What happened during the Spanish Armada?

A map around northern Europe showing the key events of the Spanish Armada in 1958
  • The Armada leaves Lisbon on 28 May 1588. It’s delayed by storms and repairs, and finally sets sail for England on 21 July.
  • The Armada is sighted by the English from Lizard Point in Cornwall. Warning beacons are lit along the English coastline.
  • The Armada continues through the English Channel now chased by English ships, but suffers little damage.
  • The Armada anchors near Calais where more troops are meant to join, led by the Duke of Parma, but the English send burning fire ships into the fleet. The Spanish ships panic and are scattered out of formation.
  • The Spanish ships are blown towards dangerous sandbanks and the English attack again in the Battle of Gravelines. This time they battle at close range and significant damage is inflicted to the Spanish fleet.
  • The Armada is forced north around the east coast of Britain and the English fleet turn back after food and ammunition supplies run low.
  • The Armada sets sail for home but are forced around Scotland and Ireland. Many ships are wrecked in storms and thousands of sailors drown.
  • The surviving Spanish ships arrive back in Spain, but almost half of their fleet is lost.
  • Victory for England.

The Spanish Armada: a first-hand account

Casualties of battle

A comparison of casualties between Spain and England. With Spain losing 51 ships and 20,000 men and England losing 0 ships and 100 men

Both sides suffered casualties as a result of the Armada but English losses were relatively minor compared to those of the Spanish. England lost just 100 men compared the 20,000 men and 51 ships lost by the Spanish.

However, despite England’s victory several thousand men died from illness and disease in the weeks following the battle.