21 September 1338, 675 years ago at Arnemuiden, off the coast of Zeeland at the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War, the first sea battle was fought where cannon were used as naval artillery.
“Thus conquering did these said mariners of the king of France in this winter take great pillage, and especially they conquered the handsome great nef called the Christophe, all charged with the goods and wool that the English were sending to Flanders, which nef had cost the English king much to build: but its crew were lost to these Normans, and were put to death.“ (Jean Froissart, “Chronicles”)
|A miniature of the Battle of Arnemuiden from Jean Froissart’s “Chronicles”, |
Bruge, ca 1470
|Maritime artist Montague Dawson's (1890 - 1973) imagination of an English cog|
Things looked not too bad at the beginning for the small English flotilla. They made the crossing to Flanders uncontested and began to unload their goods in the harbour of Arnemuiden on Walcheren, still an island during the 14th century and close to the trade centres of Ghent and Antwerp. But the Grand Army of the Sea was close. Under the command of the Admiral of France, Hugues Quiéret, 40 galleys had left Dieppe and Harfleur and leashed into the moored English ships in the morning of September 21st. The English stood no chance but defended themselves bravely, with the 4 guns mounted on “Christopher” pounding into the French galleys and giving an impression of how naval engagements would look in the future. Nonetheless, the action was over in the evening, the English ships taken and, by order of Hugues Quiéret, the English survivors decapitated quite unchivalrously to the last man.
|Edward's revenge for Arnemuiden at the Battle of Sluys|