Sailing Around the British Coast
1 The English Channel.
How it started (perhaps)
Under Henry VIII, the English had generally pissed off the continental powers particularly the Spanish. All the normal familiar stuff; a misplaced sense of entitlement, religion, piracy, colonialism, privatisation, corruption and sex played a part. Under his daughter Elizabeth things just got worse until finally the Spanish decided to put an end to the challenge of the uppity English and mount an invasion. The biggest fleet ever assembled sailed from Lisbon heading for the Netherlands to pick up reinforcements and then on to England.
The Spanish plan was no secret, and the English were ready, kind of. They would lose if the Spanish forces managed to land in any numbers so stopping the Armada was the only hope.
The British fleet under Howard and Drake left Plymouth on 18th July 1588 and chased the Spaniards up and down the Channel for several weeks before the weather got the better of everyone and the Spanish bailed out around the north of Britain, loosing many ships on the way.
Elizabeth 1 reportedly spoke to her troops at Tilbury.
I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm: to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.’
Needless to say she didn't reward the soldiers as promised, after all they didn't need to fight did they, the Navy did all the heavy lifting (and the British weather).
Innovative ship design and a whole heap of good luck allowed the English to triumph. Some suggest it was this victory and the resulting rise in English nationalism and self-confidence that was the foundation for the Union and the British Empire.
How it ended (maybe)
The Battle of Normandy, began on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day, when some 156,000 British, American and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified Normandy coast of France. The invasion was the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning.
This time the enemy did not have a clear understanding of the plan and by late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring the Allies had defeated the Germans. The remains of the preparatory works litter the rivers and creeks of southern England, often ignored and forgotten, sometimes memorialised like the wreckage of the tragic events on Slapton Sands.
In some peoples view Britain won the war but lost the peace. Buried in debt, its infrastructure shattered and population exhausted, the transition from Imperial power to the basket case of Europe was for them inexorable.
And so here we are in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, deep into the Brexit readjustments and facing an existential crisis as a nation; staring at the approaching climate and extinction Armageddon overburdened by a sense of dread and helplessness. Can we fix it? Yes, kind of, but this time we need international collaboration not English exceptionalism. The enemy of the environment is within every one of us but so is the solution.