Maarten von Tromp

Maarten von Tromp

(1597-1653)

The greatest admiral of the 17th century Dutch navy was Maarten Harpertszoon von Tromp. He was born in Breille, Holland, the son of the captain of a small Dutch ship.

The United Provinces of the Netherlands (of which Holland was one) were fighting for their freedom from Spain, and Tromp accom¬ panied his father on a voyage, during which his father was killed in an encounter with an English pirate ship. Tromp swore vengeance on all the enemies of his country.

After sailing in the Dutch merchant marine, Tromp entered the Dutch navy in 1624 as captain of a frigate.

He showed great resolve in the face of danger and rose rapidly through the ranks to become a lieutenant admiral in 1637.Tromp fought against the Spanish and defeated their fleet in the North Sea off the Dutch coast at Gravelines (February 18,1639).

Later in the year, Spain sent an enor¬ mous fleet against the Dutch. Tromp had 31 ships to send against 67 Spanish vessels, one of which, the Mater Theresa, was the largest warship in the world at that time.

Urged by his lieutenants to exercise pru¬ dence, Tromp declared, “There is room enough at the bottom of the sea for all those Spanish ships, and the sooner we start sending them there, the better.” As good as his word, Tromp led a midnight attack and threw the Spanish fleet into confusion.

After taking refuge behind a sandbar on the English coast, the Spanish tried to make a run for the port of Dunkirk (approximately 15 miles northeast of Gravelines). Tromp then delivered a death blow to Spanish sea power, capturing or sink¬ ing all but 18 ships in their fleet in the Battle of the Downs.

Tromp fought against the English in the First English-Dutch War (1652-1654). He won a major victory over English Admiral Robert Blake at the Battle of Dungeness in the winter of 1652. The two-day naval battle gave the Dutch temporary control of the English Channel.

Early in 1653, The English and Dutch waged and split two more battles at sea. The Battle of North Foreland I was fought to a draw and the Battle of Portland was won by England.

In the summer of 1653, English Admiral George Monck engaged Tromp off the Dutch island of Textel near the coast of Scheveningen. Both sides had approximately 120 ships positioned in rough line-ahead for¬ mations across 16 miles of the North Sea.

This Battle of Textel I was the greatest naval battle fought to date. The two navies battled without decision until the following day, when, Monck, reinforced by fresh ships, resumed the attack and defeated the Dutch.

During the battle, Tromp was struck in the chest by musket fire and killed. The fleet lost 20 of its 100 ships through capture or sinking as the heart went out of the Dutch navy with the death of its greatest commander.