HYDE-PARKER SAILS TO RESTORE HIS REPUTATION.

Vice-Admiral Hyde-Parker was given command of the North Sea Squadron after returning from an acrimonious period of service in the West Indies under Rodney. His ships were a scratch collection of vessels that could be spared from other more vital theatres of war.

Whilst convoying a fleet of merchantmen homeward from the Baltic, the British spotted a Dutch squadron escorting a convoy of its own out of the Texel at daybreak on the 5th August 1781.

"It matters little what force there is, we must fight them if they are double the number"

Hyde-Parker, on being advised of the strength of the Dutch squadron

With the Dutch squadron forming line of battle before him, Hyde-Parker rushed his ships into action, no doubt anxious to remove any remnants of censure from what he considered unfounded criticism of his performance in command of the rear squadron at the Battle of Martinique.

His head-on approach exposed the British ships to the dangers of raking fire, as observed by an English witness:-

" we came down almost end-on upon their broadsides; yet did not the Dutch admiral fire a gun, or make the signal to engage, till the red flag was at the      Fortitude's masthead, and her shot finding their way into his ship. This was a manoeuvre which Admiral Zoutman should not be warmly thanked for by their High Mightinesses; as he had it in his power to have done infinite mischief to our fleet, coming down in that unofficer-like manner."

As deemed proper by tradition, Hyde-Parker positioned his flagship Fortitude  opposite the Dutch flagship Admiraal de Ruijter. However, as he was fourth in line to the enemy's fifth, this left the British van outnumbered three-to-two with the rear ship having no opponent. Realising his mistake, Hyde-Parker soon signalled for General Action to bring all of his ships into battle, and the action turned into a four-hour close range cannonade.

Mid-way through the action, the Dutch convoy returned from the lee of the Dutch line to the safety of the Texel.

Eventually Hyde-Parker re-hoisted the signal for line ahead, the flagship passing between the Dutch line and the Buffalo as the rest of the squadron  assembled in the wake of the flag.

Neither squadron was in a condition to renew the action, and both lay fleets lay to repairing for some time before the Dutch followed the convoy into the Texel. The two-decker Holland sank in shallow water the next day.

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