Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Fall Of The Spanish Armada

In 1588, King Philip of Spain sent a fleet of ships, known as the Spanish Armada to invade England but things did not go according to plans due to bad weather.

The Spanish fleet entered the English Channel and was met by a fleet of English ships. The more maneuverable English Ship engaged their Spanish counterparts but caused little damage. The Spanish Armada then dropped anchor near Calais with orders to pick up troops for its planned invasion of England.

Under cover of darkness, the English set fire to several of their own ships, which assisted by the wind and a favourable current sailed unmanned directly towards the anchored Spanish ships. Many Spanish ships cut their anchors loose to avoid being struck by the fire-ships. That action by the Spanish was to prove disastrous to them later.

After that incident at Calais, both fleets headed into the North Sea, sailing before the wind. By now, the English fleet had depleted its supply of gunpowder, so it withdrew to the English Coast. With the wind against them and English between them and Spain, the Spanish were forced to sail North around Scotland, then south until the cleared Ireland, and finally back to Spain.

By this time, the Spanish fleet was dangerously short of food and water, and the damaged ships were carrying many wounded sailors, as well as others who were sick with scurvy. Therefore, the whole fleet was put on starvation rations, which further weakened the crews.

After the fleet rounded Scotland, a fierce Atlantic storm blew many ships towards the coast of Ireland. The normal defense was to drop anchor and wait for favourable winds. However, because many anchors had been cut loose in the previous encounter with the fire-ships, 26 Spanish ships were wrecked on the Irish coast, with the loss of some 5,000 to 6,000 men.

By the time the Armada returned to Spain, almost 20,000 lives had been lost. The single decisive factor in the heavy loss of men and ships must have been bad weather. The Dutch apparently though this to be the case.

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