Following the French occupation of Holland soon after the outbreak of the Revolutionary Wars, the Royal Navy suddenly found itself having to face the not inconsiderable Dutch fleet in addition to the naval forces of France herself. Adopting the usual strategy of blockading all the enemy's ports, a powerful squadron under Admiral Duncan was sent to stand off the Texel and thereby prevent the Dutch either menacing the security of Britain or simply harrying English merchantmen. Duncan mounted his blockade throughout the summer of 1797 but was ordered home for a refit early in October. Leaving several frigates to maintain a watch, he had barely anchored in Yarmouth Roads when a despatch boat arrived with the news that the Dutch fleet had taken advantage of his absence and put to sea. Weighing anchor immediately, Duncan sped back to the Dutch coast to prepare for battle and engaged the enemy fleet just after midday on 11th October, three miles NW of Kamperduijn (Camperdown). The two fleets each had sixteen ships-of-the-line but the Dutch had more frigates and also the advantage of position. Duncan, in H.M.S. Venerable attacked the Dutch in two columns and a furious action ensued lasting several hours. The Dutch flagship Vrijheid attracted some of the bitterest fighting and by the time Admiral de Winter surrendered her at about 3.15pm., she was a total wreck and he himself was the only unwounded man aboard her. Eight Dutch men-o'war and a frigate had already surrendered with the result that when their flagship struck her colours, the battle was effectively ended. Casualties on both sides were very heavy and the Dutch prizes, two of which sank during the journey back across the North Sea, were all so badly damaged that none were fit for further service. It was not only a decisive victory for Duncan but it also marked the end of Dutch sea power and the eclipse of the Dutch navy as a significant force in European history.
Modern inscriptions on the reverses of their frames state that these works depict the encounter between the Dutch flagship Vrijheid and the 64-gun H.M.S. Director commanded by Captain William Bligh, the man already famous as being the cause of the mutiny on H.M.S. Bounty. In point of fact, however, these two ships never engaged each other during the battle, as each was occupied elsewhere. Since the Dutch vessel portrayed is not the Vrijheid, it is therefore perfectly possible that her assailant has been correctly idenfied as the Director.