The Tudor Society

28 July 1588 – The hell-burners

At midnight on 28th July 1588, five hell-burners were ordered to be sent amongst the galleons of the Spanish Armada at Calais. Hell-burners were fire-ships, ships that were packed with wood and pitch and set alight. The high winds at Calais caused an inferno which resulted in complete chaos and the Armada's crescent formation was wrecked as galleons scattered in panic.

The English move had been a success and, as Alison Weir says in her book Elizabeth the Queen, "This meant that the little English ships would now be able to fight on more equal terms. As a result of this action, morale amongst Spanish forces was fatally weakened."


  1. Weir, Alison (2009) Elizabeth the Queen, Alison Weir, p.391
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