Philip of Spain, goaded beyond all endurance by the impertinence of England, harassed by its sailors on the highways of the oceans, and pursued by them into the very stronghold harbours of his great empire, stung by the insolence of this tiny island, contentedly ruled by, of all things, a woman—Philip, King of the greatest empire since Rome, gathered his power around him to punish England.
From all his European provinces and dominions, he gathered Spanish, Portuguese and Italian squadrons to form `that most fortunate fleet' to sail in the great enterprise against England. For the men, he spread his net even wider, Dutch sailors, German artillerymen, French volunteers, and of course the cream of his own Spanish troops; in his galleys he had Scotsmen, Irishmen, Welshmen and even renegade English men. The result was the mightiest force ever raised until that time and the outcome, the invasion and subjugation of England seemed scarcely in doubt.
But at the end of 1588—the long awaited 'year of the eights', the captive king of France could dare say to his Spanish master 'It has taken your majesty four years to gather these great fleets, which have been the wonder of the world' and add 'yet it might be said that the Queen of England has triumphed over them all'.
From Merciless Invaders presents, in a new and dramatic way, the story of how England achieved her salvation from the great Armada in the face of astonishing odds. Here, in the actual words of more than a hundred eyewitnesses, welded in a sparkling narrative of superb achievement, the author tells his tale. Priests, prisoners, pursers, poets, all step from the pages of history to bear witness. Fifth columnists, spies, diplomats, deserters, galley slaves and the survivors of shipwreck, tempest and massacre all speak again. The result is an astonishing compound of scholarship and excitement.
Alexander McKee first became interested in the Armada when he wrote a documentary programme on it for the BBC in 1955. He is the author of Strike from the Sky that classic, often quoted book on the Battle of Britain.
Alexander McKee is the author of fifteen books mainly on naval, military and aviation history, which have been translated into over seven foreign languages including French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and Danish.
During the war he served with the London Scottish and Gordon Highlanders and after 1945 he remained in Germany with the British Army on the Rhine. From 1948 to 1952 he was a staff writer with the British Forces Network in Hamburg, working mainly on radio documentaries.
After demobilisation he became a freelance scriptwriter, mainly for the BBC and received from the Writers' Guild of Great Britain the award for the Best British Radio Features Script of 1969. He has specialised in the problems of survival at sea, his books include a study of the Bounty mutiny and boat voyage in the South Seas, the story of the gold clipper Royal Charter wrecked in a hurricane on the coast of Wales, and the sinking of the battleship Royal Oak at Scapa Flow.
In 1958 he took up skin-diving again and for the last ten years has been director of the project to locate and excavate the 430-year old wreck of King Henry VIII's Mary Rose at Spithead, for which he received in 1971 the British Sub-Aqua Club's Diver of the Year award. His experience of navigation has been as an aeroplane pilot, a diver and a director of wreck-search operations in coastal waters.
List of Witnesses
The Enterprise of England
The Great Armada is Born-1583/7
- The King's Force is Marvellous Great
The Duke Receives his Operation Orders-1588
- Stop Him Now and Stop Him Ever
England Prepares to Meet the Armada-1587/8
- The Most Fortunate Armada
The Armada Sails—May-June, 1588
- The Blood of his Beheaded Mother
The Armada Sails Again—July
- In Sight of Cape Lizard
Corunna to the Lizard-12/19 July
- Fires and Smokes
Waiting for the Armada—July
- Hovering in the Wind
Saturday, 2o July
- Not Half of them Men of War
Battle of Plymouth—Sunday, 21 July
- A Voice in Spanish Calling us
Night of 21/22 July
- Hang Any Captain . . .
Monday, 22 July
- Forced to Flock Together Like Sheep
Battle of Portland—Tuesday, 23 July
- To Win an Honourable Death
Wednesday, 24 July
- South of this Island Six Leagues
Battle of the Wight—Thursday, 23 July
- A Device of Firing of Ships
Friday, 26 July - Sunday, 28 July
- Fourteen Chests of Very Noble Spoil
The Fight for the San Lorenzo-29 July
- An Italian Ship all Full of Blood
The Battle of Dunkirk—Monday, 29 July
- Ask Diego Flores!
The Pursuit—Tuesday, 30 July
- It will be to Their Great Ruin
Conjecture and Rumour—August
- The Grave of the Son of the King of Spain
The Armada Wrecks—Cork, Kerry, and Clare
- The Rags that Yet Remain
The Armada Wrecks—Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Ulster
- Take, Burn, or Sink
The Battle of Le Havre—August/September
- The Year of the Eights
The Homecoming of the Armada—September 1588
Drake's Commission to raid Cadiz
Map of the Isle of Wight, drawn by Baptista Boazia in 1591, showing English galleons and a galley
A draught and sail-plan of the new-type English galleon which beat the Armada
The Great Harry or Henry Grace a Dieu
The Ark Royal, formerly the Ark Raleigh, Howard's flagship
Lord Charles Howard, Earl of Effingham
Sir Martin Frobisher
Sir John Hawkyns
Sir Francis Drake
The Battle of Plymouth
The Battle of PortlandtAl
The Battle of the Isle of Wight, under Dunnose Cliff
The fire-ship attack off Calais
The fight for the flag-galleass San Lorenzo
The gundeck of a galleon
One of the formidable gates of the fortress town of Bruges
Plymouth Sound from the Hoe
Carisbrook Castle, in the Isle of Wight, where Sir George Carey had his headquarters
Statue of Sir Francis Drake on Plymouth Hoe