The second British invasion of North Holland began on Tuesday when we disembarked from the ferry without a shot being fired and drove north to the towns of Castricum, Alkmaar, Krebbendam, Calantsoog and Shagen. Facing little opposition from the Batavians and without any sign of the French we were able to park up and mooch around each of the towns. After one false start we found the church that features in the painting of the Anglo-Russian defeat at Castricum. It has been added to since 1799 but it was easy to figure out its original configuration. Also, a local confirmed it for us.
|A painting of the battle of Castricum showing the church.|
On to Alkmaar, it is a very lovely old town, even if the ring road was annoying. We found another 'het huis met de kogel' or the house with the bullet in this case. It is actually a large cannonball embedded in the side of a house from the time of the 1557 siege of Alkmaar by the Spanish. Nothing to do with 1799 but Alkmaar did see major combat during the Helder campaign, as part of a large sprawling battle that culminated in the defeat at Castricum. Anyone with Hovels 28mm European houses should find the next pictures of interest. I have half a dozen to do.
These sand dunes are enormous and extensive, running for miles along this coastline both north and south. Some were heavily wooded, but most were not, and were broken up by numerous cuts and defiles through and around several lines of dunes with clumps of horrid razor grass all over the place. I was brought up on the coast near Blackpool and am familiar with navigating seemingly vast (when you are 11) tracts of dunes without anything upon which to register on in terms of direction, etc. (Apart in my case for Blackpool Tower). The troops must have found it heavy going, advancing in the face of dogged if futile Batavian resistance, unable to maintain contact with units to either flank and being forced to break up into smaller units to get round or over the dunes. What is more, most of the land to the east of the road running parallel to the sea was subject to tidal flooding, and there was a massive part man-made, part natural feature running parallel to the beach called the Zande Dyke, so the area of operations was very restricted, reduced even further by more dykes and so forth which hampered the British advance and Batavian reinforcements. Indeed the whole area today is covered in polders and dykes which in 1799 would not have been so well developed, leaving the terrain extremely difficult to traverse, and wet.
The evacuation of the Allied army from Den Helder.