This Day In Histroy: The Spanish Armada was Defeated (1588)

This day in history in 1588 , Spain’s  “Invincible Armada” was defeated. The English navy with its smaller and quicker ships was able to inflict serious damage on the Spanish fleet. The English under their commanders Howard and Drake engaged in an eight-hour battle with the Spanish. They attacked the Spanish in the Channel, the English guns had a longer range and they inflicted serious damages on the Spanish ships.  A change in wind direction persuaded the Spanish to break off from the battle and retreat towards the North Sea. This probably saved the Armada from a total defeat. The English tactics were to break up the Spanish lines and  to pick off the Spanish ships one by one.  The Spanish fleet had taken shelter from the English in Calais

Spanish Armada and English ships

The English used fire ships to break up the Spanish lines and they began to pick off the Spanish ships one by one.  The Spanish fleet had taken shelter from the English in Calais harbor. On the night of July 29, the English sent eight burning ships into the crowded harbor at Calais. The panicked Spanish ships were forced to cut their anchors and sail out to sea to avoid catching fire. The Spanish ships had more guns than the English but they were very slow and cumbersome and this was to prove costly to Spain and their dreams of conquest.

The Armada had been attacked just as they were about to link up the Spanish army in Flanders. Here some twenty thousand men waited to be transported to England. Once they had made it safely across the English Channel they would have made their way to London. The Spanish army was widely considered the best in Europe.

Its hopes of invasion crushed, the remnants of the Spanish Armada began a long and difficult journey back to Spain. They could not go back the way that the came. Instead, they were forced to make the journey home around the British Isles. The English navy was following behind them and was constantly harrying them.

On May 19, 1588 the Invincible Armada set sail from Lisbon on a mission to secure control of the English Channel and transport Spanish troops from Flanders to England. The fleet consisted of some 130 ships, 9000 sailors and had almost 20,000 troops. The Armada had to return to Spain because of storms and this delayed the invasion and allowed the English to prepare. The English were ready to attack the Spanish in the English Channel.  This was critical for the success of the English in the Channel on the 29th of July.

The retreating Armada was forced to sail around Scotland and Ireland. Many ships were destroyed by storms. Many of those who reached safety in Ireland were often killed by local chieftains. Only a small portion of the Armada survived and managed to return to Spain.