Naval Combat Strategies


Part I: Early Forms of Naval Combat (Hellenistic to Tudor Era)

The earliest forms of naval combat were generally primitive and uncomplicated, and it was simply an extension of land combat that relied on the quality of soldiers and marines rather than the particilar nautical qualities of the ship or the abilities of the commander or sailors and required little in the experise of manuevering or seamanship. 

Basically, it was a close boarding form of combat - where the ships simply provided a floating platform for soldiers to battle at close quarters in a traditional fashion. This type of combat had an enormous advantage in that ships received very little in the way of damage and it allowed the victor to increase the size of it's the fleet at little cost.

In the early days of naval combat, the primary fighting force was the military solider, and combat at sea was not significantly different from that on land.  Naval actions typically  took place near the land so they could eat, sleep, and stick to narrow waters to outmaneuver the opposing fleet. It was not uncommon for ships to beach and battle on land as well. 

About 4-5 century B.C., with the appearance of the ram, and then of the Trireme, the conditions of naval warfare were completely altered. It was no longer a matter of capturing, but rather destroying the adversary.

The Ram

During the classical and Hellenistic periods, the ram was a standard feature on all warships and it forced naval powers to develop sophisticated ship-to-ship combat tactics that utilized the best capabilities of their vessels, their sailing skills, and their fighting force.

A captain had basically two main options when confronted by an enemy, either to strike it or ram it with enough force as to disable it, or grappling it and boarding it to overcome it by force.

Ramming a ship head on was a risky business as the ram could become entagled in the enemy ship, thus allowing one to be boarded, or worse yet, fail to strike the target and allow one's own ship to be damage. The captain and helmsmen needed considerable skill and judegment to time the attack and the oarsmen would be need to be trained to be adept enough to allow for precise manouevering. 

The Trireme

Moreover, within a relatively short period of time, the Trireme had become the de facto standard warship across the Mediterranean. Liek its predecessor, the Trireme was a long galley, that could be rowed by about 150 to 170 oarsmen, arranged in three tiers which allowed for a speed of up to 9-10 knts.

The ships were built using softwoods such as pine, fir, and cypress for interiors and oak only for the outer hulls. Oars were made from a single young fir tree and measured some 4.5 metres in length. As a consequence of using lighter woods, the ship was highly manoeuvrable. The full-size reconstruction of a trireme, the Olympias built in the 1980's has demonstrated that a trireme could turn 360 degrees in less than two ship's lengths and turn a full 90 degrees in a matter of seconds in only a ship's length. The vessel also displayed impressive acceleration and deceleration rates.

In addition to oarsmen, the ship was equipped with two sails of papyrus or flax, used when cruising and taken down and stored on land when in battle conditions. Steering was achieved through two steering oars at each side of the stern and controlled by a single helmsman (kybernetes). Next to the helmsman stood the ship's commander (trierarchos), and both were protected by the upward curving structure at the stern known as the aphlaston. Other crew members were the rowing master (keleustes) who shouted instructions, the 'bow officer' (prorates) who relayed those instructions further down the ship, a piper (auletes) who kept time for the rowers playing a flute-like wind sintrument (aulos), a carpenter (naupegos), and deck crews to man the sails. In addition, they would carry various military personnel such as Hopelites and archers.



The Trireme

In open sea, the Greek navy would sail in a single file line, led by the commander's ship. However, at first sight of enemy ships, the Greek navy would turn to starboard or port to form its line for battle. The battle line consisted of ships lined up side by side, facing the enemy. This abreast formation acted as both an offensive and defensive tactic. Offensively, it allowed the ancient ships main weapon, the ram, to be easily accessible. With the entire fleet alongside each other, there were more rams available to attack the opponent. This formation also provided the Greek fleet with protection by shielding the most vulnerable parts of the ships, which were the sides and the stern. This abreast formation was used in almost all of the naval battles by the Greeks.
The Diekplous Manouver (sailing through)

One of the first naval battle tactics was known as diekplous (sailing through), and eventually became the preferred strategy of the Greek fleets during the fifth century. This involved lining up the ships to face each other, then the attacking side would do its utmost to plow throw the line of enemy ships at top speed. Then they would rapidly come about before the adversary had time to react and attempt to ram the enemy in the stern quarters where the ship was must vulnerable.


A diagram of Diekplous (sailing through) manouever.

In addition to attacking using the ram, the crew also sheared the enemy. Shearing occurred when the oars of one ship collided with any part of the opposing ship. During the collision, the wooden paddles shatter and often skew the rower and the men surrounding him. In addition to maiming, if not immediately killing, the enemy, the attacker is given another advantage to ram the opponent. This opportunity occurs while the attacked vessel stops rowing to evaluate the strength of each side of oarsman, leaving it in a standstill. The temporarily inoperative ship becomes victim to more ramming and spearing attacks

The Syracusans and Corithians perfected the technique by reinforcing the Trireme's sternpost, rams, and the projecting beams at the outrigger of the ships prow known as the Epotides (cathead). The Epotides have been described as two wooden long poles, 4-5m in length with pointy brass heads usually in the shape of cones, attached to both sides of the bow, which served to hold the anchor and for the purpose of increasing shearing damage during a diekplous manouever.

When attacked, the defending ship on the side attacked would withdraw the oars to the length of the Epotide and the handles hovered over heads of the rowers on the opposite side, and then once the opposing ship passed through the oars were then re-actuated. 

One of the difficulties of the strategy was in trying to maintain maximum velocity, and then pulling the oars in at right moment, and then actuating them again quickly,  thus gaining enough momentum as to avoid being driven by the opposing ships ram either broadside or from the stern. 

In one instance, a Greek commander, Dionysius of Phocae, while preparing to confront a superior Persian fleet at Lade in 494 B.C. insisted on drilling his inexperienced crews. Believing his men were unprepared for the impending battle, he called a general assembly among the camp and, in a speech to his men, said: "Now for our affairs are on the razor's edge, men of Ionia, wither we are to be free or slaves ... so if you will bear hardships now, you will suffer temporarily but be able to overcome your enemies." After seven days of hard practicing dissension began to appear within the ranks of the Samians and other officers . As the battle began, many of the Freek ships under the command of Dionysius  refused to engage with the Persians and eventually almost 120 of the 350 Greek warships abandoned the battle leaving the remaining Greek ships to be annihilated .

Despite this setback, Dionysius continued fighting the Persians sinking three warships before being forced to retreat during the final hours of the battle.

Returning to Phocaea, Dionysius attacked several trading vessels and seized their cargo before arriving in Sicily. During his later years, he would become involved in piracy against the Carthaginian and Tyrsenian merchants. However, in keeping with the friendship between Phocaea and Greece, he left travelling Grecian merchants alone.

If the distance permitted, Delphins, which were according to legend, extremely heavy large lead or iron weights in the shape of fish that were attached to the masts and were dropped with some force in the hopes of puncturing a hole in the bottom of the enemy's vessel. These "dolphins" appeared for the first time during the Sicilian expedition of the Peloponnesian War. As described by Thucydides, in The History of the Peloponnesian War, Book VII:

"At last, fighting hard in this fashion, the Syracusans gained the victory, and the Athenians turned and fled between the merchantmen to their own station. The Syracusan ships pursued them as far as the merchantmen, where they were stopped by the beams armed with dolphins suspended from those vessels over the passage. Two of the Syracusan vessels went too near in the excitement of victory and were destroyed, one of them being taken with its crew. After sinking seven of the Athenian vessels and disabling many, and taking most of the men prisoners and killing others, the Syracusans retired and set up trophies for both the engagements, being now confident of having a decided superiority by sea, and by no means despairing of equal success by land. "

In battle, the yards and square sails of the Trireme were deposited on shore, and the foremast was taken out and arranged for maneuvering the Delphins. It probable that these Delphins were not so heavy as legend supposes, and were actually more of a metallic cylinder terminating in sharp cones and were guided in their fall by the cordage on which they had been hoisted. In falling, they acquired great penetrating power, and entered the deck just as the sharp-nosed porpoise enters the water after one of his leaps.

In addition they used the Drepanum, a sickle on the end of a long pole to slice through the rigging and sails of a opposing ship.

Grappling hooks, known as "iron hands" were also used to secure the enemy ship at close quarters.

The Kyklos Manouever ("Hedgehog") defensive tactic

The Kyklos is a defensive tactic against the diekplous. In this strategy, the ships are brought into a tight circle with their bows facing out, it was paricularly effective when outnumbered or facing a faster fleet.

The tight circle prevented the opponent's squadron from infilitrating or destroying the fleet because if the navy used the diekplous, the galley would be encircled by its enemy and rammed.

It was first described in what has become known as the Battle of Artemisium, when a heavily outnumbered Greek fleet defeated the Persian navy. Herodotus of Halicarnassus chronicles the battle in 480 B.C. in book eight of his Histories.

He writes that in order to preserve the unity of the force, the Athenians, the most skilled of the Greeks in naval matters,  were led by the Greek commanders and had planned to meet the Persians off of Artemisium, a small cape north of Euboea, Greece. 

Hwoever, the Persians met the Greeks off the coast of Thessaly, at Aphetae, as a small contingent of Greek ships led by the Athenian commander was being evacuated. The Persians sent 200 ships around the south of Euboea, hoping to trap the Greeks in the channel, but a Persian defector  had warned the Greeks of this plan.  The popular story is that he swam 10 miles to bring the news but it is doubted by Herodotus.

In the first day of the battle, the Persian triremes surrounded the Greek ships, but although they were outnumbered they were able to defeat them by using the rams on their bows, with a retaliatory manoeuver invented by Themistocles known as Kyklos to prevent the diekplous from getting organized. Thetactic is described as "bows on to the barbarians, [and] they drew their sterns together in the middle""

This tactic placed the ships in a circle or more likely due the number of ships, a crescent shape with the bows facing out, and from this position they could pull out and attack any enemy ship careless enough to leave its flank unprotected. This formation also made it possible to overcome any large scale boarding operations. 

Kyklos naval tacic

The Kyklos defensive tactic: by drawing the ships into a circle it prevented ships from
"sailing through" or using a diekplous manouever

The Periplous (sailing around)

Another tactic attributed to the Greeks was the periplous. An example of this tactic is described by Thucydides during the second battle between the Athenians and Peloponnesian's in the Gulf of Corinth. During this engagement, a single Athenian galley was being pursued by a Peloponnesian ship until the Athenian ship circled around a merchant ship and rammed the Peloponnesian vessel and sank her. Other variants include lining up as in a diekplous, but rather than "sailing through" it involved sailing around the enemy, and then ramming the stern in a way so as to basicaly "outflank" the opposition. This was particularly useful when lighter and more manoueverable craft was engaged by a heavily armoured opponent. The Athenians were reknowned for efforts to lighten their triremes to make them more manoueverable than their Persian enemies and were often successful with this type of tactic.


The classic Periplous manouver as described by Thucydides


Youtube Video: Trireme - Deadnought of the Mediterranean

Naval Ordinance

During the classical and Hellenistic periods, naval combat still was characterized by an absence of recourse to the use of war machinery. However, this began to change as ships became much larger with "poly" decks known by the Greeks as "giants of the sea" appeared, and artillery became one of the prinicipal components of naval combat. This artillery was made up of the entire classic arsenal of antiquity -- ballistae, onagers, scorpions, and catapults that hurled heavy bolts, balls of stone or lead, containers fo flaming materials and even poisonous snakes upon the enemy. In addition, towers were added at the bow of the ship from which archers and javelin throwers could riddle their adversaries.

By the 9th century BC with frequent regularity incendiary arrows and pots containing combustible substances, including a number of sulphur-, petroleum-, and bitumen-based mixtures were used in  naval warfare.

The defense against this mechanism of warfare, was to put armour plating on the ship, and build strong screens above the planking to protect the crew. A ship equipped in this manner was refered to as a cataphract, or armoured ship.  With this, tactics changed again, as the heavy units acted as fortresses, as it were, with the smaller ships coming in around them to take cover, and the moving off again to attack. When it came to boarding procedures, fighting intensified by the increasing the number of fighters, and with a great the use of grapnel hooks, and "dolphins", which were heavy masses of lead hurled down on the decks of the enemy ship in the hopes of smashing it. 

New methods of ordiance were devloped and  Thucydides mentions that in the siege of Delium in 424 b.c a long tube on wheels was used which blew flames forward using a large bellows. In naval warfare, the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (r. 491–518) is recorded by chronicler John Malalas to have been advised by a philosopher from Athens called Proclus to use sulphur to burn the ships of Vitalianus

Greek Fire

Around the time of the crusades, one of the most deadliest and technically advance uses of ordinance at sea was "Greek Fire" which was developed around 627AD. Often referred to by modern historians, as a "ship killer" the chief method of deployment of Greek fire, which sets it apart from similar substances, was its projection through a tube (siphōn), for use aboard ships or in sieges. Portable projectors (cheirosiphōnes) were also invented, reputedly by Emperor Leo VI. The Byzantine military manuals also mention that jars (chytrai or tzykalia) filled with Greek fire and caltrops wrapped with tow and soaked in the substance were thrown by catapults, while pivoting cranes (gerania) were employed to pour it upon enemy ships. The cheirosiphōnes especially were prescribed for use at land and in sieges, both against siege machines and against defenders on the walls, by several 10th-century military authors, and their use is depicted in the Poliorcetica of Hero of Byzantium. The Byzantine dromons usually had a siphōn installed on their prow under the forecastle, but additional devices could also on occasion be placed elsewhere on the ship. Thus in 941, when the Byzantines were facing the vastly more numerous Rus' fleet, siphōns were placed also amidships and even astern.

The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect, as it could continue burning while floating on water. It provided a technological advantage and was responsible for many key Byzantine military victories, most notably the salvation of Constantinople from two Arab sieges, thus securing the Empire's survival. The composition of Greek Fire was kept secret so it could not be used against them, even today we do not know exactly how Greek Fire was created or what the substance actually was.

greek fire
Greek fire in use in a naval battle involving the Romans against the rebel Thomas the Slav.
The inscription reads, " "the fleet of the Romans setting ablaze the fleet of the enemies"


Youtube video: A demonstration of Greek Fire

During the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, Arab fleets first appeared, raiding Sicily in 652, and defeating the Byzantine Navy in 655. Constantinople was saved from a prolonged Arab siege in 678 by the invention of Greek fire, an early form of flamethrower that was devastating to the ships in the besieging fleet. These were the first of many encounters during the Byzantine-Arab Wars.

Eventually, the Islamic Caliphate, or Arab Empire, became the dominant naval power in the Mediterranean Sea from the 7th to 13th centuries, during what is known as the Islamic Golden Age. One of the most significant inventions in medieval naval warfare was the torpedo, invented in Syria by the Arab inventor Hasan al-Rammah in 1275.

Hassan Al Rammah between 1270 and 1280,  worked in Syria after the Mongol destruction of Baghdad. He wrote a treatise on gunpowder and rockets called “The Book of Military Horsemanship and Ingenious War Devices”. This book included more than 100 recipes for gunpowder, as 22 of them could be used as rocket fuel. Experts state that at least one of these recipes is extremely close to the modern ideal mix for gunpowder. Al Rammah also designed an early torpedo, probably the first of its kind.

The torpedo was named Al-Rammah and it was a point-and-fire weapon far cheaper and more efficient than a fire ship. When activated, the torpedo’s built-in pair of rockets would push it through the water, and tail stabilizers would direct it to the target. A spear on the front would impale itself in the hull of an enemy ship, it also contained hooks on the side to snag if it was to miss head-on and then the whole first-of-a-kind torpedo would explode.

His torpedo ran on water with a rocket system filled with explosive materials and had three firing points. It was an effective weapon against ships. Hassan Al-Rammah describes the device as an 'the egg which moves itself and burns'. The illustration and text suggest at least that it was intended to move on the surface of water. Two sheet iron pans were fastened together and made tight by felt; the flattened pear-shaped vessel was filled with "naphtha", metal filings, and good mixtures (probably containing saltpetre), and propelled by a large rocket"

Al Rammah Torpedo
The Al-Rammah rocket "torpedo"


Youtube Video: Al-Rammah Rocket Torpedo in Action

Due to the use of rams, greek fire, and torpedos, naval warfare developed from "close range" hand to hand skirmishes to using a longer ranging tactics, from a few yards to several hundred feet away. 

This developed considerably during the time of the first crusades in Europe. The Norman longships, invading England in 1066, are shown in the Bayeux tapestry with fortified platforms for archers at each end. They resemble small castles, and the notion of a castle from which to fight on shipboard becomes enshrined in naval terminology. Raised areas at the stern and bow are known as the sterncastle and the forecastle (often reduced to fo'c'sle). From these "castles" using seige machines and other weaponry such as the crossbow.

The Templar ships at the Battle of Acre used a "turret" -- that is archers and seige weapons protected by a "shell" of leather and wood.  From the 14th century these castles begin to be occupied by fighting men of a different kind.

The late Middle Ages saw the development of the cogs, caravels and carracks ships capable of surviving the tough conditions of the open ocean, with enough backup systems and crew expertise to make long voyages routine. In addition, they grew from 100 tons to 300 tons displacement, enough to carry cannons as armament and still have space for cargo.

The English at this time (14th century) did not  have a purpose-built navy. What they did have was a merchant marine ship known as a cog. The cog had a deep-draught and round-hull that was driven by a single great sail set on a mast amidships. These ships were requisitioned from the merchant service and converted into warships by the addition of wooden "castles" at the bow and stern, and the erecting of crow's nest platforms at the masthead, from which archers could use bows or drop stones on to enemy craft alongside. The cogs weighed two or three hundred tons and were well able to carry many fighting men. Their high freeboard made them superior to the oared vessels such as the gallese or trireme in close combat, particularly when they were fitted with the castles. The king by common law was supposed to pay for the ships that he impressed into service

In the north of Europe, the near-continuous conflict between England and France was characterised by raids on coastal towns and ports along the coastlines and the securing of sea lanes to protect troop–carrying transports. The Battle of Dover in 1217, between a French fleet of 80 ships under Eustace the Monk and an English fleet of 40 under Hubert de Burgh, is notable as the first recorded battle using sailing ship tactics.  The earliest reference to the word "artillery" in conjuction with a naval vessel is on a ship attacking Antwerp in 1336.

The battle of Arnemuiden (23 September 1338), which resulted in a French victory, marked the opening of the Hundred Years War and was the first battle involving artillery. However the battle of Sluys, fought two years later, saw the destruction of the French fleet in a decisive action which allowed the English effective control of the sea lanes and the strategic initiative for much of the war.

The Battle of Sluys involved the age old tactic of grappling, and using the tops, and "fighting platforms" known as castles in hand to hand melee combat. The artillery was provided by archers, and men in the tops throwing heavy objects on the troops below. The battle was essentially a land battle at sea. The two opposing ships would be lashed together and the men-at-arms would then engage in hand-to-hand fighting.  The use of artillery in the form of archers was considered one of the deciding factors in the battle. 

The dispositions of the French were made in accordance with the usual medieval tactics of a fleet fighting on the defensive. Quiéret and Béhuchet formed their forces into three or four lines chained together, with a few of the largest stationed in front as outposts. Admiral Barbavera, the experienced commander of the Genoese fleet, was concerned about this. He realised that they would lack maneuverability in their anchorage and be open to attack from the ship-based English archers. He therefore advised the French commander to put to sea. Béhuchet, who as constable exercised general command, refused to leave the anchorage as Barbavera suggested. Edward's intentions were well known, he wished to sail up the Zwin to Bruges and land his army to support his invasion plans. Historians believe that Béhuchet's intention was to bar Edward's way.

Edward sent his ships against the French fleet in units of three, two ships crammed with archers and one full of men-at-arms. The English ships with the archers would come alongside a French ship and rain arrows down on its decks, the men-at-arms would then board and take the vessel. It has been argued that the English archers, with their long bows, could accurately shoot twenty arrows per minute at a range of up to 300 yards (270 m), whereas the Genoese crossbowmen could only manage two. This may, however, be an exaggeration of the speed difference between the weapons. A test conducted by Mike Loades for Weapons That Changed Britain - The Longbow found that a belt-and-claw span crossbow could discharge 4 bolts in 30 seconds, while a longbow could shoot 9. A second speed test conducted using a hand-span crossbow found that the weapon could shoot 6 bolts in the same time it took for a longbow to shoot 10.


Battle Of Sluys
The Battle of Sluys as chronicled by Jean Froissart's, circa 14th century.

From the late Middle Ages onwards, warships began to carry cannon of various calibres. The Battle of Arnemuiden, fought between England and France in 1338 at the start of the Hundred Years' War, was the first recorded European naval battle using artillery. The English ship Christopher was armed with three cannons and one hand gun.  By the mid 15th century, Italian and English warships were routinely carrying guns.
The 16th century was an era of transition in naval warfare. Since ancient times, war at sea had been fought much like that on land: with melee weapons and bows and arrows, but on floating wooden platforms rather than battlefields. Though the introduction of guns was a significant change, it only slowly changed the dynamics of ship-to-ship combat. As guns became heavier and able to take more powerful gunpowder charges, they needed to be placed lower in the ship, closer to the water line.
From the 16th century, the cannon became the most important weapon at sea. Around the same time sailing warships began to carry an increasing number of cannons, most of them firing to the side. As the number of cannon steadily increased throughout the 16th and 17th century, tactics shifted and were no longer geared entirely to boarding.

Next: Tudor Naval Tactics

Tudor Naval Fighting Tactics

Part II: Naval Combat Strategies  (Tudor-Elizabethan) Era

As early as the 14th century, ships’ guns were used to bombard shore positions in support of amphibious operations, and in ship-to-ship or fleet actions to de-mast, demobilize, and sometimes sink enemy ships. French warships are known to have used guns in 1356; an Iberian ship mounted guns in 1359; and Genoese and Venetian ships are known to have used guns against each other from 1379. In the evolution of artillery at sea, pirates and privateers, and the armed merchants on whom they preyed, played a greater role than the primitive state navies that marked most of this period. Big guns were brought to bear in war at sea earlier than in land warfare because ships solved the key problem of early artillery: its weight and lack of mobility. Cannon were housed and employed differently by galleys and ships of sail. Because of the weak hull construction of galleys and their straightahead, hard-charging tactics, all cannon were mounted forward, with perhaps a small chase gun or two at the rear. The prow was cut away to accommodate various sized cannons including multi-ton culverins and demi-culverins, along with smaller anti-personnel pieces such as swivel guns. Arming the galleys stimulated demand for naval artillery.

By the 15th century, every Venetian shipwright was putting culverins in the prow of the galley, and later added demi-cannon, sakers, and swivel guns. It was a dramatic change in offensive firepower that was quickly copied by every competing navy. Prow guns made the galley a totally offensive weapon: like a mid-20th-century fighter, the gunpowder galley always faced its enemy. Naval artillery was still too inaccurate in the 15th century for long-range stand-off duels between ships or fleets. Galleys had to close range for their guns to be effective. Naval combat during this time was still Head-to-head, with each galley line rowing at battle speed covering about 200 yards per minute. That meant only a single volley could be fired before the fleets collided. Reloading was impossible under fire, even of the breech-loaders, as galleys had almost no shelter from marine marksmen on enemy ships.

The result was that captains held fire to maximize effect until point blank range; even until the prow crashed into the enemy ship (hopefully, riding over his prow to give one’s own sharpshooters, marines, and boarders the advantage of height). Nor was there much advantage to firing first as big guns were seldom knocked out by ammunition intended to kill men rather than sink ships. It was better to wait to be sure to kill large numbers of the enemy, whatever damage his guns might do first.

As with a flank attack, offering the stern in a galley fight was an invitation to destruction: if a galley turned to run it was naked before the big guns of its pursuer, who would fire from just a few feet away. Swivel mounted chase guns would devastate a running crew with grapeshot and canister (Ottoman gunners loaded such antipersonnel ammunition almost exclusively). One galley taken from the rear this way recorded 40 men killed or laid low from a single enemy discharge. If retreat was required the best method was for a ship or the whole battle line to row backwards, always showing the main gun to the enemy.

One could not outrun a pursuer this way, but once ashore (galleys were easily beached) prow guns could be reloaded and fired from a far more stable position than the enemy’s guns, as he still rowed on the water. Or survivors could just run away, leaving easily replaceable ships to be taken or burned. Of course, not all could get away: some men in every fight between galley fleets were slaves chained to the oars. For them the romantic exhortation, ‘‘victory or death!’’ had a hard, literal meaning.

Existing foundries had difficulty meeting the need for naval guns. Once Atlantic-built armed merchants and purpose-built sailing warships armed with cast-iron cannon arrived in the Mediterranean, and with Venetian deployment of the hybrid galleass, the days of strict galley-to galley warfare ended. Ships of sail progressively substituted weight of guns for sheer numbers of fighting men and developed new broadside tactics to match the change.

From the 16th century, the cannon became the most important weapon at sea, during this time, sailing warships began to carry an increasing number of cannons,and by this time most of them were firing to the side, instead of straight ahead. This became known as the "broad-sides". As the number of cannon steadily increased throughout the 16th and 17th century, along with the "broadside",  naval combat tactics shifted and were no longer geared entirely to boarding or head-to-head combat. The use of cannons at sea, was a direct result of competition and technological revolution in naval warfare. It began in the Ottoman empire and spread to Portugal, and escalated though skirmishes with Pirates and Privateers.

Reference is made by Joao de Barros to a massive cannon used in a sea battle off the port city of Jeddah, on the Red Sea in 1517, between the Portugese and Ottoman vessels. The Muslim force under the command of  admiral Salman Reis, defended the city against the Portugese invaders. It is written that Salman Reis had several massive guns, "three or four basiliks firing balls of thirty palms in circumference." This has been estimated to be about 90-inch bore and used a "stone cut ball" weighing in at 1,000lbs.
Portuguese attack on Jiddah 1517 by Anonymous
Portuguese attack on Jiddah 1517

The Ottoman cannon used to destroy the walls of Constantinople in 1453
The Otttoman Cannon used to destroy the walls of Constantinople in 1453
The term ‘‘basilisk’’ was most commonly used in England for 15th–16th century big guns of the cannon class. The earliest were typically breech loaded. By the end of the 16th century the term referred to the biggest guns (thousands of pounds deadweight) of the cannon class. These used huge amounts of black powder to hurl a 90-pound shot 750 yards with good accuracy and effectiveness. Theoretically, they could fire heavy projectiles as far as 4,000 yards.
One of the most famous English "basilik" cannons was a huge gun, over seven meters in length, nicknamed ‘‘Queen Elizabeth’s Pocket Pistol,’’ a brass 12-pounder cast in Germany in 1544. It was presented to Henry VIII by Charles V when those monarchs allied against France.
Queen Elizabeth Pocket Pistol
Queen Elizabeth's "Pocket Pistol" a 24-foot long "Basilik" Cannon.
The Portugese were particularly interested in naval cannon for protecting their trade routes, and for conquests. The Portugese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1497–99, had discovered a sea route between Portugal and India, around the Cape of Good Hope. By the 16th century, this was known as the Carreira da Índia ("India Run"). For a long time after its discovery by Vasco da Gama in 1497–1499, the sea route to India via the Cape of Good Hope was dominated by a Portuguese India armada known as Armadas da Índia– the annual fleet dispatched from Portugal to India. Between 1497 and 1650, there were 1033 departures of ships at Lisbon for the Carreira da Índia ("India Run"). The size of the armada varied, from enormous fleets of twenty-something ships, to small fleets of only four or five.

Vasco da Gama and the Carriera da India

Armada 1507
The Portugese Armadas da Índia ("India Armada") of 1507,
from Livro de Lisuarte de Abreu, 156
The ships of the Armadas da Índia were typically Portugese carracks known as a "Nau" with sizes that grew over time. The first carracks were modest ships, rarely exceeding 100-tonnes, and carrying only up to 40–60 men, e.g. the São Gabriel of Gama's 1497 fleet, was one of the largest of the time, and it was only 120 tons. But the size of the caravels quickly increased. In the 1500 Cabral armada, the largest carracks, Cabral's flagship and the El-Rei, are reported to have been somewhere between 240t and 300t. The Flor de la Mar, built in 1502, was a 400 ton carrack, while at least one of the crracks of the Albuquerque armada of 1503 is reported to have been as large as 600 tons. The rapid doubling and tripling of the size of Portuguese carracks in a few years reflected the needs of the India runs. 
In the 1550s, during the reign of John III, a few giant 900 ton behemoths were built for India runs, in the hope that larger ships would provide economies of scale. The experiment turned out poorly. Not only was the cost of outfitting such a large ship disproportionately high, they proved unmaneouverable and unseaworthy, particularly in the treacherous waters of the Mozambique Channel. Three of the new behemoths were quickly lost on the southern African coast – the São João (900t, built 1550, wrecked 1552), the São Bento (900t, built 1551, wrecked 1554) and the largest of them all, the Nossa Senhora da Graça (1,000t, built 1556, wrecked 1559).

These kind of losses prompted King Sebastian to issue an ordinance in 1570 setting the upper limit to the size of Portugese India Carracks at 450 tons. Nonetheless, after the Iberian Union of 1580, this regulation would be ignored and shipbuilders, urged on by merchants hoping to turn around more cargo on every trip, pushed for larger ships. After 1580, thee size of portugese India Carrack accelerated again, averaging 600 tons between 1580 to 1600, with several spectacularly large Carracks over 1500 tons making their appearance in the 1590s.

The folly of such large trading ships, became poignantly apparent in August, 1592, when one of Elizbeth's "Sea-Dogs", English privateer Sir John Burroughs (Burrows), captured the Madre de Deus in the waters around the Azores islands. The Madre de Deus, built in 1589, was a 1600t carrack, with seven decks and a crew of around 600. It was the largest Portuguese ship to go on an India run. The great carrack, under the command of Fernão de Mendonça Furtado, was returning from Cochin with a full cargo when it was captured by Burroughs. The value of the treasure and cargo taken on this single ship is estimated to have been equivalent to half the entire treasury of the English crown. The loss of so much cargo in one swoop confirmed, once again, the folly of building such gigantic ships. The carracks built for the India run returned to their smaller  size after the turn of the century.

In the early Carreira da India, the carracks were usually accompanied by smaller caravels (caravelas), averaging 50t–70t (rarely reaching 100t), and capable of holding 20–30 men at most. Whether lateen-rigged (latina) or square-rigged (redonda), these shallow-drafted, nimble vessels had a myriad of uses. Caravels served as forward lamp, scouts and fighting ships of the convoy. Caravels on the India run were often destined to remain overseas for coastal patrol duty, rather than return with the main fleet.

In the course of the 16th century, caravels were gradually phased out in favor of a new escort/fighting ship, the galleon (galeão), which could range anywhere between 100t and 1000t. A galleon is based on the design of the carrack, but is slender and lower in lines, and had the forecastle diminished or removed to make way for its famous 'beak'. The galleon became the principal fighting ship of the India fleet. It was not as nimble as the caravel, but could be mounted with much more cannon, thus packing a bigger punch. With the introduction of the galleon, carracks became almost exclusively cargo ships (which is why they were pushed to such large sizes), leaving any fighting to be done to the galleons. One of the largest and most famous of Portuguese galleons was the São João Baptista (nicknamed Botafogo, 'spitfire'), a 1,000-ton galleon built in 1534, and is said to have carried 366 guns.

Many fleets also brought small supply ships on outward voyage. These were destined to be scuttled along the way once the supplies were consumed. The crews were redistributed and the abandoned ships usually burned to recover their iron nails and fittings. The average speed of an India Armada was around 2.5 knots, but some ships could achieve speeds of between 8 and 10 knots for some stretches.

According to Gaspar Correia, the typical fighting caravel of Gama's 4th Armada (1502) carried 30 men, four heavy guns below, six falconets (falconete) above (two fixed astern) and ten swivel-guns (canhão de berço) on the quarter-deck and bow.

An armed carrack, by contrast, had six heavy guns below, eight falconets above and several swivel-guns, and two fixed forward-firing guns before the mast. Although an armed carrack carried more firepower than a caravel, it was much less swift and less manoeuvrable, especially when loaded with cargo. A carrack's guns were primarily defensive, or for shore bombardments, whenever their heavier firepower was necessary. But by and large, fighting at sea was usually left to the armed caravels. The further development of the heavy galleon removed even the necessity of bringing carrack firepower to bear in most circumstances.

During the early 16th century, naval artillery was the single greatest advantage the Portuguese held over their rivals in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese crown spared no expense in procuring and producing the best naval guns European technology permitted.
King John II of Portugal is often credited for pioneering, while still a prince in 1474, the introduction of a reinforced deck on the old Henry-era caravel to allow the mounting of heavy guns. In 1489, he introduced the first standardized teams of trained naval gunners (bombardeiros) on every ship, and development of naval tactics that maximized broadside cannonades rather than the rush-and-grapple of Medieval galleys.
The Portuguese crown appropriated the best cannon technology available in Europe, particularly the new, more durable and far more accurate bronze cannon developed in Central Europe, replacing the older, less accurate cast-iron cannon. By 1500, Portugal was importing vast volumes of copper and cannon from northern Europe, and had established itself as the leading producer of advanced naval artillery in its own right. Sine it was  a crown industry, cost considerations did not curb the pursuit of the best quality, best innovations and best training.
The crown paid wage premiums and bonuses to lure the best European artisans and gunners (mostly German) to advance the industry in Portugal. Every cutting-edge innovation introduced elsewhere was immediately appropriated into Portuguese naval artillery – that includes bronze cannon (Flemish/German), breech-loading swivel-guns (prob. German origin), truck carriages (possibly English), and the idea (originally French, c. 1501) of cutting square gunports (portinhola in Portuguese - also already created and tested in the Portuguese ships since the 1490) in the hull to allow heavy cannon to be mounted below deck.
In this respect, the Portuguese spearheaded the evolution of modern naval warfare, moving away from the Medieval warship, a carrier of armed men, aiming for the grapple, towards the modern idea of a floating artillery piece dedicated to resolving battles by gunnery alone.
Gunports cut in the hull of ships were introduced as early as 1501 in France, and eventually as early as before 1496 in some Mediterranean navies, and in 1490 in Portugal, about a decade before the famous Tudor era ship, the Mary Rose, was built.  This made broadsides, which are coordinated volleys from all the guns on one side of a ship, possible for the first time in history.
The Portugese are also credited with the development and refinement of the breech-loading swivel gun. The breech loading swivel cannon has a removeable firing chamber with handle that resembles a beer mug and is prefilled with gunpowder and projectiles. The gunner takes the chamber by the handle and insert it into the body of the swiel gun with the opening facing forward. The chamber is then put in place, blocked with a wedge, and then fired. As the loading was made in advance and separately, breech-loading swivel guns could be rapidly fired in quick succession. The breech loading swivel gun went by many different names in Europe, sometimes "Murderer" in English, "Perrier à boîte" in French, "Berços" in Portuguese, "Versos" in Spanish, and "Stangenbüchse" in German.
The Chinese obtained Portugese swivel cannons when in the Battle of Xicaowan (西草湾之战) in 1522, after defeating the Portuguese in battle, they were taken as spoils of war. The Chinese, as they are today, were masters of reproduction and reversed engineered the cannons for their own use, calling them "Folangji" (佛郎機)  which means "Frankish". The Chinese generals saw them as revoultionary for both land and naval combat, and in particular planned to use them in the defense against the Wokou Pirates (倭寇). The term "Wokou Pirate" pronounced "Way-koe" translates literally to "Japanese pirate" or "dwarf pirates". The term was first used to refer to Japanese invaders on the Gwanggaeto Stele in 414 AD, and was reused in 1223 when Japanese pirates raided the Korean coast. These pirates eventually broadened their area of operations to the coast of China, and were active throughout East Asian coasts up to the establishment of the Ming dynasty in China. By the 16th century, the Wokou pirates were actually comprised of multiple ethnic groups rather than one singular nation. The Wokou included Mongolian, Japanese, Korean, Pacific Islanders, Cinese and even the Portugese.
The Chinese people at the forefront of the Wokou activities were merchants whose trade overseas were deemed illegal by the Ming government. Since the Ming government prohibited people from travelling out to sea and forbid those who had done so from returning home, a large number of Chinese maritime merchants were forced to establish themselves on offshore islands or in overseas trading ports. In the early 16th century, the Portuguese attempts to trade with China were unusccessful. Thus, Portugal in t he early 16th century began trading with Japan in east Asia.  
By the middle of the century, through strong trade negotiations, Japan and Portugal became the premier suppliers of silver in East Asia by bringing in silver from mines like the Iwami Ginzan in Japan and the Cerro de Potosí in Bolivia. Silver was the lifeblood of the Ming Chinese economy, but the Ming government placed many restrictions on mining due to fears that the bullion would pool into private hands. Even without the restrictions, China's silver veins were too small and located too far away in the southwest from the commercialized coastal provinces to keep up with the huge demand. This situation made unofficial dealings with foreigners very profitable and enticing for Chinese merchants, despite the risks and illegality of their trade, and many turned to piracy.
Among the traders stationed overseas, of note were Xu Dong (許棟) and his brothers who began their fortunes in Malacca and Patani; and Wang Zhi and Xu Hai (徐海) who based themselves in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. The Chinese traders in Kyushu had deep ties with the powerful local feudal lords known as "Daimyo", who provided patronage and refuge for the merchant-pirates in return for a share of their profits. 
To protect their cargo from rival pirate gangs and the Ming navy, the merchant-pirates armed themselves with Portuguese guns and cannons and hired well-trained mercenary soldiers from the Japanese lords to help them in "raiding" coastal areas.
Qi Jiquang (戚继光), a chinese general during the Ming dynasty, and widely regarded as a national hero in Chinese culture, was best known for leading Ming forces to defend China's east coastal regions from raids by the Wokou in the 16th century. Qi Jiguang refined swivel gun naval tactics, and became a master of naval warfare. He wrote a treatise on the use of cannon and firearms in warfare called, "Lianbing shiji". Qi Jiquang recommended a ratio of nine breeches per gun. The swivel gun could be loaded with one large cannonball or many small ones, called "grapeshot". Another variant of grape shot is known as "Dice Shot", which was comprised of many small, jagged pieces of iron. It was fired from point-blank range from a ship’s rail or swivel guns down onto the crew of an enemy ship.
A Japanese breech-loading swivel gun of the time of the 16th century, obtained by Ōtomo Sōrin.
A Japanese breech-loading swivel gun of the time of the 16th century, obtained by Ōtomo Sōrin.
This gun is thought to have been cast in Goa, Portuguese India. Caliber: 95 mm, length: 2880 mm.
swivel gun
Diagram of naval swivel guns of the sixteenth-century

Portuguese Swivel Gun Demo at Jamestown Settlement - HD
Cannons first made their appearance in English ships in the 15h century. Henry V's ships Graunt Marie, and  Thomas de La Tour, had "three chambers" for each of the  guns carried.  However, cannon at this time, were still not a major component in naval artillery, with ships only carrying a maximum of four of five weapons. At this time, the guns listed in inventories were breech loaders, and made of iron outside of England. The oldest cannon recovered in English waters, dates to 1520 and was made in Spain.
The first Tudor king, Henry VII is credited with the significant introduction of guns and artillery in English ships. Henry VII was the first English king to manufacture iron cannon in England, based on his constructing the first blast furnaces in England. In so doing, he revolutionized the English iron industry, laying the basis for the transformation of the English economy in the following centuries. The first blast furnace was set up by Henry in 1496 on royal land, to manufacture cannon balls as part of preparations to defend England from Scottish invasion. Shortly thereafter, cast iron cannon were produced.

Henry also increased the number of gunners in royal service. They numbered 30 in 1489; by 1497, there were 49 gunners at the Tower of London alone. Many were foreign nationals, including many French. These gunners were not only artillerymen, but also experts in shot and gun founding. Although Henry's cannon were produced to defend the nation from foreign invaders, the existence of such a stockpile, capable of reducing any feudal castle, served as a powerful deterrent to England's quarrelsome feudal nobility. 
When Henry VII ascended to the throne, there were only four ships owned by the Crown, with no real standing navy, pirates roamed the Channel unchecked. In 1488, he comissioned the first English naval fighting ship, originally commisioned as the Grace à Dieu,  but then later renamed Regent.  The Regent, weighed 1,000 tonnes and carried 225 foreign made cast-iron guns each of which weighed 250 pounds. This was followed by the Sovereign (ex. Trinity Sovereign) built in 1488. The Mary Fortune and Sweepstake built in 1497. 
The city of Portsmouth was developed as a fortified naval station, capable of meeting the needs of a permanent navy. The first drydock in the British Isles was also constructed at Portsmouth, which was ready for use by May 1496.
When he came to power, Henry VIII, greatly expanded the naval program and is credited as the first to build ships with platforms between decks, specifically designed for the weaponry (the gun deck), making it easy to use and more effective than ever before. The most important development in Henry’s reign with respect to the navy was the development of gun ports, which are orifices in the hull of the ship that could be closed and opened at will, where weapons can be mounted for firing. Before this time, in English ships cannon were mounted on the upper most deck, or on the prow or poop.
Henry VIII also expanded the ship building program by creating dockyards at Deptford, and Woolwich.
In 1512 he commissioned the building of Henry Grace à Dieu known as the "Great Harry". Built at Woolwich Dockyard from 1512 to 1514, she was one of the first English vessels to feature a large number of  gunports and had twenty of the new heavy bronze cannon, allowing for a broadside. She was fitted out later in the Naval Dockyard in Erith. In all she mounted 43 heavy guns and 141 light guns. She was the first English two-decker and when launched she was 165ft long and at 1500 tons burthen, the largest and most powerful warship in Europe.
Great Harry
The carrack "Great Harry" from the Anthony Rolls c. 1546

Before the building of Henri Grace à Dieu, the usual naval technique was to have archers on board for firing at the enemy and even hand to hand combat when the ship was able grapple and pull across the enemy ship. With the building of this ship with its huge load of guns and cannons, and togther with developments in Asia and Portugal, that tactic became outdated. While archers were still important and were not immediately dispensed with, the use of gunships made war just that little bit more efficient.

In a modern sense, when we speak of cannon they are described in terms of the weight of shot they fired (12 pounders, 24 pounders, etc), but for much of the Tudor period there was a lack of technical regulation and guns were known by a bewildering array of names which caused as much confusion then as it does today.

The largest were the cannon royals, the smallest were the robinets, in between were cannon, cannon perriers, demi cannon, culverins, demi culverins, sakers, minions, falcons, falconets, port pieces, fowlers, slings, demi slings, double bases, bases, etc; and then there were the variations of so-called ‘bastard’ type. The favoured gun on the large fighting ships at this time was the culverin, an example of which was excavated by the writer from the Dutch East Indiaman Nassau which sank in 1606 during a battle in the Straits of Malacca. But smaller vessels, because of burden and stability, favoured medium-weight sakers and minions.

In a letter to Lord Burghley dated 29th November 1592, Sir John mentions “a shypp that was cast away about Alderney”. The wreck discovered in 1977, and is now known as the "Alderney Elizabethan Wreck". Several cannon and artefacts have been recovered from the site and one was identified by the Royal Armouries of the Tower of London as a minion, a type of cannon that was common both on land and sea from the mid 16th century to the end of the 17th century.

Aldernay Cannon
A fully conserved gun from the Aldernay Elizabethan wreck.
The carriage and other timbers are modern reconstructions.
(Source: The Aldernay Elizabethan Wreck)

Henry was very fond of this ship and often travelled in it for show. It was richly decorated and presented an impressive sight to onlookers. He also threw a magnificent christening party for the ship which seems to have outdone all other ceremonials.

Nothing pleased him better than to be afloat, inspecting the progress of his ships and docks. Dressed in cloth of gold and conveyed in a barge as richly gilded as himself, he would pass down the river and up again, blowing upon his whistle, or boatswain’s call, “as loudly as upon a trumpet.”

There were several other ships they played a big part in Henry VIII's Tudor navy:

The Sovereign – Another ship inherited from his father, Henry VIII rebuilt it in 1509 and was one of the first ships fortified by Henry. The ship saw action in the war with France in 1512, but afterwards it was neglected and was only found 400 years later in 1912, just before another great war.

The Regent – This ship was built in 1488 but was one of the biggest, richest and most powerful ships in the Tudor navy. It carried 225 guns and saw battle with the French, just like The Sovereign. However, this ship perished in battle and blew up into a ball of fire, taking along with it, two of Henry’s VIII's best friends, Sir Thomas Knyvet and Sir John Carew. There is no record of how Henry bore this loss, but according to Wolsey, he bore it stoically.

The Mary Rose – One of the most famous ship from Tudor times, the ship also saw battle in 1513 against France and in 1514 against Scotland, and then again in 1545 against France. Quite the busy ship! However, in Henry’s last battle against France, it simply overturned and sank, partly due to windy weather and partly due to carelessness of the crew. It took down its 700 odd sailors.

The Jesus of Lübeck - A carrack built in the Free City of Lübeck in the early 16th century. Around 1540 the ship, which had mostly been used for representative purposes, was acquired by Henry VIII, King of England, to augment his fleet. The ship saw action during the French invasion of the Isle of Wight in 1545, but was chartered to a group of merchants in 1563 by Queen Elizabeth. Jesus of Lübeck became involved in the Atlantic slave trade under John Hawkins, who organized four voyages to West Africa and the West Indies between 1562 and 1568. During the last voyage, Jesus, along with several other English ships, encountered a Spanish fleet off San Juan de Ulúa (modern day Vera Cruz, Mexiko) in September 1568. In the resulting battle, Jesus was captured by Spanish forces. The heavily damaged ship was later sold for 601 ducats to a local merchant.

Jesus Of Lubeck - Anthony Rolls
The Jesus of Lubeck from the Anthony Rolls C. 1545

When not at war, the ships were generally kept in the port and only a small Winter Guard was kept sailing to protect the coasts. Like the Portugese, Henry’s strategy was to build a few huge ships to enhance the navy’s image and a lot of smaller ships to support the bigger ships in war. Some of the smaller ships were also assigned patrol, quelling piracy,  inshore duties and accordingly fitted out.


1918, Yale University Press
Printed in the United States of America


... Henry VIII had faults which have been trumpeted about the world from his own day to ours. But of all English sovereigns he stands foremost as the monarch of the sea. Young, handsome, learned, exceedingly accomplished, gloriously strong in body and in mind, Henry mounted the throne in 1509 with the hearty good will of nearly all his subjects. Before England could become the mother country of an empire overseas, she had to shake off her medieval weaknesses, become a strongly unified modern state, and arm herself against any probable combination of hostile foreign states. Happily for herself and for her future colonists, Henry was richly endowed with strength and skill for his task. With one hand he welded England into political unity, crushing disruptive forces by the way. With the other he gradually built up a fleet the like of which the world had never seen. He had the advantage of being more independent of parliamentary supplies than any other sovereign. From his thrifty father he had inherited what was then an almost fabulous sum -- nine million dollars in cash. From what his friends call the conversion, and his enemies the spoliation, of Church property in England he obtained many millions more. Moreover, the people as a whole always rallied to his call whenever he wanted other national resources for the national defence.
Henry's unique distinction is that he effected the momentous change from an ancient to a modern fleet. This supreme achievement constitutes his real title to the lasting gratitude of English-speaking peoples. His first care when he came to the throne in 1509 was for the safety of the 'Broade Ditch,' as he called the English Channel. His last great act was to establish in 1546 'The Office of the Admiralty and Marine Affairs.' During the thirty-seven years between his accession and the creation of this Navy Board the pregnant change was made.
'King Henry loved a man.' He had an unerring eye for choosing the right leaders. He delighted in everything to do with ships and shipping. He mixed freely with naval men and merchant skippers, visited the dockyards, promoted several improved types of vessels, and always befriended Fletcher of Rye, the shipwright who discovered the art of tacking and thereby revolutionized navigation. Nor was the King only a patron. He invented a new type of vessel himself and thoroughly mastered scientific gunnery. He was the first of national leaders to grasp the full significance of what could be done by broadsides fired from sailing ships against the mediaeval type of vessel that still depended more on oars than on sails.
Henry's maritime rivals were the two greatest monarchs of continental Europe, Francis I of France and Charles V of Spain. Henry, Francis, and Charles were all young, all ambitious, and all exceedingly capable men. Henry had the fewest subjects, Charles by far the most. Francis had a compact kingdom well situated for a great European land power. Henry had one equally well situated for a great European sea power. Charles ruled vast dominions scattered over both the New World and the Old. The destinies of mankind turned mostly on the rivalry between these three protagonists and their successors.
Charles V was heir to several crowns. He ruled Spain, the Netherlands, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and important principalities in northern Italy. He was elected Emperor of Germany. He owned enormous oversea dominions in Africa; and the two Americas soon became New Spain. He governed each part of his European dominions by a different title and under a different constitution. He had no fixed imperial capital, but moved about from place to place, a legitimate sovereign everywhere and, for the most part, a popular one as well. It was his son Philip II who, failing of election as Emperor, lived only in Spain, concentrated the machinery of government in Madrid, and became so unpopular elsewhere. Charles had been brought up in Flanders; he was genial in the Flemish way; and he understood his various states in the Netherlands, which furnished him with one of his main sources of revenue. Another and much larger source of revenue poured in its wealth to him later on, in rapidly increasing volume, from North and South America.
Charles had inherited a long and bitter feud with France about the Burgundian dominions on the French side of the Rhine and about domains in Italy; besides which there were many points of violent rivalry between things French and Spanish. England also had hereditary feuds with France, which had come down from the Hundred Years' War, and which had ended in her almost final expulsion from France less than a century before. Scotland, nursing old feuds against England and always afraid of absorption, naturally sided with France. Portugal, small and open to Spanish invasion by land, was more or less bound to please Spain.
During the many campaigns between Francis and Charles the English Channel swarmed with men-of-war, privateers, and downright pirates. Sometimes England took a hand officially against France. But, even when England was not officially at war, many Englishmen were privateers and not a few were pirates. Never was there a better training school of fighting seamanship than in and around the Narrow Seas. It was a continual struggle for an existence in which only the fittest survived. Quickness was essential. Consequently vessels that could not increase their speed were soon cleared off the sea.
Spain suffered a good deal by this continuous raiding. So did the Netherlands. But such was the power of Charles that, although his navies were much weaker than his armies, he yet was able to fight by sea on two enormous fronts, first, in the Mediterranean against the Turks and other Moslems, secondly, in the Channel and along the coast, all the way from Antwerp to Cadiz. Nor did the left arm of his power stop there; for his fleets, his transports, and his merchantmen ranged the coasts of both Americas from one side of the present United States right round to the other.
Such, in brief, was the position of maritime Europe when Henry found himself menaced by the three Roman Catholic powers of Scotland, France, and Spain. In 1533 he had divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, thereby defying the Pope and giving offence to Spain. He had again defied the Pope by suppressing the monasteries and severing the Church of England from the Roman discipline. The Pope had struck back with a bull of excommunication designed to make Henry the common enemy of Catholic Europe.
Henry had been steadily building ships for years. Now he redoubled his activity. He blooded the fathers of his daughter's sea-dogs by smashing up a pirate fleet and sinking a flotilla of Flemish privateers. The mouth of the Scheldt, in 1539, was full of vessels ready to take a hostile army into England. But such a fighting fleet prepared to meet them that Henry's enemies forbore to strike.
In 1539, too, came the discovery of the art of tacking, by Fletcher of Rye, Henry's shipwright friend, a discovery forever memorable in the annals of seamanship. Never before had any kind of craft been sailed a single foot against the wind. The primitive dugout on which the prehistoric savage hoisted the first semblance of a sail, the ships of Tarshish, the Roman transport in which St. Paul was wrecked, and the Spanish caravels with which Columbus sailed to worlds unknown, were, in principle of navigation, all the same. But now Fletcher ran out his epoch-making vessel, with sails trimmed fore and aft, and dumbfounded all the shipping in the Channel by beating his way to windward against a good stiff breeze. This achievement marked the dawn of the modern sailing age.
And so it happened that in 1545 Henry, with a new-born modern fleet, was able to turn defiantly on Francis. The English people rallied magnificently to his call. What was at that time an enormous army covered the lines of advance on London. But the fleet, though employing fewer men, was relatively a much more important force than the army; and with the fleet went Henry's own headquarters. His lifelong interest in his navy now bore the first-fruits of really scientific sea power on an oceanic scale. There was no great naval battle to fix general attention on one dramatic moment. Henry's strategy and tactics, however, were new and full of promise. He repeated his strategy of the previous war by sending out a strong squadron to attack the base at which the enemy's ships were then assembling; and he definitely committed the English navy, alone among all the navies in the world, to sailing-ship tactics, instead of continuing those founded on the rowing galley of immemorial fame. The change from a sort of floating army to a really naval fleet, from galleys moved by oars and depending on boarders who were soldiers, to ships moved by sails and depending on their broadside guns -- this change was quite as important as the change in the nineteenth century from sails and smooth-bores to steam and rifled ordnance. It was, indeed, from at least one commanding point of view, much more important; for it meant that England was easily first in developing the only kind of navy which would count in any struggle for oversea dominion after the discovery of America had made sea power no longer a question of coasts and landlocked waters but of all the outer oceans of the world.
The year that saw the birth of modern sea power is a date to be remembered in this history; for 1545 was also the year in which the mines of Potosi first aroused the Old World to the riches of the New; it was the year, too, in which Sir Francis Drake was born. Moreover, there was another significant birth in this same year. The parole aboard the Portsmouth fleet was God save the King! The answering countersign was Long to reign over us! These words formed the nucleus of the national anthem now sung round all the Seven Seas. The anthems of other countries were born on land. God save the King! sprang from the navy and the sea.

Flag and Fleet How the British Navy Won the Freedom of the Seas 

By William Wood
1918, Yale University Press
Printed in the United States of America



Henry never forgot for a moment that England could not live a day if she was not a mighty sea-power. He improved the dockyards founded by his father at Deptford and Portsmouth. He founded Trinity House, which still examines pilots and looks after the lights and buoys all round the British Isles. He put down pirates with a strong hand. And he brought the best ship-builders he could get from Italy, where the scientific part of shipbuilding and navigation was then the best in the world, because the trade routes of Asia, Africa, and Europe mostly met at Venice. But he always kept his eyes open for good men at home; and in one of his own shipbuilders, Fletcher of Rye, he found a man who did more than anybody else to make the vastly important change from the ancient age of rowing fleets to the modern age of sailing ones. 
From the time when the first bit of a wild beast's skin was hoisted by some pre-historic savage, thousands and thousands of years ago, nobody had learnt how to tack, that is, to sail against the wind. The only way any ship could go at all well was with the wind, that is, with the wind blowing from behind. So long as men had nothing but a single "wind-bag" of skin or cloth the best wind was a "lubber's wind," that is, a wind from straight behind. When more and better sails were used a lubber's wind was not the best because one sail would stop the wind from reaching another one in front of it. The best wind then, as ever since, was a "quartering wind," that is, a wind blowing on a vessel's quarter, half way between her stern and the middle of her side. Ships with better keels, sails, and shape of hull might have sailed with a "soldier's wind," that is, a wind blowing straight against the ship's side, at right angles to her course. But they must have "made leeway" by going sideways too. This wind on the beam was called a soldier's wind because it made equally plain sailing out and back again, and so did not bother landsmen with a lot of words and things they could not understand when ships tacked against head winds. 
Who first "tacked ship" is more than we can say. But many generations of seamen must have wished they knew how to sail towards a place from which the wind was blowing. Tacking probably came bit by bit, like other new inventions. But Fletcher of Rye, whom Henry always encouraged, seems to have been the first man who really learnt how to sail against the wind. He did this by tacking (that is, zigzagging) against it with sails trimmed fore and aft. In this way the sails, as it were, slide against the wind at an angle and move the ship ahead, first to one side of the straight line towards the place she wants to reach, and then, after turning her head, to the other. It was in 1539 that Fletcher made his trial trip, to the great amazement of the shipping in the Channel. Thus by 1545, that year of naval changes, the new sailing age had certainly begun to live and the old rowing age had certainly begun to die. The invention of tacking made almost as great a change as steam made three hundred years later; for it shortened voyages from months to weeks, as steam afterwards shortened them from weeks to days. Why did Jacques Cartier take months to make voyages from Europe and up the St. Lawrence when Champlain made them in weeks? Because Champlain could tack and Jacques Cartier could not. Columbus, Cabot, and Cartier could no more zigzag towards a place from which the wind was blowing dead against them than could the ships of Hiram, King of Tyre, who brought so many goods by sea for Solomon. But Champlain, who lived a century later, did know how to tack the _Don de Dieu_ against the prevailing south-west winds of the St. Lawrence; and this was one reason why he made a voyage from the Seine to the Saguenay in only eighteen days, a voyage that remained the Canadian record for ninety years to come. 
The year 1545 is coupled with the title "King of the English Sea" because the fleet which Henry VIII then had at Portsmouth was the first fleet in the world that showed any promise of being "fit to go foreign" and fight a battle out at sea with broadside guns and under sail. 
True, it had some rowing galleys, like those of other old-fashioned fleets; and its sailing men-of-war were nothing much to boast of in the way of handiness or even safety. The Mary Rose, which Henry's admiral, Sir Edward Howard, had described thirty years before as "the flower of all the ships that ever sailed," was built with lower portholes only sixteen inches above the water line. So when her crew forgot to close these ports, and she listed over while going about (that is, while making a turn to bring the wind on the other side), the water rushed in and heeled her over still more. Then the guns on her upper side, which had not been lashed, slid across her steeply sloping decks bang into those on the lower side, whereupon the whole lot crashed through the ports or stove her side, so that she filled and sank with nearly everyone on board. 
No, the Royal Navy of 1545 was very far from being perfect either in ships or men. But it had made a beginning towards fighting with broadsides under sail; and this momentous change was soon to be so well developed under Drake as to put English sea-power a century ahead of all its rivals in the race for oversea dominion both in the Old World and the New. A rowing galley, with its platform crowded by soldiers waiting to board had no chance against a sailing ship which could fire all the guns of her broadsides at a safe distance. Nor had the other foreign men-of-war a much better chance, because they too were crowded with soldiers, carried only a few light guns, and were far less handy than the English vessels under sail. They were, in fact, nothing very much better than armed transports full of soldiers, who were dangerous enough when boarding took place, but who were mere targets for the English guns when kept at arm's length. 
The actual Portsmouth campaign of 1545 was more like a sham battle than a real one; though the French fleet came right over to England and no one can doubt French bravery. Perhaps the best explanation is the one given by Blaise de Montluc, one of the French admirals: "Our business is rather on the land than on the water, where I do not know of any great battles that we have ever won." Henry VIII had seized Boulogne the year before, on which Francis I (Jacques Cartier's king) swore he would clear the Channel of the English, who also held Calais. He raised a very big fleet, partly by hiring Italian galleys, and sent it over to the Isle of Wight. There it advanced and retired through the summer, never risking a pitched battle with the English, who, truth to tell, did not themselves show much more enterprise. 
Sickness raged in both fleets. Neither wished to risk its all on a single chance unless that chance was a very tempting one. The French fleet was a good deal the bigger of the two; and Lisle, the English commander-in-chief, was too cautious to attack it while it remained in one body. When the French were raiding the coast Lisle's hopes ran high. "If we chance to meet with them," he wrote, "divided as they should seem to be, we shall have some sport with them." But the French kept together and at last retired in good order. That was the queer end of the last war between those two mighty monarchs, Francis I and Henry VIII. But both kings were then nearing death; both were very short of money; and both they and their people were anxious for peace. Thus ended the Navy's part of 1545. 
But three other events of this same year, all connected with English sea-power, remain to be noted down. First, Drake, the hero of the coming Spanish War, was born at Crowndale, by Tavistock, in Devon. Secondly, the mines of Potosi in South America suddenly roused the Old World to the riches of the New. And, thirdly, the words of the National Anthem were, so to say, born on board the Portsmouth fleet, where the "Sailing Orders" ended thus:--"The Watchword in the Night shall be, 'God save King Henrye!' The other shall answer, 'Long to raign over Us!'" The National Anthems of all the other Empires, Kingdoms, and Republics in the world have come from their armies and the land. Our own springs from the Royal Navy and the sea.

The only near-contemporary drawing of the Mary Rose comes from the Anthony Rolls. It reveals from an artists viewpoint, a purpose built ship of war with guns protruding from gunports at unusal angles. Based on the drawing, along with an accompanying list of Ordinance,  Artillery, Munitions, and Equipment for war, it is unmistakable that ship was a formidable sailing warship capable of firing devestating broadsides.

The number and pieces of ordinance that have been recovered from the wreck suggest that she was a well-adapted fighting machine, that had achieved a balanced coverage and range of firepower at least from her broadsides. From a distance, should could engage the enemy with her bronze cannons with cast-iron shot. At a medium range, she was equipped with wrought-iron port pieces and fowlers that fired both stone shot, and cracked flints housed in wooden canisters shaped liked lanterns (hence the term "lantern shot"). 

Determining what naval tactics were used can be a bit of speculation, but existing naval documents and records can allow us to piece together various strategies used during the Tudor Period. 

William Bourne, an English mathematician, innkeeper and former Royal Navy gunner wrote several treatises on naval warfare and navigation including: The Arte of Shooting in Great Ordinance, 1572-1587, Inventions or Devises. Very Necessary for all Generalles and Captaines, as wel by Sea as by Land, 1578, and A Regiment for the Sea, 1574. In determining naval fighting tactics, we will first look at "The Art of Shooting", it gives us a general understanding of ship to ship combat, and instructions that would have been used by the Royal Navy gunners on Tudor era vessels.


An ordinary gunner’s story of how he fought aboard
Sir Francis Drake’s ship during the Spanish Armada. 

Mary Rose - Tudor Naval Cannon
A cast bronze culverin (front) and a wrought iron port piece (back), modern reproductions
of two of the guns that were on board the Mary Rose when she sank, on display at Fort Nelson near Portsmouth.

Cannon Royale
A Cannon Royale recovered from the wreck of the Mary Rose by the Deane brothers in 1836.
Made of bronze, this gun was cast by Robert and John Owen in 1535, possibly in Calais,
and features the royal arms surrounded by the Garter, topped with a crown, and an inscription that reads
“(translated) Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith, Lord of Ireland


The Arte of Shooting in Great Ordnaunce Contayning Very Necessary Matters for All Sortes of Servitoures Eyther By Sea or By Llande. 
Written by William Bourne.  Imprinted at London for Thomas Woodcocke. 1587


Howe to make a shotte out of one Ship unto another, that although the Sea be wrought, or out of a Galley to a Shippe.

As for Gunners that do serve by the Sea, must observe this order following. First that they doe foresee that all their great Ordnaunce be fast breeched, and foresee that all ther geare be handsome and in a readinesse. And furthermore that they bee very circumspect about their Pouder in the time of service, and especially beware of their limstockes & candels for feare of their Pouder, & their fireworks, & their Ovrum, which is very daungerous, and much to bee feared. Then furthermore, that you do keepe your peeces as neer as you can, dry within, and also, that you keep their tutchholes

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cleane, without any kinde of drosse falling into thee. And furthermore, it is good for the Guners to view their peeces, and for to know their perfect dispart, and marke it upon the peece, or else in some Booke or Table, and name every peece what it is, and where she doth lye in the ship, and name how many ynches, and half ynches and quarters of ynches the dispart commeth unto, and then in time of service, although that you have no time to set uppe your disparte you may consider of it, and doe it well ynough. And furthermore, if that you were driven to make a shot upon a soddayne, and knowe not what disparte woulde serve the peece, yet this you may doe, and speede well ynough: first looke all alongst by the side of the peece as neere as you may at the middle of the breech of the peece, unto the middle of the mouth of the peece, and so by the sight of your eye, lay it right against the marke, and then koyne up the tayle of your peece fast, for that giveth the peece the true height of the marke: then take the nexte sight aloft upon the peece, from the breech of the peece, unto the mouth, and so laye the peece right uppon the marke. But you would judge by the sight of your eye, that the peece lye a great deale, under the marke: for that the mettall of the peece is a greate deale thicker then the mettall of the mouth of the peece, and therefore the sight of the side of the peece, giveth her the true height of the marke, and then laying the peece right with the Ship that you doe meane to shoote at, looking well to youre Steeradge. Nowe furthermore, if the Sea be wrought or growen, & the Shippes do both heave and set, then if you would make a perfect shot, do this: First choose your peece between the Lauflau, and the mayne Mast, upon the lower Orloppe, if the Shippe may keepe the porte open, and for this cause you shal do it, for that the ship doth least labour there: for any Shippe that doth heave, and set never

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so sore, doth hang as though she were uppon an Aritree, there labouring least, except she doth seel or rowle. But if any Ship hang any thing by the wind, it will not lightly seel or rowle. Then if you doe make a shotte at another Shippe, you must bee sure to have a good helmsman, that can stirre steadie, taking some marke of a Cloude that is above by the Horizon or by the shadowe of the Sunne, or by your standing still, take some marke of the other shippe through some hole, or any such other like. Then he that giveth levell, must observe this: first consider what disparte his peece must have, then laye the peece directly with that parte of the Shippe that he doth meane to shoote at: then if the Shippe bee under the lee side of your Shippe, shoote your peece in the comming downe of the Gayle, and the beginning of the other Ship to rise upon the Sea, as neere as you can, for this cause, for when the other shippe is aloft upon the Sea, and shee under your Lee, the Gayle maketh her for to head, and then it is likest to doe much good.

Now furthermore, if that the Shippe you doe shoote at have the weather gage of you, then your peece that you doe shoote at her, must needes bee on the weather side of the Shippe: then give fire unto the peece in the righting of both the Shipps. When that the Gayle is over, you must awaite when the other Shippe doth beginne for to arise upon the Sea, and especially that part of the Ship that you doe meane for to shoote at, for this cause, for when that the Gayle is over, then both the Shippes doe righte, for if that you should shoote in the helding of your Shippe, then you shoulde shoote ouer the other Shippe. And furthermore, if you shoote when the other Shippe is alofte on the toppe of the Sea, you have a bigger marke than when she is in the trough of the Sea. Therefore there is no better time for to give

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fire, then when shee is beginning to rise upon the Sea, that is, when you see her in the trough of the Sea: and you must use that according unto the distance betweene two Shippes, for you must consider, that the shotte must have a time for to come to the shippe, for no man can describe the thing so well, as hee that doth see the thing apparante before his eyes, for his reason in those causes must helpe him, and the principallest thing is that, that hee that is at the Helme must bee sure to stirre steadye, and bee ruled by him that giveth the levell, and hee that giveth fire, must bee nimble, and readye at a suddayne. And also hee that is at the Helme, must bee nimble and steady, that is, to putte roomer, when that the other Shippe dothe putte roome, and for to loofe, when that the other Shippe doeth plye his loofe. And it is good for the Gunner to koyne the mouth of his peece, somewhat with the lowest, rather then any thing with the hyghest, for if that the shotte flyeth over the Shippe, then it dothe no good, but if that it commeth shorte of the Shippe, it will graze in the water and rise agayne, and speede well ynough, so that it bee not too muche too shorte of the Shippe, for too muche too shorte dothe kill the shotte in the Sea and especiallye if that the distance bee any thing farre off. And furthermore, for the Sea fight, if the one doe meane to lay the other aboorde, then they doe call up their com∣pany, eyther for to enter or to defend: and first, if that they doe meane for to enter (as you may knowe) that hee will prease to laye you aboorde, then marke where that you doe see anye Scottles for to come uppe at, as they will stande neere there aboutes, to the intente for to bee readie, for to come uppe under the Scottles: there gibe lebell with your Fowlers, or Slinges, or Bases, for there you shall bee sure to doe

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most good, then furthermore, if you doe meane for to enter him, then give level with your Fowlers and Port peeces, where you doe see his chiefest fight of his shippe is, and especially be sure to have them charged, and to shoote, them off at the first boarding of the Shippes, for then you shall be sure to speede. And furthermore, marke where his men have most recourse, there discharge your Fowlers and Bases. And furthermore, for the annoyance of your enemie, if that at the boarding that the Shippes lye, therefore you may take away their steeradge with one of your great peeces that is to shoote at his Rudder, and furthermore at his mayne mast, and so forth. Thus muche have I said as touching Sea Gunners, for that I doe know they do meddle with no other fightes, and therefore it is meete for him to seeke as much as in him lyeth, for to annoy the enemie with fireworkes and Ordnaunce &c. And furthermore, if the Shippe doth seell or rowle, then the best place of the ship for to make a shotte, is out of the head or sterne. And furthermore, for to make a shot out of a Galley, and especially the Cannon that lyeth in the Case, or Prow, he that giveth fire, must be ruled by him that is at the helme, because he can neyther koyne her up nor downe, for that she lyeth in the case, for he that stirreth, must give levell. And furthermore, the Cannon that lyeth in the case, can not lightly shoote a shippe under water, neither betweene the wind and the water, where that it is not on the Sea, and especially if the Ship be at hand, for that she lyeth levell, for looke how high, that the peece is above the Sea, so high shall the shotte hitte any thing above the water, as farre as the peece can cast uppon the right line. And for to make a shotte out of a Galley unto a Shippe, for to strike him under the water, or betweene the wind and the water. First waight the Sippe lying in the trough of the Sea, when she doth begin to rise uppon.

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the Sea, and then in lyke manner, when you do see that the Galleys head doth beginne to descende, then give fire unto the peece, and you shall make a perficte shotte. Furthermore, if the Galley be in fight with another Shyppe in a calme, then the Shyppe will skant wave or stirre, and then the Galley may play off and on at her pleasure: and then to make a shotte at hande, is some matter, for in a calme, the Shyppes doe neither ryse nor fall, but a little, in comparison of any thing to the purpose: neyther dothe the Galleys head either heave nor set to any purpose, if the Shippe be at hand, to the intent or purpose to shoote a Shippe under the watter. Therefore when you meane to strike a Shippe under the water with a Galley, and dare not lay them aboorde, then koyne your Cabels forwards, with the trimming forwarde of your waightie geare into the Galleys head, so lowe, till it shall serve your turne, by bringing also your men forwardes: then by ye Steeradge with your Ores, or with your Helme, you may shoote against what part of the Shippe you will, and so shoote her under water at your pleasure.



In what order to place Ordnaunce in Shippes.

And furthermore, I do think it conue∣niente to shew you how to fit or place Ordnaunce in any Shippe: & this is to be considered, first that ye cariag be made in such shot, that ye peece may lie right in the middle of the port, & that the trockes or wheeles be not too hygh, for if ye treckes be too high, then it will keepe the cariage that it will not goe close vnto the Shippes side, and by that meanes the

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peece will not scant go out of the porte, excepte that the peece be of some reasonable length: and also, if that the Shyppe doe holde that waye, the Trockes will alwayes runne close to the Shyppes side, so that if you have any occasion to make a shotte, you shall not bring the Trockes off from the Shyppes side, but that it will runne too again. And the wheele or Trocke beyng very hygh, it is not a small thinge under a Trocke wyll stay it but that it may runne over it, &c.

And also, if that the Trocke be hygh, it wyll cause the peece to have the greater reuerse or recoyle, therefore, the lower that the wheeles or Trockes be, it is the better and so forth.

Alwayes provided, that the peece bee placed in the verye middle of the porte, that is to saye, that the peece lying leuell at poynte blancke, and the Shyppe, to bee uprighte, wythout anye helding, that it be as many inches from the lower syde of the porte beneath, as it is unto the vpper part aboue justely. And the deeper or hygher that ye portes bee up and downe, it is the better to make a shot, for the heldyng of the Shyppe, whether that it bee the lee syde, or the weather syde of the Shyppe, for if you have any occasyon to shoote eyther forwardes or backwards, the steeradge of the Shyppe wyll serve the turne, but if that the Shyppe dothe heelde muche, then if that the peece bee lette by the lower parte of the porte, then you muste needes shoote over the marke, and if it bee lette by the upper syde of the porte, then you shall shoote shorte of the marke. &c. Wherefore, when that the Carpenters dothe cutte out anye portes in a Shippe, then lette them cutte them out deepe ynough uppe and downe. &c.

And also, it is verye evyll, for to have the Orloppe

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or Decke too lowe under the porte, for then the carriage muste bee made verye hygh, and that is verye evill in dyvers respectes, for then in the shootyng off the peece, it is apte to ouvrthrowe, and also by the labouring and the seelyng of the Shyppe, and so foorth.

And furthermore, you muste haue a consyderation for the fytting of your Ordnaunce in the Shippes, as thys, the shorter Ordnaunce is beste to bee placed out at the Shippes syde, for two or three causes, as this.

Fyrste, for the ease of the Shyppe, for theyr shortenesse they are the lyghter: and also, if that the Shyppes shoulde heelde wyth the bearyng of a Sayle, that you muste shutte the portes1, especially if that the Ordnaunce bee uppon the lower Orloppe, and then the shorter peece is the easyer to bee taken in, both for the shortenesse and the weyght also.

In lyke manner, the shorter that the peece ly∣eth oute of the shyppes syde, the lesse it shall annoy them in the tacklyng of the Shyppes Sayles, for if that the peece doe lye verye farre oute of the Shyppes syde, then the Sheetes and Tackes, or the Bolynes wyll alwayes bee foule of the Ordnaunce, whereby it maye muche annoy them in foule weather, and so foorth.

And it is verye good for you to have long Ordnaūce to bee placed righte oute of the Sterne of the Shyppe for two causes: the one is this.

The peece muste lye verye farre oute of the porte, or else in the shooting, it may blowe up the Counter of the Shyppes sterne.

And also, the peece had neede be very large, for else it

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will not go very farre out, for the worke of a ships sterne hangeth very farre outwards from the decke or Orloppe vp to the port, so that the carriage may be close belowe, but not aloft, &c. And also if you haue any chasing peeces to shoote right forwardes, then they must bee long Oro∣naunce in like manner, so that you must fitte your Ord∣naunce, according vnto the place that it must lye in, and also (as is before rehearsed) that it is not good for to haue the mountance or carredge to high. Therefore, if that the Orloppe or decke bee too lowe under the porte, then it is good for you to make a platforme under the port, that the trockes of the carriadge may stand upon. And also, when you doe take the measure of the porte, from the decke or Orloppe, to the end to fitte the mountance or carredge in height, that the peece may lye right in the middle of the porte, then you viewing the decke or Orloppe, and considering what height you will haue the wheele or Trocke, and also marke whether or how that the Ships side doth hang inwards, or outwards, and also the Cambring of the decke or Orloppe, and then you perceiving where the formost trockes doth or must stande, when that the carredge doth go close to the porte. Then where as the very middle of the foremost trockes dothe stande, there take the true measure in heygth from the Decke or Orloppe, vpwards, and so shall you knowe iustly howe many ynches will laye the peece righte in the very middle of the porte: for if you doe take the measure of the heygth of the porte from the porte downe vnto the Decke or Orloppe, then by the meanes of the Cambering, the Decke or Orloppe, and also the wheeles or Trockes doth not come to stand right under the porte, so by that meanes the Decke or Orlop is higher inwards, and that shall cause you to make the mountance or carriage too high, for that the wheeles or Trockes that the carriage lyeth upon, shall be a foote

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more or lesse into the Shipwards, and then looke into the Cambering of the Decke or Orloppe, that it riseth inwardes more, than it is righte under the Porte, you shall take the measure so much too high for the peece to lay her right in the middle of the Porte &c.



1. Unfortunately the Captain of the Mary Rose felt differently, and when the ship heeled in the breeze, she took on water through the gunports which were left open. This mistake is considered by most scholars to have cause her to capsize and was the reason for her sinking.

The Next publication gives an idea of sailing tactics and It gives us an excellent understanding of the order of battle, formations, and order of ordinace in regards to the Spanish Navy during the Tudor Period. 


I.   ALONSO DE CHAVES,  (circa 1530)

The following extract from the Espejo de Navegantes, or Seamen's Glass, of Alonso de Chaves serves to show the development which naval tactics had reached at the dawn of the sailing epoch. The treatise was apparently never published. It was discovered by Captain Fernandez Duro, the well-known historian of the Spanish navy, amongst the manuscripts in the library of the Academy of History at Madrid. The exact date of its production is not known; but Alonso de Chaves was one of a group of naval writers and experts who flourished at the court of the Emperor Charles V in the first half of the sixteenth century.1
He was known to Hakluyt, who mentions him in connection with his own cherished idea of getting a lectureship in navigation established in London. 'And that it may appear,' he writes in dedicating the second edition of his Voyages to the lord admiral, 'that this is no vain fancy nor device of mine it may please your lordship to understand that the late Emperor Charles the Fifth ... established not only a Pilot-Major for the examination of such as sought to take charge of ships in that voyage' [i.e. to the Indies], 'but also founded a notable lecture of the Art of Navigation which is read to this day in the Contractation House at Seville. The Readers of the Lecture have not only carefully taught and instructed the Spanish mariners by word of mouth, but also have published sundry exact and worthy treatises concerning marine causes for the direction and encouragement of posterity.
The learned works of three of which Readers, namely of Alonso de Chaves, of Hieronymus de Chaves, and of Roderigo Zamorano, came long ago very happily to my hands, together with the straight and severe examining of all such Masters as desire to take charge for the West Indies.' Since therefore De Chaves was an official lecturer to the Contractation House, the Admiralty of the Indies, we may take it that he speaks with full authority of the current naval thought of the time. That he represented a somewhat advanced school seems clear from the pains he takes in his treatise to defend his opinions against the old idea which still prevailed, that only galleys and oared craft could be marshalled in regular order. 'Some may say,' he writes, 'that at sea it is not possible to order ships and tactics in this way, nor to arrange beforehand so nicely for coming to the attack or bringing succour just when wanted, and that therefore there is no need to labour an order of battle since order cannot be kept.
To such I answer that the same objection binds the enemy, and that with equal arms he who has taken up the best formation and order will be victor, because it is not possible so to break up an order with wind and sea as that he who is more without order shall not be worse broken up and the sooner defeated. For ships at sea are as war-horses on land, since admitting they are not very nimble at turning at any pace, nevertheless a regular formation increases their power. Moreover, at sea, so long as there be no storm, there will be nothing to hinder the using of any of the orders with which we have dealt, and if there be a storm the same terror will strike the one side as the other; for the storm is enough for all to war with, and in fighting it they will have peace with one another.'
At first sight it would seem that De Chaves in this argument takes no account of superiority of seamanship--the factor which was destined to turn the scale against Spain upon the sea. But the following passage with which he concludes shows that he regarded seamanship as the controlling factor in every case. 'And if,' he argues, 'they say that the enemy will take the same thought and care as I, I answer that when both be equal in numbers and arms, then in such case he who shall be more dexterous and have more spirit and fortitude he will conquer, the which he will not do, although he have more and better arms and as much spirit as he will, if he be wanting in good order and counsel. Just as happens in fencing, that the weaker man if he be more dexterous gives more and better hits than the other who does not understand the beats nor knows them, although he be the stronger. And the same holds good with any army whatsoever on land, and it has been seen that the smaller by their good order have defeated the stronger.' 
From the work in question Captain Fernandez Duro gives four sections or chapters in Appendix 12 to the first volume of his history,2 namely:
I.    Of war or battle at sea - relating to single ship actions.
II.   The form of a battle and the method of fighting - relating to armament, fire discipline, boarding and the like.
III.  Of a battle of one fleet against another
IV.  Battle
In the last two sections is contained the earliest known attempt to formulate a definite fighting formation and tactical system for sailing fleets, and it is from these that the following extracts have been translated.
It will be noted that in the root-idea of coming as quickly as possible to close quarters, and in relying mainly on end-on fire, the proposed system is still quite medieval and founded mainly upon galley tactics. But a new and advanced note is struck in the author's insistence on the captain-general's keeping out of action as long as possible, instead of leading the attack in the time-honoured way. We should also remark the differentiation of types, for all of which a duty was provided in action. This was also a survival of galley warfare, and rapidly disappeared with the advance of the sailing man-of-war, never to be revived, unless perhaps it be returning in the immediate future, and we are to see torpedo craft of the latest devising taking the place and function of the "barcas", with their axes and augers, and armoured cruisers those of the "naos de succurro".
(circa - 1530).
[*Fernandez Duro, Armada Espanola i. App. 12+.]
Chapter III. Of a Battle between One Fleet and Another.
... When the time for battle is at hand the captain-general should order the whole fleet to come together that he may set them in order, since a regular order is no less necessary in a fleet of ships for giving battle to another fleet than it is in an army of soldiers for giving battle to another army.
Thus, as in an army, the men-at-arms form by themselves in one quarter to make and meet charges, and the light horse in another quarter to support, pursue, and harass so in a fleet, the captain-general ought to order the strongest and largest ships to form in one quarter to attack, grapple, board and break-up the enemy, and the lesser and weaker ships in another quarter apart, with their artillery and munitions to harass3, pursue, and give chase to the enemy if he flies, and to come to the rescue wherever there is most need.
The captain-general should form a detachment of his smaller and lighter vessels, to the extent of one-fourth part of his whole fleet, and order them to take station on either side of the main body. I mean that they should always keep as a separate body on the flanks of the main body, so that they can see what happens on one side and on the other.
He should admonish and direct every one of the ships that she shall endeavour to grapple with the enemy in such a way that she shall not get between two of them so as to be boarded and engaged on both sides at once4.
Having directed and set in order all the aforesaid matters, the captain-general should then marshal the other three-quarters of the fleet that remain in the following manner.
I. He should consider his position and the direction of the wind, and how to get the advantage of it with his fleet.
II. Then he should consider the order in which the enemy is formed, whether they come in a close body or in line ahead5, and whether they are disposed in square bodies or in a single line6, and whether the great ships are in the centre or on the flanks, and in what station is the flagship; and all the other considerations which are essential to the case he should take in hand.
III. By all means he should do his best that his fleet shall have the weather-gage; for if there was no other advantage he will always keep free from being blinded by the smoke of the guns, so as to be able to see one to another; and for the enemy it will be the contrary, because the smoke and fire of our fleet and of their own will keep driving upon them, and blinding them in such a manner that they will not be able to see one another, and they will fight among themselves from not being able to recognise each other.
IV. Everything being now ready, if the enemy have made squadrons of their fleet we should act in the same manner in ours, placing always the greater ships in one body as a vanguard to grapple first and receive the first shock; and the captain-general should be stationed in the centre squadron, so that he may see those which go before and those which follow.
V. Each of the squadrons ought to sail in line abreast7, so that all can see the enemy and use their guns without getting in each other's way, and they must not sail in file one behind the other, because thence would come great trouble, as only the leading ships could fight. In any case a ship is not so nimble as a man to be able to face about and do what is best8.
VI. The rearguard should be the ships that I have called the supports,which are to be the fourth part of the fleet, and the lightest and best sailers; but they must not move in rear of the fleet, because they would not see well what is passing so as to give timely succour, and therefore they ought always to keep an offing on that side or flank of the fleet where the flagship is, or on both sides if they are many; and if they are in one body they should work to station themselves to windward for the reasons aforesaid.
VII. And if the fleet of the enemy shall come on in one body in line abreast9, ours should do the same, placing the largest and strongest ships in the centre and the lightest on the flanks of the battle, seeing that those which are in the centre always receive greater injury because necessarily they have to fight on both sides.
VIII. And if the enemy bring their fleet into the form of a lance-head or triangle, then ours ought to form in two lines [alas], keeping the advanced extremities furthest apart and closing in the rear, so as to take the enemy between them and engage them on both fronts, placing the largest ships in the rear and the lightest at the advanced points, seeing that they can most quickly tack in upon the enemy opposed to them.
IX. And if the enemy approach formed in two lines [alas], ours ought to do the same, placing always the greatest ships over against the greatest of the enemy, and being always on the look-out to take the enemy between them; and on no account must ours penetrate into the midst of the enemy's formation [batalla], because arms and smoke will envelope them on every side and there will be no way of relieving them.
X. The captain-general having now arrayed his whole fleet in one of the aforesaid orders according as it seems best to him for giving battle, and everything being ready for battle, all shall bear in mind the signals he shall have appointed with flag or shot or topsail, that all may know at what time to attack or board or come to rescue or retreat, or give chase. The which signals all must understand and remember what they are to do when such signals are made, and likewise the armed boats shall take the same care and remember what they ought to do, and perform their duty10.
Chapter IV. Battle
I. Then the flagship shall bid a trumpet sound, and at that signal all shall move in their aforesaid order; and as they come into range they shall commence to play their most powerful artillery, taking care that the first shots do not miss, for, as I have said, when the first shots hit, inasmuch as they are the largest, they strike great dread and terror into the enemy; for seeing how great hurt they suffer, they think how much greater it will be at close range and so mayhap they will not want to fight, but strike and surrender or fly, so as not to come to close quarters.
II. Having so begun firing, they shall always first play the largest guns, which are on the side or board towards the enemy, and likewise they shall move over from the other side those guns which have wheeled carriages to run on the upper part of the deck and poop11. And then when nearer they should use the smaller ones, and by no means should they fire them at first, for afar off they will do no hurt, and besides the enemy will know there is dearth of good artillery and will take better heart to make or abide an attack. And after having come to closer quarters then they ought to play the lighter artillery. And so soon as they come to board or grapple all the other kinds of arms shall be used, of which I have spoken more particularly: first, missiles, such as harpoons ["dardos"] and stones, hand-guns ["escopetas"] and cross-bows, and then the fire-balls aforesaid, as well from the tops as from the castles, and at the same time the calthrops, linstocks, stink-balls ["pildoras"], grenades, and the scorpions for the sails and rigging. At this moment they should sound all the trumpets, and with a lusty cheer from every ship at once they should grapple and fight with every kind of weapon, those with staffed scythes or shear-hooks cutting the enemy's rigging, and the others with the fire instruments ["trompas y bocas de fuego"] raining fire down on the enemy's rigging and crew.
III. The captain-general should encourage all in the battle, and because he cannot be heard with his voice he should bid the signal for action to be made with his trumpet or flag or with his topsail.
IV. And he should keep a look-out in every direction in readiness, when he sees any of his ships in danger, to order the ships of reserve to give succour, if by chance they have not seen it, or else himself to bear in with his own ship.
V. The flagship should take great care not to grapple another, for then he could not see what is passing in the battle nor control it. And besides his own side in coming to help and support him might find themselves out of action; or peradventure if any accident befell him, the rest of the fleet would be left without guidance and would not have care to succour one another, but so far as they were able would fly or take their own course. Accordingly the captain-general should never be of the first who are to grapple nor should he enter into the press, so that he may watch the fighting and bring succour where it is most needed.
VI. The ships of support in like manner should have care to keep somewhat apart and not to grapple till they see where they should first bring succour. The more they keep clear the more will they have opportunity of either standing off and using their guns, or of coming to close range with their other firearms. Moreover, if any ship of the enemy takes to flight, they will be able to give chase or get athwart her hawse, and will be able to watch and give succour wherever the captain-general signals.
VII. The boats in like manner should not close in till they see the ships grappled, and then they should come up on the opposite side in the manner stated above, and carry out their  special duties as occasion arises either with their bases12,of which each shall carry its own, and with their harquebuses, or else by getting close in and wedging up the rudders, or cutting them and their gear away, or by leaping in upon the enemy, if they can climb in without being seen, or from outside by setting fire to them, or scuttling them with augers13.
1)  Fernandez Duro, "De algunas obras desconocidas de Cosmografia y de Namgaaon, &c." Reprinted from the "Revista de Navegacion y Comercio". Madrid, 1894-5.
2) "Armada Espanola desde la union de los Reines de Castilla y de Aragon".
3) "Entrar y sali" --lit. 'to go in and come out,' a technical military expression used of light cavalry. It seems generally to signify short sudden attacks on weak points.
4) Here follow directions for telling off a fourth of the largest boats in the fleet for certain duties which are sufficiently explained in the section on 'Battle' below.
5) "Unos en pos de otros a la hila" --lit. one behind the other in file.
6) "En escuadrones o en ala" In military diction these words meant 'deep formation' and 'single line.' Here probably "ala" means line abreast. See next note.
7) "Cado uno de los escuadrones debe ir en ala". Here  "escuadrone" must mean 'squadron' in the modern sense of a division, and from the context "ala" can mean nothing but 'line abreast,' 'line ahead' being strictly forbidden.
8) This, of course, refers to fire tactics ashore. The meaning is that a ship, when she has delivered her fire, cannot retire by countermarch and leave her next in file to deliver its fire in turn. The whole system, it will be seen, is based on end-on fire, as a preparation for boarding and small-arm fighting.
9) "Viniere toda junta puesta in ala".
10) This sentence in the original is incomplete, running on into the next chapter. For clearness the construction has been altered in the translation.
11) This remarkable evolution is a little obscure. The Spanish has "y moviendo asimismo los otros del otro bordo, aquellos que tienen sus carretones que andan per cima de cubierta y toldo"
12) "Versos", breech-loading pieces of the secondary armament of ships, and for aiming boats. Bases were of the high penetration or 'culverin' type.
13) "Dando barrenos". This curious duty of the armed boats he has more fully explained in the section on single ship actions, as follows: 'The ships being grappled, the boat ready equipped should put off to the enemy's ship under her poop, and get fast hold of her, and first cut away her rudder, or at least jam it with half a dozen wedges in such wise that it cannot steer or move, and if there is a chance for more, without being seen, bore half a dozen auger holes below the water-line, so that the ship founders.'
The rest of the chapter is concerned with the treatment of the dead and wounded, pursuit of the enemy when victory is won, and the refitting of the fleet.

The next extract predates the development of gunnery, but these English fleet orders were used well into the late Tudor period.




The instructions drawn up by Thomas Audley by order of Henry VIII may be taken as the last word in England of the purely mediaeval time, before the development of gunnery, and particularly of broadside fire, had sown the seeds of more modern tactics. They were almost certainly drafted from long-established precedents, for Audley was a lawyer. The document is undated, but since Audley is mentioned without any rank or title, it was probably before November 1531, when he became sergeant-at-law and king's sergeant, and certainly before May 1632 when he was knighted. It was at this time that Henry VIII was plunging into his Reformation policy, and had every reason to be prepared for complications abroad, and particularly with Spain, which was then the leading naval Power.
The last two articles, increasing the authority of the council of war, were probably insisted on, as Mr. Oppenheim has pointed out in view of Sir Edward Howard's attempts on French ports in 1512 and 1513, the last of which ended in disaster.1
1) Administration of the Royal Navy, p. 63.

[Brit. Mus. Harleian MSS. 309, fol. 42, et seq.1]

If they meet with the enemy the admiral must apply to get the wind of the enemy by all the means he can, for that is the advantage. No private captain should board the admiral enemy but the admiral of the English, except he cannot come to the enemy's, as the matter may so fall out without they both the one seek the other. And if they chase the enemy let them that chase shoot no ordnance till he be ready to board him, for that will let2 his ship's way.
Let every ship match equally as near as they can, and leave some pinnaces at liberty to help the overmatched. And one small ship when they shall join battle3  [is] to be attending on the admiral to relieve him, for the overcoming of the admiral is a great discouragement of the rest of the other side.
In case you board your enemy enter not till you see the smoke gone and then shoot off all your pieces, your port-pieces, the pieces of hail-shot, [and] cross-bow shot to beat his cage deck, and if you see his deck well ridden4 then enter with your best men, but first win
his tops in any wise if it be possible. In case you see there come rescue bulge5 the enemy ship [but] first take heed your own men be retired, [and] take the captain with certain of the best with him, the rest [to be] committed to the sea, for else they will turn upon you to your confusion.
The admiral ought to have this order before he joins battle with the enemy, that all his ships shall bear a flag in their mizen-tops, and himself one in the foremast beside the mainmast, that everyone may know his own fleet by that token. If he see a hard match with the enemy and be to leeward, then to gather his fleet together and seem to flee, and flee indeed for this purpose till the enemy draw within gunshot. And when the enemy doth shoot then [he shall] shoot again, and make all the smoke he can to the intent the enemy shall not see the ships, and [then] suddenly hale up his tackle aboard6, and have the wind of the enemy. And by this policy it is possible to win the weather-gage of the enemy, and then he hath a great advantage, and this may well be done if it be well foreseen beforehand, and every captain and master made privy to it beforehand at whatsoever time such disadvantage shall happen.
The admiral shall not take in hand any exploit to land or enter into any harbour enemy with the king's ships, but7 he call a council and make the captains privy to his device and the best masters in the fleet or pilots, known to be skilful men on that coast or place where
he intendeth to do his exploit, and by good advice. Otherwise the fault ought to be laid on the admiral if anything should happen but well8.
And if he did an exploit without assent of the captains and [it] proved well, the king ought to put him out of his room for purposing a matter of such charge of his own brain, whereby the whole fleet might fall into the hands of the enemy to the destruction of the king's
1) A Book of Orders for the War both by Land and Sea, written by
Thomas Audley at the command of King Henry VIII.
2) I.e. hinder.
3) MS. 'the shot of.' The whole MS. has evidently been very carelessly
copied and is full of small blunders, which have been corrected in the
text above. 'Board' till comparatively recent times meant to close with
a ship. 'Enter' was our modern 'board.'
4) 'Ridden' = 'cleared.'
5) 'Bulge' = 'scuttle.' A ship was said to bulge herself when she ran
aground and filled.
6) The passage should probably read 'hale or haul his tacks aboard.'
7) I.e. 'without,' 'unless.'
8) It was under this old rule that Boroughs lodged his protest against
Drake's entering Cadiz in 1587.
9) The rest of the articles relate to discipline, internal order of ships, and securing prize cargoes.




These two sets of orders were drawn up by the lord high admiral in rapid succession in August 1545, during the second stage of Henry VIII's last war with France. In the previous month D'Annibault, the French admiral, had been compelled to abandon his attempt on Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, and retire to recruit upon his own coast; and Lord Lisle was about to go out and endeavour to bring him to action.
The orders, it will be seen, are a distinct advance on those of 1530, and betray strongly the influence of Spanish ideas as formulated, by De Chaves. So striking indeed is the resemblance in many points; that we perhaps may trace it to Henry's recent alliance with Charles V. The main difference was that Henry's 'wings' were composed of oared craft, and to form them of sufficient strength he had had some of the newest and smartest 'galliasses,' or 'galleys'--that is, his vessels specially built for men-of-war--fitted with oars. The reason for this was that the French fleet was a mixed one, the sailing division having been reinforced by a squadron of galleys from the Mediterranean. The elaborate attempts to combine the two types tactically--a problem which the Italian admirals had hitherto found insoluble--points to an advanced study of the naval art that is entirely characteristic of Henry VIII.
The main idea of the first order is of a vanguard in three ranks, formed of the most powerful hired merchant ships and the king's own galleons and great ships, and supported by a strong rearguard of smaller armed merchantmen, and by two oared wings on either flank composed of royal and private vessels combined. The vanguard was to be marshalled with its three ranks so adjusted that its general form was that of a blunt wedge. In the first rank come eight of the large merchantmen, mainly Hanseatic vessels; in the second, ten of the royal navy and one private vessel; in the third, nineteen second-rate merchantmen. The tactical aim is clearly that the heavy Hanseatic ships should, as De Chaves says, receive the first shock and break up the enemy's formation for the royal ships, while the third rank are in position to support. The wings, which were specially told off to keep the galleys in check, correspond to the reserve of De Chaves, and the importance attached to them is seen in the fact that they contained all the king's galleons of the latest type.
In the second set of instructions, issued on August 10, this order was considerably modified. The fleet had been increased by the arrival of some of the west-country ships, and a new order of battle was drawn up which is printed in the State Papers, Henry VIII (Old Series), i. 810. The formation, though still retaining the blunt wedge design, was simplified. We have now a vanguard of 24 ships, a 'battaill' or main body of 40 ships, and one 'wing' of 40 oared 'galliasses, shallops and boats of war.' The 'wing' however, was still capable of acting in two divisions, for, unlike the vanguard and 'battaill,' it had a vice-admiral as well as an admiral.

LORD LISLE, No. 1, 1545.
Le Fleming MSS. No. 21

The Order of Battle2
These be the ships appointed for the first rank of the vanguard:
In primis:
The Great Argosy.
The Samson Lubeck.
The Johannes Lubeck.
The Trinity of Dantzig.
The Mary of Hamburg.
The Pellican.
The Morion [of Dantzig].
The Sepiar [of Dantzig].
        = 8.
The second rank of the vanguard:
The Harry Grace a Dieu.
The Venetian.
The Peter Pomegranate.
The Mathew Gonson.
The Pansy.
The Great Galley.
The Sweepstake.
The Minion.
The Swallow.
The New Bark.
The Saul 'Argaly.'
        = 12 (sic).
The third rank of the vanguard:
The Berste Denar.
The Falcon Lively.
The Harry Bristol.
The Trinity Smith.
The Margaret of Bristol.
The Trinity Reniger.
The Mary James.
The Pilgrim of Dartmouth.
The Mary Gorge of Rye.
The Thomas Tipkins.
The Gorges Brigges.
The Anne Lively.
        = 12.
The John Evangelist.
The Thomas Modell.
The Lartycke [or 'Lartigoe'].
The Christopher Bennet.
The Mary Fortune.
The Mary Marten.
The Trinity Bristol.
        = 7.
Galleys and ships of the right wing:
The Great Mistress of England.
The Salamander.
The Jennet.
The Lion.
The Greyhound.
The Thomas Greenwich.
The Lesser Pinnace.
The Hind.
The Harry.
The Galley Subtle.
Two boats of Rye.
        = 12.
Galleys and ships of the left wing:
The Anne Gallant.
The Unicorn.
The Falcon.
The Dragon.
The Sacre.
The Merlin.
The Rae.
The Reniger pinnace.
The Foyst.
Two boats of Rye.
        = 11.
The Fighting Instructions
Item.  It is to be considered that the ranks must keep suchorder in sailing that none impeach another. Wherefore it is requisite that every of the said ranks keep right way with another, and take such regard to the observing of the same that no ship pass his fellows forward nor backward nor slack anything, but [keep] as they were in one line, and that there may be half a cable length between every of the ships.
Item. The first rank shall make sail straight to the front of the battle and shall pass through them, and so shall make a short return to the midwards as they may, and they [are] to have a special regard to the course of the second rank; which two ranks is appointed to lay aboard the principal ships of the enemy, every man choosing3 his mate as they may, reserving the admiral for my lord admiral.
Item. That every ship of the first rank shall bear a flag of St. George's cross upon the fore topmast for the space of the fight, which upon the king's determination shall be on Monday, the 10th of August, "anno" 15454.
And every ship appointed to the middle rank shall for the space of the fight bear a flag of St. George's cross upon her mainmast.
And every ship of the third rank shall bear a like flag upon his mizen5 mast top, and every of the said wings shall have in their tops a flag of St. George.
Item. The victuallers shall follow the third rank and shall bear in their tops their flags. Also that neither of the said wings shall further enter into fight; but, having advantage as near anigh6 as they can of the wind, shall give succour as they shall see occasion, and shall not give care to any of the small vessels to weaken our force. There be, besides the said ships mentioned, to be joined to the foresaid battle fifty sail of western ships, and whereof be seven great hulks of 888 ton apiece, and there is also the number of 1,200 of soldiers beside mariners in all the said ships.
1) A similar list of ships is in a MS. in the Cambridge University Library.
2) This paper gives the order of the wings and vanguard only. The fifty west-country ships that were presumably to form the rearguard had not
yet joined.
3) MS. 'closing.'
4) The fleets did not get contact till August 15.
5) MS. 'messel.'
6) MS. 'a snare a nye.' The passage is clearly corrupt. Perhaps it should read 'neither of the said wings shall further enter into the fight but as nigh as they can keeping advantage of the wind [i.e. without losing the weather-gage of any part of the enemy's fleet] but
shall give succour,' &c.

Record Office, State Papers, Henry VIII.

"The Order for the said Fleet taken by the Lord Admiral the 10th day of August, 1545".1
I. First, it is to be considered that every of the captains with the said ships appointed by this order to the vanward, battle and wing shall ride at anchor according as they be appointed to sail by the said order; and no ship of any of the said wards or wing shall presume to come to an anchor before the admiral of the said ward.
II. Item, that every captain of the said wards or wing shall be in everything ordered by the admiral of the same.
III. Item, when we shall see a convenient time to fight with the enemies our vanward shall make with their vanward if they have any; and if they be in one company, our vanward, taking the advantage of the wind, shall set upon their foremost rank, bringing them out of order; and our vice-admiral shall seek to board their vice-admiral, and every captain shall choose his equal as near as he may.
IV. Item, the admiral of the wing shall be always in the wind with his whole company; and when we shall join with the enemies he shall keep still the advantage of the wind, to the intent he with his company may the better beat off the galleys from the great ships.2
1) The articles are preceded, like the first ones, by a list of ships or 'battle order,' showing an organisation into a vanward, main body (battle), and one wing of oared craft. 
2) Of the remaining seven articles, five relate to distinguishing squadronal flags and lights as in the earlier instructions, and the last one to the Watchword of the night. It is to be 'God save King Henry,' and the answer, 'And long to reign over us.'


No fighting instructions known to have been issued in the reign of Elizabeth have been found, nor is there any indication that a regular order of battle was ever laid down by the seamen-admirals of her time.1 Even Howard's great fleet of 1588 had twice been in action with the Armada before it was so much as organised into squadrons. If anything of the kind was introduced later in her reign Captain Nathaniel Boteler, who had served in the Jacobean navy and wrote on the subject early in the reign of Charles I, was ignorant of it. In his Dialogues about Sea Services, he devotes the sixth to 'Ordering of Fleets in Sailing, Chases, Boardings and Battles,' but although he suggests a battle order which we know was never put in practice, he is unable to give one that had been used by an English fleet.2 It is not surprising. In the despatches of the Elizabethan admirals, though they have much to say on strategy, there is not a word of fleet tactics, as we understand the thing. The domination of the seamen's idea of naval warfare, the increasing handiness of ships, the improved design of their batteries, the special progress made by Englishmen in guns and gunnery led rapidly to the preference of broadside gunfire over boarding, and to an exaggeration of the value of individual mobility ; and the old semi-military formations based on small-arm fighting were abandoned.

At the same time, although the seamen-admirals did not trouble or were not sufficiently advanced to devise a battle order to suit their new weapon, there are many indications that, consciously or unconsciously, they developed a tendency inherent in the broadside idea to fall in action into a rough line ahead; that is to say, the practice was usually to break up into groups as occasion dictated, and for each group to deliver its broadsides in succession on an exposed point of the enemy's formation. That the armed merchantmen conformed regularly to this idea is very improbable. The faint pictures we have of their well-meant efforts present them to us attacking in a loose throng and masking each other's fire.
But that the queen's ships did not attempt to observe any order is not so clear. When the combined fleet of Howard and Drake was first sighted by the Armada, it is said by two Spanish eye-witnesses to have been in a/a, and 'in very fine order.' And the second of Adams's charts, upon which the famous House of Lords' tapestries were designed, actually represents the queen's ships standing out of Plymouth inline ahead, and coming to the attack in a similar but already disordered formation. Still there can be no doubt that, however far a rudimentary form of line ahead was carried by the Elizabethans, it was a matter of minor tactics and not of a battle order, and was rather instinctive than the perfected result of a serious attempt to work out a tactical system. The only actual account of a fleet formation which we have is still on the old lines, and it was for review purposes only. Ubaldino, in his second narrative, which he says was inspired by Drake, relates that when Drake put out of Plymouth to receive Howard ' he sallied from port to meet him with his thirty ships in equal ranks, three ships deep, making honourable display of his masterly and diligent handling, with the pinnaces and small craft thrown forward as though to reconnoitre the ships that were approaching, which is their office.' Nothing, however, is more certain in the unhappily vague accounts of the 1588 campaign than that no such battle order as this was used in action against the Armada.

It is not till the close of the West Indian Expedition of 1596, when, after Hawkins and Drake were both dead, Colonel-General Sir Thomas Baskerville, the commander of the landing force, was left in charge of the retreating fleet, that we get any trace of a definite battle formation. In his action off the Isla de Pinos he seems, so far as we can read the obscure description, to have formed his fleet into wo divisions abreast, each in line ahead. The queen's ships are described at least as engaging in succession according to previous directions till all had had 'their course.'

Henry Savile, whose intemperate and enthusiastic defence of his commander was printed by Hakluyt, further says: 'Our general was the foremost and so held his place until, by order of fight, other ships were to have their turns according to his former direction, who wisely and politicly had so ordered his vanguard and rearward; and as the manner of it was altogether strange to the Spaniard, so might they have been without hope of victory, if their general had been a man of judgment in seafights.

Here, then, if we may trust Savile, a definite battle order must have been laid down beforehand on the new lines, and it is possible that in the years which had elapsed since the Armada campaign the seamen had been giving serious attention to a tactical system, which the absence of naval actions prevented reaching any degree of development. Had the idea been Baskerville's own it is very unlikely that the veteran sea-captains on his council of war would have assented to its adoption. At any rate we may assert that the idea of ships attacking in succession so as to support one another without masking each other's broadside fire (which is the essential germ of the true line ahead) was in the air, and it is clearly on the principle that underlay Baskerville's tactics that Ralegh's fighting instructions were based twenty years later.

These which are the first instructions known to have been issued to an English fleet since Henry VIll's time were signed by Sir Walter Ralegh on May 3, 1617, at Plymouth, on the eve of his sailing for his ill-fated expedition to Guiana.

The articles are in the nature of ' Articles of War' and 'Sailing Instructions' rather than ' Fighting Instructions,' but the whole are printed below for their general interest. A contemporary writer, quoted by Edwards in his Life of Ralegh, says of them:

'There is no precedent of so godly, severe, and martial government, fit to be written and engraven in every man's soul that covets to do honour to his king and country in this or like attempts.'

But this cannot be taken quite literally. So far at least as they relate to discipline, some of Ralegh's articles may be traced back in the Black Book of the Admiralty to the fourteenth century, while the illogical arrangement of the whole points, as in the case of the Additional Fighting Instructions of the eighteenth century, to a gradual growth from precedent to precedent by the accretion of expeditional orders added from time to time by individual admirals.

The process of formation may be well studied in Lord Wimbledon's first orders, where Ralegh's special expeditional additions will be found absorbed and adapted to the conditions of a larger fleet. Moreover, there is evidence that, with the exception of those articles which were designed in view of the special destination of Ralegh's voyage, the whole of them were based on an early Elizabethan precedent.

For the history of English tactics the point is of considerable importance, especially in view of his twenty-ninth article, which lays down the method of attack when the weather-gage has been secured. This has hitherto been believed to be new and presumably Ralegh's own, in spite of the difficulty of believing that a man entirely without experience of fleet actions at sea could have hit upon so original and effective a tactical design. The evidence, however, that Ralegh borrowed it from an earlier set of orders is fairly clear.

Amongst the Stowe MSS. in the British Museum there is a small quarto treatise (No. 426) entitled 'Observations and overtures for a sea fight upon our own coasts, and what kind of order and discipline is fitted to be used in martialling and directing our navies against the preparations of such Spanish Armadas or others as shall at any time come to assail us.' From internal evidence and directly from another copy of it in the Lansdown MSS.(No. 213), we know it to be the work of 'William Gorges, gentleman.' He is to be identified as ason of Sir William Gorges, for he tells us he was afloat with his father in the Dreadnought as early as 1578, when Sir William was admiral on the Irish station with a squadron ordered to intercept the filibustering expedition which Sir Thomas Stucley was about to attempt under the auspices of Pope Gregory XIII.

Sir William was a cousin of Ralegh's and brother to Sir Arthur Gorges, who was Ralegh's captain in the Azores expedition of 1597, and who in Ralegh's interest wrote the account of the campaign which Purchas printed.

Though William, the son, freely quotes the experiences of the Armada campaign of 1588, he is not known to have ever held a naval command, and he calls himself 'unexperienced.' We may take it therefore that his treatise was mainly inspired by Ralegh, to whom indeed a large part of it is sometimes attributed. This question, however, is of small importance. The gist of the matter is a set of fleet orders which he has appended as a precedent at the end of his treatise, and it is on these orders that Ralegh's are clearly based. They commence with fourteen articles, consisting mainly of sailing instructions, similar to those which occur later in Ralegh's set. The fifteenth deals with fighting and bloodshed among the crews, and the dedication is no guide to the date of the orders in the Appendix.

The important question is, how much earlier than Ralegh's are these orders of Gorges's treatise?

Can we approximately fix their date?

Certainly not with any degree of precision, but nevertheless we are not quite without light. To begin with there is the harsh punishment for not attending prayers, which is thoroughly characteristic of Tudor times. Then there is an article, which Ralegh omits, relating to the use of ' musket-arrows.' Gorges's article runs: 'If musket-arrows be used, to have great regard that they use not but half the ordinary charge of powder, otherwise more powder will make the arrow fly double.' Now these arrows we know to have been in high favour for their power of penetrating musket-proof defences about the time of the Armada. They were a purely English device, and were taken by Richard Hawkins upon his voyage to the South Sea in 1593.

Arrow Firing Vase Cannon similar to one's used by Richard Hawkins,
fell out of use by the 17th Century.

He highly commends them, but nevertheless they appear to have fallen out of fashion, and no trace of their use in Jacobean times has been found.

A still more suggestive indication exists in the heading which is prefixed to Gorges's Appendix. It runs as follows :—' A form of orders and directions to be given by an admiral in conducting a fleet through the Narrow Seas for the better keeping together or relieving one another upon any occasion of distress or separation by weather or by giving chase. For the understanding whereof suppose that a fleet of his majesty's consisting of twenty or thirty sail were bound for serving on the west part of Ireland, as Kinsale haven for example.' The words 'his majesty' show the Appendix was penned under James I; but why did Gorges select this curious example for explaining his orders?

We can only remember that it was exactly upon such an occasion that he had served with his father in 1578. There is therefore at least a possibility that the orders in question may be a copy or an adaptation of some which Sir William Gorges had issued ten years before the Armada. Certainly no situation had arisen since Elizabeth's death to put such an idea into the writer's head, and the points of rendezvous mentioned in Gorges's first article are exactly those which Sir William would naturally have given.

On evidence so inconclusive no certainty can be attained. All we can say is that Gorges's Appendix points to a possibility that Ralegh's remarkable twenty-ninth article may have been as old as the middle of Elizabeth's reign, and that the reason why it has not survived in the writings of any of the great Elizabethan admirals is either that the tactics it enjoins were regarded as a secret of the seamen's 'mystery' or were too trite or commonplace to need enunciation. At any rate in the face of the Gorges precedent it cannot be said, without reservation, that this rudimentary form of line ahead or attack in succession was invented by Ralegh, or that it was not known to the men who fought the Armada.

Amongst other articles of special interest, as showing how firmly the English naval tradition was already fixed, should be noticed the twenty-fifth, relating to seamen gunners, the twenty-sixth, forbiding action at more than point-blank range, and above all the fifth and sixth, aimed at obliterating all distinction between soldiers and sailors aboard ship, and at securing that unity of service between the and and sea forces which has been the peculiar distinction of the national instinct for war.
As to the tactical principle upon which the Elizabethan form of attack was based, it must be noted that was to demoralise the enemy—to drive him into 'utter confusion.' The point is important, for this conception of tactics held its place till it was ultimately supplanted by the idea of concentrating on part of his fleet.
[State Papers Domestic xcii. f. 9.]
Orders to be observed by the commanders of the fleet and land companies under the charge and conduct of Sir Walter Ralegh, Knight, bound for the south parts of America or elsewhere.

Given at Plymouth in Devon, the 3rd of May, 1617.
First. Because no action nor enterprise can prosper, be it by sea or by land, without the favour and assistance of Almighty God, the Lord and strength of hosts and armies, you shall not fail to cause divine service to be read in your ship morning and evening, in the morning before dinner, and in the evening before supper, or at least (if there be interruption by foul weather) once in the day, praising God every night with the singing of a psalm at the setting of the watch.

2. You shall take especial care that God be not blasphemed in your ship, but that after admonition given, if the offenders do not reform themselves, you shall cause them of the meaner sort to be ducked at yard-arm; and the better sort to be fined out their adventure. By which course if no amendment be found, you shall acquaint me withal, delivering me the names of the offenders. For if it be threatened in the Scriptures that the curse shall not depart from the house of the swearer, much less shall it depart from the ship of the swearer.
3. Thirdly, no man shall refuse to obey his officer in all that he is commanded for the benefit of the journey. No man being in health shall refuse to watch his turn as he shall be directed, the sailors by the master and boatswain, the landsmen by their captain, lieutenant, or other officers.

4. You shall make in every ship two captains of the watch, who shall make choice of two soldiers every night to search between the decks that no fire or candlelight be carried about the ship after the watch be set, nor that any candle be burning in any cabin without a lantern; and that neither, but whilst they are to make themselves unready. For there is no danger so inevitable as the ship firing, which may also as well happen by taking of tobacco between the decks, and therefore [it is] forbidden to all men but aloft the upper deck.
5. You shall cause all your landsmen to learn the names and places of the ropes, that they may assist the sailors in their labour upon the decks, though they cannot go up to the tops and yards.

6. You shall train and instruct your sailors, so many as shall be found fit, as you do your landsmen, and register their names in the list of your companies, making no difference of professions, but that all be esteemed sailors and all soldiers, for your troops will be very weak when you come to land without the assistance of your seafaring men.
7. You shall not give chase nor send abroad any ship but by order from the general, and if you come near any ship in your course, if she be belonging to any prince or state in league or amity with his majesty, you shall not take anything from them by
force, upon pain to be punished as pirates; although in manifest extremity you may (agreeing for the price) relieve yourselves with things necessary, giving bonds for the same. Provided that it be not to the disfurnishing of any such ship, whereby the
owner or merchant be endangered for the ship or goods.
8. You shall every night fall astern the general's ship, and follow his light, receiving instructions in the morning what course to hold. And if you shall at any time be separated by foul weather, you shall receive billets sealed up, the first to be opened on this side the North Cape, if there be cause, the second to be opened beyond the South Cape, the third after you shall pass 23 degrees, and the fourth from the height of Cape Verd.

9. If you discover any sail at sea, either to windward or to leeward of the admiral, or if any two or three of our fleet shall discover any such like sail which the admiral cannot discern, if she be a great ship and but one, you shall strike your main topsail and hoist it again so often as you judge the ship to be hundred tons of burthen; or if you judge her to be 200 tons to strike and hoist twice; if 300 tons thrice, and answerable to your opinion of her greatness.
10. If you discover a small ship, you shall do the like with your fore topsail; but if you discover many great ships you shall not only strike your main topsail often, but put out your ensign in the maintop. And if such fleet or ship go large before the wind, you shall also after your sign given go large and stand as any of the fleet doth: I mean no longer than that you may judge that the admiral and the rest have seen your sign and you so standing. And if you went large at the time of the discovery you shall hale of your sheets for a little time, and then go large again that the rest may know that you go large to show us that the ship or fleet discovered keeps that course.
11. So shall you do if the ship or fleet discovered have her tacks aboard, namely, if you had also your tacks aboard at the time of the discovery, you shall bear up for a little time, and after hale your sheets again to show us what course the ship or fleet holds.
12. If you discover any ship or fleet by night, if the ship or fleet be to windward of you, and you to windward of the admiral, you shall presently bear up to give us knowledge. But if you think that (did you not bear up) you might speak withher, then you shall keep your luff, and shoot off a piece of ordnance to give us knowledge thereby.

13. For a general rule: Let none presume to shoot off a piece of ordnance but in discovery of a ship or fleet by night, or by being in danger of an enemy, or in danger of fire, or in danger of sinking, that it may be unto us all a most certain intelligence of some matter of importance.

14. And you shall make us know the difference by this: if you give chase and being near a ship you shall shoot to make her strike, we shall all see and know that you shoot to that end if it be by day ; if by night, we shall then know that you have seen a ship or fleet none of our company; and if you suspect we do not hear the first piece then you may shoot a second, but not otherwise, and you must take almost a quarter of an hour between your two pieces.
I5. If you be in danger of a leak—I mean in present danger—you shall shoot off two pieces presently one after another, and if in danger of fire, three pieces presently one after another; but if there be time between we will know by your second
piece that you doubt that we do not hear your first piece, and therefore you shoot a second, to wit by night, and give time between.
16. There is no man that shall strike any officer be he captain, lieutenant, ensign, sergeant, corporal of the field, quartermaster, &c.
17. Nor the master of any ship, master's mate, or boatswain, or quartermaster. I say no man shall strike or offer violence to any of these but the supreme officer to the inferior, in time of service, upon pain of death.
18. No private man shall strike another, upon pain of receiving such punishment as a martial court shall think him worthy of.
19. If any man steal any victuals, either by breaking into the hold or otherwise, he shall receive the punishment as of a thief or murderer of his fellows. 
20. No man shall keep any feasting or drinking between meals, nor drink any healths upon your ship's provisions.

21. Every captain by his purser, stewards, or other officers shall take a weekly account how his victuals waste.

22. The steward shall not deliver any candle to any private man nor for any private use.

23. Whosoever shall steal from his fellows either apparel or anything else shall be punished as a thief.
24. In foul weather every man shall fit his sails to keep company with the fleet, and not run so far ahead by day but that he may fall astern the admiral by night.
25. In case we shall be set upon by sea, the captain shall appoint sufficient company to assist the gunners; after which, if the fight require it, in the cabins between the decks shall be taken down [and]
all beds and sacks employed for bulwarks.

26. The gunners shall not shoot any great ordnance at other distance than point blank.

27. An officer or two shall be appointed to take care that no loose powder be carried between the decks, or near any linstock or match-in-hand. You shall saw divers hogsheads in two parts, and filling them with water set them aloft the decks. You shall
divide your carpenters, some in hold if any shot come between wind and water, and the rest between the decks, with plates of leads, plugs, and all things necessary laid by them. You shall also lay by your tubs of water certain wet blankets to cast upon and
choke any fire.

28. The master and boatswain shall appoint a certain number of sailors to every sail, and to every such company a master's mate, a boatswain's mate or quartermaster; so as when every man knows his charge and his place things may be done withoutnoise or confusion, and no man [is] to speak but the officers. As, for example, if the master or his mate bid heave out the main topsail, the master's mate, boatswain's mate or quartermaster which hath charge of that sail shall with his company perform it, without calling out to others and without rumour, and so for the foresail, fore topsail, spritsail and the rest; the boatswain himself taking no particular charge of any sail, but overlooking all and seeing every man to do his duty.

29. No man shall board his enemy's ship without order, because the loss of a ship to us is of more importance than the loss of ten ships to the enemy, as also by one man's boarding all our fleet may be engaged; it being too great a dishonour to lose the least of our fleet. But every ship, if we be under the lee of an enemy, shall labour to recover the wind if the admiral endeavours it. But if we find an enemy to be leewards of us, the whole fleet shall follow the admiral, vice-admiral, or other leading ship within musket shot of the enemy; giving so much liberty to the leading ship as after her broadside delivered she may stay and trim her sails. Then is the second ship to tack as the first ship and give the other side, keeping the enemy under a perpetual shot. This you must do upon the windermost ship or ships of an enemy, which you shall either batter in pieces, or force him or them to bear up and so entangle them, and drive them foul one of another to their utter confusion.

30. The musketeers, divided into quarters of the ship, shall not deliver their shot but at such distance as their commanders shall direct them.

31. If the admiral give chase and be headmost man, the next ship shall take up his boat, if other order be not given. Or if any other ship be appointed to give chase, the next ship (if the chasing ship have a boat at her stern) shall take it.

32. If any make a ship to strike, he shall not enter her until the admiral come up.
33. You shall take especial care for the keeping of your ships clean between the decks, [and] to have your ordnance ready in order, and not cloyed with chests and trunks.

34. Let those that have provision of victual deliver it to the steward, and every man put his apparel in canvas cloak bags, except some few chests which do not pester the ship.

35. Everyone that useth any weapon of fire, be it musket or other piece, shall keep it clean, and if he be not able to amend it being out of order, he shall presently acquaint his officer therewith, who shall command the armourer to mend it.

36. No man shall play at cards or dice either for his apparel or arms upon pain of being disarmed and made a swabber of the ship.
37, Whosoever shall show himself a coward upon any landing or otherwise, he shall be disarmed and made a labourer or carrier of victuals for the rest.
38. No man shall land any man in any foreign ports without order from the general, by the sergeant-major or other officer, upon pain of death.
39. You shall take especial care when God shall send us to land in the Indies, not to eat of any fruit unknown, which fruit you do not find eaten with worms or beasts under the tree.

40. You shall avoid sleeping on the ground, and eating of new fish until it be salted two or three hours, which will otherwise breed a most dangerous flux; so will the eating of over-fat hogs or fat turtles.
41. You shall take care that you swim not in any rivers but where you see the Indians swim, because most rivers are full of alligators.

42. You shall not take anything from any Indian by force, for if you do it we shall never from thenceforth be relieved by them, but you must use them with all courtesy. But for trading and exchanging with them, it must be done by one or two of every ship for all the rest, and those to be directed by the cape merchant of the ship, otherwise all our commodities will become of vile price, greatly to our hindrance.
43. For other orders on the land we will establish them (when God shall send us thither) by general consent. In the meantime I shall value every man, honour the better sort, and reward the meaner according to their sobriety and taking care for the service of God and prosperity of our enterprise.

44. When the admiral shall hang out a flag in the main shrouds, you shall know it to be a flag of council. Then come aboard him.
45. And wheresoever we shall find cause to land, no man shall force any woman be she Christian or heathen, upon pain of death.

The Elizabethans had made a massive technological leap: their guns were of standard size, and made from stronger cast iron. Instead of a large number of small guns, they had a small number of bigger guns. They had longer range and a consistent rate; their effectiveness meant that naval tactics remains essentially unchanged for two hundred years afterwards.

"This marked the beginning of a kind of mechanization of war," says naval historian Professor Eric Grove of Salford University for the program. "The ship is now a gun platform in a way that it wasn’t before."

The advancements in naval armament also coincided with new types of ships. English ship designers began building light, large ships known as a "race-built" galleon, which  came into favour in northern Europe during the middle of the 16th century. The far-ranging experience of mariners and improved construction techniques led to great fighting ships that were both lower in the water and more seaworthy than their predecessors. The sides now sloped inward from the lowest gun deck up to the weather deck. This “tumble home” helped concentrate the weight of the large broadside guns toward the centreline, improving the ship’s stability.

By this time it had become normal for warships to mount powerful broadsides of 28 or more ship-smashing guns, a much heavier armament in proportion to their size than their predecessors. For their handy, maneuverable ships, the British had relatively large cannon carried in broadsides. Thus they were designed for off-fighting, permitting the English fleet to get the most out of its ships’ superior maneuvering qualities. When the Spanish Armada arrived in 1588, the British sought and fought a sea battle with ship-killing guns, rather than the conventional fleet engagement of the past that concentrated on ramming, boarding, and killing men in hand-to-hand combat. With superior ability and long-range culverins, the English ships punished the invading fleet outside the effective range of the heavy but shorter-range cannon the Spanish favoured. This historic running battle of July 1588 closed one era and opened a greater one of big-gun sailing navies.

The late Elizabethan galleon that began the true fighting ship of the line reached its culmination in England’s Prince Royal of 1610 and the larger Sovereign of the Seas of 1637, along with similar great ships in other European navies. These two English ships mounted broadside guns on three decks; the Sovereign of the Seas, the most formidable ship afloat of its time, carried 100 guns. In this mobile fortress displacing approximately 1,500 tons, there was some reduction of height; the bonaventure mizzen disappeared, leaving the standard three masts that capital ships thereafter carried. Soon, ships were rated, and new tactics were developed for the 17th century.

Soveriegn of the Seas
The Sovereign of the Seas, English galleon of the Anglo-Dutch wars.
Launched in 1637, this was the largest warship of its time and the first to carry 100 guns.
The prominent beak at its bow soon went out of fashion, but its three gun decks and low sterncastle and forecastle set the pattern for ships of the line for the rest of the sailing era.
Contemporary engraving by J. Jayne.