The Spanish Armada was a spanish naval fleet (army of ships) most famous for being used by Spain's King Philip II against Britain in 1588. The ships were on their way to Flanders (across the English channel from England) to fetch an army to invade England. The Royal Navy of England during queen Elizabeth I's reign caught up with them on the way. The English defeated the Armada by using the wind to blow ships that were lit on fire into the anchored fleet. This started on 12 July 1588 and ended during August 1588.
The Second in Command of the Royal Navy was Sir Francis Drake. Drake was playing a game of bowling with his friends when he heard of the attack. He boldly insisted that he had time to finish the game and defeat the Spanish Armada afterwards.
The Spanish Armada was led by the Spanish Duke of Medina Sidonia, who had no naval experience. He replaced the original commander, who died in February.
The defeat of the Armada is often attributed to a severe storm which scattered the Spanish vessels before they met the British fleet, meaning they could not use the many more ships they had to their advantage as planned. The British had only 55 ships, but these ships were not bigger but carried more guns. The Spanish only had short-range cannons, while the English had long-range cannons. Part of the English strategy was to sink or damage the enemy ships before they got close enough to fire back at them.
The English ships were also more manoeuvrable. The Spanish galleons could have their oars broken off completely by a heavy vessel sailing past nearby. The morale and dedication of the British sailors was high, improved by the famous speech by Queen Elizabeth and loyalty to England. They were led by experienced captains who had years of naval battles behind them.
The defeated Spanish fled north through the North Sea with the English chasing them. Many more ships were lost, and thousands of men died during the retreat.
Even though the English sailors had done so well, they didn't get paid and were made to stay on their ships and 'Guard' in case there was another Spanish attack. Lord Howard of Effingham was shocked, when he found out that his soldiers weren't getting paid, claiming that "I would rather have never a penny in the world, than they (his sailors) should lack...." (I would rather die poor than see my men go unpaid).
A year later, Queen Elizabeth sent a similar English Armada of more than a hundred ships and 19,000 troops to complete her victory. They were to seize a fleet of Spanish treasure ships and impose a new king on Portugal. This expedition also failed.
- Spanish Armada Citizendium
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