On this day in Dutch history
On the 21st of October 1639 (New Style calender), The Battle of the Downs was fought between the Dutch navy and the Spanish armada. The Dutch navy was led by Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp and vice-admiral Witte de With. The Spanish armada was led by Admiral Antonio de Oquendo. The battle ended in a decisive Dutch victory. This is hardly a surprise as the Dutch had 95 warships, versus the 40 or so of the Spanish.
The Spanish had to get supplies to their armies in Flanders, but as France had entered the Thirty Years War in 1635, the overland route was cut off. Spain was forced to use the sea.
Tromp attacked the Spanish fleet from the north, and some of the Spanish ships grounded themselves. They were then plundered by the English locals. While Tromp had blocked off escape routes with two other squadrons, a few of the Spanish ships made it through the block and De Oquendo reached Flanders with 10 ships with supplies.
It is estimated that Spain lost about 40 ships and 7000 men in the battle, while the Dutch lost one ship and 100 men.
This loss had some grave consequences for the Spanish. With their naval power reduced, the English and Dutch started attacking their colonies, and in 1640 Portugal successfully became independent.
A downside of the victory was that it gave the Dutch Republic a false feeling of security. The Spanish, French and English didn’t have a strong navy, so the Dutch felt it wasn’t a problem to neglect their own navy a bit. This would bite them in the arse several years later during the Anglo-Dutch Wars.
(Above: Before The Battle of the Downs, by Reinier Nooms.)