SHIP CLASS: Ark Royal-class
SHIPS-IN-CLASS (1): HMS Ark Royal
OPERATORS: United Kingdom
PROPULSION: Sails across four masts.
Detailing the development and operational history of the HMS Ark Royal (1587) Galleon.
Entry last updated on 8/14/2017.
Authored by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
In 1586, an English galleon was ordered by Sir Walter Raleigh from the shipbuilder R. Chapman located in Depford, England. As was the custom of the period, she was named for the owner and was bestowed the name of "Ark Raleigh". However, she was then purchased by Queen Elizabeth I in 1587 for the sum of 5,000 English pounds. This proved not a true sale, being that Sir Walter owed the queen a considerable sum, the ship's cost essentially reduced his owed tally. Ark Raleigh was transferred to the Royal Navy and renamed "Ark Royal".
The Ark Royal was a galleon war ship of the day, outfitted with two gun decks, a double forecastle, quarter deck and an aft poop deck. The two gun decks were the top deck and the main deck, the latter located one deck down above the water line. She supported a double forecastle allowing smaller caliber carronades to be carried that could be used by Royal Marines as high ground in case she was boarded by enemies. The quarter deck was primarily used by officers and visitors - the crew would request entry or be called on by the officer on deck. The poop deck was at the aft of the ship located above the quarter deck and on top of the most aft cabin. It was an elevated position where the helmsman steered the ship. The term "poop" deck arose from deck-goers being "pooped" if a wave came over the stern and splashed the crew. Galleons were constructed from English oak for the keel, pine for the masts and various hardwoods for the decking. The expenses involved in construction were enormous which often times limited the total number of ships at a nation's employ. Each construction project required hundreds of expert tradesmen working for months to complete just a single vessel to the required specifications. The only negative in the official record was a crew dislike of the Ark Royal's heavy roll in seas.
HMS Ark Royal, as built according to the ships history, had 38 demi-culverin cannons - a medium barrel gun type that was typically about 11 feet (3.4 meters) long. The cannon had various calibers (or "pound" sizes) associated to it that generally equated the weight of the iron cannon balls in use. The primary sizes of the cannons used initially were 6- and 9-pounders and larger calibers were added at later dates. The demi-culverin had an effective range of 1,800 feet.
As with land-based field cannons of the period, a normal gun crew during the call for "battle stations" was six men to a gun. Each man's job was "by-the-numbers" to promote optimal efficiency. One was the gun captain - Number One - who primed, aimed and fired the gun. Number Two turned cranks to raised the gun barrel and Number Three loaded the gun. Number Four damped down sparks before reloading and Number Five moved the gun barrel and passed along ammunition. Number Six was the "powder monkey" who normally was the youngest member of the crew - boys as young as 10 to 12 years old would serve running to the powder hole and back to the gun with black powder as needed.
The modern British Royal Navy utilizes room and board as one of its selling points for new recruits. The Ark Royal of ages past (as well as ships of the day) had the crew look forward to rotting meat, biscuits riddled with maggots and cheese so tough that sailors carved buttons out of it for their uniforms. A trick was to put a large dead fish on top of the biscuit barrel where the maggots would leave the biscuits and head for the fish. The drinks also were hard to handle with the fresh water turning green and the beer proved not much better. Many ships carried live animals for fresh meat, milk and eggs - though mostly intended for the officer's diet. The mess was 8 to 12 men eating together - essentially a table set between two cannon with some seating.
Ark Royal's first action came during the battle with the Spanish Armada in 1588. At the time, Ark Royal was the largest vessel in the English fleet and the flagship of Charles Howard, the Lord High Admiral of England. The English fleet consisted of 34 galleons and 163 armed merchant ships which engaged the Spanish Fleet of 22 galleons and 108 armed vessels. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Ark Royal led the chase of the fleeing Spanish ships into the North Sea. The English lost 8 ships with 100 seamen dead and up to 8,000 more died from disease and their injuries after the battle. The Spanish lost 600 dead, 5 ships sunk and 397 ships captured. After the battle, up to 20,000 Spanish sailors died from wounds and disease.
Ark Royal was also used as Howard's flagship during the 1596 raid on Cadiz resulting in the destruction of the Spanish Fleet while at harbor. Ark Royal was again the flagship during 1599 when a Spanish invasion fleet threatened England.
On the acension of James VI to the English throne, Ark Royal was renamed "Anne Royal" after his consort, Anne of Denmark. Anne Royal was rebuilt in 1608 as a 42-gun ship and became the flagship in the English 1625 raid on Cadiz which ended with the Spanish fleet sinking many British ships due to a poor war plan. Being moved to the river Medway in 1636, her anchor hit a ground and split the hull. She took on water and sunk. An operation to raise her was enacted though at great cost but she was found to be too damaged to repair. Ark Royal/Anne Royal was broken up in 1638 and her parts were used in the construction of other ships, in a way extending her service career which spanned over 50 years.