Vlieter incident

Last updated

Vlieter incident
Part of the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland during the War of the Second Coalition
Vlieter 1799.jpg
Surrender of Samuel Story's Texel Squadron
Date30 August 1799 (1799-08-30)
near Wieringen, Netherlands

Coordinates: 52°54′00″N4°58′12″E / 52.9000°N 4.9700°E / 52.9000; 4.9700
Result Batavian surrender
Flag of the navy of the Batavian Republic.svg  Batavian Republic
Commanders and leaders
Naval Ensign of Great Britain (1707-1800).svg Andrew Mitchell Flag of the navy of the Batavian Republic.svg Samuel Story
17 ships 13 ships

In the Vlieter incident on 30 August 1799, a squadron of the Batavian Navy, commanded by Rear-Admiral Samuel Story, surrendered to the British navy. The incident occurred during the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland. It took place in the tidal trench between Texel and the mainland that was known as De Vlieter, near Wieringen.



During the War of the First Coalition the Dutch Republic was invaded in 1794 by the armies of the French Republic, which led to the flight of Stadtholder William V, Prince of Orange, to England, and the proclamation of the Batavian Republic. This Republic now changed sides in the war, entering into an offensive and defensive alliance with France.

In the course of the War of the Second Coalition, which actually was a continuation of the first war, without France, Great Britain, or the Batavian Republic having concluded a peace, Great Britain and Russia decided to launch an invasion of the Batavian Republic in the peninsula of North Holland in August 1799. It was hoped that this invasion would cause a popular uprising of the Dutch population against their republic. The former Stadtholder and his eldest son the Hereditary Prince tried to support the expedition by propaganda-efforts and intrigues with disaffected officers. The loyalty of the Batavian navy was especially in doubt, as this was a hotbed of Orangist sentiment. The British Major General George Don, who conducted a reconnaissance of the Republic in July, 1799, estimated that the Helder squadron of the Batavian fleet would fall into British hands without a fight, if the Allies played their cards right. [1]

To accomplish this bloodless coup, the invading fleet came well stocked with flags of the previous regime, propaganda pamphlets, and Dutch émigrés, the most important of whom was the Hereditary Prince [2] . One of the Orangist officers who had left the Navy in 1795, Carel Hendrik Ver Huell, had on behalf of the Prince contacted two of his former colleagues, Theodorus Frederik van Capellen and Aegidius van Braam (who had re-enlisted in the Batavian navy), with the object of getting them to organize a mutiny in the Helder squadron (where they each commanded a ship-of-the-line). However, it is not clear whether the two officers indeed made a determined organizational effort before the fatal day. [1]

The invasion fleet of about 200 warships and transports left England on 13 August 1799. Inclement weather at first prevented it from approaching the Dutch coast. However, on 22 August, British Vice-Admiral Mitchell was able to approach the roadstead of Den Helder where the squadron of Admiral Story lay at anchor. Mitchell sent over parlimentaires demanding that Story defect to the Prince with his fleet, but Story refused indignantly. He replied further that he would ask for further instructions from the Batavian government. The British ships then withdrew and the weather again turned bad for a few days.

On 26 August 1799 an Anglo-Russian [3] invasion fleet of eleven ships-of-the-line and seven frigates arrived at the roadstead of Texel, flying the flag of the Prince of Orange. They started to disembark troops on the 27th, without opposition from the Batavian fleet, that had withdrawn into the Zuider Zee. General Herman Willem Daendels, the commander of the Batavian landforces, ordered the evacuation of the coastal forts of Den Helder after losing the Battle of Callantsoog (1799).

Mutiny and surrender

On 28 August, Admiral Story returned with his squadron to the Vlieter roadstead. He was forced to anchor because of adverse winds that prevented the fleet from mounting a direct attack on British. Enervated by the sight of the Orangist flags on the forts and church steeples of Den Helder, several ships' crews began to mutiny. Among the ships whose crew rebelled was Van Braam's ship, the Leyden. He later admitted he could have easily surpressed the revolt aboard his ship, but that he decided against it. Instead, he informed his commanding officer, Admiral Story—who himself had to counter an incipient mutiny on the flagship Washington—of the "precarious situation" aboard the other ships of the fleet. [4]

Story subsequently sent his flag captain, Van Capellen, and Cerberus' captain, De Jong, under a flag of truce to parlay with the commander of the British squadron, Admiral Mitchell. Van Capellen and De Jong were to instruct Mitchell that the Dutch fleet intended to give battle in accordance with explicit orders from the agent for the Navy of the Batavian Republic, Jacobus Spoors, but that Story had requested further orders and proposed to await those. Story requested a temporary truce to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. He would later go on to state that this had merely been a ruse to buy him some time—necessary to restore order back to the fleet. [5]

Mitchell did not fall for this ruse, probably because the two Dutch negotiators were actually the mutiny ringleaders. [6] Mitchell issued an ultimatum of one hour for Story to defect, or face the consequences. Faced with this ultimatum, Story convened a council of war aboard his flagship with all his captains. According to Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Maitland, who was present at the discussions on board Washington as a British parlimentaire, Van Capellen, De Jong, and Van Braam did their best to influence the council in the direction of accepting the ultimatum. He later asked in a letter to General Dundas that "the opinions and sentiments expressed by the captains Van Capelle, Van Braam and the [sic] Jong generally in the presence of Admiral Story might not become public and those officers thereby endangered. To you in this letter, I apprehend I do right inform you, that above mentioned captains did declare their attachment to the Stadholder and the former government and their disgust at the present government and their French connections ..." [4]

Before this council started, the crew of the Washington had already begun a full mutiny, refusing to man the guns, and throwing munitions into the sea. Attempts by Van Braam and by Story himself to reason with the mutineers had been of no avail. When asked during the council of war to describe the situation aboard their ships, all except Captain Van Senden of Batavier had similar stories. In these circumstances it seemed impossible to engage in battle. Besides, the officers calculated that their continued resistance would contribute little to the fight against the invasion, as the disembarkation had already taken place. Scuttling the fleet seemed impossible, because the crews would not allow it. Finally, some calculated that it would be better to surrender without resistance, because in that case the ships would end up in the possession of the Stadtholder, instead of becoming war booty for the British. [7]

The council of war therefore unanimously decided to lower the flag of the Batavian Republic and declare themselves prisoners of war. They refused, however, to hoist the Orange flag. This may seem a minor point, but it signified that the officers did not defect. When Mitchell accepted the surrender, he did this in the name of the Prince of Orange. He therefore ordered the flag of the Prince to be hoisted, with which order some of the officers complied. This act was to cost them dearly later on, as it was interpreted as an act of treason. [8]

Meanwhile, in the absence of the captains, further acts of mutiny had taken place on the other ships. One officer was drowned; others were beaten up. The Batavian flag was torn up by the mutineers. British officers restored order with some difficulty. After their surrender, the Prince visited several of the ships to the encouragement of the mutineers. [9] He had hoped to now take command of the surrendered fleet himself, yet his request was denied by the British. The crews were disembarked and British prize crews sailed the ships to England. Only five derelict frigates lying off Den Helder were handed to William. These were manned with old-regime volunteer crews living in the vicinity. They sailed to England under jury rig in November. One of these frigates foundered with loss of life. [10]


After this initial success, the Anglo-Russian expedition soon ran into difficulties. The civilian population of North Holland did not display the fervour for the cause of Orange that the Prince had expected. The Batavian army proved remarkably resilient and managed in cooperation with the French army of occupation to deal the Allies defeats at the Battle of Bergen and Battle of Castricum. The Allies therefore evacuated North Holland at the end of October, 1799.

As this was the second surrender of a Batavian fleet in short order (after the capitulation of Saldanha Bay in 1796), the authorities of the Batavian Republic decided to convene a court-martial on 8 October 1799, to exact exemplary punishment of the officers responsible for the surrender, and of the mutineers. As these were away in England the trial had to wait till the first returned to the Netherlands on parole. Those were arrested. Only Story himself, Van Braam and Van Capellen remained outside the reach of the court. They were eventually tried in absentia . [11]

One captain, N. Connio, of the brig Gier was condemned to death, and executed on board the guard ship Rozenburg on 27 December 1799, to the consternation of the detained officers. Captain Dirk Hendrik Kolff of Utrecht was also condemned to death, but he managed to escape before his execution. [11]

Captain De Jong was acquitted of the charge of treason, for lack of evidence, but he was convicted of dereliction of duty. He was cashiered; had to undergo a symbolic simulated execution (whereby a sword was swung over his head), and was banished for life. [11] The trials were then suspended in hope that the absent officers would become available. In July 1801 the trial was resumed with new indictments against officers who had surrendered ships on earlier occasions or been otherwise derelict. Several other officers were punished in an attempt to make clear to the officer corps that surrender without a fight was unacceptable.

In June 1802 the Hoge Zeekrijgsraad was replaced by a permanent court, the Hoge Militaire Vierschaar (High Military Court). This court eventually conducted the trials of Story, Van Capellen, Van Braam, and Kolff in absentia, after it had become clear that these officers would not return to the Netherlands after the Peace of Amiens in 1802, when they were released as POWs. They were convicted of dereliction of duty, cowardice, and disloyalty. The court declared them perjurious (because they had broken their oath of loyalty), without honour and "infamous", and they were cashiered, and banished for life, on penalty of execution (by beheading in the case of Story; by death by firing squad in the case of the other three). [12]

Story moved to Germany. He protested his innocence to the very end, publishing a public defence in the form of a book. [13] He died in Cleves in 1811, before he could ask the new King of the Netherlands for rehabilitation.

The others were more fortunate in this respect. They were fully rehabilitated after the Orangist party was restored to power in 1814. Van Capellen became a vice-admiral in the new Royal Netherlands Navy, and commanded a squadron at the Bombardment of Algiers in 1816.

Dutch ships surrendered

The squadron of Admiral Story comprised only part of the Batavian fleet. In Amsterdam lay four 74-gun and two 64-gun ships; at Hellevoetsluis one 74-gun ship and seven 64-guns, besides several frigates and brigs. [14]

Related Research Articles

Maarten Tromp Dutch admiral

Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp was a Dutch army general and admiral in the Dutch navy.

Battle of Texel battle in 1673

The naval Battle of Texel or Battle of Kijkduin took place off the southern coast of island of Texel on 21 August 1673 between the Dutch and the combined English and French fleets. It was the last major battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, which was itself part of the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678), during which Louis XIV of France invaded the Republic and sought to establish control over the Spanish Netherlands. English involvement came about because of the Treaty of Dover, secretly concluded by Charles II of England, and which was highly unpopular with the English Parliament.

Battle of Camperdown Major naval action of the French Revolutionary Wars

The Battle of Camperdown was a major naval action fought on 11 October 1797, between the British North Sea Fleet under Admiral Adam Duncan and a Batavian Navy (Dutch) fleet under Vice-Admiral Jan de Winter. The battle was the most significant action between British and Dutch forces during the French Revolutionary Wars and resulted in a complete victory for the British, who captured eleven Dutch ships without losing any of their own. In 1795, the Dutch Republic had been overrun by the army of the French Republic and had been reorganised into the Batavian Republic, a French client state. In early 1797, after the French Atlantic Fleet had suffered heavy losses in a disastrous winter campaign, the Dutch fleet was ordered to reinforce the French at Brest. The rendezvous never occurred; the continental allies failed to capitalise on the Spithead and Nore mutinies that paralysed the British Channel forces and North Sea fleets during the spring of 1797.

Jan Hendrik van Kinsbergen Dutch admiral

Jan Hendrik van Kinsbergen, or Count of Doggersbank, was a Dutch naval officer. Having had a good scientific education, Van Kinsbergen was a proponent of fleet modernization and wrote many books about naval organization, discipline and tactics.

Samuel Story Dutch admiral

Samuel Story was a vice admiral of the Batavian Republic Navy. He commanded the squadron that surrendered without a fight to the Royal Navy at the Vlieter incident in 1799.

Theodorus Frederik van Capellen Dutch admiral

Vice-admiral Jonkheer Theodorus Frederik van Capellen, GCMWO, KCB was a Dutch naval officer. He was married to Petronella de Lange (1779–1835). Alexandrine Tinné, female explorer and pioneering photographer, was his granddaughter.

Carel Hendrik Ver Huell Dutch admiral

Carel Hendrik count Ver Huell was a Dutch, and later French, admiral and statesman. He married Maria Johanna de Bruyn on 22 February 1789 at Hummelo, and had three sons with her.

Battle of Callantsoog

The Battle of Callantsoog followed the amphibious landing by a British invasion force under Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby near Callantsoog in the course of the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland of 1799. Despite strong opposition by troops of the Batavian Republic under Lieutenant-General Herman Willem Daendels the British troops established a bridgehead and the Dutch were forced to retreat.

Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland

The Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland was a military campaign from 27 August to 19 November 1799 during the War of the Second Coalition, in which an expeditionary force of British and Russian troops invaded the North Holland peninsula in the Batavian Republic. The campaign had two strategic objectives: to neutralize the Batavian fleet and to promote an uprising by followers of the former stadtholder William V against the Batavian government. The invasion was opposed by a slightly smaller joint Franco-Batavian army. Tactically, the Anglo-Russian forces were successful initially, defeating the defenders in the battles of Callantsoog and the Krabbendam, but subsequent battles went against the Anglo-Russian forces. Following a defeat at Castricum, the Duke of York, the British supreme commander, decided upon a strategic retreat to the original bridgehead in the extreme north of the peninsula. Subsequently, an agreement was negotiated with the supreme commander of the Franco-Batavian forces, General Guillaume Marie Anne Brune, that allowed the Anglo-Russian forces to evacuate this bridgehead unmolested. However, the expedition partly succeeded in its first objective, capturing a significant proportion of the Batavian fleet.

Aegidius van Braam Dutch Navy admiral

Aegidius van Braam was a Dutch naval officer who attained the rank of vice-admiral. When the Dutch Republic was overrun by French Revolutionary troops in 1795, he remained loyal to the House of Orange-Nassau and fled to England. Following the restoration in 1814, he was repatriated by King William I and received the hereditary noble title of jonkheer.

Batavian Navy

The Batavian navy was the navy of the Batavian Republic. A continuation of the Staatse vloot of the Dutch Republic, though thoroughly reorganized after the Batavian Revolution of 1795, the navy embarked on several naval construction programs which, at least on paper, made her a serious rival of the Royal Navy during War of the Second Coalition. However, the Capitulation of Saldanha Bay, the Battle of Camperdown and the Vlieter Incident showed that she did not measure up to that expectation. Nevertheless, the organisational reorganizations proved durable, when the Batavian Republic was succeeded by the Kingdom of Holland, and later, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, so that the present-day Royal Netherlands Navy should trace its ancestry through her.

Action of 22 August 1795

The Action of 22 August 1795 was a minor naval engagement during the French Revolutionary Wars between a squadron of four British Royal Navy frigates and two frigates and a cutter from the Batavian Navy. The engagement was fought off the Norwegian coastal island of Eigerøya, then in Danish Norway, the opposing forces engaged in protecting their respective countries' trade routes to the Baltic Sea. War between Britain and the Batavian Republic began, undeclared, in the spring of 1795 after the Admiralty ordered British warships to intercept Batavian shipping following the conquest of the Dutch Republic by the French Republic in January 1795.

Capture of the Dutch fleet at Den Helder event

The Capture of the Dutch fleet at Den Helder on the night of 23 January 1795 presents a rare occurrence of a "naval" battle between warships and cavalry, in which a French Revolutionary Hussar regiment captured a Dutch Republican fleet frozen at anchor between the 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) stretch of sea that separates the mainland port of Den Helder and the island of Texel. After a charge across the frozen Zuiderzee, the French cavalry captured 14 Dutch ships and 850 guns. A capture of ships by horsemen is an extremely rare feat in military history.

Capitulation of Saldanha Bay Surrender in 1796 to the British Royal Navy of a Dutch expeditionary force sent to recapture the Dutch Cape Colony

The Capitulation of Saldanha Bay was the surrender in 1796 to the British Royal Navy of a Dutch expeditionary force sent to recapture the Dutch Cape Colony. In 1794, early in the French Revolutionary Wars, the army of the French Republic overran the Dutch Republic which then became a French client state, the Batavian Republic. Great Britain was concerned by the threat the Dutch Cape Colony in Southern Africa posed to its trade routes to British India. It therefore sent an expeditionary force that landed at Simon's Town in June 1795 and forced the surrender of the colony in a short campaign. The British commander, Vice-Admiral Sir George Elphinstone, then reinforced the garrison and stationed a naval squadron at the Cape to protect the British conquest.

Batavian flag National flag of the Batavian Republic

The Batavian flag, is a Dutch historical flag. It was designed by Dirk Langendijk in January 1796, and introduced in March 1796 as the official flag of the Batavian Republic's fleet, replacing the Statenvlag.

Engelbertus Lucas was a Dutch naval officer, who as a rear-admiral, commanding a squadron of the Batavian Navy, was forced to surrender that squadron on 17 August 1796 at Saldanha Bay to a Royal Navy squadron under Vice-Admiral George Elphinstone.

Robert Winthrop was a scion of the New England Winthrop family of high colonial civil servants, and a Vice-Admiral of the Blue in the Royal Navy. Among his many feats of arms was taking possession of admiral Samuel Story's squadron of the Batavian Navy after its surrender in the Vlieter Incident.

Brest Affair

The Brest Affair, also known as the (Failed) Expedition to Brest is the historiographical designation of a scandal during the Patriottentijd that was exploited by the Patriot faction to politically undermine the regime of stadtholder William V. It followed the refusal of the leadership of the navy of the Dutch Republic to obey a direct order to send a flotilla to the French naval base of Brest before 8 October 1787. The refusal caused a scandal that forced the States General to institute a formal inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the refusal, and this inquiry eventually led to a prosecution before a special admiralty court of the parties responsible, led by Pieter Paulus. However, the prosecution took so much time that meanwhile the Patriot faction was suppressed by Prussian military intervention, so that eventually the case was shelved without coming to a resolution.

Hendrik August baron van Kinckel, born as Heinrich August Künckelin , though of German extraction, was a Dutch naval officer and reformer, diplomat, and British confidential agent.

Willem Bastiaensz Schepers Dutch admiral

Willem Bastiaensz Schepers was a Dutch admiral. Having made his career as a shipping magnate in Rotterdam, Schepers was rewarded in 1673 for his political support to the new Orangist regime, by being made lieutenant admiral. In 1688, he organised the transport fleet for the Glorious Revolution.


  1. 1 2 Roodhuyzen, p. 164.
  2. Dutch: Erfprins. The title used by the future king William I of the Netherlands, as eldest son and heir of the Prince of Orange, the Hereditary Stadtholder William V; the office of stadtholder had formally nothing to do with the fact that it was often held by a Prince of Orange
  3. The squadron comprised at least two Russian ships: Mitchiloff (64) and Ratzivan (68); De Jonge, p. 468, fn. 1
  4. 1 2 Roodhuyzen, p. 166.
  5. De Jonge, pp. 470–472.
  6. Roodhuyzen, pp. 165–166.
  7. De Jonge, pp. 474–476.
  8. De Jonge, p. 477.
  9. De Jonge, p. 478.; remarkably, lots of Scandinavian crew members and German mercenaries felt little allegiance to the House of Orange; Fehrman, pp. 60ff.
  10. Roodhuyzen, p. 169.
  11. 1 2 3 Roodhuyzen, p. 167.
  12. Archives Hoge Militaire Rechtspraak 1795–1813, Dutch National Archives, inventory No. 95; 101 Sententiën
  13. Story, passim
  14. James, p. 306.