Invicta: Chapter "Blood"

Chapter 8 is well under way. It's not, by far, as long as Chapter 7, which is a good indicator that things are going back to a more normal storytelling rythm.

Chapter 8, I also nickname it 'Chapter Blood'. The reason is that Chapter 8 is the Battle of the Gravelines, where the whole of the Englishe Fleete (in the writing of the time, and about 150 ships, at least 40 of them big galleons and as far as 60 strongly armed merchantships, former 'pirates', let's say privateers) fought against 33 Spanish ships (some 20 galleons, three galeas --the fourth one, its flagship San Salvador, had crashed against the coast due to a night accident, during the fireships-not-so-hellburners incident, and had been assauled by English boats-- and the rest composed of armed merchantships), with the rest of the Armada dispersed along the coast, trying to reunite and not to crash against the dangerous shores (not as dangerous as, say, Ireland's, but deadly in its own way).

The number of casualties is hard to determine. From the very well documented Spanish sources, it can be pinpointed in some 600 dead and about 800 wounded, although this doesn't take into account minor wounds that ended in the soldiers and sailors returning back to the battle (which took as long as 9 hours, until the English fleet exhausted its ammo and powder reserves). The English casualties are very much harder to tell, because Queen Elizabeth II got out a general order of complete secrecy under dead sentence, which makes things much harder. Leaving aside the huge epidemy that took whole crews and basically left England without a fleet able to do any naval operation for the rest of the year, the number of casualties in the English side must have been considerably higher than 'oficially' broadcast.

The Battle of Gravelines was different in many aspects, but the main difference was that the English ships moved much, much closer to the Spanish ships in order to cause effective damage to the strong hulls of the Atlantic galleons. So close, in fact, that crews could, in the middle of the battle, talk and insult to each other, and even some very-close encounters happened, although not a single boarding action (except a single sailor that jumped alone into a Spanish galleon, he was inmediately killed, of course).

The thing to take into account in here is that while the long range cannons in the Spanish fleet were highly flawed and unappropriate for a cannon battle (as they were prettty hard to recharge after firing, due to the way they were mounted into the ship) Gravelines happened within a much closer range, where the retrocharge deck-cannons (falcons and so on) were basically depleted from ammunition, and the (purposedly so) much lower castles in the English ships would have exposed the sailors to massive stone, low-caliber bullets and intense musket fire from the heavily soldier-loaded Spanish ships. It's impossible to take advantage of your ship sailing qualities in close range and not to expose the sailors on the masts to great risk.

Add to the the confusion (the Spanish ships maintained a very closed half-moon formation) and the high density of ships involved, and the increasengly bad weather, with bigger and stronger waves, winds and currents as the day was passing by: the number of wounded must be on par with the Spanish numbers, if not higher (from the Spanish point of view, it was a target-rich environment to fight during 9 whole hours). Casualties, however, could be lower.

We also know that no Spanish ship was sunk during the battle, but several sank in the first hours of the night or crashed against the coast during the night. No information about English ships has survived, but the possibility of severe damage (cannon balls, musket bullets and fire) and even collisions and sinking is to be, at least, considered.

This, of course, makes for a lot of blood.

Blood, pain, suffering, effort... It's hard to visualize, because this was the first battle of its kind in Human History.

Fortunately for me, my point of view (narrator's POV, actually makes the description of the battle easier and very intense. I will have to review some details, and watch the rythm here and there, but, overall, I'm pretty happy with the result so far.

Chapter 9 will happen on (Gregorian calendar, which was adopted by Spain in 1582) August 9th, 1588, when the Armada avoids total destruction against the "most untrustworthy coasts in the world".

I'll keep you up-to-date on my slow progress...


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