Wednesday, 26 February 2014

"Ask Diego Flores" - The Spanish Armada

"Ask Diego Flores" - The Spanish Armada

Howard began to manoeuvre his fleet as if he meant to attack, though in truth he was bluffing and hoping to hustle the Spanish fleet toward the shoals. The threat was taken seriously by Medina Sidonia who signalled for any ships still able to fight to come to join him. Pataches and boats were sent out to go around the rest of the Armada with the advice that they were “to keep their heads close to the wind as they were almost on the Zeeland shoals”. The advice must have been superfluous for every captain could see the surf for himself. More than one captain must have cursed the duke for his pointless advice and for getting them into this deathtrap in the first place.

Meanwhile the warships still able to get into the wind were closing on the flagship. Recalde was there, as ever, and so was de Leyva. The three surviving galleasses came up with their oars thrashing the water. A few other warships bore up, though they were all desperately short of ammunition. It seems that Medina Sidonia asked hoped to delay the coming English attack on his more vulnerable ships.

Then up came the great Santa Ana, flagship of the Squadron of Guipuzcoa, with the admiral Miguel de Oquendo on board. This ship came with hailing distance of the San Martin and the figure of Oquendo was clearly visible on the sterncastle. Medina grabbed a speaking trumpet and bellowed across the waves to his subordinate admiral.

“Senor Oquendo, what shall we do?” demanded the hapless commander.

“Ask Diego Flores,” snarled back Oquendo his anger boiling over. “As for me, I am going to fight the English and die like a man. Give me your shot.”

It was an extraordinary and calculated insult. That a man, even a fighting admiral as experienced as Oquendo, could feel able to talk to his commanding officer and a premier grandee of Spain in such a fashion was astonishing and showed the feelings in the Armada. That he should blame Diego Flores, Medina Sidonia’s naval adviser, for the mess was natural enough. Few of the naval commanders had forgiven Diego Flores for persuading Medina Sidonia to abandon the crippled ships  - the Rosario and San Salvador - earlier in the campaign. But his furious insult to Medina Sidonia himself was unparalleled. By asking for the flagship’s cannonballs, Oquendo was openly implying that Medina Sidonia would not need them himself as he was too cowardly to fight the English.

Of all the events in the Armada campaign this brief exchange was surely the most amazing.

Medina Sidonia was speechless. He put down the speaking trumpet and turned away to return to his cabin. There was not much else he could do.

from THE SPANISH ARMADA by Rupert Matthews

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