What you are about to read was decreed a Secret by the queen
and strangely it was kept a secret! Events were significantly
different than you were told in history class. Genius is what Sir Francis Drake
used to break the Spanish Armada. If either a modern day captain (or a creative writer)
came up with these kinds of plans it would awe mankind.
I can't take responsibility for his brilliant ides though. You won't find
much of this information anywhere else.
The Fire Ships weren't fire ships, they were IED's.
At least some of them were IED's. However, it is recorded in history that no English and no Spanish sailors in the Spanish Armada were killed.
The name 'fire ship' is a misnomer. A few of them were filled with about 500 pounds of gunpowder each so they were IED's or improvised explosive devices. They were boat bombs.
Notice how the ship in the center of the etching is exploding, not burning. Notice that men are being blown into the air. This etching found here However, as the records show nobody was killed on either side. This painting is your proof that somethings were not as you were taught. It was also at night and moonless.
So what really happened?
The whole intent was to make it appear as though the Spanish were running away from nothing so the existence of gunpowder had been kept secret (even to this day). They almost ran away from nothing because none of the ships filled with explosive were ever used. Drake was only going to use them after about 12 English ships were sent against the Spanish but they all ran away after only the 8th English ship was set afire. He invented a kind of one sided 'Russian Roulette' using fire ships instead of a revolver.
You can see a 'fire ship' exploding in this engraving.
Over 1000 Spanish had been killed by an 'exploding' fire ship several years earlier when it blew up near Antwerp.* So this was not a new form of warfare at all and fire ships were not simply a ship that was set on fire.
This is what the Spanish expected each of the English fire ships to do.
Only two of the English ships were loaded with gunpowder. However the Spanish did not know which ones they were. They could not know which one's would explode in their face and which ones would just burn up if they simply pushed them off with oars. The Spanish did not want any of those burning ships anywhere near them.**
Had there not been the threat of an IED doing to half of the Spanish ships what al Qaeda did to the side of the USS Cole then the English never would have been able to scatter the Spanish.
Literally two dozen men with oars can fend off a slow moving fire ship weighing about 50 tons. However, the Spanish were afraid the English ships would explode and did not want to get near them.
There were several Englishmen on each of those fire ships for a number of reasons including to pilot them and to keep away Spanish boarders in rowboats.
What happened to those Englishmen?
At first it was thought they were killed in the fire or lost at sea because only one Englishman was captured and none came back to England. That is why several of the paintings (and the above engraving) shows many Englishmen being killed.
So what happened to the Englishmen that were on those fire ships?
They all simply swam to shore, except for the one man who got captured, where they were met by 400 single French women who got scantily clad when they gave the Englishmen their clothes so they would not catch cold. Then they got to arguing over who got to hide the Englishmen from the Spanish and which women got to show their appreciation for saving them from the Spanish.
So to be fair they finally decided to share the men and the men got to chose which one of the 400 scantily clad French women they first wanted to be hidden and thanked by. These women had been raped and their possessions plundered for supplies by the Spanish who had been anchored there so their appreciation was very real.
These men were all hidden away in beds in France being thanked by marvellous French women for weeks and they had absolutely no desire to go back to England. Some of them had been destitute men and they all had volunteered because they didn't have much going for them in England. The English didn't care about them as people or they would not have let them go to an almost certain death. There was not a single aristocrat among them. They did their job and were assumed to be dead and so they just stayed hidden in the beds of single French women as the glorious etchings were made of them being killed in exploding ships.
The French women did not want them to leave either. My last girlfriend was a French model and for an entire two and a half years it was theoretically possible for me to leave but it was impossible since if a French woman wants you to stay then you will stay. It was just one long pleasure cruise so watch out if she wants you to stay because you probably won't have the will power or want to leave any more than I did.
Each of the thirty men had a line of women wanting to thank them and convince them to stay (and to hopefully marry them). The single women were not the only ones. Young or old, man or woman the residents of Calias all wanted these young men, who had saved them from the Spanish, to stay in Calias. Frenchmen love it when Englishmen are willing to die for them. They write songs about them. In fact the Frenchmen wanted them so much that they made two of them mayors (or aldermen) and they offered each of the many men a free tavern if they would stay. (English taverns were money makers and of course you had to have English men and those with strong moral bearings to run them.) About a dozen opened up along the coast on the French side of the channel.
The English authorities, having thought dozens of these young men were certainly dead or captured gave them all the most wonderful posthumous awards ceremony on the coast. It was very nice, I went to it. I recall that they even commissioned some nice engravings and paintings to honor their sacrifices. One etching of course is the one I keep referring to at the top of this page.
Then there were the individual funeral services of which I attended three. These were expensive for their parents so often a friend went to Calais and tried to bring them back. (The sailors knew the men were in Calias but they never told on them.)
One man's appearance at his own funeral was not a celebration. Like so many others his relatives did not want the man in the first place (that is why he had volunteered). Now the man was going to ruin their relatives dramatic funeral and that was unforgivable. So everyone got upset at him. They said they were upset at him for causing them so much distress. That was BS so the man turned around and went back to France. This time he stayed.
Many of these men stayed in France. (This part I could not figure out how to get into a play. I so badly wanted to because it speaks so clearly of something few address and that is the general abuse and parental betrayal of these brave men.)
When the British found out that their men were in bed with French women they were also upset. The queen was shocked at first, then livid. Initially she wanted them all brought back in irons. The one wise admiral or general became horrified at the suggestion and asked 'What for?' but she had no idea or even a clue herself of how her jealousy was beginning to take over her life and had even started to destroy the empire itself. Then after an hour she laughed and thought the whole thing was funny.
There was little that the Admiralty could do since the men had followed their orders and were now in France. The men had been told only to wait until right before they crashed into the Spanish ships to light the fires or explosives and then dive overboard and swim to shore (if they could). It was just assumed they would all perish either in the explosion, by sniper fire or by torture when they were captured so they were never told what to do after that.
Technically they were still following orders as a sailors duty was to stay with his ship in emergencies and most of the ships were still in the bay, even though they were burned down to the waterline and sunk.
Many of the Englishmen decided to stay with a French woman and not go back to English women and that was the real reason it was a scandal and nobody knew how to handle it. So the queen finally said 'there were never any men on those ships'.
That decreed 'truth' hid the biggest English Scandal in over 100 years and so this is what you read about in your history books.
It appears that the queen managed to get all the paintings in England changed since I can't find any with ships exploding. The paintings were simple to change but engravings were impossible to change and still do a good job at it so they left me the one black and white engraving (at teh top of this page) to use as my evidence. Now you know why I appreciate a good engraving.
If it wasn't for this one engraving then you would probably think that I was making this all this up, wouldn't you? After all without this one engraving it sounds either impossible or like it was the ultimate male fantasy. Well it does sound like it, doesn't it? Man saves England and is taken to bed endlessly by beautiful grateful women.
*Since writing this page I have found numerous short references to the fire ships having been loaded with gunpowder including this one::..the great fleet was now forced to anchor off Calais. The Spanish knew that the Italian engineer, Giambelli, had made fireships laden with explosives for the English. These "Hell burners" were the most fearful weapons for a fleet at anchor. The Spanish began to prepare..Here. This is proof that not only did the English have gunpowder filled ships but there is the name of the Italian engineer that made the exploding ships for the English! Well you know that they did not send those ships in without pilots at least part of the way and I see no mention of their names anywhere. They were without question the heroes of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. 100% bonified personifications of the type of man the crown always honors either alive or posthumously...unless those men are shacked up in Calais with the local French women getting thanked. See more about 'Giambelli' below. He was the man who made the IED that killed over 1000 Spanish at Antwerp.
The Spanish were afraid of fireships from experiences they had with the Dutch rebels called the Sea Beggars. I managed to find this drawing that shows what the Sea Beggars called fire ships from the Bibloteque National Paris. Several years before the Spanish Armada sailed against England one of these ships were set off at Antwerp and destroyed a bridge on the Scheldt River as well as killed over 1000 Spanish soldiers. England were their friends so the information certainly got back to the English Admiralty and perhaps was what inspired the English to hire Giambelli..
GIAMBELLI (or GIANIBELLI), FEDERIGO, Italian military engineer, was born at Mantua about the middle of the I6th century. Having had some experience as a military engineer in Italy, he went to Spain to offer his services to Philip II. His proposals were, however, lukewarmly received, and as he could obtain from the king no immediate employment, he took up his residence at Antwerp, where he soon gained considerable reputation for his knowledge in various departments of science. He is said to have vowed to be revenged for his rebuff at the Spanish court; and when Antwerp was besieged by the duke of Parma in 1584, he put himself in communication with Queen Elizabeth, who, having satisfied herself of his abilities, engaged him to aid by his counsels in its defence. His plans for provisioning the town were rejected by the senate, but they agreed to a modification of his scheme for destroying the famous bridge which closed the entrance to the town from the side of the sea, by the conversion of two ships of 60 and 70 tons into infernal machines. One of these exploded, and, besides destroying more than 1000 soldiers, effected a breach in the structure of more than 200 ft. in width, by which, but for the hesitation of Admiral Jacobzoon, the town might at once have been relieved. After the surrender of Antwerp Giambelli went to England, where he was engaged for some time in fortifying the river Thames; and when the Spanish Armada was attacked by fireships in the Calais roads, the panic which ensued was Yery largely due to the conviction among the Spaniards that the fireships were infernal machines constructed by Giambelli. He is said to have died in London, but the year of his death is unknown.
See Motleys History of the United Netherlands, vols. i. and ii. Encyclopedia Briticannica 1911
**Details of the attack. The Armada ships were sweetly lined up in rows. Each of the fire ships had a big lit lamp up in the riggings. There must have been a strict rules against taking oil lamps aloft in the Spanish Navy because all the Spanish really reacted to it as if it were an offense punishable by whipping. So Drake hung lamps from the riggings on three foot ropes so the lamps would swing about madly and to make sure they did he had strings attached to them so the men down below could pull on them. That made the lamps look 'as if they were about to fall at any second' and set off the bomb which would then blow up everyone.
Drake sent the fire ships one at a time and quite a few yards apart along the best ships of the Spanish line (and it was the longest of the lines). He delayed each ship progressively so it took a bit more time with each fire ship and that made it become the most exquisite torture. (That was also Sir Francis Drakes idea. He loved to torment the Spanish. In 'The Tempest' I made him Ariel who liked to torment the monster Caliban (the Spanish King) into delivering firewood for Prospero (Queen Elizabeth).)
Every time a fire ship went down that line it was like a panther walking near a herd of cornered antelope, walking along trying to decide which one to make his victim. The fire ships passed as close as 15 feet from the line of Spanish ships. The Spanish could not even fire on them because they did not know which ones were loaded with gunpowder. At 15 feet it might explode and kill them too.
The English fire ships would go by at least 20 Spanish ships and up to 40 Spanish ships before they turned and tried to ram the ships. Then the Englishmen lit their ships on fire and dove into the water so they could swim to shore which was not far away. That way the Spanish could only push the fire ships back and forth in the hopes they would blow up on their 'neighbors property'. Drake was a genius.
With each fire ship that passed down the Spanish line the Spaniards optimism fell a bit until after only four ships it was completely gone. The English had another 38 fire ships and they were all lined up with a lamp high on each one. The ships in the back had two lamps up high and far apart so it looked liked there were at least 40-50 fire ships! Need I say more. The Spanish broke and ran. Only 8 English ships were ever set a fire. And yes some of the ships were loaded with gunpowder but none of them got set afire. Drake thought the Spanish would never leave after only about 8 ships were set afire so he was holding back those with the explosives. Drake was a genius and so was most of the admiralty.
It was a order of the Queen to 'get those Spanish out of Calais immediately'.
Spain rented a lot of those ships from other countries. That was very important to our winning. They had to take 'a half crew' with them when they rented the ships. The rented ships were supposed to just transport Spanish troops across the channel after the beach was secured by men from Spanish war ships that were to have gone earlier.
It was a cheap rental since the Spanish told them it was completely safe for their ships and the brave Spanish Armada would protect them at all cost from the English pirates even if one got past the Spanish defense. So can you guess what Drake did?
Ever loan your car to a friend and have this happen?
The rentals became the number one targets of the English and the Spanish actually put them in front of their own ships. And the Spanish didn't have any insurance on those rentals. Hundreds of claims were filed against the Spanish.
For years afterwards the rented ships that got away were considered fair game for the English. Whenever the English saw one of them on the open sea they would board it and take whatever they wanted. Often everything.
This all happened very close to the shore at Calais and all except one person got to shore safely.
Before they had sailed the English Captains were told by the Admiralty to ask for volunteers to sail the fire ships into the Spanish command ships and then light the fires and/or gunpowder at the last seconds. There were two to seven men on each of the fire ships. The only requirement was that they could swim a good distance.
It was considered a suicide mission and only single men with nothing to live for were accepted. So about 35 men who were willing to give their lives piloted those ships to what was considered almost certain death. However, no Englishmen died. Also, there were no Spanish ships even sunk during that attack so you know that those men in the engraving that are being blown into the air were never killed.
What happened was that the Spanish were so frightened because of the prospect that the English ships might blow up that they completely forgot about the Englishmen and only one English sailor got caught.
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