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Battle of Medway

14 June 2017

On June 8th 2017, we officially launched the commemorations of the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway with a special opening ceremony on museum square with the British and Dutch Royal Marines Bands. This included a royal salute, speeches and a parade with performances – one of the very rare occasions they have performed together.

We also welcomed VIPs on the day…

  • His Highness Prince Maurits of Orange-Nassau, van Vollenhoven
  • The First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sir Philip Jones
  • The Viscount De L’Isle the Lord Lieutenant of Kent – Former Commander-in-Chief Fleet of the Royal Navy Admiral and Chairman of the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust Sir Trevor Soar
  • Leader of Medway Council Cllr Alan Jarrett

This iconic anniversary commemorates one of England’s greatest naval disasters when the River Medway was engulfed in flames. In June 1667 the Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway and caught the English unprepared.  This daring invasion brought the SecondAnglo-Dutch War to an end.  Under Lieutenant Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, the Dutch captured the fort at Sheerness before entering the River Medway to attack the English fleet at Chatham. They broke through the defensive chain and, despite fire from Upnor Castle, towed away the Royal Charles, England’s flagship and burned a number of ships. To prevent their capture and block the channel the Royal Navy sank some of its largest ships.

Although the dockyard was spared by the arrival of troops and artillery, the attack was a humiliating defeat for the English. In The Netherlands, the action is also known as the Battle of Chatham, the highpoint of the Dutch Golden Age.

So why did we celebrate this defeat? The events that happened on the River Medway 350 years ago led to the rebuilding of the British Fleet, which then went on to capture command of the world’s oceans, leading to the economic prosperity that we as a country still benefit from today.. It also signifies a strength of the current friendship of our Anglo Dutch relations.

Director of Preservation and Education at The Historic Dockyard Chatham Richard Holdsworth said “We were absolutely delighted to be hosting this historic event. The dockyard was, after all, the reason for the battle 350 years ago! It also played a pivotal role in the shipbuilding programme that took place after the battle, which went on to secure Britain’s command of the oceans for over 200 years.

“The day was very special. Not only did we see the combined British and Dutch Royal Marines Bands performing together but also the pageantry of a Royal visit.”

We also opened our new temporary exhibition programme – Breaking the Chain. 

This is once in a lifetime chance to see the Battle of Medway story told through a wonderful collection of historic art, objects and manuscripts.  The Breaking the Chain exhibition at The Historic Dockyard Chatham vividly brings the Battle of Medway story to life with collections from The Royal Museum Greenwich, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Dutch National Maritime Museum, the Michiel de Ruyter Foundation and the British Library.

This exhibition is located in No.1 Smithery, with admission all included in our annual tickets. This is showcasing until 3rd September 2017.

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