Given the turmoil in Europe and the importance of the Cape sea-route to India the British Government sent a fleet of seven Royal Navy ships under the command of Vice – Admiral Elphinstone to secure the Cape as a refreshment station and as their gateway to the East. That fleet arrived off Simon’s Town in early June, 1795. The Dutch troops in Simon’s Town pulled back to their fort in Muizenberg while the British sent a delegation through to the Castle in Cape Town, who suggested to Sluysken that the Dutch should hand over the Cape to the British. This was rejected and the British delegation returned to Simon’s Town. The site of the Dutch fort at Muizenberg is the land immediately adjacent to where Sir Abe Bailey’s home, Rust en Vrede, was later built.
This was a very clever selection for the siting of the fort as it is in a situation where any persons passing from North to South would have to go just below the fort. The mountain in this area comes down fairly steeply to the sea and it would have been difficult to pass on the mountain side of the fort. The one disadvantage was that it was in range from the sea. On the 7 August the British made their move. They began marching with infantrymen and sailors from Simon’s Town towards Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay, with the aim of attacking the fort in Muizenberg. At the same time four of the Royal Navy ships set sail from Simon’s Town and anchored parallel to the coast, more or less opposite where Bailey’s cottage stands to-day. At about 2pm they released a bombardment of cannon balls at the Dutch fort.
It is believed that the bombardment lasted about 30 minutes and in that time they released many cannon balls. It didn’t take much for the Dutch to realise that they were outclassed and they hastily abandoned the fort and retreated towards Zandvlei and the Retreat area. (Hence the name ‘Retreat’). A number of cannon balls have been recovered over the years. One is on display at the entrance of the Shoprite store in Muizenberg.
It was found when the foundations of that building were dug. The latest cannon ball to be found was when they recently resurfaced the Main Road just in front of the Posthuys building. Reinforcements were sent from the Castle but the fight had gone out of the Dutch and they moved back and encamped in the vicinity of Wynberg Hill. Odd engagements continued for about six weeks until eventually a stalemate was reached. In September the Dutch again tried to recapture the fort at Muizenberg but were repelled. In the meantime the main British fleet with reinforcements had arrived in Simon’s Town and a new advance on Cape Town started on 14 September with the Dutch capitulated on the 16th.