Tag Archives: Spain

Remembering History: England Defeats Spanish Armada (29 July 1688)

 

Defeat of the Spanish Armada (Philip James de Loutherbourg, 1796)
Public Domain

On July 29, 1688 naval forces of England and Spain engaged in an 8-hour furious battle off the coast of France that determined the fate of both countries control of the seas. Spain had created the armada to not only gain control of the English Channel but also to land an invasion force in England. England since the early 1580s had been conducting raids against Spanish commerce and had supported Dutch rebels in Spanish Netherlands. The other reason was to restore Catholicism that had been outlawed since the reign of King Henry VIII

The invasion fleet was authorized by King Philip II and was completed in 1587 but delayed by a raid by Sir Francis Drake on the Armada’s supplies. It did not depart until May 19, 1588. The fleet consisted of 130 ships under the command of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia. It had 2,500 guns, 8,000 seamen, and 20,000 soldiers. The Spanish ships though were slower than their English counterparts and lighter armed as well despite their guns. Their tactic was to force boarding when their ships were close enough. They believed with the superior numbers of Spanish infantry they could overwhelm the English ships.

The English were commanded by Charles Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Effingham. Like his counterpart, he was an admiral with not much sea experience but proved to be the better leader. His second in command was Sir Francis Drake. The English fleet was at its height 200 ships but in the actual combat was at most 100. Only 40 were warships and the rest smaller, but they were armed with heavy artillery that were able to fire at longer ranges without having to get close to the enemy to be effective. The English strategy was to bombard their enemy from a distance and not give them the opportunity to get close and possibly board their ships (which had smaller number of soldiers aboard than the Spanish had).

As the Spanish Armada made its way, it would be harassed by English ships that bombarded them at a distance negating Spanish attempts to board. The Armada anchored near Calais, France on 27 July. The Spanish forces on land were in Flanders and would take time to get Calais. However, since there was no safe port and enemy Dutch and English ships patrolled the coastal shallows, it meant those troops had no safe way to get to the Armada.

Around midnight on 29 July, the English sent 8 fire ships into the anchored Spanish fleet. The Spanish were forced to quickly scatter to avoid the fire ships. This meant the Armada formation was now broken making them easier targets for the English to attack. They closed to effective range and attacked. Surprising to the English, the return fire was mostly small arms. It turns out most of the heavy cannons had not been mounted. And those that were did not have properly trained crews on how to reload. Three Spanish ships were sunk or driven ashore. Other ships were battered and moved away. The English also were low on ammunition, so they had to drop back and follow the Spanish fleet.

The Spanish fleet had to flee north and around Scotland and from there head back to Spain. The English fleet turned back for resupply. It was a long road back to Spain for the Armada. Autumn had arrived and gales in the North Atlantic made passage tough. Ships were lost to bad weather, navigational errors, foundered near Ireland, and possibly battle damage as well. Only 60 of the 130 survived with an estimated loss of 15,000 men. The English losses were much smaller with fewer men wounded or killed in battle. It appears most of the deaths that came later were due to disease (possibly scurvy). Damages to the English ships were negligible.

Significance

With the defeat of the Spanish Armada, England was made safe from invasion. The Dutch rebels the English backed in Spanish Netherlands were saved as well. Spain up to that point had been considered to be the greatest European power, so it was a major blow to their prestige that would have ramifications down the road for them. Also, it heralded a major change for naval battles. This was the first major naval gun battle where the combatants fought at a distance rather than closing and boarding. Warships that could move quickly and had artillery that fire at long range would become the norm on the seas from that point on. England would now become a major world power. Spain still was in the game for several decades (the English were not successful either in trying their own invasion) and was still a major colonial power. England and Spain formally ended their conflict in 1604. Spain, however, would eventually go into decline as England and other European powers would successfully expand into Asia and establish their own colonies and trade routes.

Sources:

This Day In History: Spanish Armada Defeated
Encyclopedia Britannica: Spanish Armada

Titanic News- Snopes Looks Into Titanic Photograph,Jinxed Train Station Gets New Life and more!

Europe’s Unluckiest Train Station Gets New Lease Of Life As Hotel
The Guardian, 19 Jul 2021

It earned the nickname “Titanic of the mountains”, but now the monumental and ill-fated train station at Canfranc is to get a new life as a five-star hotel, 51 years after the international rail link across the Pyrenees closed. The story of Canfranc, a village more than 1,000 metres (3,280ft) above sea level on the Franco-Spanish frontier, is one of vainglorious ambition and abject failure, of incompetence and corruption, of intrigue, smuggling and a century-long run of bad luck. Spain wanted to show that it was capable of building something on the scale of Europe’s great “railway cathedrals”, says Alfonso Marco, author of El Canfranc, historia de un tren de leyenda (Canfranc, the story of a legendary train). “By the time it was built it already belonged, conceptually and technically, in the 19th century,” he told the Guardian. The problem was that the station was conceived in 1853 but not completed until 1928.

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Is This the Final Photograph of the Titanic?
Snopes.com, 16 Jul 2021

Snopes looks into whether or not a photograph (Morrogh Image) is the final photograph of Titanic. After consulting with Ken Marschall and another expert, it likely was not the last one. It appears to have been taken a few minutes before the Odell Image (taken by Kate Odell on the tender heading ashore). Which makes the Odell image still the last and final photograph of Titanic as she heads out to sea, and into history.

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‘The Apparition Screamed Out ‘Waratah! Waratah!’: Dundee Ship Richard King And ‘Australia’s Titanic’
The Courier, 16 Jul 2021

The Waratah was sailing to Cape Town but she disappeared from sight into the mist with her 211 passengers and crew in July 1909. The story of the Waratah has often been compared to that of the Titanic, which sank three years later. As such, the Waratah has been referred to variously as the “Titanic of the Southern Ocean” and “Australia’s Titanic”. The Richard King was one of the ships that took part in an exhaustive but unsuccessful search for the Waratah. Numerous attempts to salvage it and a few sightings have been reported, with none proving to be true. No one has ever found a trace of the ship and this great maritime mystery is up there with the Mary Celeste and the Flying Dutchman.

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What Titanic Left Behind: This Forgotten Mansion Was Owned By A Family Taken By Maritime Tragedy
Thetravel.com, 15 Jul 2021

The nearly-forgotten home of Lynnewood Hall was once considered to be one of the finest mansions in the country from the Gilded Age. It also held the title as being the finest home in the state of Pennsylvania but with so many Neo-Classical Revival features, that was not a tough challenge to overcome. What more interesting – and tragic – is the family who once owned this mansion, and how their lives were intertwined with that of the biggest maritime disaster in history: The Titanic.


REMEMBERING HISTORY: BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

Battle Of Trafalgar by William Lionel Wyllie (1851-1931)
Public Domain (US)
Wikimedia

The Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) saw many battles on land but the most pivotal naval one was on 21 Oct 1805. It was the naval battle that established British naval supremacy for 100 years. It was fought west of Cape Trafalgar, Spain putting it between Cadiz and the Strait of Gibraltar. 18 French and 15 Spanish ships would fight a British fleet of 27 ships. Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve commanded the combined French/Spanish fleet while Admiral Horatio Nelson commanded the British fleet.

Villeneuve had hoped to avoid battle with the British when he slipped the fleet out of Cadiz on 19-20 October heading for the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, Nelson caught him off of Cape Trafalgar on 21 October. Villeneuve ordered his ships to form a single line heading north. Nelson order his fleet into two squadrons and to attack from the west at right angles. He signaled his famous message at 11:50 am from his ship Victory: “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

Nelson’s squadron attacked the van and center in Villeneuve’s line.*  Nelson’s squadron broke through ignoring six leading French and Spanish ships in the first attack. Those six ships under Admiral Pierre Dumanoir did turn around to help but were driven off. The rear of Villeneuve’s fleet was destroyed, and Villeneuve was himself captured.

The battle ended around 5:00 pm with 19 or 20 French & Spanish ships surrendering with crews and prisoners of war around 14,000 men. Admiral Nelson died during the battle but knew before he died of British victory. The British lost no ships but 1,500 crewmen were either killed or injured. The Battle of Trafalgar ended forever any dreams Napoleon had to invade England.

Aftermath
Napoleon did not learn of the defeat for many weeks due to being involved in military battles on land. He censored news of the defeat in Paris for a month. And then in a brazen propaganda move had the French newspapers portray it as a great victory over the British. Villeneuve would return to France in 1806 but was found dead in an inn room with six stab wounds from a knife. It was ruled a suicide, but some suspect he was killed. The battle made it clear Britain was master of the seas, but it did not slow Napoleon down on his strategy to conquer and defeat the Third Coalition and Austria. Napoleon buttoned up the continent to deprive British trade. French and Spanish armies would occupy Portugal in 1807.

In 1808, Napoleon uneasy with his Spanish allies, invaded and took control of Spain. French troops and their supporters were disliked by many Spanish who took up arms. The British, after liberating Portugal, would drive out the French and used the Spanish guerrillas to harass the French. British forces under General Wellington would drive the Spanish out after the Battle of Salamanca in 1812. The French forces in Madrid would surrender ending the Peninsular War but starting the final campaign to drive Napoleon from power.

*During the age of sail, fleets were divided into van, center, or rear squadrons and named after each squadrons place in the line of battle. You can read about how this was developed here.

Sources:
Brittanica Online
Military.wikia.org
Wikipedia

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