Landmark battle commemorated

FELIXSTOWE: Royal Marines commemorated the birth of their service as they marked the last invasion of England by a foreign force.

Around 500 people enjoyed the sunshine yesterday as they came to Landguard Fort yesterday to celebrate Darell’s Day, an event of national significance marking the 1667 victory of Captain Nathaniel Darell over invading Dutch troops.

On July 2 of that year, as England was reeling from the plague and the Great Fire of London, 2,000 Dutch soldiers crossed the ocean and tried to get into the fortress from their landing site at Cobbold’s Point.

But they were repelled by a force of around 550 troops – including 400 of the first Marines – led by Darell, who emerged victorious from the skirmish, suffering just four casualties and one death compared to heavy losses on the invading side.

The battle has since gone down in the history books as it marks the last time English shores were invaded by a foreign force, and led to the birth of the modern Royal Marines service.

Fort operations manager Jo Whittle said: “It was a very good day, and everything went very well.

“It was a much bigger event and having the marines there made it really special, because obviously the marines effectively started here. There was a lot of ceremony and it was just an amazing day all round.

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“This is a vital part of the fort’s history, and part of England’s history, and it was good to commemorate that as well as celebrating the work the marines are doing for us today.”

The day of celebrations featured a performance by the Royal Marines Corps of Drums and the unarmed combat display team, which has recently served in Afghanistan, with accompaniment from the 901 Troop Marines Cadet Band in the fort’s inner parade ground.

There were also several musket firing demonstrations and information about military history and uniform, as well as a performance of Rule Britannia to get visitors into the spirit of the day.

Amateur historian Mervyn Lemon, 68, who has become expert on the history of the invasion, said: “It’s vitally important because it’s the last occasion when there was a full-scale land invasion of English soil, and it led to the birth of the first marines because that’s where they got started.”

n What did you think of Darell’s Day? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.