battle of camperdown

On this day, 11 October in 1797, the naval battle of Camperdown was fought, where the British Fleet, led by Dundee-born Admiral Adam Duncan, decisively beat the Dutch and countered the threat of French invasion.

In 1795, the Dutch Republic had been overrun by the army of the French Republic and had been reorganised into the Batavian Republic, a French client state. In early 1797, after the French Atlantic Fleet had suffered heavy losses in a disastrous winter campaign, the Dutch fleet was ordered to reinforce the French at Brest.

By September, the Dutch fleet under De Winter were blockaded within their harbour in the Texel by the British North Sea fleet under Duncan.

At the start of October, Duncan was forced to return to Yarmouth for supplies and Vice Admiral Jan De Winter used the opportunity to conduct a brief raid into the North Sea. When the Dutch fleet returned to the Dutch coast on 11 October, Duncan was waiting, and intercepted De Winter off the coastal village of Camperduin.

The battle was the most significant action between British and Dutch forces during the French Revolutionary Wars and resulted in a complete victory for the British, who captured eleven Dutch ships without losing any of their own.

Duncan was Admiral Nelson’s mentor and in Nelson’s words, “the name of Duncan will never be forgot by Britain and in particular by its Navy.”

There is a Camperdown pub in George Square, Glasgow.

Pic: ‘Admiral Duncan Receiving the Sword of the Dutch Admiral de Winter at the Battle of Camperdown’, by Samuel Drummond (1827), and held by the National Maritime Museum.

One of the men’s wives assisted in firing a gun where her husband was quartered, though frequently requested to go below, but she would not be prevailed upon to do so until a shot carried away one of her legs and wounded the other.
—  Lieutenant Philip of HMS Ardent, describing the Battle of Camperdown (quoted in St Vincent and Camperdown, Christopher Lloyd)

Samuel Drummond (1766-1844). Admiral Duncan Receiving the Sword of the Dutch Admiral de Winter at the Battle of Camperdown, 11 October 1797. 1827. Oil on canvas, 215 x 279 cm. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (Inv. BHC0506).

De Winter behaved nobly, and is said to have been the only person: on his quarter-deck that was not either killed or wounded: when conducted a prisoner on board the Venerable he presented his sword to Admiral Duncan, who courteously returned it to him with an appropriate compliment. De Winter and Duncan were two of the tallest and finest men of their fleets […] De Winter is said to have lamented with bitterness, that in the midst of the carnage, which literally floated the decks of the Vryheid in blood, he alone should have been spared. […] The two admirals, after the duties of the day were arranged, dined together on board the Venerable in the most amicable manner, and concluded the evening with a rubber of whist.

- Edward Pelham Brenton. The naval history of Great Britain: from the year MDCCLXXXIII to MDCCCXXII. Vol. II. 1823.

Admiral Duncan Receiving the Sword of the Dutch Admiral de Winter at the Battle of Camperdown, 11 October 1797
by Samuel Drummond

National Maritime Museum
Date painted: 1827
Oil on canvas, 205.5 x 272 cm