Maritime Art

Landing of English troops at Calantsoog, North Holland, 27 August, 1799 (1799).

By Dirk Langendijk (1748-1805)

This painting shows the landing of an Anglo-Russian force, commanded by the Duke of York, on the Dutch coast near Den Helder in 1799. The operation was part of an unsuccessful invasion of the French-controlled Batavian Republic in an attempt to restore the House of Orange. The painting was purchased with financial aid given in full by the Society for Nautical Research in 1983.

It is probable that the artist Dirk Langendijk was present, as the drawing is inscribed by him ‘ad vivum 1799’ (from the life 1799), making this a very rare eyewitness depiction of an amphibious operation in the age of sail and it is crammed with detail and great energy as 2500 men were landed in the first wave alone. The defenders were positioned behind the dunes on the right of the image and the attacking soldiers are shown making their attack.

The initial landing was a success and in the subsequent battle of Callantsoog the Anglo-Russian troops defended their position, though the invasion itself soon stalled and the Anglo-Russian forces ultimately had to negotiate an unmolested withdrawal from the coast.

Numerous articles have been published in the Mariner’s Mirror that further illuminate both the specifics of the campaign and the more broader question of British amphibious operations.

The fitting out of the ships for the expedition and the embarkation of the troops in Kronstadt, together with regulations concerning the behaviour of soldiers on troopships is explored in this article from 1970.

A horrifying shipwreck in the middle of the night witnessed by a soldier of the Welch Fusiliers is described in this article from 2009.

And the changing history of British amphibious operations can be explored in this article from 1972 on British amphibious operations in the last quarter of the eighteenth century; this 2000 article on British amphibious operations post-WW1; and this 2011 article on British amphibious operations post-WW2.

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