Raid on the Medway, 1667

Contemporary painting of Dutch ships attacking English installations and ships on the River Medway. Original by Pieter Cornelisz van Soest, in the collections of the Royal Museums, Greenwich.

Location River Medway, England

Most people generally don't think of the Dutch as a great naval power, but for centuries, they were a force to be reckoned with. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch fleet was able to launch a raid on the major British anchorage on the River Medway. It took the Dutch several days to move up the river during high tides, but no effective English response ever managed to materialize, despite multiple reports and requests for help. As a result, between 19 and 24 June, 1667, the Dutch, under Michiel de Ruyter were able to burn thirteen major English warships, and carried off two more, including the flagship HMS Royal Charles. Dockyard facilities were also burned, and several English towns were raided by Dutch troops. The Dutch expended eight fire ships. The Raid on the Medway forced King Charles II to end the War with a favorable treaty for the Dutch, and remains one of the worst defeats in the history of the Royal Navy.