Page images
PDF
EPUB

them that knows what a leak means' (February 21, IIoward to Burghley). The Elizabeth Bonaventure' by the fault of the pilot came aground on a sand.' The Lord Admiral reports that the next tide, by the goodness of God and great lawni', we brought her off, and all this time there never came a spoonful of water into her well' (March 9, Howard to Burghley). And,' says Howard again, evidently with Messrs. Pelt and Baker in his eye, 'if it may please God to continue her Majesty's ships as strong to the end of the journey as they have done hitherunto, her Majesty may be sure (what false and villainous reports so-ever have been made of them) she hath the strongest ships that any prince in Christendom hath' (June 14, Howard to Walsyngham).

Those who suppose that an organised system and detailed plans of national defence were invented in the last half of the nineteenth century, in the home of military pedantry on the Spree, would do well to ascertain what their own forefathers did when England was threatened by a mighty enemy. When revolutionary France avowed her intention of effecting the conquest of England and Ireland, the Englishmen of the time, instead of imitating the methods of countries circumstanced altogether differently from their own, looked up what had been done by our fellow-countrymen in days of national danger. The results of the inquiry were embodied in two reports addressed to the Minister by Mr. John Bruce. The titles of these are worti reprinting here. One, dated January 6, 1798, is

"Report on the arrangements which have been adopted in former periods, when France threatened invasion of Britain or Ireland, to frustrate the designs of the enemy by attacks on his Foreign Possessions or European Ports, by annoying his Coasts and by destroying his Equipments. This title by itself conveys a lesson in strategy.

The other is dated May 17, 1798, and is headed :

"Report on the Arrangenients which were made in the internal Defence of these Kingdoms, when Spain, by its Armada, projected the Invasion and Conquest of England ; and Application of the wise proceedings of our Ancestors to the present Crisis of public Safety.”' This is the way in which Englishmen who knew from actual experience what serious war meant, to whom the glorious First of June was a recent memory, to whom St. Vincent was but of yesterday, and in whose ears the cannonades of Camperdown were still ringing, approached the great problem of national defence. In Bruce's second report will be found inuch information on the measures devised for meeting an invader who might succeed in landing. Allowance being made for change of conditions, the principles of these measures are worth following in our own time; and we cannot reasonably deny to those who devised them the merit of understanding their business. Several documents referring to the Armada were printed by Bruce in his appendix, among them some-not very faithfully transcribed -which Professor Laughton also gives us from accurate transcripts.

Elizabeth has been accused of shocking ingratitude to her valiant seamen. It has been asserted that, by her shameful parsimony, she starved them through insufficient, or poisoned them through unwholesome, victualling; that she kept them short of ammunition when in the very presence of the enemy; and that she refused to pay them punctually their well-earned wages. We do not doubt that every one of these allegations has been made in good faith; but we are sure that they would not have been made by any one familiar with naval customs as they existed till a very recent date. With regard to the victualling, Professor Laughton points out that the queen, personally, had nothing to do with it. Like the capable ruler that she was, she left it to the proper officials. And almost every page of these volumes," he adds, tells of the unceasing care with which it was conducted.'

The belief tbat insufficient victuals were supplied, owing to sheer stinginess and a desire to avoid reasonable and necessary expenditure, is shown to be groundless by the fact that ample quantities were provided. On August 28 (O.S.) Howard, at Dover, indicates that he had a surplus.

I have caused all the remain of victuals to be laid here and at Sandwich, for the maintaining of them that shall remain in the Narrow Seas.' On the same day Sir J. Hawkyns says:

Here is victual sufficient, and I know not why any should be provided after September, but for those which my Lord doth mean to leave in the Narrow Seas.' Burghley himself noted on July 24 that Howard's fleet was victualled “unto the 11th of August,' and that orders had been given and money delivered' to victual it up to September 7. On July 27 he noted that Lord H. Seymour's

1895.

Navy Records

tember 8, and that the force was to be victualled 4 heir transport had been money for the commodities orders had been given to paid." On August 9 he not and Seymour up to the victual Howard up to Septeni .. 11th. These orders were enforced. The articles required were provided, though they could not always be got on board the ships just when they were expected.

· The weather continued so extreme,' says Ilawkyns on August 26, and the tides come so swift, that we cannot get any victuals aboard but with trouble and difficulty.'

• You would not believe,' says Howard, what a wonderful thing it is to victual such an army as this is in such a narrow corner of the realm, where a man would think that neither victuals were to be had nor cask to put it in.' On July 22 Darell reported that for her Majesty's ships at Plymouth victuals had been provided up to August 10.

"Only the haste of my Lord Admiral was such in his setting forth upon Saturday morning, by reason he had received some intelligence of the Spanish fleet, as that divers of his ships had not leisure to receive the full of their last proportions.' Even in the last decade of the nineteenth century the sudden assemblage of a large fleet at an out-of-the-way anchorage--say on the west coast of Ireland—is apt to be attended by considerable difficulty in procuring fresh provisions; and it is still not altogether unknown for ships of war to put to sea unexpectedly, and leave a part of their stores behind.

Howard's letters, it is true, teem with urgent representations as to the deficiency of victuals; but a careful perusal of these State papers makes it certain that it was not the quantity shipped, but the stock in reserve, about which he was anxious. Though both he and Seymour may have come near the end of their supply, they never actually ran out. Howard's opinion was that the reserve should be enough for six weeks. The Council, or the queen, considered that a month's stock would suffice. Most men in the Lord Admiral's place would have held his opinion; but that of the Council was unquestionably justified by the result. Howard also had misgivings as to the sufficiency of the supplies on board those merchant ships attached to his fleet, which were victualled, in accordance with the system of the time, by their own towns. On August 29 he wrote to Walsyngham, of certain ships which he was sending to their homes, .We are fain to help them with victuals to bring

was over.

rds of the Armada.

Jan. them thither. T day's victuals. Tot any of them that hath one

That whvever, was when the campaign self to be fairly wel's still before him he knew himTaivut

ied is proved by his request to Sussex on July 22.

'I pray you send out unto me all such ships as you have ready for sea at Portsmouth with all possible speed, and though they have not above two days' victuals, let that not be the cause of their stay, for they shall have victuals out of our fleet.' Much has been made of the fact that the crews were put upon a reduced allowance by placing of more than four

men to a mess. This was done, we are assured by Darell, not because there was actual scarcity, but only at such * times when there hath been fear of want. It may be a surprise to most readers to learn that this practice, known in the navy as 'six upon four,' lasted down to our own times. There are officers still serving who have been 'six upon four' more than once; it was inconvenient, no doubt, but no one considered it a special hardship.

The Elizabethan scale of victualling was so much more liberal than the Victorian, that two-thirds allowance of the former were nearly equal to full allowance of the latter. According to the Elizabethan scale, which was fixed for the lunar month with four Fridays, or one-meal days, and therefore with twenty-six effective days, each man received 6 lb. of beef, 1 lb. of bacon, four allowances (weight not stated) of fish, 7 lb. of biscuit, 12 lb. of cheese, 1j lb. of butter, 2 pints of peas, 7 gallons of beer. Of course, neither the sailor afloat nor the well-to-do citizen on shore bad tea, cocoa, pepper, or mustard. The scale of thirty years ago has been increased in the biscuit, or alternative 'soft' bread ration, by just 1 lb. a day, so that the present allowance for a week is : * Meat (fresh or salt), 6 lb.; preserved meat, 1 lb.; biscuit, 87 lb. (or soft' bread, 103 lb.); peas, ß lb.; flour, 9 oz.; suet,

oz.; raisins, 13 lb.; preserved potatoes, lb.; rum, i gill (about one small wineglass-ful). In addition to the above, tea, cocoa, pepper, mustard, and vegetables (on fresh-meat days) are allowed. The Victorian dietary is, perhaps, better composed, but it is less abundant than the Elizabethan. The latter also was provided at much greater cost in money. The value of money about the time of the Armada is usually

The scale in the text is based on the assumption that salt beef is issued on one day of the week, salt pork on another, and preserved meat on a third.

considered as six times what it is now.* The cost of victualling each man in 1894 is 9d.; in 1538 it was 7d. of the money of the day, which sum, multiplied by six to bring it to present value, would be 38. 6d.! Even if we consider that the multiplier (six) is much too high, we must admit that Sir W. Harcourt can find 3s. 6d. for the public service with far less difficulty than the Lord Treasurer of three centuries ago could find 7d.

The complaints made against the beer supplied to the fleet were well founded; but, as Professor Laughton shows us, the quality of the beer provided for the navy left much to be desired till at least the middle of the last century. The fact seems to be that the art of brewing beer suitable for storage on board ship was not discovered till very recently, even if it has been yet. The Government tried its hand at brewing for the navy, but gave it up about sixty years ago. The mortality which swept away so many of the brave men who fought with the Armada has been attributed to the badness of the beer issued to them. These papers disprove the allegation. The sickness had appeared before, and was, most likely, due to infection to be traced to the towns. As early as June 22 Howard told Burghley that

several inen have fallen sick, and by thousands fain to be discharged. At a later date (August 10), he says of the * Elizabeth Jonas' that she bath had a great infection in her from the beginning.' Seymour wrote (August 19) to Walsyngham:

Our men fall sick by reason of the cold nights and cold mornings we find (not owing to bad beer in this case, at any rate), and I fear me they will drop away faster than they did the last year with Sir Henry Palmer, which was thick enough.' The sickness was evidently of older date than the issue of the beer in 1588. But

But Howard himself testifies strongly against the bad beer theory of the origin of the sickness in the fleet. He reported to the Council

that the ships of themselves be so infectious and so corrupted as it is thought to be a very plague; and we find that the fresh men that we draw into our ships are infected one day and die the next.'

Terrible as the mortality amongst the seamen was, its existence cannot well be imputed as a special discredit to Elizabeth's Government. Sanitary science made some pro

* See, e.g., Mr. Hubert Hall's 'Society in the Elizabethan Age' (London, 1886), pp. 6, 22, 68, 125.

« PreviousContinue »