The action fought in Southwold Bay on the Suffolk coast, more usually known as Solebay, was the opening sea battle of the Third Dutch War (1672-74). England and Holland had already fought a war in each of the preceding two decades and neither had properly resolved the commercial rivalries that had sparked both conflicts. By 1670, the situation had been further exacerbated by Charles II's intrigues with Louis XIV and it came as no surprise to either side when War was declared early in 1672. A combined Anglo-French fleet under the overall command of James, Duke of York, the King's brother, was assembled to move against the Dutch but first put into Southwold Bay to revictual. Admiral de Ruyter, already at sea and awaiting his opportunity to take the offensive, came upon the allied ships on 28th May  and, with the wind in his favour, attacked them as they lay at anchor in the bay. The action began at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and, caught by surprise, the allied fleet went into battle in some disarray. De Ruyter soon neutralised the inexperienced French squadron and then concentrated upon the English centre and rear divisions, under the Duke of York and the Earl of Sandwich respectively, using his fireships with great success. At the height of the battle, Sandwich's flagship, the 100-gun Royal James, was set ablaze and the Earl was drowned. The action, which continued until dusk, was so fierce that the Duke of York was forced to shift his flag three times and only the gathering darkness prevented a complete dèbâcle.