HMS Revenge (1577): Wikis


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Revenge in action against the Spanish fleet, 31 August - 1 September 1591
Sir Richard Grenville's Gallant Defence of the Revenge
Career (England) English Flag
Name: Revenge
Builder: Mathew Baker of Deptford Royal Dockyard
Cost: £4,000
Launched: 1577
Fate: Captured 1 September 1591
Ran aground in the Azores soon afterward
General characteristics
Class and type: Race-built Galleon
Tons burthen: 440 long tons[1]
Length: 140 ft (43 m)[1]
Sail plan: Early full rigged ship[1]
Complement: Approx. 260[1]
Armament: Forty-six guns:
  • 20 heavy guns on the gundeck
  • 26 other pieces[2]

Revenge was an English race-built galleon of 46 guns, built in 1577 and captured by the Spanish in 1591, sinking soon afterwards. She was the first of thirteen English and Royal Navy ships to bear the name. Since she was built and served prior to the English Restoration of 1660, she did not actually carry the 'HMS' prefix.



Revenge was built at a cost of £4,000 at the Royal Dockyard of Deptford in 1577 by Mathew Baker, Master Shipwright. Her race-built design was to usher in a new style of ship building that would revolutionize naval warfare for the next three hundred years. A comparatively small vessel, weighing about 400 tons, being about half the size of the Henri Grâce à Dieu, Revenge was rated as a galleon.


The armament of ships of this period was fluid; guns might be added, removed or changed for different types for dozens of reasons. Revenge was particularly heavily armed during her last cruise: she carried 20 heavy demi-cannon, culverins and demi-culverins on her gun deck, where the sailors slept. On her upper decks were more demi-culverins, sakers, and a variety of light weapons, including swivel-mounted breech-loaders, called "fowlers" or "falcons".[1]


Raid on Cadiz (1587)

In 1587, Sir Francis Drake sailed to the Spanish coast and destroyed much material that Philip II had accumulated in preparation for the Armada. In consequence, Spanish plans for the invasion of England were put off until the following year.

Battle of Gravelines (1588)

In early 1588, Drake moved his flag from Elizabeth Bonaventura to the Revenge, which was considered to be the best by far of the new ships. On July 29, 1588 the Battle of Gravelines (named after a Flemish town near Calais), was concluded as one of the fiercest and most decisive battles engaged in during these years. At the outset of the conflict, Revenge proved worthy of her reputation. Following Revenge at the head of the line, the English fleet engaged their broadsides into the Spanish Armada. Many Spanish vessels were severely damaged, although only a few sank or ran aground. However, it was only when fireships were sent in that the Spanish broke their formation and sailed into the North Sea. The English fleet monitored them until they drew level with Edinburgh, and then returned to port.

Drake-Norris Expedition (1589)

In 1589, Revenge again put to sea as Drake's flagship, in what was to be a failed attempt to invade Spanish controlled Portugal. With the ship in an unseaworthy condition, and without any prizes to his credit Drake fell out of favour with Queen Elizabeth and was kept ashore until 1594.

Frobisher Expedition (1590)

In 1590 Revenge was commanded by Sir Martin Frobisher in an unsuccessful expedition along the coast of Spain to intercept the Spanish treasure fleet.

Capture by the Spanish (1591)

Revenge came to her end in a glorious but bizarre episode that has become a legend. In order to impede a Spanish naval recovery after the Armada, Sir John Hawkins proposed a blockade of the supply of treasure being acquired from the Spanish Empire in America by a constant naval patrol designed to intercept Spanish ships. Revenge was on such a patrol in the summer of 1591 under the command of Sir Richard Grenville.

The Spanish had dispatched a fleet of some 53 ships under Alfonso de Bazán, having under him Britandona and the Marquez de Arumburch. Intent upon the capture of the English at Flores in the northern Azores. In late August 1591 the Spanish fleet came upon the English while repairs to the ships caused the crews, many of whom were suffering an epidemic of fever, to be ashore. Most of the ships managed to slip away to sea. Grenville who had many sick men ashore decided to wait for them. When putting to sea he might have gone round the west of Corvo island, but he decided to go straight through the Spaniards, who were approaching from the eastward.

The battle began late on 31 August, when overwhelming force was immediately brought to bear upon the ship, which put up a gallant resistance. For some time he succeeded by skillful tactics in avoiding much of the enemy's fire, but they were all round him and gradually numbers began to tell. As one Spanish ship retired beaten, another took her place, and for fifteen hours the unequal contest continued. Attempts by the Spaniards to board were driven off. San Philip, a vessel three times her size, tried to come alongside for the Spaniards to board her, but was beaten off. When morning broke on 1 September, Revenge lay with her masts shot away and only sixteen men left uninjured out of a crew of two hundred and fifty.

"Out-gunned, out-fought, and out-numbered fifty-three to one",[3] when the end looked certain Grenville ordered Revenge to be sunk. His officers could not agree with this order and a surrender was agreed by which the lives of the officers and crew would be spared. After an assurance of proper conduct, and having held off dozens of Spanish ships, Revenge at last surrendered. The injured Grenville died of wounds two days later aboard the Spanish flagship.

The captured Revenge never reached Spain, becoming a wreck. She sank with her prize-crew of 200 Spaniards, along with a large number of the Spanish fleet in a dreadful storm off the Azores. Revenge was cast upon a cliff next to the island off Terceira, where she broke up completely.

Revenge in Literature

Her final action inspired a popular poem entitled The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet by Lord Tennyson, which dramatically narrates the course of the engagement.

External links


  1. ^ a b c d e John Barratt. "The Revenge at Military History Online". Retrieved 2008-11-25.  
  2. ^ Herman, Arthur (2004). To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0060534240.   p.103
  3. ^ The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet by Lord Tennyson

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