Landguard Fort

Felixstowe, Suffolk, UK

This Naval History continues on from: "Royal Navy at Dunkirk"

Darrell's Day - 3rd July 2011

Darrell's Day is a special day in the history of both the Landguard Fort and the Royal Marines. It is celebrated every year on the nearest Sunday to the 2nd of July; this is the closest date that can be fixed to the Dutch invasion of the fort.

The original date was 2/12th July 1667, but there has now been an adjustment of ten-days from the old calendar to the new calendar since that time.

New Style dates, that is, according to the Georgian calendar which now everybody uses and which, although it had only been proclaimed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, most of western Europe was aleady using by 1587. England, of course, was not.

Darrell's Day dates from the events that occurred on 2nd July 1667, when Captain Nathaniel Darrell and 400 musketeers from the Duke of York & Albany's Maritime Regiment Afoot, which was formed on 28th October 1664.

They successfully defended Landguard Fort against a superior numbered invading Dutch Force, and in doing so foiled the Dutch fleet in their attempt to enter and ransack and devastate the ships in and around Harwich Harbour.

Royal Navy at Dunkirk

The first Sunday's an historical event

A brief account of this event is given below

Since 1667, the 2nd July each year has continued to be known as 'Darrell's Day.' It continues to be celebrated locally, being held on the nearest Sunday to the 2nd July each year and is focused around Fort Landguard.

The Royal Marine Association East Anglia Region has now adopted Darrell's Day, with the intention of establishing it as a significant date in the Corps Calendar. To this end the Region is working with the Landguard Fort Trustees to plan and organise Darrell's Day 2011.

Landguard Fort is owned by English Heritage and in the care of the Landguard Fort Trust. The fort is open to the public from the end of March until the end of October each year, with the gates opening at 10:00 a.m.

Our plans for Darrell's Day 2011 are not yet so far advanced that I can, at this time, provide a full schedule of the Day's activities, but there will be a number of VIPs attending and we have every expectation of having a Royal Marine Band present, with the possibility of a contingent of serving Royal Marines and possibly some Dutch Marines.

We are also inviting members of the Royal Marine Reserve and a number of local Royal Marine Cadet units. So, of course, there will, be a parade and a short Drumhead Service. Other activities, involving displays and static stands are still at the planning stage, but a strong possibility. All in all, a day not top be missed; and of course, Landguard Fort is a building of historic interest and well worth a visit.

Everyone will be most welcome to come along, so put 3rd July 2011 in your diary, it will be a day to remember!

Landguard Fort & Darrell's Day

Imagine it is July 1667, and the second Dutch War is in progress. Admiral de Ruyter, and the Dutch fleet, of about 80 ships, are cruising the English coastline of Essex, Suffolk and Kent. Earlier in June, the Dutch had attacked a section of the English fleet, which was laid-up in the Medway.

To gain entry to the Medway all the forts around the Thames Estuary were captured and controlled by the Dutch Marines. A Dutch naval force entered the Medway without being challenged and carried out their sabotage operations of the English ships.

The Dutch marines assisted with the French Marines had also invaded and captured and ransacked the Isle of Sheppy.

At the Medway they burnt three capital ships along with ten lesser vessels using specially prepared fireships for their weapons. They had also captured and towed away two other capital vessels, Admiral de Ruyter is now hunting another element of the English fleet at anchor in Harwich Harbour, Essex.

When the Dutch landed on the beach at Harwich they could see the Fort guarding the shipping lane; and soon realised that if they could capture the Fort; then they could use the Fort's guns to destroy Harwich and the elements of the British fleet that were laid up there. They rowed across to Landguard Point.

To gain access into Harwich Harbour, the Dutch must first neutralize the Landguard Fort. The fort is located on Landguard Point, near Felixstowe, Suffolk. And is strategically placed to guard the shipping channel to Harwich. So on the 2nd July 1667, Admiral de Ruyter, makes a determined effort to eliminate Fort Landguard.

Early in the day, six Dutch men-of-war are detailed to bombard the fort with cannon, but the local waters and a maze of shoals hampers the Dutch ships. So that they cannot sail close enough to put down an effective bombardment.

So Admiral de Ruyter must now press ahead with the main part of his plan. This is to put ashore 1500 Dutch Marines and a force of sailors, to attack the Fort from landward with small cannon, scaling ladders and early grenade devices.

The ladders had to be made on the beaches with materials from the ships. All appeared to be going to plan. However in the Fort were 400 Musketeers who were taking a break from having been fighting at sea for two years.

They were hardened, experienced fighters, well disciplined in action, who had survived encounters at sea and in shore raiding parties around the world.

First British Marines Recorded Land Battle

At this time Landguard Fort is commanded by a Captain Nathaniel Darrell, and his garrison consists of 400 of the Duke of York & Albany's Maritime Regiment Afoot (The first British Marines), plus 100 artillerymen and 51 cannons. The men of the Admiral's Regiment were highly trained musketeers armed with the Matchlock Muskets.

The Dutch force advance on the fort, attempting several assaults, but each time they are repulsed, suffering heavy losses, while the fort defenders suffer 1 dead and 4 wounded. The retiring Dutch force retreat to the beach and are taken off back to their ships.

Since that time, the 2nd July has been locally commemorated as Darrell's Day and Landguard Fort has been regarded as the site of the last opposed invasion of England and the first land battle of the Royal Marines.

Others were fighting also

We cannot take anything away from the success of Darrell and his Musketeers, buy they did not account for all of the enemy's casualties.

When the landing embarked on its mission the Dutch Marines had to get past the cannons of the fort first; this they were successful at, but they did come by a few casualties before they managed to get ashore and under the range of the great guns.

It is well known that fierce action took place between the Dutch Marines and the musketeers the future Royal Marines. The musketeers were well trained and well disciplened, and in the heat of the action they could load and fire their muskets twice and some could thrice load and fire them in the time the Dutch could fire one shot.

The Dutch were faced with a staunch determined enemy, they were trying to load and fire while moving across stones and sand; a very difficult thing to do when under constant accurate fire. They fought gallantly but though they were the stronger force, they never held the strongest position.

Eventually after taking two many casualties their only option was to withdraw. By now the ships in Harwich Harbour had realised exactly what was going on; everybody in the area knew. The ships came out of the harbour ready for action. When they saw the Dutch Marines retreating on the shore and getting back in their boats, they too opened fire.

Darrell's Day Victory

Darrell's Day victory is celbrated each year at Languard Fort, usually on the first Weekend of July. In 2010 volunteers gave five perfomances of a specially written new play (at 11a.m., 12noon, 2p.m., 3p.m., and 4p.m.) looking at the Dutch attack from Darrell's and de Ruyter's propective.

Visitors were invited to meet Darrell (who fired his musket) and Admiral de Ruyter between performances. There was also live musket firings of a "Brown Bess" after which visitors were welcome to ask the "musketeer" any questions they had.

They were also invited to see the new East Anglian office of the Royal Marines Association, now housed within the Fort.

It was incredible that the garrison under Captain Natniel Darrell repulsed such a strong attack and the Dutch retreated having recieved many casualties. When only one Englishman was killed and four wounded Darrell himself (with a small shoulder ingury) was proclaimed the hero of the day.

This was the last opposed invasion of England.

Darrell's Marines 1667

The Phantom Musketeer

By Mollie Skipper

In Landguard Fort, if you volunteer,

Beware of the phantom musketeer.

Patrolling the walk-ways night after night,

Seeking, searching, ready to fight.

Go not alone if you venture out,

No time to scream, no time to shout.

Afraid to move, unable to run,

You stand and shudder as he raises his gun.

Modern-day Pages Fast Boats Pages Joe Wezley Pages

Admiral de Ruyter

Michael Adriaenszoon de Ruyter, born 24th March 1607, is the most famous and one of the most skilled admirals in Dutch history.

He is well known for his role in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th Century. He fought the English and the French and scored many victories, the best known being his daring "Raid on the Meadway" in June 1667.

This preceeded his defeat at Landguard Fort the following month.

He is believed to have become a sailor at the age of 11 and was much loved by the sailors and soldiers under his command who nicknamed him the old Dutch for 'grandfather.'

He was fatally wounded by a cannon ball during the battle of Agosta on 19th April 1676. He was given a state funeral in Amsterdam and was honoured by a statue in his birth place, Vlissingen, Where he stands looking over the sea.

Nearly every town in the Netherlands has a street named after him and six ships of the Royal Netherlands Navy have been named HNLMS De Ruyter.

refer to:

The continuation of this Naval History will be: "Solomons Gold" Landguard Fort Solomons Gold

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