A fleet unlike anything the Western world had ever seen had been assembled with one goal in mind — the destruction of England.
Rumor of England’s impending doom had reached its shores, and the people were filled with a mix of indignation and terror.
It was only a matter of time until the fight of their lives reached their very homes; the Spanish Armada was on the way.
The Might of the Armada
With 130 ships, 8000 sailors, and 19,000 soldiers, the Armada was a force to be reckoned with.
If it could reach English soil, at the very least, a Spanish redoubt would be established on the British Isles. From there, the Spanish would launch wave after wave of attackers. A painting of the Spanish Armada and English ships. (Source: Wikipedia)
The English were running out of time — they needed a hero. That hero would come in the form of Sir Francis Drake.
From Pirate to Vice-Admiral
Renowned privateer, explorer, and mayor, Drake had a long history of popularity in his country and plenty of experience under the sail.
He’d fought the Spaniards before and knew what it took.
He knew the assembly of the Armada was largely due to the supplies coming through this port. If he could get in, destroy the port, and get out, he could buy his country some time.
Battle of Cadiz
On April 29, 1587, the Battle of Cadiz began. Drake sailed into the harbor and began to attack every ship in sight.
He faced bombardment for two nights from the many Spanish guns on land and various Spanish vessel but was able to inflict a tremendous amount of damage, particularly against the barrel staves.
The Spanish Armada needed these long, tapered pieces of wood to manufacture barrels. Without these staves, the Armada couldn’t store as much food and water aboard their ships.
A Lasting Effect
However, a combination of English maneuverability, long-range weaponry, and weather forced the Armada to sail around the northern tip of Scotland before they could round Ireland and return home.
Thousands of Spaniards died during the journey, partly because they didn’t have enough food and water.
Defeat of the Armada
And so perhaps one of the most important things that the Spanish needed in the years preceding the invasion wasn’t gold, cannons, soldiers, sailors, or generals, but instead, woodworkers.
For more information on Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada, you may enjoy reading John Sugden’s Sir Francis Drake.
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