Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, by Richard Hakluyt

The valiant fight performed in the Straight of Gibraltar, by the Centurion of London, against the fiue Spanish Gallies, in the moneth of April 1591.

In the moneth of Nouember 1590, there were sundry shippes appertaining to seuerall Marchants of London, which were rigged and fraught foorth with marchandize, for sundry places within the Straight of Gibraltar: who, together hauing winde and weather, which ofttime fell out very vncertaine, arriued safely in short space, at such places as they desired. Among whom was the Centurion of London, a very tall shippe of burden, yet but weakely manned, as appeareth by this discourse following.

This aforesaid shippe called The Centurion safely arriued at Marseils, where after they had deliuered their goods, they stayed about the space of fiue weekes, and better, and then tooke in lading, intending to returne to England.

Now when the Centurion was ready to come away from Marseils, there were sundry other shippes of smaller burden which entreated the Master thereof, (whose name is Robert Bradshaw, dwelling at Lime-house) to stay a day or two for them, vntill they were in a readinesse to depart with them, thereby perswading them, that it would be farre better for them to stay and goe together in respect of their assistance, then to depart of themselues without company, and so happily for want of aide fall into the hands of their enemies in the Spanish Gallies. Vpon which reasonable perswasion, notwithstanding that this shippe was of such sufficiencie as they might hazard her in the danger of the Sea, yet they stayed for those litle shippes; according to their request, who together did put to Sea from Marseils, and vowed in generall not to flie one from another, if they should happen to meete with any Spanish Gallies.

These small shippes, accompanied with the Centurion, sayling along the coast of Spaine, were ypon Easter day in the Straight of Gibraltar suddenly becalmed, where immediatly they saw sundry Gallies make towards them, in very valiant and couragious sort: the chiefe Leaders and souldiers in those Gallies brauely apparelled in silke coates, with their siluer whistles about their neckes, and great plumes of feathers in their hattes, who with their Caliuers shot at the Centurion so fast as they might: so that by 10. of the clocke and somewhat before, they had boorded the Centurion, who before their comming had prepared for them, and intended to giue them so soure a welcome as they might. And thereupon hauing prepared their close fights, and all things in a readinesse, they called vpon God, on whom onely they trusted: and hauing made their prayers, and cheered vp one another to fight so long as life endured, they beganne to discharge their great Ordinance vpon the Gallies, but the little shippes durst not come forward, but lay aloofe, while fiue Gallies had boorded them, yea and with their grapling irons made their Gallies fast to the said shippe called the Centurion.

The Gallies were grapled to the Centurion in this maner, two lay on one side and two on another, and the Admirall lay full in the stern, which galled and battered the Centurion so sore, that her maine Maste was greatly weakened, her sailes filled with many holes, and the Mizzen and sterne made almost vnseruiceable.

During which time there was a sore and deadly fight on both sides, in which the Trumpet of the Centurion sounded foorth the deadly points of warre, and encouraged them to fight manfully against their aduersaries: on the contrary part, there was no warlike Musicke in the Spanish Gallies, but onely their whistles of siluer, which they sounded foorth to their owne contentment: in which fight many a Spaniard was turned into the Sea, and they in multitudes came crauling and hung vpon the side of the shippe, intending to haue entred into the same, but such was the courage of the Englishmen, that so fast as the Spaniards did come to enter, they gaue them such entertainment, that some of them were glad to tumble aliue into the Sea, being remedilesse for euer to get vp aliue. In the Centurion there were in all, of men and boyes, fourtie and eight, who together fought most valiantly, and so galled the enemie, that many a braue and lustie Spaniard lost his life in that place.

The Centurion was fired seuerall times, with wilde fire and other prouision, which the Spaniards, threw in for that purpose: yet, God be thanked, by the great and diligent foresight of the Master it did no harme at all.

In euery of the Gallies there were about 200. souldiers: who together with the shot, spoiled, rent, and battered the Centurion very sore, shot through her maine Maste, and slew 4. of the men in the said shippe, the one of them being the Masters mate.

Ten other persons were hurt, by meanes of splinters which the Spaniards shotte: yea, in the ende when their prouision was almost spent, they were constrained to shoote at them hammers, and the chaines from their slaues, and yet God bee thanked, they receiued no more domage: but by spoyling and ouer-wearying of the Spaniards, the Englishmen constrained them to vngrapple themselues, and get them going: and sure if there had bene any other fresh shippe or succour to haue relieued and assisted the Centurion, they had slaine, suncke, or taken all those Gallies and their Souldiers.

The Dolphin lay a loofe off and durst not come neere, while the other two small shippes fledde away, so that one of the Gallies went from the Centurion and set vpon the Dolphin, which shippe immediatly was set on fire with their owne powder, whereby both men and shippe perished: but whether it was with their good wills or no, that was not knowen vnto the Centurion, but sure, if it had come forward, and bene an aide vnto the Centurion, it is to bee supposed that it had not perished.

Fiue houres and a halfe this fight continued, in which time both were glad to depart onely to breath themselues, but when the Spaniards were gone, they neuer durst returne to fight, yet the next day sixe other Gallies came and looked at them, but durst not at any hand meddle with them.

Thus God deliuered them from the handes of their enemies, and gaue them the victorie: For which they heartily praised him, and not long after safely arriued in London.

[Symbol: fist] There were present at this fight Master Iohn Hawes Marchaht, and sundry other of good accompt.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55