Tuesday 11 June 1667

Up, and more letters still from Sir W. Coventry about more fire- ships, and so Sir W. Batten and I to the office, where Bruncker come to us, who is just now going to Chatham upon a desire of Commissioner Pett’s, who is in a very fearful stink for fear of the Dutch, and desires help for God and the King and kingdom’s sake. So Bruncker goes down, and Sir J. Minnes also, from Gravesend. This morning Pett writes us word that Sheernesse is lost last night, after two or three hours’ dispute. The enemy hath possessed himself of that place; which is very sad, and puts us into great fears of Chatham. Sir W. Batten and I down by water to Deptford, and there Sir W. Pen and we did consider of several matters relating to the dispatch of the fire-ships, and so [Sir] W. Batten and I home again, and there to dinner, my wife and father having dined, and after dinner, by W. Hewer’s lucky advice, went to Mr. Fenn, and did get him to pay me above 400l. of my wages, and W. Hewer received it for me, and brought it home this night. Thence I meeting Mr. Moore went toward the other end of the town by coach, and spying Mercer in the street, I took leave of Moore and ‘light and followed her, and at Paul’s overtook her and walked with her through the dusty street almost to home, and there in Lombard Street met The. Turner in coach, who had been at my house to see us, being to go out of town to-morrow to the Northward, and so I promised to see her tomorrow, and then home, and there to our business, hiring some fire-ships, and receiving every hour almost letters from Sir W. Coventry, calling for more fire-ships; and an order from Council to enable us to take any man’s ships; and Sir W. Coventry, in his letter to us, says he do not doubt but at this time, under an invasion, as he owns it to be, the King may, by law, take any man’s goods. At this business late, and then home; where a great deal of serious talk with my wife about the sad state we are in, and especially from the beating up of drums this night for the trainbands upon pain of death to appear in arms to-morrow morning with bullet and powder, and money to supply themselves with victuals for a fortnight; which, considering the soldiers drawn out to Chatham and elsewhere, looks as if they had a design to ruin the City and give it up to be undone; which, I hear, makes the sober citizens to think very sadly of things. So to bed after supper, ill in my mind. This afternoon Mrs. Williams sent to me to speak with her, which I did, only about news. I had not spoke with her many a day before by reason of Carcasses business.

16 Annotations

Terry Foreman   Link to this

Edward Cuthell to Lane
Written from: New Inn, near Temple Bar [London]
Date: 11 June 1667

An apprehension of a Dutch descent upon the coast of Kent, hastened Lord Middleton's departure to his command. Just as he was about to set out upon his journey he had an account of the death of his brother at Kinsale, & of an intention, on the part of his brother's lieutenant there to administer to his effects. His Lordship desires that a caveat may issue in due form, in order that Sir Arthur Forbes may administer to the effects in Ireland.
_____

Brodrick to Ormond
Written from: Clarendon House
Date: 11 June 1667

Whether Dr Estrades, by the French Kng's command, did or did not encourage the Dutch attempt on the Kentish Coast, the writer cannot say; still less whether or no the French Fleet is presently to join with the Dutch. ... Very knowing men affirm that the King of France laughs at Lord St. Albans, & never intended to keep faith with him. ...

A summary of various recent naval advices is added & the writer continues:- "The clamours of the town are loud, and it is to be feared that those in Parliament will be little less, - for not setting out a Fleet fit to encounter the Dutch, in due season" ...
_____

Arlington to Ormond
Written from: Whitehall
Date: 11 June 1667

Describes the entry of the Dutch Fleet into the Medway, and some subsequent incidents ...

Tomorrow, the Ministers are to give, in Council, their formal opinion whether or not the King should recall his Ambassadors from Breda ...
_____

Anglesey to Ormond
Written from: London
Date: 11 June 1667

Yesterday, ... the Dutch ships assaulted the new fort at Sheerness, ... not yet finished, nor very defensible. Sir Edward Sprague ... was forced to quit it, with the loss of five or six men. The loss thereof put the whole isle of Sheppey ... into their power, & therewith some of the King's work-yards for shipping, and great cattle & sheep more than they will use. The next & great design we suspect to be upon Chatham Stores, and our great ships laid up in the river Medway ...

... We are now considering how to bring our Fleet together (which some of skill say is impossible) which "I am ashamed", adds the writer, "to mention are near a hundred fighting ships, besides fire-ships & catches proportionable; ... however they came to be disposed. ...

http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/projects...

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Phew! Perhaps what's most amazing is Will Hewer's thinking of laying up all possible cash before Sam did.

Poor Pett. Still one wonders if it wouldn't be possible to trap the Dutch in the river. A chain or two or three across the river and sunken blockships blocking their retreat behind and fireships bearing down from upriver would surely put them in a dangerous situation.

Ruben   Link to this

"hiring some fire-ships"
Hiring a ship to get it destroyed by fire? It sounds strange.

Mary   Link to this

Hiring some fire-ships.

Perhaps a profitable way for the owner of a beat-up old vessel that is just capable of making one, last trip down the Thames to get some 'scrap value' from the craft? (But I stand to be corrected on this).

Andrew Hamilton   Link to this

'Tis said the Dutch captains were heard to shout, "Tora! Tora! Tora!"

Michael McCollough   Link to this

I don't imagine it would be too hard to get the ships, but where would you get fireship pilots?

Michael Robinson   Link to this

@ Michael McCollough -- one instance of volunteers

Following the funeral of Sir. Christopher Myngs ( http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/8323/ )

" ... there happened this extraordinary case, one of the most romantique that ever I heard of in my life, and could not have believed, but that I did see it; which was this: — About a dozen able, lusty, proper men come to the coach-side with tears in their eyes, and one of them that spoke for the rest begun and says to Sir W. Coventry, “We are here a dozen of us that have long known and loved, and served our dead commander, Sir Christopher Mings, and have now done the last office of laying him in the ground. We would be glad we had any other to offer after him, and in revenge of him. All we have is our lives; if you will please to get His Royal Highness to give us a fireship among us all, here is a dozen of us, out of all which choose you one to be commander, and the rest of us, whoever he is, will serve him; and, if possible, do that that shall show our memory of our dead commander, and our revenge.”
http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1666/06/13/

Robert Gertz   Link to this

There was the case of that poor fellow, (Burnett? I think) who'd applied to Sam for a captaincy of a fireship as the one chance for a poor man with few connections to advance his state and drowned tragically shortly after with Sam rather moved, noting the man's deep gratitude and kindly manner.

Fireships functioned as the equivalent of guided torpedoes if the crew was brave enough to stay on until the ship was sure to hit target. And of course before the motorized torpedo was developed, the first submersible vessels and ironclad rams often used impact or spar torpodes, requiring ala "The African Queen" a ram of the enemy, with the crew jumping ship or the spar being stuck in the enemy's side, manual or automatic arming, then (hopefully) a quick dash back before the explosion.

Coventry's strategy in using the fireships probably could have been a deadly one for the Dutch if the will and materials had come together. The Dutch are taking an enormous risk and it's paying off.

Tora, tora, tora indeed...But

Spoiler...

In the midst of his great victory the great Dutch leader DeWitt will sadly find that Fortuna is a cruel mistress. And that he is facing two very unscrupulous royals, Charles and his own William of Orange, neither of whom will much hesitate at any necessary step to reverse their fortunes.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Determined to save England, our hero returns to the office to gather vital information...

"Lady Penn? Admiral Sir Will? What are you doing with my record books? And those maps of southern England?"

"Pepys...Lady Penn was just assisting me in gathering some information before I head back to Deptford..." Penn, soothingly. "Doubtless what brought you here..."

"But you were to stay at Deptford and gather more fireships, Sir Will. And you seem rather dressed for a long journey, my lady. Not to mention that couch filled with what I assume to be your goods outside."

"A minor precaution in such times, Samuel." Penn, jocular tone. "You know how the mob can get when things don't go well. I'm sending Lady Penn to safety in the country until things quiet."

"I see...But what I don't see is the need to send along all the information on our shipbuilding facilities and naval supplies. Not to mention charts for the Chatham base..."

"Why, Pepys...Are you accusing me of something, boy?" Penn, eyes narrowing.

As always one can see the hatred concealed in his eyes, Sam notes.

"Enough of this foolishness." Lady Penn pulls pistol. "We have a boat to Holland to catch, Mr. Pepys."

Hah! Sam can't resist a beam...Knew it all along!

"So...A traitor in our ranks all this time..." he eyes the triumphantly sneering Penn.

"Not to the principles I fought for for the Commonwealth, you monarch's pet dog." Penn sneers. "While dissembling to keep a post in this sordid government, I have remained true to republicanism and will bring about the final downfall of the Stuarts, while saving the last, best hope for lovers of liberty everywhere, the Republic."

"Me, I'm just a Dutch patriot." Lady Penn notes, keeping pistol pointed. "But if it advances the cause of human freedom here, that only sweetens our victory."

"Traitor." Pepys glares. "You've betrayed your sworn oath to His Majesty."

"Nobody sellout...Lap dog for the aristocracy." Penn sneers back. "All these years, I watched you, scurrying about for a worthless monarch and his loathsomely corrupt band of thieves trying to win entry into their club. Blocking my efforts to secure control of this office and bring about the overthrow. But now, all your petty hinderances are at an end, Pepys. Today is victory day!" fist shake. "And when the Republic's fleet completes its victory by destroying the shipbuilding facilities at Chatham and our troops, led by me, march to Deptford and Woolwich to destroy the infrastructure of the navy, Stuart will be dragged to the block as an incompetent fool and England will be ripe for a republican return!"

"Sam'l? Did you want to take a pigeon sandwich with you?" Bess at door.

"NO!" Lady Penn screams as Sam takes advantage of the distraction, diving for the floor and rolling behind Hewer's unoccupied desk.

cum salis grano   Link to this

“hiring some fire-ships”
Done many times, before and since, worn out B17's comes to mind, Heinkels,zero's, desperation is what creates the use of unusable devices to get at one enemies, still goes on in modern battles, unused bombs and artillery shells for instance, no planes or guns available but the old ammo can still be used to the detriment of the dreaded foe.

cum salis grano   Link to this

One man's junk is another mans "prophet"
Or where there is muck, there be money.

A. De Araujo   Link to this

"fire-ships"
weren't they like firefighters ships?in which case they were indeed needed.

Terry Foreman   Link to this

“fire-ships”
Check the link. "A fire ship, used in the days of wooden rowed or sailing ships, was a ship filled with combustibles, deliberately set on fire and steered (or, where possible, allowed to drift) into an enemy fleet, in order to destroy ships, or to create panic and make the enemy break formation. Ships used as fire ships were usually old and worn out or purpose-built inexpensive vessels." http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/10129/

Terry Foreman   Link to this

"On 11 June (Old Style) [ Admiral George Monck, Duke of Albemarle ] went to Chatham, expecting the place to be well prepared for an attack. Two members of the Navy Board, Sir John Mennes and Lord Henry Brouncker, had already travelled there on the same day. When Albemarle arrived, however, he found only twelve of the eight hundred dockyard men expected and these in a state of panic; of the thirty sloops only ten were present, the other twenty having been used to bring the personal possessions of several officials to safety, such as the ship models of Pett. No munition or powder was available and the chain that blocked the Medway had not been protected by batteries. He immediately ordered to move the artillery from Gravesend to Chatham, which would take a day to effect.

"As his artillery would not arrive soon, Monck on the 11th ordered a squadron of cavalry and a company of soldiers to reinforce Upnor Castle. River defences were hastily improvised with blockships sunk, and the chain across the river was guarded by light batteries. Pett proposed that several big and smaller ships be sunk to block the Musselbank channel in front of the chain."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raid_on_the_Medway

A. De Araujo   Link to this

Thanks Terry.

Glyn   Link to this

A few years ago in this diary, some sailors asked to sail on a fireship to avenge the death of their captain (I forget the details). Presumably there would be rowing boats (rowboats) on board to get the crew away quickly, but it would be dangerous.

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.