"Like a Logge on the Seas"
As dawn broke, an uneasy quiet had fallen. Surrounded by enemy
ships, Revenge lay "like a logge on the sees". Her masts and
superstructure largely destroyed, "and in effect, evened as she
was with the water, but the very foundation or bottom of a ship,
nothing being left overhead either for flight or defence."
As daylight grew, the survivors of Revenge’s crew, perhaps 80-100
of whom remained able to fight, surveyed their desperate
situation. Grenville, barely able to stand, remained defiant.
Calling his men together, he "persuaded them, because they had
like valiant, resolute men, repulsed so many enemies, they should
not now shorten the honour of their nation by prolonging their
lives for a few hours or a few days." Saying that the Spaniards
"should never glory to have taken one ship of Her Majesty"
Grenville ordered his Master Gunner to blow up Revenge. Many of
the crew, caught up in the heat of the moment, agreed, but Captain Langhorn and the Master argued that it was their "duty to live to
fight again and strike another blow." The Spaniards, they said,
would agree to reasonable terms, and Revenge was too seriously
damaged to stay afloat for long.
A furious argument broke out. In a commander other than Grenville,
it might be suspected that he was engaging in a bluff in order to
gain better terms, but there seems little doubt that Sir Richard
meant what he said. If his daring bid to escape the Spanish trap
had worked, as it so nearly did, he could have looked forward to
recognition as one of the greatest of Elizabeth’s naval
commanders. Instead he faced the prospect of surrendering the
pride of her fleet. Probably knowing himself to be mortally
wounded, Grenville had no wish to be remembered for such a
Whilst the debate raged, by some means Revenge’s Master managed to
make his way by boat under flag of truce to Bazan’s flagship,
where he informed the Spanish commander of what Grenville
intended. Fearing he would lose still more men and ships in the
explosion, Bazan (though he did no admit to it in his official
report) offered lenient surrender terms. Revenge’s crew were to be
given their freedom, the "better sort" paying a reasonable ransom.
When the Master returned, his news tipped the balance of the
argument. Though Grenville and the Master Gunner remained
obdurate, "divers of our men, fearing Sir Richard’s disposition,
stole away on boats which took them to the Spanish ships". The
furious Master Gunner had to be forcibly restrained from suicide.
Grenville himself was now semi-conscious, and as the triumphant
Spaniards took possession of Revenge, he was taken aboard Bazan’s
flagship, San Pablo. Despite medical attention, he died two days
later, probably cursing his crew to the last. About 150 of Revenge’s men were casualties, compared with 4-500 Spaniards, who
had also lost two ships.
The Spaniards kept to the promised terms. Two of Revenge’s gunners
actually took service with the enemy, aboard San Felipe, but the
remainder , apart from the Master, who died of his wounds, were
home within a few months. Met with a heroes’ welcome, partly
because of an inflated propaganda account of the action penned by
Sir Walter Raleigh, they were awarded six months’ pay.
The Spaniards worked desperately to save their prize. Renamed La Venganza, Grenville’s ship was stripped of her guns, patched up
and re-masted. Bazan hoped to take her triumphantly back to Spain.
But it was not to be. Forced to wait a fortnight for the arrival
of the treasure flotta, on September 15th, as they set sail for
Terceria, the combined Spanish fleets were struck by a violent
gale, which continued for several days. "Men who have grown old on
the sea declare that they have never seen anything like it.",
wrote Bazan, and his crews whispered that it was the vengeance of
the dead Sir Richard Grenville, "who sunk into the bottom of the
sea, and down into Hell, where he raised up all the devils to
revenge his death." In all probably seven of the Indies ships and
four or five of Bazan’s smaller ships were lost, with many others,
including four of the "Apostles", badly damaged.
But the most famous victim was Revenge herself. Flung ashore on
the rocks of Terceria, she broke up with the loss of all but one
of those aboard. Sir Richard Grenville would have seen it as the
Judgement of God on his enemies.
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