Welcome to this week's Friday list! This one has a distinctly naval theme; we've drummed up a selection of what we feel to be the most awesome task forces of warships ever assembled. One of the most splendid examples would be curtailed, and the like of it would never be seen again.
Throughout history, those with mastery of the sea have numbered among the world's most powerful nations. A formidable navy can be the lynchpin in the prosecution of a successful war.
So without further ado, I give you the five greatest fleets in history!
1.) The D-Day invasion fleet
An absolutely colossal collection of vessels and men, the combined Allied forces in the fleet supporting the Normandy landings in World War II consisted of 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of various types, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels. These were drawn from the navies of eight different nations!
2.) Nelson's Trafalgar fleet
Of course this had to make the list, although not the largest or most powerful fleet in history, it was one of the best-handled, and recorded one of the most decisive and one sided victories of any naval engagement in history, sinking 22 out of 33 Spanish and French vessels whilst losing none of its own.
3.) The Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy
The Kido Butai was probably the most powerful naval force anywhere in the world when it went to war on December 7th 1941. Not because it had the most, or the largest ships in the world (although the Yamato and Musashi were real monsters), but, with its' unprecedented concentration of aircraft carriers, superb planes and aircrew, because it revolutionized naval warfare. Naval aviation became the name of the game.
4.)Marc-Antony’s fleet at Actium
Allegedly 500-strong, with up to 230 large war galleys, this fleet must have been a spectacular sight. It was faced by a much smaller force, but this opposing flotilla was, crucially, led by the experienced and talented naval commander Admiral Agrippa. Marc-Antony's defeat here irreversibly weakened his position in the power struggles at the end of the Roman Empire.
… and last but not least, possibly the most spectacular, if short-lived, fleet ever!
5.) Zheng He's expeditionary fleet.
The history of the Ming Dynasty’s expeditionary fleets of ‘Treasure ships’ is shrouded in mystery and speculation. In the sparse contemporary accounts of these fleets, the recorded size of the treasure ships is open to some doubt, as these traditional accounts state sizes that are far larger than any other wooden ship of that era. The purpose of these fleets was to conduct large scale-trade, to collect tribute and impress foreign states, but they were armed to the teeth! The largest armadas often comprised of over 300 ships and 30,000 men. But these incredible and unprecedented flotillas would not last - the Hongxi Emperor and his successor decided that they were too costly to operate and were at odds with the ‘Huang Ming Zuxun’ doctrine, which admonished all Ming rulers to err on the side of financial caution.
What do you think of this list? Are there any armadas you would have put in, and are there any you would take out? Get in touch and let us know!