Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Spanish Armada abandons the galleon Nuestra Senora del Rosario

As dusk came on on 21 July Don Pedro de Valdes was still trying to repair his  battered  Nuestra Senora del Rosario after she had accidentally collided with another ship. He later recorded what occurred next:

“The sea did rise in such sort that my ship having struck sail and wanting her halyard of the foremast, being withal but badly built, did work so extremely as shortly after and before it could be remedied, her foremast brake close by the hatches and fell upon the mainmast, so as it was impossible to repair that hurt but in some good space of time. I did again send word thereof several times to the Duke [Medina Sidonia]; and discharged three or four great guns to the end that all the fleet might know what distress I was in, praying him either to appoint some ship or galleass to tow me or to direct me what other course I should take.”

Two pataches came up to the stricken ship. One asked for news, then slipped off to the San Martin to explain to Medina Sidonia what was happening. A tow rope was got to the  Nuestra Senora del Rosario by a galleon, but it quickly parted in the choppy seas. After some time and with no word from the flagship, Don Pedro ordered a senior monk, Bernado de Gongora, to get into the second patache and go to beg for help. With him he took four Englishmen who were sailing in the Armada, three more remained behind.

Brother Bernado arrived on the San Martin to find an argument taking place between the senior commanders. Medina Sidonia had sent orders to a galleass to go over to the  Nuestra Senora del Rosario and take her in tow. Captain Ojeda, commanding the vice flagship of the Andalusians San Francisco, was hovering nearby awaiting orders how to help out.

Diego Flores, the admiral Medina Sidonia had chosen to advise him on naval matters, now took a hand. He pointed out to Medina Sidonia that the freshening wind and choppy waters were making it difficult for the ungainly storeships to keep in position. The warships too were drifting out of position. With darkness coming on, Diego Flores warned, the Armada was taking a risk staying where it was. A hostile fleet was not far away in one direction, a hostile shore not far in another. If the defensive formation broke up the Armada would be at the mercy of the English and their long range guns.

Diego Flores urged that the Armada had to get under way so that the ships could get steerage way and so keep formation. The crippled  Nuestra Senora del Rosario could be left with the galleass, the San Francisco and some pataches. If she could not be saved, she could be abandoned.

Eventually, Medina Sidonia agreed and gave the necessary orders. The Armada got underway, leaving the  Nuestra Senora del Rosario and her little cluster of helpers behind. Leaving a wounded companion to the enemy is never popular with an army or navy. It tells every man present that if he is wounded, or his ship damaged, he will be left in his turn. The decision served to demoralise the men of the Armada. Nobody was in any doubt who to blame. Diego Flores was known to have a feud with Don Pedro de Flores. The move was regarded as shameful.


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