2017 sees the 350th Anniversary of the Battle for Landguard Fort and the last land invasion of England!
This Friday, BBC's Inside Out will be heading to Landguard Fort in Felixstowe on The Suffolk Coast. The show, which airs on BBC1 at 7.30pm highlights the important role that the Fort played in defending our shores from the Dutch invasion in 1667.
To mark the anniversary, Felixstowe is set to celebrate in style as part of Suffolk’s Armed Forces weekend on 24th – 25th June 2017 with events throughout the town. Reenactments, living history displays, skirmishes and battles will recreate the events of 1667 and Captain Darell’s victory.
The Grade 1 Listed Fort also opens for the season this Saturday 1st April; with a maze of rooms and passageways, bastion view points, artefacts, displays, exhibitions and special events, it offers something for all ages and interests.
The Battle for Landguard - A History
In June 1667 the war over who controlled the lucrative colonies and sea trade routes, the Second Anglo-Dutch war, was nearing its end. The Dutch attacked Sheerness and Chatham, sinking ships, capturing the King’s flagship and destroying a fort at Sheerness. It was a national humiliation and left the English Navy almost powerless.
The Dutch needed to capture or destroy the Fort at Landguard which defended the entrance to the Harwich Haven. The seaward approaches to Felixstowe and Harwich have many treacherous sandbanks. Two small Dutch vessels had been seen taking soundings just off the Fort. This gave the defenders some pre-warning that an attack might be imminent.
On the 2nd July 1667 a Dutch fleet under Admiral De Ruyter with some 70 vessels arrived off the coast at Felixstowe.
Attempts by some of the Dutch warships to bombard the Fort were thwarted by the sandbanks as they could not get close enough for their gunfire to be effective. The Dutch landed a force of around 1,500 men at Cobbolds Point some two miles from Landguard. This force marched south under the command of an English turncoat, Colonel Dolman, taking small cannon and scaling ladders to attack and take the Fort from the landward side.
Landguard Fort was a square in plan with bastions at each corner. Fortunately, it had undergone some much needed repairs the previous year and had just recently been garrisoned by two companies of the Lord High Admiral’s Regiment (The forerunners of the Royal Marines) under the command of Captain Nathaniel Darell.
There were two attempts by the much larger Dutch force to take Landguard Fort. The first assault was beaten off by sustained musket fire from Darell’s men and the Dutch took cover in the shingle. But their reprieve was short lived as they were attacked by a small boat in the estuary firing cannon balls into the shingle. As the cannon balls hit the stones it acted like shrapnel causing many casualties. A second attempt to storm the Fort was also repulsed and Colonel Dolman was amongst the Dutch dead. As the evening approached, without their leader and fearful of English reinforcements cutting them off from their ships the Dutch retreated, embarked that night and sailed away.
Many Dutch were killed and wounded, but from the defenders only one English soldier was killed and four wounded. One of these was Captain Darell who had been hit in the shoulder by a musket ball, but continued to lead his men until victory was assured. He was hailed as a national hero and promoted to Major. After the battle both the Duke of York and later King Charles II visited Landguard to give thanks for this gallant defense of English shores.