I have many books on the Armada campaign, and this one comes up with little that I have not read elsewhere, despite claims to the contrary. Of course in his conclusions Mr Barratt is quite disparaging about the English efforts, but that is modern political correctness and was, I fear, expected. As usual, English success is declared to have been all about luck and the weather. The author ends by declaring the result a 'close run thing'- but it wasn't that at all.
Success for Spain could only come if Medina Sidonia first defeated the English fleet, then secured a good landfall on the English coast and finally escorted Palma across the channel. It is interesting that King Philip himself actually discouraged the first two whilst indentifying no vaible rendevous for the third. So Medina Sidonia ended up off Gravelines- a hopelessly open anchorage near Calais. By that time his chances of success were precisely nil. The Spaniards could only have hoped to defeat the English fleet if the latter allowed themselves to be swallowed up in the Armada's formation and then boarded by its soldiers. Lord Howard was not that foolish. In fact, and sensibly, he set about harrasing the Spaniards at long range whilst shepherding them on their way. Having to escort transports and fight the English at the same time Medina Sidonia was obliged to give all offensive initiative to his opponent. Even in Nelsons time, with far heavier guns available, ships were almost never sunk at long range, and nor was this required: all the English had to do was prevent any form of landing on English soil.
Medina Sidonia proved to be brave and his armada showed superb discipline, but allowing the English to secure the weather gauge by getting behind their formation was an utter disaster for the Spaniards and that brilliant manouvre (performed by no less than 85 ships) was the real key to the whole campaign- not the weather or luck at all. How could this be considered 'a close run thing?'. If the modest number of English fireships had failed (as was likely) the Spanish had still somehow to escort frail invasion barges all the way to Margate whilst 140 English ships, including all the Queens fine warships- far more agile than their own and little damaged- were in sight and waiting for them.
As a matter of interest it could have been pointed out that the Spanish fighting ships, as opposed to the hired Ircas (merchant carracks) and transports, though less manouverable than the English were quite efficient and not were not, as usually claimed, 'lumbering'. These warships were were simply hampered by the need to keep a very tight formation- something Medina Sidonia would not compromise on. Not all the English ships were 'race built' either, and their mighty 'Triumph', though fast, was actually the largest warship in either fleet (the Spanish tonnage measuring system exaggerated the size of their ships).
The book is nicely ordered and is concise with lots of action detail: in fact it is very readable. Physically it is not especially well produced and although there are quite a few illustrations they are mostly unremarkable. The published price is expensive for a small, 175 page book and for a penny less than £20 a colour section may have been expected. I 'mark it down' not because it isn't a good read but because Mr Barratt does not 'question common assumptions' as is claimed- he merely echoes the well known modern 'revisionism' that seeks to depreciate the English side of the campaign. Even the comments about Queen Elizabeths ruthlessness and parsimony have long been common knowledge.