June in 1667 brought a catastrophe to the Royal Fleet of England. The so-called “Gillingham Line”, as well as the Upnor Castle Fortress, served for defense of the Royal Navy. The major vessels of the English Fleet, including its four best warships, were anchored in the Chatham Dockyard. The harbored marine battle units lacked manpower and arms. The soldiers had not received allowances for a long time and were demoralized. Meanwhile, 62 Dutch warships were sailing up the Medway River with high tide. It was the Raid on the Medway.
Shortly beforehand, the Dutch Raid succeeded when the battle vessels reached the estuary of the Thames River, namely Gravesend. The town of Sheerness underwent bombardment and got captured by the Dutch.
The offensive campaign reached its boiling point in Chatham and Gillingham along the Medway River. The Dutch commanders Willem Joseph van Ghent and Michiel de Ruyter orchestrated the fire of cannons. They demolished fortifications and captured 14 vessels, including the 3 English Navy’s magnificent flagships.
The river was full of ship fragments, the horizon was hardly visible because of thick shelling fumes. One of the captured battleships was King Charles, the symbol of the Royal Fleet. It was bearing the Dutch flag afterwards.
The English drowned four ships in a desperate attempt to barricade the Medway River. But it did not stop the enemy. The English defenders tried to fire with cannons in response to the Dutch cannon shelling. But unfortunately, the ammunition supplied did not fit the cannons’ calibers.
The Dutch Raid on Medway (Chatham) was one of the most humiliating events in the history of the Royal Navy, historians consider. In analyzing the reasons, they came to a conclusion that Charles II had obtained the country strapped for funds and assets. Until the end of his lifetime, the monarch had incessant disputes with Parliament.
Charles II proved to be excellent in war strategies. But he did not reach consent with the politicians and entrepreneurs, and thus he failed to create a new form of Parliamentary Monarchy.
Consequently, the Medway disaster appeared inevitable.