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The Devil's Ship.

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The Devil Ship.

HMS Warrior, finest ship in the fleet, an iron clad marvel of steam and sail, far superior the English Press said than the tubby French Glorie. At a staggering 127 meters in length the Warrior was without a doubt the largest warship in the world and many regarded her as one of the most attractive if not the most attractive. Of course there were grumbles, many older officers complained that her engine was unreliable and a risk in battle and produced far too much smoke which fouled her miles of rigging and thousands of yards of sails with soot which required constant cleaning but the Admiralty was pressing ahead with more of the new 'Ironclads' as they were called. The Warrior's sister the Black Prince as well as the smaller Defence were under construction and would give the Royal Navy a comfortable lead in the new ships whilst more yards began making more to replace the now horribly vulnerable 'Wooden Walls' of the Nelsonian era.





Sailing down the English Channel from Portsmouth to Devonport in the height of a fine late July the lookouts reported a rather unseasonable patch of fog ahead, the fog bank seeming to spring from nowhere had spread across the Channel.

Under orders the Captain did not order sails to be brought in or speed reduced. The ships bell rang out a loud deep call into the fog that engulfed the nine thousand tonne warship like a living thing.


"Unusual for this time of year Sir, especially on such a fine day with the wind this strong."

"Indeed Mr Tolmy, make sure the lookouts are at their stations." Captain the Honourable Arthur Cochrane replied, lowering his telescope, tucking it under his immaculate uniform.



A few minutes later a young Midshipman man ran up and saluted. "Thirteen knots Sir, checked twice."

"Very good, carry on young Jones."

"Aye aye Sir!"

"Thirteen knots..some would say unlucky." The ships second officer chuckled.


"Hah, I make my own luck, we're against the current that explains for the drop in speed, she can do better."

Cochrane's second nodded in agreement but said nothing, the ship was due to get her hull cleaned and checked, everything about the Warrior was new, her Iron hull was thus far unique in the world and was checked often to see the effects of long times submerged had on the metal plates and its wooden backing.


A hour went by and still there was no break in the thick pea soup of fog, even the sun seemed distant and hazy in the wan light.


"Haul in the tops and stays, reduce speed to eight knots."

"Haul in tops and sails aye Sir!"


Whistles shrilled, Bosun's hollered and the crew sprang into action. For all her modern machinery and metal clad hull the Warrior was still a sailing ship at her heart and the Navy had not changed in regards to its crew much since the time of Jervis, Hood and Nelson. Bare footed men scrambled up the towering masts, many of them with feet so hardened by calluses that they could never wear shoes and often when ashore wore them round their necks, laces tied simply out of a sense of propriety. Being unable to wear shoes was little problem to the top men who were as strong as gorillas. The crew of the Warrior was handpicked, the best of the best and they had spent half a year bonding as a crew, each man knew his role and carried it out skilfully.

There was a noise over the clank of rigging and the snap of sails being hauled in. A distant boom, muffled by the fog but clearly audible to the forwards lookouts.

Cochrane walked forwards as the report reached him from where he was stood amidships watching the men in the rigging do their work with a critical eye.



"Thought I heard gunfire sir, definitely a cannon shot."

The Captains eyes flicked up to the foremast, a heavy sail thudding against the oak mast could sound like a gun going off to some, but the sails that were being hailed were secured.

"Fog appears to be thinning Sir."


Indeed it was, and then there was another dull boom, followed by another and another.

"Mr Tolmey call sound action stations."

"Action stations aye sir!"

"Beat to quarters! All hands to your action stations!"


The change was instantaneous, Royal Marine drummers played as the ship went from sailing stations to action stations, below decks the brand new Armstrong Rifled Breach Loaders were readied and run out, as were the new heavy 68-pounders, weapons near identical to their older 48-pounder forbearers apart from the weight of shot they could fire. These big smoothbore guns fired a round that was supposedly equal to the equivalent of five 32-pounder shots fired at once and were loved by their crews for their reliability.

The brand new rifled breach loaders however were not popular although the obvious power of rifled 'shell' firing guns meant that the Warrior had to be equipped with them. The Warrior had a broadside of a dozen 68-pounders and five 7-inch Rifled guns, less guns than the Victory or the very new Victoria but more than enough to overwhelm any wooden ship afloat and be immune to their fire thanks to her iron hull.





Manning the railings red coated Royal Marines, muskets in hand formed up in squads as their Sergeants barked orders. Although the Warrior's crew still trained with cutlass and boarding pike the great ship had less crew than a three decker and her guns were her primary weapon, the heavy shot and shells giving the big ship a chance to fight at long range and that's what she was designed to do, win with gunnery instead of the grinding attrition of previous battles followed by boarding actions.

More booms echoed from what was judged to be ahead, clearly gunfire and a lot of it. Cochrane thought that perhaps the French had attempted a sneak attack on the Channel Fleet the Warrior was suppose to rendezvous with, if that was the case, his orders were clear, engage and destroy the enemy.


"Sir engineering reports the boilers fire is lit and they are building steam as fast as they can."

"Very good, have Mr Thompkins engage the engine as soon as is humanly possible, action is imminent."

Already wisps of black smoke were starting to puff and billow from the two buff coloured funnels, whilst many feet below, nearly naked stokers shovelled coal into the hungry furnaces, the heat and hard work making the men's skin smear with sweat and coal dust.


"Sir! Ahead!"

The fog was gone, almost like it had never existed, the Warrior burst into sunlight into a scene of pure bedlam.

The horizon was literally filled with ships and what had to be gun smoke that was lit from within by bright red flashes of gunfire. But it was not the Channel Fleet, and certainly not the French.





These mass of ships were short stubby sailing ships with massively high fore and aft castles of the kind not seen any more outside of paintings and drawings. The lesser mass was led by what was clearly descendents of these tubby looking boats, cut lower and leaner and looking more racy for it but still nothing compared to the comparatively sleek Warrior.

Training his glass on the flags and sails of the larger force Cochrane could see gilt flags with the Red Cross of the Crusades on it and dozens more symbols alike, each of them religious, some ships had what looked like pictures of the Virgin Mary on their mainsail. The lesser force's main ships flew pennants and flags from almost every conceivable point they could it seemed but these flags he recognised all be it from his History lessons. The Cross of St George, the Union Flag. English flags. Where the devil or Heaven forbid WHEN were they?




1* HMS Warrior

2* A 7 inch Rifled Armstrong Breech loader.

3* What the crew saw

4* A type of ship similar to what the crew saw.

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Duke Medina-Sidonia, or to give him his full title Don Alonso Pereze de Guzman, Seventh Duke of Medina-Sidonia, Count of Niebla, Marquis of Cazaza in Africa, Lord of the Cityof St Lucar de Barrameda, Captain General of Andalusia and the Knight of the Honourable Order of the Golden Fleece at thirty seven was a man who had never been to sea and had never fought a naval battle. Yet was the commander of the hundred and thirty six ships and over thirty thousand men that formed the Armada. Under the advice of more experienced men and obeying the orders of his King the Armada was not to try engage in a decisive battle, but sail to its rendevouz with the Duke of Palma's army in the Netherlands, transport it across the Channel and assist with the overthrow of the Lutherian [edited] Elizabeth and her heretical clique.





The Armada had formed its battle formation, the English described it as a huge arc or the sweep of an axe, but viewed from above it was more like a bird in flight, the 'head' was comprised of the Flagship the mighty San Martin and a squadron of four powerful Galleass, mighty hybrids of galleon and rowing galley whilst the 'fighting squadrons' of the combat capable Spanish and formerly Portugese Galleons as well as heavily armed merchant ships formed the huge arched wings of the fleet whilst the body was the supply ships carrying food, ammunition and weapons for the Armada as well as Parma's forces ashore. It was a fine formation. The English would not be able to get at the vulnerable transports in the center of the several mile wide formation without getting the wind taken from their sails and then be at risk of being boarded, the preferred Spanish method of naval battle whilst the wings of the formation were felt to be strong enough to hold off any English attack.


But no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. The Spaniards who had faced the English before knew that the English ships were faster and relied on gunpower rather than the time honoured tradition of grapple and boarding and as the battle developed off Portland, even with the wind in their favour the lumbering Galleons could not close with their foe who hung off, hammering them with relentless cannon fire.


The difference between the two fleets was marked as tactics that had not changed much since Roman times were being countered with those of the new modern age. English gunfire was a constant metronome drumroll down the flanks of their ships, their guns firing as fast as they could, only halting when the iron guns grew too hot. Spanish fire was stattaco bursts with a rate of fire being perhaps one shot per hour from the heavy guns whilst the lighter peices dotting the towering fore and aftcastles of the Spanish Galleons were no threat to the ships they faced. The Spaniards even lacked dedicated gun crews, the gun was loaded, fired and then the gunners would go and join the soldiers in perperation to board. Even If they had guncrews, some guns could not be hauled in to be reloaded but had to be reloaded from outside the ship by a man hanging over the side! Clearly impossible in the heat of battle.


Despite this, the Spanish ships held formation, the massed men ready to board suffering horrific casualties as cannon balls tore through the thin screens they sheltered behind whilst musketeer's and arbesque men returned fire as best they could despite the slaughter around them.

For the men on the gun decks it was the closest thing to hell the ill educated, religious men think of. Orders bellowed through cupped hands into an ear were barely heard over the boom of gunfire, whilst men were half blinded by powder smoke in their dimly lit world of wood and noise. Many young conscripts or pressed men had never heard anything louder than the tolling of a church bell or the lowing of cattle in the fields and many were unmanned by fear.


Aboard the San Martin it was difficult to see how the battle was going, an English squadron, led by a black hulled warship, her sides decorated with geometric patterns of Green and White was attacking down wind and the formation was struggling to hold against the vicious attack. Many thought the feared and hated 'el Draque, the Dragon, Sir Francis Drake was leading this attack and the San Martin and her consorts came about laboriously into the wind to try and aid their embattled comrades.


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"Sir a ship has..appeared, port bow!"

Telescopes had not been invented in Europe yet so the officers had to rely on unaided eyesight. There she was but..what was she? A black hulled leviathan with smoke pouring from her as if she was aflame inside, an unusual flag at her stern that looked like the English one, just with more colours on it. This strange, huge ship was alone sailing into the wind. An easy target as she would not be able to come about to avoid being grappled.


"Signal Don Diego Flores da Valdes to follow us, we will engage the lone ship coming from the north east."


One large galleon and four huge galleass' should be enough to overwhelm a lone english ship, that job done they could then come about and engage El Draque's squadron from behind, having the English heathen's hero a prisoner or dead would be a great day for Spain.


HMS Warrior - The same time.


"Sir that's the Cross of St George, those are English ships and I belive the others are flying the old flag of Spain, see the horizontal cross, its meant to be the cross that St Andrew was crucified on."




"There hasn't been ships like this since the Anglo-Dutch wars."


"Speeds now twelve knots sir, all guns manned and ready."

"Sir! lookouts report a formation of what we belive to be Spanish ships heading our way, their guns are run out."

"Sir, Navigator says we are where we should be, near Portland sound."


"Yes but...when..." Cochrane muttered. He was looking at something from history, Galleons trading gunfire, old flags, older ships, it was impossible to belive but there it was.

"If they open fire return fire immediately. Keep us at long range and let out guns do their job. I do not know what is going on Gentlemen...but those are English ships under attack by an enemy, no matter what, we are a ship of His Majesty's Navy and we will help if endangered."


The assembled officers saluted, hurrying off to their action stations. Taking his place by the helmsman it was now a matter of seeing if these Spaniards would open fire.


Aboard the San Martin


"She's moving fast...that black hulled monster, how can she be aflame and not be sinking?"

"I do not know Duke. I suggest we fire a challenge."

"Agreed. Lets see what that..thing does."


Although the San Martin and her mates were barely making five knots, aided by the tide the Spanish formation closed to within a mile, a long ranged shot for any gun of the time but orders were orders.

A bow chaser cannon, already loaded fired with a deep throaty roar, but the cannon ball was actually for a smaller gun, the ball bounced down the inside of the cannon exiting the muzzle at a wild angle, accuracy with the primative cannons was still a long way off. But by some chance of fate the 18lb lump of round iron was heading in the right direction, skipping off a wave in a plume of spray that robbed it of most of its momentum before the ball thudded against the 4.5 inches of iron covering the Warriors sides with a dull CLANG.




HMS Warrior.


"Thats enough of that..all guns return fire!"



1* A contemporary image of the San Martin Flagship of the Armada.

2* Although an image from the Anglo-Dutch wars it gives a sense of the scale of the battles of the Armada, but during them the Spanish never sought a decisive fight and the English wanted to harry and harass the Spaniards to keep them away from any safe landing point. There were no formal tactics and the result was a huge swirling melee, often conducted at speeds barely higher than walking pace.

3* The Burgundian Cross, adopted as the Spanish flag by King Philip's father, Charles V.

4* HMS Warrior in profile.

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Spanish tactics had evolved to deal with the Moors and barbary pirates and had not gone much beyond the tactics on the past 80 years, even before the introduction of cannons at sea. A Galleon would use its heavy guns to smash the upperworks of an enemy and disable its anti-personnel cannons, on the massive bowsprit two great iron hooks would tangle an enemies rigging stopping them from getting away whilst Musketeers and Arquebuisers caused more carnage with a hail of fire from the fore and aftcastles.


Once in close quarters men would pour across the rails, the armoured soldiers in the lead followed by the crew who often wore little more than a leather jerkin as protection. The attackers would be met with a forest of pikes and swords and blizzards of musket fire. This mercyless, grinding battle of attrition would continue until the ship was captured or the attackers slaughtered.





The addition of guns had done little to change the Spanish ideas of naval warfare and they had not adapted their tactics to fight the English who if boarded would be doomed due to having smaller crews than Spanish ships and next to no professional soldiers onboard.


But the British didn't have it their way, a well built galleon was a stout opponent. Oak planking was in excess of four inches thick and this was then fixed to the ships ribs, themselves two feet of solid wood, with the ribs of the galleons so close together they almost touched. To hurt a Galleon you had to get close, dangerously close. Or have very powerful guns which the Warrior had pleanty of.

Turning to expose her broadside the Warrior opened the arcs for her guns and opened fire. Not all at once, but in a rippling salvo, one gun firing after the next. At a mile distance firing at closely grouped targets in good conditions the gun crews could score hits about 60% of the time. The high velocity rifled 7 inch shells striking first. In the first broadside the ten rifled guns scored 7 hits, four on the lead Galleyass and three on the San Martin. The results were terrible. Galleons were tough but they were not built to take this.


The carnage amongst the crew and men at the oars of the Galleass San Juan was horrific, the shells punched through the big ships hull and upper works with terrible rending crashes, each impact forming a blizzard of wooden splinters to lash the crew whilst the shell's careened through the closely packed men. Ropes parted with cracks louder than a musket firing, the taught ropes smashing men overboard as they lashed the decks. One of the 110-lb 7 inch rounds hit the most solid thing on the ship, the base of the foremast, tearing a gouge the size of a mans head from the solid pine mast. The 500 tonne ship dropped into the swell of a wave the sharp impact finishing what the shell had started. With a crack that sounded like a stone was splitting the mast started to sway, its ropes and stays unable to support its massive bulk. With a low groan, accompanied by the screams of men trapped in the fighting tops the sixty feet tall mast fell over to the port side, the big ship utterly crippled.


Posted Image



The San Martin was far more lucky, one shell either through the fault of the gunners or the shell itself flew high, punching through sails with a dry coughing noise, another was stopped when it struck a solid bronze gun, both shell and gun being mangled in the impact which also killed a dozen men, the third punched through the forecastle, mangling soldier, sailor and the gentlemen alike who manned the ship before continuing on its path to splash into the Channel alongside the ship. For the San Juan the three 68-lb hits she suffered moments later was almost like kicking a man when he was down. The oak hull was punctured, water pouring through the huge holes torn in the waterline whilst carpenters desperately tried to halt the flow of water. If the ship was going to sink only the unarmoured men stood even the faintest chance of surviving. The rowers, convicts for the most part were chained to their oars, whilst the professional soldiers all wore heavy breastplates of burnished steel.


Watching the disater unfold aboard the San Juan, the Duke of Medina Sedonia thought back to the glorious day the Armada had set sail.

He remembered the Sermons spoke on the flagships decks by robed monks as they took the crews confession, the god fearing Philip II had called the Armada a crusade and he wanted his fleet free of sin.


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"With us too will be the blessed and innocent Mary, Queen of Scotland, who still fresh from her sacrifice, bears copious and abounding witness to the cruelty and impiety of the [edited] Elizabeth." One had preached on the journey north.

"Surely He is testing us with this monster...this Devils ship.." the duke said to himself as the flagship and her surviving squadron turned back to the battle astern, fleeing as best they could from the black smoking demon ship that was turning to chase them.


1* A Nelsonian era boarding action to give some idea of the scale of fighting involved and needed to capture a ship.

2* A drawing of a Galleass from the Armada.

3* The portrait of the Duke Medina-Sidonia, commander of the Armada.

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HMS Warrior


"Pass my compliments to the gunners, fine shooting!"


"Aye aye Sir! Enemy is turning away."


"Steer after them, we're going to support the line of English flag wearing ships attacking the Armada's windward flank."


"The...Armada Sir?"


"Yes...heaven help me and god alone knows how, but I feel we are back fighting against the armada, the date is right, the ships look right, I can not explain it but we are still the Royal Navy and the Royal Navy needs our help and by God we're going to give it!"


English Galleon Revenge


It was only a few days ago that the commander of the Revenge, all one hundred feet of her, had walked through Plymouth town towards the waiting fleet and his ship. Anyone who saw him knew who he was, there's wasnt a peasant or noble alive in England who did not know of Englands most famous mariner. They had scanned his face, looking for some clue to Englands fate in the dark days ahead, others called out to him others blessed him or jostled each other just hoping to touch his sleeve as he walked past.


Low born by birth this man now in his 40s had risen though exploit, bravery and deft manouvering of the vipers nest of his Queens court to be regarded by many as the greatest hope England had. He was not the fleets commander though, his low birth denied him that but he was content.

He was the man who had 'singed the beard of the King of Spain', the same king had said he was an agent of the Devil, when in fact he was a very religious Protestant, he'd sailed to the New World, plundering the Spanish settlements there along with his contemporaries like Hawkins and Raleigh.





"What the devil is she sir?"


"I don't know..but she's flying the Cross of St George and sent that squadron packing. Until proven otherwise, we will not engage this vessel."

Francis Drake turned back to the Spanish wing which was buckling under his squadron's attack, the Spanish ships bunching together for protection whilst one huge Royal Galleon, one of the India Trade, the huge vessels that carried gold from the Spaniards New World colonies to her coffers in Madrid was putting up a fight, holding the wing with her bold defiance even as she was pummeled with cannon shot.






"Closer, we can't hurt them at range, bring us closer but in Gods name don't get too close!"


Despite his rank and position within society, Drake dressed plainly, as did most ranking Englishmen at sea. Of course there was the 'Gentlemen Adventurers' who dressed in their finest as if it was a day in court, but aboard the Spanish ships they would have been as plain as parsons, leaning on the diagonally painted bulwark of green and white Drake took the battle in at a glance. In the distance the biggest English ship, Frobisher's Triumph was holding position amongst the coastal eddies, trying to coax the Spaniards into attacking her whilst the flagship the renamed Ark Royal (formerly the Ark Raleigh) and the untested Lord Admiral of England were being sheppared by Hawkin's who was lending his vast experience to the high born noble who had never commanded a naval battle in his life.


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Factoring in the great black monster tearing towards the Spaniards like a terrier after some rats Drake could not help but grin.


1* Sir Francis Drake.

2* A line drawing of the Revenge

3* An image of the time of the Ark Royal.

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The difference between the cramped gundecks of the Galleons and those of the warrior were both massive and minor. For one thing there was the pervasive smoke, the foul smelling smell of burnt powder and cloth, of sweat and blood and the constant noise. But the conditions on a Galleon were hellish in most aspects. The only light often came from the gunports, all other lights having been extinguished before battle started.

It would be many years before the gun carrages evolved into the small neat four wheeled trollys that lined the gun decks of ships like the Victory or Constitution. Elizabethan guns were mounted on carrages similar to their land based mounts, two large wheels and two smaller ones at the back.


Unlike the guns on the Victory when a Galleon's gun was loaded and hauled into position the whole thing was lashed down, the recoil being absorbed by inch thick ropes and the hull of the ship before being untied, pulled back and loaded once more.


The English galleons guns were for the most part iron peices, most made in County of Kent or in the Weild. Iron guns were strong, able to take the strain of repeated firing better than their bronze forebearers. Of course there were drawbacks. When a bronze gun failed, they tended to bulge or buckle first, whilst an Iron gun would give no such warning, it would just exploded, scything down anyone nearby in a hail of razor sharp metal.


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In previous years the Queen and her Council had criticised Drake for allowing his crews to practice, after all, cannon balls and more importantly powder were not cheap. Whilst the balls could be made at home, the English had to import most of their powder or try and produce it through a disgusting process that required huge ammounts of 'night soil', pidgeon droppings, horse manure and urine. But now this practice was paying off. The English gunners were able to fire again and again, reloading, running out and firing in a relentless slow drumroll, the roar of the guns, the constant concussion often rendering men temporarily and in some unfortunate cases permanently deaf.






On the warrior the noise was the same but the ships single gundeck was less cramped, more roomy and far better lit. Whilst the 68-pounders were loaded like the guns anyone from the past 70 years of naval warfare would recognise the brand new Breech loading guns were a thing of science and technology compaired to what was in essence a basic iron tube.

At the rear of each gun was a screw like system, this was unscrewed, the shell loaded in, then the powder before being closed and screwed shut. Mounted on bulky wooden carrages the heavy weapons recoil was severe but they were more accurate than anything seen before, capable of reaching a huge distance with far less loss of velocity than any cannon before.


On the upper decks of the Spanish and English ships the sides were lined with men firing musket and arbesque, these could kill at a hundred yards if not more, firing massive multi-gram shots, low velocity rounds that caused horrific injuries. For closer quarter fighting the cannons were firing not only cannon balls but mix bags of chain, dice, cubed and grapeshot, useless against the stout hulls but against men, as devasating as a shotgun blast only on a much larger scale.

The battle was proceeding at a snails pace, the great mass of ships manouvering slowly, their captains planning like chess players where it might take 20 minutes to pass before one could see who had the advantage, if you could see at all. Gunsmoke created artificial fog banks that ships drifted in and out of. All the while the guns roared, trumpets blared and men screamed. Sound was the best way to tell when something was hit. The dry cough of a shot going through a sail, the rattle like hail on a tin roof of grapeshot striking home, the deep thud of a hit on the hull. It was this that the Warrior sailed into, smoke pouring from her twin stacks, guns firing in slow, aimed blasts in support of the English wing. Her Royal Marines manning the sides, muskets at the ready.






1* An Elizabethan Cannon - the designs didn't change for centuries, they just became more efficient and more powerful.

2* Gunpowder, which had undergone a revolution during the period of the armada.

3* Visibility on the day which was often barely more than a few dozen feet.

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HMS Warrior

"Sir, if I might make a suggestion, something to raise morale as the crew are no doubt worried about what's happened."


Captain Cochrane nodded, waiting for his number two to speak.


"Nelson's signal, we've got the flags for the signal, it should help focus them on their duties and not think about where we are."

Cochrane smiled broadly. "I like the idea, raise the signal and let the gun deck know we're flying it!"


As the famous signal of England's greatest Admiral was raised the men in the masts cheered as they worked, hauling in the sails so the great ship would not have to tack into the wind and would rely solely on her engines when the order "Up Funnel, down screw!" was given.





Down in the hull the sixty six stokers, ten engineers and two Chief Engineers fuelled and maintained their thundering charge in temperatures approaching 112f or 45c. The Warrior was not meant to run on her engines permanently, they gobbled coal and the great black ship carried a mere 850 tonnes of the stuff, the engines were to provide an added sprint when needed or to be used when sailing into the wind until no longer needed. Going into battle relying on the engines alone was not something that had been thought of until now.


Below deck the engine rumbled, the huge cranks flashing round and round once every second, driving the huge single screw at the stern, powering the ship forwards at twelve knots and rising.

Due to the huge melee taking place between the sailing ships the Warrior had to skirt down the line of Drake's squadron, sailing past rows of Galleons and the mass of armed merchant ships that made up the bulk of the Queen's Navy to engage the Spanish flank. The huge Genoese Hulk La Trinidad Valencera was the first ship to loose a broadside. The dozen heavy guns roaring out deep throaty challenges whilst the lighter guns on her towering fore and aft castles added to the barrage.


In the forecastle the Spaniards and the pressed Genoese crew had enough time to gawk as their shot seemed to do nothing to the black monster, one even shouted 'it bounced off!' and indeed it did. Plated in iron ranging from one inch to four and a half inches thick resting on heavy and far thicker wooden planking the guns of the Armada could do very little but dent the iron hull. But the crew on the upper decks, even when they were taking cover behind whatever they could were far more fragile than the hull.


One Spanish gun fired a 'Pissarro' a shot that was just a sphere of solid rock at low velocity so it would not break in the barrel and shower a foe with masonry dust. The shot thudded into one of the Warrior's upright vents for the lower decks, deforming the thin metal, shattering on impact with a burst of grey smoke. Two men were cut down by fragments, the closest was torn to shreds the other lost his leg and collapsed screaming.


The forward mounted 7 inch Armstrong a swivel mounted piece that could train port and starboard fired back as did the rest of the Warrior's guns as she steamed past. At close range the high velocity 7 inch rounds ripped through one side of the La Trinidad Valencera tearing through anything in their path before punching out the other side of the hull. The 68-lb cannons and their slower shells were not so lethal but in their own way just as devastating. Whilst most smashed the oak and birch hull of their foe to kindling, two tore through and ricocheted off the other side of the hull, bouncing around maiming and killing before coming to a halt.






The Royal Marines manning the bulwarks and mast tops were firing as fast as they could reload their muskets, trading fire with their Spanish counterparts at long range.

Another ship a large, brightly decorated Galleon hauled out of the formation trying to get across the Warrior's bow but with such light winds the ships turn was almost glacial and the Warrior avoided a collision, trading shots with the Spaniard later identified as the La Anunciada a 24 gun vessel.





On the gun decks of the Warrior almost everyone flinched when a shot hit the iron plate, the loud metallic CLANG of a deflected shot audible over the gunfire. One young Midship man, encouraging his gun crews on with curses and oaths, his voice loud for one his age after he'd spent hours shouting into the wind on the hills near Dover to develop his 'command voice' was having the time of his life. Jack Fisher, a young man who had joined the navy penniless and expecting to never see action commanded a battery of two guns, a 7 inch Armstrong nicknamed 'Thumping Bill' by its guncrew and a 68-lber called 'Tina' after a Portsmouth girl the crew had been..entertained by. Apparently the woman had quite a slap to her as did the gun.


"Stand clear there! Stand clear! Shot coming through!"

The gunners worked to unscrew the heavy breech of the 7 inch Armstrong as a shot came up from the magazine two decks down. This rounded shell was painted a bright red and had a small fuse on it.

"Load the explosive round!"

"Aye Sir, loading the explosive round!"

With such a dangerous projectile the crew and their Midshipman were extra careful loading the cannon. Ignoring the boom of gunfire the deep metallic thud of shots striking the armour they loaded the shell, sealed the breach and lit both fuses.

'Bill' roared and bucked back, straining at the ropes holding it. The bright red shell, its paint already blackened by the blast that fired it roaring through the air, slamming into the stern castle of the La Anunciada as the Warrior passed her. tearing through the side of the ship the explosive round slammed into the reinforced beam that connected the ships wheel to the rudder and bounced off, embedding itself in the deck for a brief second before the explosives fuse reached its destination. By chance or foul luck the shell was resting in the deck just above the Galleon's aft magazine.


The Galleon was not destroyed, her massively stout construction funnelled the blast of tonnes of detonating gunpowder up into the stern castle killing the men massed there, tearing apart the ships aft quarters in a blizzard of wood, metal and those unfortunate enough to be caught in the explosion. Flaming debris and bits of her crew fell down on the galleons nearby as the La Anunciada started to settle by the stern, her rigging ablaze her aft swaying for a moment before collapsing into the inferno beneath it.


The crew of the Warrior cheered, backs doubled as they loaded their guns and fought their ship.

"Well done lads! Keep it up! Don't give the blighters an inch!" Midshipman Fisher encouraged his gun crew, peering out of the gun port at the flaming wreck he was sure his gun had hit.


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1* Nelson's famous signal

2* Loading a 7 inch Armstrong rifle.

3* The Galleon La Anunciada

4* Midshipman Fisher.


The entire starboard wing of the Armada was now a huge sprawling mass of brawling ships, the English did not trade broadsides as Nelson would centuries later but would fire, come about to bring the unengaged guns into action, fire those and turn again, thus keeping up a relentless barrage against the Spaniards who fire was becoming increasingly ragged. But for all the fury of their shot the English ships were at long range for their cannons and many of their shots were either embedding themselves in their targets hull, or in the case of lighter guns, bouncing off.

This was of little comfort for the soldiers massed behind the painted screens, still at their posts waiting for the chance to board.




Slowly the English came closer, their guns starting to punch through the solid hulls of their opponents whilst taking more damage themselves as well as increasing crew casualties.

Whilst the Warrior had not sustained damage beyond dented hull plates and damaged rigging the big ships crew were under a hail of long range, wildly inaccurate musket fire and the lighter rapid firing guns dotting the towering castles of the Spanish ships. The Royal Marines, resplendent in their red and white uniforms had suffered the most with twenty being killed and another dozen wounded. Although she had a larger crew than any Galleon the Warrior probably could not have resisted a determined boarding action from a Galleon and was sticking at a range of a thousand or so yards, firing at any target that presented itself.


Astern the blazing La Anunciada was still afloat despite the blaze in her stern and leaking timbers was being abandoned by her squadron mates who dare not go near the wreck, yet still she fought, a few guns still firing defiantly in the face of destruction.


Despite the melee the Spanish formation held its shape, the huge arc of ships still pressing up the channel, a testament to the bravery of the Spanish crews and the stubbornness of their commander. The huge Hulk, the Gran Griffon, half her guns disabled in a broadside from the Warrior before being 'treated' to a hail of grapeshot that cut down over a hundred men, the blood of noble Officers and lowborn sailor sluicing from her sides still fought, her musketeers firing again and again. A heavy 48lb ball from an unknown Spaniard smashed into the Warrior's second funnel badly buckling it with an earsplitting impact, making boiler smoke leak from its sides and billow over the decks. Another cannon ball smashed into the gleaming white figurehead reducing the formerly magnificent Greek Warrior to a mangled ruin.





Moments later the bow chaser armstrong rifled gun was caught up in catastophy. Loaded and aimed the gun fired but the breech block and screw failed due to either a flaw with its casting or a fault of the crew. The shell barely cleared the Warrior's sides splashing harmlessly into the sea but for the gun crew the results were catasrophic as they were consumed by the blast of the gun being vented at them as well as the debris from the weapons breach as it failed.


"Sir starboard battery reports a gun out of action, it took a hit right on the muzzle, they are trying to fix it but..."


Captain Cochrane nodded curtly. "Keep firing and keep me aware of our ammunition status, we'll run dry before we run out of targets."


"Should I order the gunners to be conservative?"


"Hah good God no, let them be as liberal as they like!"


The officers all ducked as a shot rocketed over, the sound being swallowed up by the Warriors next broadside and cheers as a Galleon lurched to her side, plumes of water falling where some gunners had aimed at her waterline




1* A drawing from the period of the fight against the Armada.

2* The Warriors Figurehead.

3* A sinking Spanish Galleon (Its actually the Mary Rose but sssshh...)

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The Warrior carried one hundred rounds per gun, sixty were solid shot, forty were explosive rounds for the Armstrong's, the 68 pounders had twenty strands of grapeshot, the final twenty the Martins were viewed with suspicion and not fully trusted because they introduced the biggest killer of ships into the equation. Fire.

A Martins round was a standard cannon ball with its interior hollowed out and filled with molten metal. The Warrior's engines produced more than enough heat to melt iron, given time. At which point the shells could be prepared and then run up to the guns to be fired.


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In trials and training on the first type of the shells there had been accidents and problems as there was with any new technology. Firing on a full charge could shatter the round in the barrel resulting in an enemy being menaced by a hail of metal and splatters of molten metal at a range of a few meters. Some shells still shattered on a half charge and this would render a gun unusable as it would fill the barrel with cooling metal which would stop any round from fitting and make ramming a charge home suicidal. Through trial and error (and at the cost of a few lives and injuries) the firing process was refined until it was deemed reliable and fully endorsed by the Admiralty.


Molten metal, usually a nasty combination of iron and lead would fill the shell and an iron screw like section acted as the cork. Once loaded the shell was moved up to its gun on a tray suspended between two men. The round would then be loaded and fired as the contents cooled quickly.


When striking a target the shell would hopefully shatter on impact, spreading red hot metal over the hull and crew with potentially devastating results.

Orders for Martin's shells were given by individual guns or at the discresion of the Battery commander. Seeing that his 68 pounders were having problems, not that the guns were weak, but too powerful, their shots were punching through their targets although hits to the waterline were no doubt lethal, accurate aiming at a thousand yards was still a difficult prospect to say the least.


"Fish, let's get the Martins up here, one shell is nothing but if we hit them with a broadside we'll burn the buggers to the waterline!"


"Runner! We need five Martins for the second and third battery starboard side." Lieutenant Fisher yelled, straining to be heard over the commotion on the gun deck, the boom of cannon fire and the loud metallic thumps of impacts on the Warrior's hull of Spanish rounds finding the mark and leaving more dents and scrapes in the paintwork.

Normal firing resumed as the order to load the five Martin's was made, the gun crews cheering as the Armstrong's made what had to be a kill, three hits round the bow saw one Spaniard lurch to port down by the bow, clearly flooding.


"Make way! Make way there!" Someone called out on the smoky gun deck as the Martin's were brought to their guns.

Loading as quickly and safely as possible the five 68-pounders were hauled back into position whilst their crews retreated back. No one had ever seen more than a single Martin fired at once, to see five was something new.




Four guns fired cleanly, one vomited a mixture of metal fragments, smoke and a spray of metal much to the cursing of its crew and Midshipman Fisher.

Eight hundred and twenty yards away the Galleon Santa Maria de la Rosa was one of the ships holding the wing together, already hit by one shell from an Armstrong that had punched through her and dismounted three guns the big forty seven gun ship was firing as fast as she could. One of the ships given commission to break formation and engage the enemy the la Rosa was leading a group of three smaller vessels out to try and get across the bow of the Warrior. It was not to be.





One Martin missed, landing short but three hit and shattered on impact. The effects for the crew and soldiers exposed on the sides were horrific as they were hit with a barrage of molten metal and scything hot iron.

Ropes and timbers were covered in glowing hot metal slag and started to smoulder whilst men screamed in agony as the glowing stuff seeped through armour, cloths and onto skin.

Where the molten metal coated the ships sides the wood was soon blazing, the hogs heads and piss buckets up the bow had been smashed or pulped by the firing of the ships guns and could not be used to fight the growing fires.

To protect the hull, many ships of the time used a mixture of tar and pitch with the paint as it acted as a crude waterproofing. Incendiary weapons were not a factor and this flammable waterproofing now proved deadly.


On the packed gun deck the mixed Spanish and pressed Portuguese crews cried out in alarm as smoke from the burning hull plating started to be sucked in through the gun ports and flames started licking above their heads.

On the Warrior few could take time to admire the awful spectacle of a fully rigged ship burning. The crew hardened their hearts to the screams and cries of panic as men threw themselves overboard in a desperate attempt to escape the hungry flames that were now consuming the six hundred tonne Galleon.





"Bloody terrible sight...."

Captain Cochrane muttered, watching the ship burn for a moment, noting with satisfaction that flames, possibly from her sails were carrying to her closely packed comrades.


1* A view of the outside world from a 68-pounder

2* What happens when a Martins shell hits its target successfully.

3* The burning hulk of the Santa Maria de la Rosa.


Triumph and tribulations.


The biggest Galleon in the whole sprawling battle was the English ship Triumph. An older vessel, one that had not been rebuilt to the new 'race built' designs for lower, leaner ships which emphasised speed and manoeuvrability (for the time). She was one of the few English ships to retain bulky fore and aft castles, at a thousand tonnes with sixty guns she was also the largest ship in Queen Elizabeth's navy. This hulking brute of a vessel was under the command of Rear Admiral Martin Frobisher, Privateer, explorer, pirate and gentleman who was also a very experienced sailor who knew the waters off the coast of England like the back of his hand.





Frobisher was trying a risky tactic, he'd anchored his ship off Portland Bill, the curve of rock jutting out from the land into the sea along with the armed merchant ships Merchant Royal, Centurion, Margret and John, Mary Rose and Golden Lion. To the casual observer it looked like Frobisher was waiting for the battle to drift his way but the master mariner was actually trying to lure the Spaniards into a trap, presenting them with six ships as the 'honey' of the trap.


Portland Bill divides two large bays and the shape of the coast creates strong currents and eddies round the promontory of rock and the surrounding sand banks. This creates a tidal rip called the Portland Race, the most fierce tidal action on the southern coast, with a speed of up to seven knots at full flow, whilst the calmer eddies move at a knot in the other direction. The division between these flows is abrupt and sudden, one minute it pulls one way, the next the other and the surface gives next to no indication of what lies beneath. Frobisher had positioned his formation in the calm eddy, anchored and apparently unmoving.


The Spanish commander Don Hugo De Moncada, commander of the Galleasses and by far the most powerful squadron in the Spanish formation was drawn into the trap. Moncada, the previous day had been denied the chance to attack the Lord Admiral of England, John Howard's flagship but now he had found a target 'worthy' of his noble attention.

Even today a modern fishing boat can not fight the Portland Race with ease and the low centred Galleasses risked swamping and capsizing from the force of the current itself as they rowed into it, red oars flashing as they emerged from the water. If a modern ship with a diesel engine has issues against the Race, the Galleasses stood no chance. Each time they tried to enter the churning waters they were thrown around, pitching and tossing violently, half swamped and swept away from their targets.


As they strived to draw closer Frobisher's gun's unleashed a hail of fire that cut swathes through the massed troops on deck and the slaves, convicts and 'volunteers' chained to the oars who had nothing to protect them against the scything metal and hails of splinters hits produced. What return fire the Galleasses could muster did little damage much to Moncada's fury his ships had to back off, trading long range shots with their English opponents. Several miles off Lord Howard aboard the Ark Royal brought his squadron round, launching another attack on the Spanish formation whilst the Galleasses were being 'entertained' by Frobisher.





Struggling to re-join the formation the Spanish Flagship the San Martin and her consorts, with the wind behind them got a bit of speed up and approached Lord Howards ships as best they could. As the two flagships approached one another the San Martin began a lumbering turn, lowering her topsails as she did. Lying broadside on to the Ark Royal the Spanish commander, Medina-Sidonia was issuing an unmistakable invitation to grapple and board, to come to hand to hand combat. But those were the tactics of the old era of naval warfare and this was a newer and less chivalrous age. Spurning the invitation the Ark Royal kept sailing, unleashing a broadside into the Spanish galleon as did the following English ships. Coming about the English line turned and raked the San Martin with a second broadside, then a third.


The Spanish gunners made what replies they could but the weight of fire was clearly in the English ships favour. Surrounding their target the English ships poured fire into the San Martin who's replies were becoming increasingly ragged until the San Pedro, La Asuncion and San Medel y Caledon came to the embattled flagships rescue whilst the English ships withdrew.


The Flagship had received a mauling, being hit over five hundred times, the Sacred Standard, blessed by the Cardinal Archduke of Spain after apparently being sewn by the women of Portugal great golden banner with the Royal Arms of Spain flanked by the images of the Virgin Mary and Christ on the crucifix, bearing the motto Exerge Domine et Vindica Causum Tuam 'Arise O Lord and Vindicate Thy Cause' was a splinter torn mess. The Masts were damaged, rigging torn and mangled, hanging in spooling shrouds over the dead crew and soldiers on the San Martin's deck.


The Triumph and her compatriots having served as a trap for long enough hauled their anchors up, came about and carried by the Rip shot away from the Galleasses as if the Spanish ships were standing still.




The English plan to keep the Spaniards away from possible landing points without risking their ships was working, the Spanish formation had taken a beating but it had not broken. That was until the Starboard wing of the Armada, the one under attack by Drake and the mysterious black hulled vessel flying a strange Cross of St George all but collapsed. With their protective screen of Galleons battered or engaged the wing seemed to visibly buckle under the onslaught. The smaller Hulks and transports seemed to try to hide behind one another, there were several collisions between the transports. The escorts, overwhelmed, tried to impose order but the wing of the Armada buckled and gave way, the collapse signified by the deep throaty Roar of a ship exploding as a volley of explosive shots from the Warrior scored another kill.




1* Martin Frobisher, explorer and Privateer.

2*Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord Admiral of the English navy in his courtly finest.

3* An Elizabethan Galleon.

4* Although a battle between the Dutch and Spanish, it shows the difference between the lower built English ship designs which the Dutch used and the much taller Spanish Galleons.


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As the shattered remnants of the small Galleon Urca Doncella slipped beneath the Channel the seaward wing of the Armada, harried by English ships and facing a smoke belching, seemingly invulnerable monster with guns that meant death for any ship crumbled and collapsed. The slow and vulnerable Hulks and cargo Carrack's, ships in some cases almost as wide as they were long, turned this way and that, unfurling every sail in an attempt to flee as the black devil turned towards them. Two ships collided, their masts and rigging becoming hopelessly entangled, both ships firing guns and lowering flags to try and signal their distress in the melee.





Sensing and seeing an opportunity the English ships wheeled about, tacking into the wind to turn to chase the disintegrating Spanish formation. Out of their defensive formation the Spanish ships could be surrounded and pounded into submission and many Captains had heard rumour of the wealth the Armada was carrying, and wished to pocket as much of that as they could, but only once the enemy was defeated.


The landward wing of the Armada, still fighting hard but unsuccessfully against the ships under the command of Hawkins and Effingham suddenly found their flank collapsing and the ships under Raleigh and Drake moving in to take advantage of the breaches in the Spanish lines, their ships closing to within a hundred yards, sometimes closer to pound the Spaniards at point blank range where their cannons could do the most damage.

Aboard the San Martin the Duke of Medina-Sidonia could only watch as his fleet's formation collapsed, flinching slightly as a sailor next to him was smashed to the deck by a musket shot that left him screaming in agony.


"Fire a signal, get what ever's left to answer and form up...we are beaten...but we can and must prevent a massacre!"


The San Martin's gun's fired back at the swarming English ships but their roar of defiance was almost pitiful in comparison to the amount of gunfire being directed at her. At close range the English guns could finally punch through the thick hulls of the Galleons whilst dice and grapeshot slaughtered the crew whilst nobles perished alongside the crew. Don Pedro Enriquez lost his hand whilst Don Felipe de Cordoba, son of Don Diego, His Majesty's Master of Horse collapsed to the deck a headless ruin, covered in crimson.




As the fighting progressed more Spanish ships were slowly being pounded into submission, their guns slowly falling silent, either damaged or impossible to reload, but the musket and arquebus fire seemed to go on even though the death toll amongst the soldiers was steadily mounting, yet still the English did not come close enough for boarding.


The Santa Maria de Begonia and San Juan de Sicilia came close to boarding, yet the English ships hauled away, guns blazing hot, the wet sponge hissing and spitting as it was rammed down the cannons to clean and cool them before firing again.


Several of the smaller Galleons rigging was reduced to a torn shambles but the fleet was trying to re-organise itself, clustering together the fighting galleons the 'principal ships' of the Armada kept up the fight. The Spaniards and the pressed Portuguese were resolved to show defiance and fight. These were men who had been battered by English gunfire, their ships hammered relentlessly, who now knew that there was no doubt they would continue to be pounded without any hope of boarding, capturing or even severely damaging an English ship, yet still they returned to the fight again and again in acts of futile but monumental courage.


After three hours of battering at point blank range by anywhere between two and eight ships the San Mateo was a floating wreck, half her marines and crew dead or wounded, the Galleon wallowing in the swell, riddled with shot like a sieve, her sails and rigging torn. Her few remaining crew throw broken masts, gratings and even the bodies of their dead comrades overboard, everything that would reduce her weight and keep her afloat and yet somehow the ship continued to fight.




Aboard the Ark Royal Lord Howard could only guess at the reason for the Spanish collapse, a terrible catastrophe had clearly struck the Spanish formation, but their disaster was England's triumph. "Keep at them, don't let the Catholic scum get away. We will accept their surrender if they have the brains to though!"


One English ship the Edward approached the mauled San Felipe, the Galleon was a wreck, bludgeoned beyond hope of recovery. An officer stood in the bow to call out to the Spanish ship.


"Good soldiers that you are, surrender to the fair terms we offer to you!"


The only answer he got was a volley of gunfire that cut him down whilst the Spanish jeered insults. The mauled San Felipe drifted away eventually being smashed against the cliffs of the French coast with no survivors.

Making a fighting withdraw the Spanish warships still able to fight clustered together, letting the wind carry them down the Channel but their size and poor sailing qualities limited their speed and they were hounded by the English Galleons and the Devil Ship for another two hours.


As the evening approached the English finally gave up the chase whilst the more renowned Privateers went hunting for prizes amongst the mass of cripples trying to flee.




For Spain the Armada was a complete disaster, of a hundred and thirty two ships that had left Portugal, fifty four returned home, many in such poor condition that they were little better than floating wrecks and would need to be rebuilt before sailing once more. The Spanish gentry suffered terrible casualties, the Duke of Medina-Sidonia managing to return home, wracked with disease along with many of his crew he was spared his Kings wrath and would die many years later, rarely coming out in public such was his shame.


A total of twenty nine ships were captured, the remainder sunk in foul weather trying to cross the Bay of Biscay or were washed up on the English and French coasts, their wooden bones and crew picked clean of anything of value.

For the English there was now the matter of the great black ship flying the Cross of St George. The Warrior had found the English fleet the next day after a rather harrowing night of near misses and panicked gunfire from ships that loomed out of the dark only to dissapear again.

Now halted, at Anchor, her crew repairing the damage done to her rigging the Warrior waited as a longboat rowed over from the Triumph, carrying Lord Howard, Martin Frobisher and Francis Drake as well as a small contingent of guards.


1* A typical Spanish Carrack, a common merchant ship of the time.

2*A stylized scene depicting the commander of a Galleon during the battle.

3* A painting of the battle at its height after the Spanish formation had broken.

4* A model of the Galleon La Concepcion de Juanes del Cano one of the few ships that fled north trying to find succour in a French port. Dismasted she ran aground on a beach on the Isle of Wight.

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Just spent half an hour reading this... I had stuff to do!!!


Did you write this yourself or did you get it from somewhere.  The dialogue is great, the descriptave passages are excellent, the storyliine is gripping; an excellent read.

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6-8 hours?! That is some serious dedication  :Smile_honoring:! If you wrote all of that yourself I am seriously impressed! Was a nice read.

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Four cups of coffee, three cancer sticks, and two candy bars, all to read one magnificent thread.  Absolutely breath-taking pics, great read, and a great way to enrich the soul.  Thank you!  (I'm out of rep, but I will post one tomorrow, here.) +1  :Smile_great:

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Intersting in a good way or bad?  And if you like it you should read my Franco-Japanese story too *nods*

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