 1805, right? Do a little digging and you’ll be surprised what you find…

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