Honour - ARMADA 1588
The action took place in the English Channel. Beginning at Plymouth in the
west to Gravelines on the Flemish coast. And comprised a number of running
actions from the Cornish coast to the North Sea. With a final action at
Gravelines of the Flemish coast.
The Spanish Armada of about 130 ships sailed form Spain. It comprised about 20 warships or sizeable armed merchantmen, the rest being transports and small craft with 18,000 troops embarked. Their orders were to rendezvous with the Duke of Parma forces near Dunkirk, embark his army and land the entire force on English shores.
They were opposed by an English Fleet which eventually rose to 197 ships ranging from large warships to victuallers and small 20-ton pinnaces. The maximum strength at any one time was 140.
Another important difference between the Fleets was the way in which guns were reloaded at that time. No heavy guns were reloaded while the ship was in action. The English ships tried to approached their target in line ahead. As a ship closed, it would fire its bow guns, followed by the guns on one side as they were brought to bear. Next the stern guns would fire as the ship turned away and finally the guns on the second side would fire as she tacked away. The next ship in line would then repeat the exercise. meanwhile the first ship would begin the process of reloading her guns. If there were sufficient attacking ships to keep up a continuous attack, the defender would have no opportunity to reload between attacks.
The smaller more manoeuvrable English ships were able to achieve this type of attack as the two Fleets moved up the Channel. The larger Spanish ships were unable to do much about it as they had to defend their merchant charges. However their larger size meant they were able to withstand the attacks and only lost a few ships by the time they neared the Flanders coast at Gravelines. The effect was that English ships fired 1.5 rounds per gun per hour. The Spanish, 1.5 rounds per gun per day.
During the night with a westerly wind, 8 fireships were loosed towards the Spanish anchorage. This was expected by the Spanish who slipped their cables and stood out to sea.
Next morning the English attacked and were opposed by six Spanish warships who formed a rearguard cover while the main fleet reformed. In a strengthening wind many Spanish ships were damaged but a fighting formation was slowly restored. However by afternoon the weather deteriorated and the Spanish ships were being driven towards the Zealand banks and their destruction.
On the morning of the 30th the wind backed just in time and the bulk of the Spanish Fleet saved from being driven on-shore. They moved north and as the English were virtually out of ammunition the action ended. The English followed while awaiting re-supply turning back about the line of the Firth of Forth.
The English expected the Spanish would seek refuge in a friendly port, with options being at Hamburg, Denmark, Norway or Scotland. After which the fighting would resume. But they decided to return to Spain by way rounding the North of Scotland then west and south into the Atlantic. They were very short of water and supplies with rations reduced to about one third of normal. In the continuing bad weather only 67 ships made it home to Spain, including most of the best warships. The remainder were wrecked on the Irish, or Scottish shores. Some having their starving crews killed when they landed to obtain water or food.
While the war against Spain continued the threat of invasion ended.
Note: This is the first Battle Honour Awarded to Royal Navy ships even although the Battle was fought by Elizabeth I, Navy Royal, before the formation of the Royal Navy. The prefix Royal was granted by Charles II on 1660.
The Battle Honours Committee which recommends awards to the Navy Board decided that "the earliest action of which sufficient is known, and which is in all respects worthy of inclusion, was 'ARMADA 1588' ".
|Dreadnought||Elizabeth Bonaventure||Elizabeth Jonas||Fancy||Foresight|
|Galley Bonavolia||George||(Golden) Lion||Hope||Mary Rose|
|White Bear||White Lion|
|Merchant Ships under Drake|
|Bark Bond||Bark Bonner||Bark Buggins||Bark Burr||Bark Hawkyns|
|Bark Manington||Bark St. Leger||Bark Talbot||Bear Young||Chance|
|Delight||Diamond of Dartmouth||Edward Bonaventure||Elizabeth Drake||Elizabeth Founes|
|Flyboat Yonge||Galleon Dudley||Galleon Leicester||Golden Hind||Golden Noble|
|Speedwell||Thomas Drake||Unity||Virgin God save her||1 small caravel|
|Merchant Ships from the City of London|
|Jewel||Gift of God||Golden Lion||Margaret and John||Mayflower|
|Prudence||Red Lion||Release||Rose Lion||Royal Defence|
|Merchant Ships under the Lord High Admiral|
|Anne Francis||George Bonaventure||Jane Bonaventure||Samuel||Solomon|
|Merchant Ships in Queen's pay|
|Black Dog||Edward of Maldon||Katharine||Lark||Marigold|
|Victuallers to the Westward|
|Bearsabe||Elizabeth Bonaventure||Elizabeth of Leigh||Gift of God||Hope|
|John of London||Jonas||Marigold||Mary Rose||Pearl|
|Pelican||Richard Duffield||Solomon||Unity||White Hind|
|Coasters under the Lord High Admiral|
|Aid of Bristol||Bark of Bridgewater||Bark Potts||Bark Webb||Bartholomew of Apsam|
|Crescent of Dartmouth||Galleon of Weymouth||Gift of Apsam||Handmaid of Bristol||Hearty Anne|
|Hart of Dartmouth||Jacob of Lyme||John of Chichester||John Trelawney||Katharine of Weymouth|
|Little John||Minion of Bristol||Revenge of Lyme||Rose of Apsam||Unicorn of Bristol|
|Coasters under Lord Henry Seymour|
|Anne Bonaventure||Bark Lamb||Daniel||Elizabeth of Dover||Fancy|
|Galleon Hutchins||Grace of God||Grace of Yarmouth||Griffin||Handmaid|
|Hazard of Feversham||John Young||Katharine of Ipswich||Little Hare||Marigold|
|Matthew||Mayflower||Primrose of Harwich||Robin of Sandwich||Susan|
|William of Colchester||William of Ipswich||William of Rye|
|Bark Halse||Bark Sutton of Weymouth||Carouse||Elizabeth||Elizabeth of Lowestoft|
|Flyboat||Fortune of Aldborough||Frances of Fowey||Gallego of Plymouth||Golden Ryall of Weymouth|
|Grace of Apsam||Greyhound of Aldborough||Heathen of Weymouth||John of Barnstaple||Jonas of Aldborough|
|Margaret||Raphael||Rat of Wight||Samaritan of Dartmouth||Sampson|
|Thomas Bonaventure||Unicorn of Dartmouth||William of Plymouth|
This page last edited -
06 February, 2013.
Copyright © Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.