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The Spanish Armada


Across the water, a single burning light moved through the midnight darkness. Then another, and another. Eventually, eight were seen. For the lookouts of the sight they’d been dreading. The Spanish knew exactly what these flames were. The English had taken eight ships, packed them with pitch, rags and old timber, daubed the masts and decks with tar and silently sailed them towards the Armada, as it lay anchored offff Calais. They’d then set them alight before escaping in boats towed behind the vessels.

The Spanish intercepted two of the blazing ships, but the others drifted on, right into the heart of the fleet. Fear took hold of the Spaniards. Fear that the floating infernos would set their own vessels on fire or, worse still, that they were packed with gunpowder and may explode at any moment. The Spanish captains panicked. Cutting their anchor cables, they made for the safety of the open sea. When dawn broke, the Spanish Armada was scattered out to sea and the English were ready to move in for the kill.

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