Forces of the County of Devon in the Armada Year

Third Report of the Committee on Devonshire Celebrities.
Trans. Devon Assoc., 1878, Vol XI, p. 113.


J. Manley Hawker & Robert Dymond (Eds.)

Prepared by Michael Steer

The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 stands as one of the greatest triumphs of Elizabeth I’s reign. The success of her navy notwithstanding, received wisdom presents her land forces as woefully inadequate. However, it since appears that they were better organised, more efficient and more willing than had been previously thought. The privy council had been called upon to deploy limited forces along a lengthy coastline against an unpredictable attacker. The precise role of Devon's militia during summer 1588 has, until recently, been clouded by the recurrent tendency of historians to misinterpret their primary function. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

A communication from C. Seale Hayne, Esq., is well worthy of notice and record. He has kindly sent to the Secretary a copy of the return in the Record Office of the forces of the county of Devon in the Armada year. To quote his own words, "It is valuable in its bearing upon a disputed point; viz., whether or not the land preparations were adequate to the occasion." The returns are very precise, some containing the names of every man and his description, as well as of every horse, and its description, even to the colour. The names of the officers may prove to be an interesting memorial to their descendants. They are as follows:

North DivisionThe Earl of Bathe, Lord Lieutenant
 Hughe FortescueCaptains.
 Hugh Pollard
 Anthony Monck
 William StowfordLieutenants.
 Arthure Gifforde
 William Yeo
East DivisionSir Willyam CourtenayCaptains.
 Sir Robert Denys
 Arthure HarteLieutenants.
 Edwarde Denys
South DivisionSir John Gilbert
 Richard ChampernouneCaptains.
 Thomas Ffulford
 Adrian GilbertLieutenants.
 Arthure Champernoune
 John Frye