News: “Over the graves of the Druids and under the wreck of Rome,
Rudely but surely they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
Behind the feet of the Legions and before the Norseman’s ire
Rudely but greatly begat they the framing of State and Shire
Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stand till now.
If we trace on ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.”

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Author Topic: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century  (Read 2896 times)

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Offline otis

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #18 on: October 26, 2018, 19:28:38 »

There were a few merchant crew buried but the great majority was from the Royal Navy, notably HMS Swiftsure, Happie Entrance, Lion, Vantgard and Mary Rose. The spelling is as seen.


Just a thought......

If the great majority were from named Royal Navy ships, but fought as mercenaries for a foreign navy,, then they would be deserters surely? I would imagine it unlikely that it would be easy to correctly identify a dead foreign mercenary, and further unlikely for his body to be repatriated?
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Online Bilgerat

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #17 on: October 26, 2018, 18:49:17 »
I think what we're getting at is those are graves of men who were interred at roughly the same time. That doesn't mean that they were involved in the fighting because the Royal Navy didn't take part in the Battle of the Downs. It's just coincidence that men from the ships you mentioned are there too.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline MartinR

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #16 on: October 26, 2018, 16:29:37 »
Didn't you mention that they were from HMS Swiftsure, Happie Entrance, Lion, Vantgard and Mary Rose?  The men may have been mercenaries, but would royal ships have been involved in the fighting?

Offline Alastair

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #15 on: October 26, 2018, 15:30:24 »
You are remarkably well informed, Bilgerat. That's extremely interesting and even more that I didn't know. Shows that mercenaries could be the ones buried in deal's churchyards.
Thanks for posting.

Kind Regards
Alastair

Online Bilgerat

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2018, 20:28:41 »
Funny you should mention mercenaries Alastair.....

The Battle of the Downs was fought as part of the Thirty Years War, which was a war which engulfed pretty much the whole of continental Europe between 1618 and 1648. A great number of British mercenaries fought in the war on both sides and many of them brought their combat experience to bear in the English Civil War which started in 1642 and continued, on and off, until 1658.

The Thirty Years War caused humanitarian catastrophes on an unprecedented scale, particularly in what is now Germany. The war caused over 8 million deaths, arising not only from the actual fighting itself, but also from famine and disease. In terms of what would today be called Civilian Casualties, the sheer numbers of deaths in what is now Germany and the Czech Republic remained unsurpassed until the fall of Nazi Germany in the last year or so of the Second World War.

In the Battle of the Downs, a Spanish fleet was on it's way to Flanders to land a 75,000-strong army and had been forced to take shelter in The Downs by combination of harrying Dutch attacks and the weather. They had found themselves blockaded by a much smaller Dutch force. The Dutch sent to the Netherlands for urgent reinforcements. In response to the request, the Dutch authorities hired any large, armed merchant vessel which was available (almost all deep-sea merchant vessels were at the time, armed). The Dutch records of the Battle only list the captains involved in the battle, not the names of the ships they commanded, so it's reasonable to suppose that some of the ships may well have been English. In addition to these, there are known to have been a dozen hired English transport ships amongst the Spanish fleet.

So, the fact that the majority of the graves have English names is perhaps not so surprising......
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline Alastair

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2018, 14:59:12 »
Interesting Bilerigat. - that's something I didn't know. I don't think the burials came from the Spanish or Dutch as they all have English names. Unless they recruited British mercenaries.
Alastair

Online Bilgerat

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2018, 10:59:48 »
I saw that the Dutch war didn't start until around 1850 and these burials are between the 1630's and 40's.
Alastair

The First Anglo-Dutch War started in 1652. As hinted at earlier, there was a major naval battle (The Battle of The Downs) fought in The Downs on the 21st October 1639 between a Spanish fleet of about 50 ships and a Dutch fleet numbering almost 100 ships. The result was a decisive Dutch victory with heavy Spanish casualties. It is estimated that Spain lost around 40 of their ships and around 7,000 killed. Dutch casualties were much lighter. The English were not involved in the battle at all. What was important from England's point of view though was that the Battle occurred in English territorial waters within sight of land and because England was militarily weak at the time (and also on the brink of civil war!), neither the Royal Navy or the Castle and battery at Deal were able to intervene.

A major naval battle being fought within four or five miles of the shore would have resulted in a great number of the dead being washed up around Deal, which might account for the sheer numbers of the dead buried at Deal.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline Alastair

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2017, 15:10:36 »
Well done, everyone! It looks as if illness not naval action was the cause of these deaths, thanks to Longpockets. The Downs wouldn't be suitable for burial at sea due, as Martin says, to fishing and not being deep water.
There is no cause of death listed on the burials, with one exception. The chap fell down a well. So he was obviously on land and it follows that other deaths may have happened on land - fights, etc.
Thank you all again

Alastair

Offline Longpockets

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2017, 19:37:39 »
Prior to 1747 from this source

"For years diseases such as malaria, typhoid and yellow fever, and dietary deficiencies causing dysentery and scurvy, killed far more men than injury in battle, making the fight against disease as important as more conventional warfare."

I do not think if they died in The Downs they would have been buried at sea, but I stand to be corrected.

Offline MartinR

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2017, 17:10:20 »
I thought sailors who died at sea were usually given burial at sea.  They only got graves on shore if they were washed up after a shipwreck or died onshore.  Possibly that only applies to deep water, it would be a bit off if fishing boats started fetching up corpses. :-(  Anyhow, just a thought to throw into the ring.

Offline Alastair

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2017, 12:56:54 »
Thank you all, once again. I hadn't discounted natural causes, Longpockets, but the number of burials seems too high. I have no idea how many sailors died from illness aboard ship in those days but maybe that is the answer. If so, then medical conditions aboard must have been dire in the extreme.
There were a few merchant crew buried but the great majority was from the Royal Navy, notably HMS Swiftsure, Happie Entrance, Lion, Vantgard and Mary Rose. The spelling is as seen.

Regards

Alastair

Offline Longpockets

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2017, 09:07:35 »
Alastair, are you discounting "It could be they are sailors from the British ships who died of natural causes while at anchor in the downs"

From Bilgerat's post below - Also, up until about 1790, the level of healthcare in the fleet varied widely, from very good to non-existant until the Admiralty implemented Sir Gilbert Blane's recommendations in full. Until those recommendations came into force,  individual ships suffered periodic outbreaks of diseases such as Typhus and Dysentery.

I could find no reference to medical facilities in Deal for that period 1630 - 1640. There were probably not any Naval buildings as such there until later.

Are the graves all "Navy" as The Downs was also an anchorage for merchant ships.

I could understand them being buried in Deal if the battle were close by if it was a battle near to Deal, how many of the casualties would have been brought back. Not sure what the procedure was for those killed in battle. How many days away from land do you not bury at sea?

Offline CAT

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2017, 08:27:21 »
Though slightly later than the mid seventeenth-century, it is recorded that over 1000 seamen perished on the Goodwin Sands and the Downs (the bit of water between the sands and the coast) in the Great Storm of 26 November 1703 (modern Gregorian calendar: 7 December). Despite causing widespread damage to buildings and landscapes across southern England as reported by Daniel Defoe, Rear Admiral Beaumont's Squadron of Observation was lost. Other ships lost included HMS Restoration, HMS Northumberland, HMS Mary and HMS Stirling Castle. Between these few ships, of which there were numerous others, it is recorded that over 1099 men drowned, including Rear Admiral Beaumont. Daniel Dafoe notes that the following morning that the beaches between Walmer Castle and Sandown Castle were awash with the bodies of dead sailors.

Its also worth noting that during the seventeenth and early eighteenth-century, St Leonard's Church was regarded as the principal church of Deal, then known as Upper Deal, to distinguish it from the lower coastal settlement. It was not until the mid eighteenth-century that Deal (present coastal town) got its own church and the focus of settlement moved from on top of the hill to the sea front. 

Online Bilgerat

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2017, 06:15:03 »
I don't know how relevant this is, but the fleet at the Downs intervened in the Royalist uprising in Kent during the Second Civil War (1647 - 1649). They may have suffered casualties in this fighting.

The fleet at the Downs sustained relatively heavy casualties during Nelson's Raids on Boulogne during 1801.

Also, up until about 1790, the level of healthcare in the fleet varied widely, from very good to non-existant until the Admiralty implemented Sir Gilbert Blane's recommendations in full. Until those recommendations came into force,  individual ships suffered periodic outbreaks of diseases such as Typhus and Dysentery.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline Alastair

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Re: POSSIBLE NAVAL ACTION OFF KENT IN 17th Century
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2017, 15:12:16 »
Thank you both for your replies. I'd considered casualties from shipwrecks but, so far, the burials are over a ten-year period. Having looked one or two of the ships up, the vessels appear to have gone on to other things later and therefore not been wrecked.
Never heard of the Battle of the Downs but, as you say, if it was between the Dutch and the Spanish, we presumably weren't involved.
It's a mystery. St Mary's churchyard in Walmer contains what seems to be most of Nelson's fleet but the reason for that is apparent. No such apparent reason for large numbers of naval personnel in the 1630's and 40's.

Alastair

 

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