Spanish Armada Facts for Kids

Only half of the fleet of ships made it back to Spain.
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The year was 1588 and King Phillip the II of Spain wanted to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I, who was the queen of England. A huge fleet of ships was assembled and manned by thousands of people who believed in the proposed attack on England. The battle raged, and despite having more ships, resources and people, Spain still lost. The battle is now known as the Spanish Armada and has an important place in both Spanish and British history.

1 Assembling the Armada and Setting Sail

The term armada refers to a large group of ships. The Spanish Armada consisted of 130 ships that carried 2,500 guns and 30,000 men, of which 20,000 were soldiers. The so-called "Invincible Armada" set sail from Spain heading toward England in May of 1588. The armada, however, didn't reach the coast of England until July of 1588, largely because of storms that delayed its progress.

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2 Fighting the Battle

On July 21, 1588, England began defending itself from the armada by firing long-range guns at the 7-mile long row of incoming Spanish ships. This did little, however, to deter the Spanish Armada from continuing its approach toward the shores of England, though the attack from England did kill many of the Spanish soldiers. On July 28, the Spanish Armada moved to Calais, France, in an effort to get away from the weapons used by the British. In the dead of night on July 29, the English set eight ships on fire and sent them into the harbor where the Spanish Armada was anchored. The ships had to pull their anchors and sail out to sea to avoid catching on fire.

3 Declaring the Winner

In their haste to avoid catching on fire, the Spanish Armada became disorganized and fell out of formation, which left them open to continued attacks from the British. This British attack forced the Spanish Armada to retreat north toward Scotland, according to The British didn't let them go quietly, however, and set sail, essentially chasing the Spanish Armada north. The British ships returned to England a short time later, however, because they were out of supplies.

4 When the Smoke Cleared

Many of the damaged ships in the Spanish Armada eventually sank, while others wrecked along the coast of Ireland. When all was said and done, the Spanish fleet returned to Spain with only half of its original ships. The Spanish also lost 15,000 men over the course of the battle. This proved to the world that Spain wasn't quite as powerful as they were always viewed to be, according to the BBC History website. England fared better by showing the world how powerful its naval powers were, and also changed the way battles were fought from fighting in close quarters to using long-range weapons, notes.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.