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 The Battle
The Most Arrogant Man
The Revenge
A Waiting Game
Approach to Contact"Advancing with arogancia"
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Approach to Contact
by John Barratt

Delayed by contrary winds, it was not until August 4th that the Spaniards got to sea. Their orders were to sail to the Azores to deal with the English squadron and then to escort the Indies flotta home. On August 20th the Azores island of Terceria came in sight.

There is little surviving information on the activities of the English squadron since its arrival in the Azores in mid-May. Although the islands were raided for provisions and any passing merchant ships seized, by August English supplies were running low and the crews considerably depleted by sickness. By the end of the month perhaps half of them were out of action. Among them were 90 of the crew of Revenge. Aware that the autumnal storms were approaching and time running short, Lord Thomas Howard decided to shift his operations to the southern tip of Spain. He gathered off Flores the 14-22 ships currently with the squadron, and after landing the sick to benefit from better conditions ashore, he set to work watering his ships and cleaning out their bilges, an operation which rendered them dangerously vulnerable to attack.

On August 28th, an easterly shift of the wind caused Howard to move his ships to the south-eastern side of the anchorage. Most of his pinnaces and shore lookouts were directing their attention to the west, from where the treasure flotta might be expected to appear. Without firm information about the state of readiness of the Spanish fleet at Ferrol, he seems to have paid little attention to the easterly and south-easterly approaches to his anchorage. It was not until early on August 30th, that the pinnace Moonshine, hastily despatched by Cumberland from the squadron off the Spanish coast, arrived a few hours ahead of the Spanish fleet with news of their approach.

Probing cautiously on from Terciera, by nightfall on August 29th Bazan was only 50 miles from Flores. Learning of the location of Howard’s squadron, the Spanish Council of War decided to press on through the night and surprise the enemy with a dawn attack. But when the "Apostle" San Andres lost her bowsprit the Spanish fleet shortened sail to stay with her, so that at dawn they were still 27 miles short of their objective.

The news brought by Moonshine caused consternation. Howard was totally unprepared. Those of his crews still ashore were hastily recalled, whilst frantic work began to complete the re-ballasting of his ships, without which they might capsize if they attempted to hoist full sail.

Meanwhile Bazan prepared for the kill. He split his fleet into two squadrons. Whilst the main force approached the English anchorage from the south-west (the direction from which the treasure flotta might be expected) the Castille Squadron under Don Marcos de Arambuni would move in from the south-east and head for the straits between the islands of Flores and Corvo.

By noon, as the main Spanish force was approaching the south-east of Flores, the squadron of light "fly-boats" accompanying it became becalmed, and the rest of the fleet was ordered to shorten sail until it caught up. In mid-afternoon this force was sighted by the English scouting pinnaces, which assumed it to be the long-awaited treasure flotta, and firing warning guns, rushed to inform Howard.

The English commander, having completed the re-ballasting of his ships, ordered the squadron to get under way to intercept the enemy. Last to raise anchor, because of delays in embarking all of her sick from the shore, and lagging about " ¾ of a league" behind the rest of the force, was Sir Richard Grenville’s Revenge.

At the same moment that a Spanish pinnace signalled to Bazan that the enemy were in sight, with perfect timing the Castillian squadron came into view . The Spaniards were poised to trap the entire English force, as the horrified Howard realised that what had been sighted was no treasure fleet, but "the greatest and finest armada he had ever seen." He could only attempt desperately to evade the trap, ordering his ships to hoist full sail and bear north across the bows of the Castillian squadron towards the island of Corvo.

He succeeded by the narrowest of margins. By 5pm, after a brief exchange of shot, the main English squadron "as if they had the devil himself at their heels", had slipped out of the trap, and forming up to the north-east, could fight or flee as they chose.
Copyright 2001 by John Barratt.
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