It’s almost impossible to imagine wars without deaths and injuries. In fact, even the shortest war between Britain and Zanzibar in 1896 (full story here) that only lasted for 38 minutes had 500 casualties. The idea that the longer the war, the more people die or are injured is not a wrong assumption. There was one war (although many contests its existence) that lasted for 335 long years, so you could just imagine how many lives were lost for a battle that long, right? Well, there was none.

How It Started

Just like many other wars in history during that era, the 335-year war all started because of the conflict called the English Civil War from 1642 to 1651.

The British were divided into two forces: The Royalists, who were supporters of the British monarchy led by King Charles I, and the Parliamentarians fighting for a democratic government whose leader was Oliver Cromwell. Not much different from the situations that we now have, when external forces aid the side they supported, another country came in. In this case, it was the just-got-independent Kingdom of the Netherlands who bet the Parliamentarians would win, so they decided to support them. They got involved because the Netherlands wanted to maintain their alliance with the British, so taking the side of who was more likely to win would guarantee that this alliance would be kept. When it became formal, the Dutch provided their chosen side with the use of their commercial fleet, all-expense-paid, as part of their agreement.

A Painting of Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper (After Samuel Cooper, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

On the other side, the Royalists obviously did not appreciate being thought of as would-be losers by their long-time allies. They felt betrayed by their decision to side with their enemies, so they retaliated by raiding Dutch shipping lanes situated in the English Channel. The Royalists were basically expelled from mainland England, so they decided to camp up in Scilly and utilize it as the center of their operations. Because of this, the small group of islands off the coast of Cornwall joined them. This now meant that the allies of the opposing forces were also enemies now. Thus, the Isles of Scilly and the Kingdom of Netherlands were now at war, too. Perhaps we could call it second-hand war?

Portrait of Maarten Tromp. (After Jan Lievens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Things were not going well for the Royalists, and the Dutch saw this as an opportunity to gain back their losses from the raid prior, so they didn’t spare a second and sent a fleet of twelve warships to the Isles of Scilly and demanded reparations. The Royalists did not respond to this demand, so the Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp declared war on March 30, 1651, against their second-hand enemy, the Isles of Scilly. This started the 335 years war.

How It Should’ve Ended

An aerial photo of the Isles of Scilly, Great Britain. (ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

It wasn’t too long, three months to be specific, when Cromwell’s forces under the command of Admiral Robert Black drove the Royalists to surrender; the Isles of Scilly was returned to the Parliamentarian forces’ control. As for the Dutch, they sailed back home, probably saying, “My job is done here,” totally forgetting about the war that they just declared a few months back. How someone could just declare war and slip it out of his mind, we’re not sure, but they really went back home without signing any peace treaty or at least saying that they take the declaration of war back.

How It Ended

Fast forward to 1985 on the Isles of Scilly. A local historian named Roy Duncan wrote to the Dutch Embassy in London to ask about the legend of the ongoing war. There, they discovered that there was indeed no official peace treaty that had been signed and that they were basically still at war.

Duncan, who was also Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Council, invited the Dutch ambassador Jonkheer Rein Huydecoper in the Isles of Scilly to officially end their forgotten war. On April 17, 1986, he arrived there, and a peace deal was signed, finally and formally ending history’s longest war with zero casualties.

It was a Scilly War anyway.

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