Friday 21th July. 4.00 PM – ‘H’ Stage, Shepperton Studios. Another change around for our multi-purpose ship as we reach the fireships sequence.
Today Raleigh is preparing to sail his fireships into the anchored Spanish fleet and we find him in the moments before the first ship strikes, on its deck as the crew finish priming the cannons, setting powder charges and pouring tar on the decks.
The fireships attack is perhaps the most famous moment in the whole Armada campaign. A fireship – filled with explosives and burning furiously – was a deadly enemy as, provided the wind was right and the fireship got amongst the enemy, it could potentially wreak havoc amongst a fleet made of wood, canvas and tar. In this case it was not the fire that actually did the damage however, but the panic it caused. As the burning hulks floated in many Spanish ships cut their anchor cables to make a quick getaway, leaving them vulnerable to the rising storm. Without anchors their only hope of surviving was to sail out to sea and the Armada was scattered as it was blown into the North Sea and around Scotland.