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Throughout 1797, with Holland in enforced alliance with Revolutionary France, the British Admiral Adam Duncan had been stationed watching the Dutch fleet in Den Helder. His difficulty in maintaining this vigil was compounded by the events surrounding the Nore Mutiny in May. By early October Duncan took his squadron back to Yarmouth to re-store and refit. The Dutch fleet took advantage of his absence and came out almost immediately. The British lookout still on station sent the cutter 'Black Joke' hurrying back to England to warn Duncan of the threat posed by the Dutch. He immediately put to sea and early in the morning of the 11 October the two fleets were in sight, The Dutch were awaiting him 18 miles off their coast. Action began at 12.30pm and by 3.30pm Duncan was able to send a dispatch to the Admiralty to say that 11 enemy ships had been taken. Although the battle was not tactically impressive Duncan showed leadership by taking his flagship into action in difficult waters. This inspired his captains and their determination proved decisive against a resolute opponent.
The 'Vrijheid' flies the Batavian ensign from the stern and the admiral's blue command flag from the main. The short-lived Batavian Republic was formed when the Netherlands fell under French domination. Naval flags were altered by the insertion of a panel containing a representation of a female figure seated in a patch of greenery and holding a spear, on which is the Cap of Liberty. At her feet is a lion in a reclining position, its head turned sideways and with a fierce expression. This device was abandoned after the republic gave way to a monarchy in 1806.
The Battle of Camperdown, 11 October 1797
oil on canvas
H 88.9 x W 134.6 cm