The Battle Of The Spanish Armada Essay — страница 4

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to anchor off Calais, they felt it was their time to strike. They got ready to send in fireships. The Spanish knew that the Italian engineer, Giambelli, had made for the English fireships laden with explosives. These “Hellburners” were the most feared weapons for a fleet at anchor. These fireships were also used by the English to break up the crescent-shaped formation of the Armada. This arrangement of ships was used at close quarters to try and surround and then board the English ships. (Walker 49-50) The Spanish began to prepare. Pinnaces stood guard with long grapnels to tow the fireships away from the main fleet. Medina ordered the ships to be ready to weigh anchor for a quick getaway. As it was a lengthy business hauling up heavy sea anchors, the tactic was to attach

them to buoys. If the fireships came, then the ships cut their cables and escaped, leaving their heavy anchors attatched to the buoys. When the danger was over, the ships could return to pick up the anchors. (Graham 233) The Dover Squadron, led by Lord Henry Seymour joined Lord Howard’s squadrons. Now the Queen’s navy almost equaled the Armada in number. The English recognized their advantage. They filled eight old ships with inflammable material and waited for the wind and tide. (Marx 120) After midnight, the waiting Spaniards saw the glow from the fireships approaching with the tide. As they came closer, their guns overheated and exploded, making a terrifying sight. The Spanish hastily cut their cables. In the pitch-blackness, they collided with each other in their effort

to escape. The huge galleass, the San Lorenzo, was badly damaged, but no ship was set on fire. By daylight on August 8, Medina realized many of his ships were in danger of running on the shoals of the Flemish coast, providing an easy target for the pursuing English. With four great ships, he decided to stand and fight, desperately determined to hold off the English while the rest of the Armada collected and made ready for the coming assault. (Encarta) Drake, in the Revenge, led the attack. One by one, his squadron followed, opening fire at a hundred yards range. Frobisher’s squadron followed Drake’s. The Spaniards were outnumbered by about ten to one. The English had the wind behind them, and at close range, their cannons made huge holes in the Spanish hulls. Spanish sails,

rigging and castles were shattered. The pumps of the San Martin worked desperately to keep her afloat. (Marx 144-145) In the noise, smoke, and confusion it was impossible to see what was happening. Other ships gathered, but the main battle was between Drake’s ships and the big galleons of the Portuguese and Seville squadrons. Three great Spanish ships sank that day, a dozen more were badly damaged. Six hundred Spaniards were killed and at least 800 wounded. The decks ran with their blood. (Marx 150-152) Toward evening, after nine grueling hours, heavy rain and wind ended the battle. But worse was to come. Amid the wreckage and blood and the screams of wounded men, the winds blew the helpless Spanish ships toward the treacherous sandbanks. When dawn came, the English moved in

and the exhausted Spaniards prepared themselves for death. But the English were almost out of ammunition. No attack came. Slowly, the Spaniards forged their way through the shallow waters. At any moment, they could feel the terrible lurch of a ship grounded on the sands. Then, in the afternoon, the wind changed and blew them away from the deadly sandbanks. The Duke of Medina wrote: “We were saved by the wind, by God’s mercy, it shifted to the southwest.” (McKee 181) It is rather strange that only 100 Englishmen had been killed since the first encounter. Why didn’t the Spanish artillery do any damage to the English fleet? One answer may be that the Spanish cannon balls were badly cast and splintered when fired. Their gunpowder was finer ground than the English, and perhaps

was unsuited to the heavy cannon. Their guns may even have exploded on their gun decks. The merchant ships were not built to take either the weight or the recoil of heavy cannon. Continual pounding from their own guns put an immense strain on the ships’ timbers. Their carpenters had the never-ending task of caulking the leaks. Sometimes the guns were not properly lashed to the gun decks. When fired, the recoil sent the guns bounding across the decks, severely damaging the ships and wounding the men. (Graham 287) When the English fleet turned back, Medina and his captains held a council of war. Now their task was to get the Armada safely back to Spain. Medina wrote to the King that “the Armada was so crippled and scattered, it seemed my first duty to Your Majesty to save it,