Battles

Battle sites displayed on GISBattle sites displayed on GISThroughout history, many maritime battles occurred along the east coast and in the English Channel, an area of the important commercial shipping routes lying close to the European mainland. From the 15th century onwards there are many records of battles between English, Dutch, French, Spanish and Flemish fleets.
 
Until the development of firearms in the 16th century battleships fought at close quarters and vessels were often taken as prizes. As the use of ordnance became common, battles at sea became increasingly destructive and began to take place over much wider areas. Many vessels were partially destroyed or sunk during battles and sources document the jettison of material and the deliberate destruction of ships and their contents to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy. Major engagements also often saw large numbers of vessels (up to a hundred vessels on each side) travelling in fleets to and from the naval battle sites. There is high potential, therefore, for the recovery of archaeological material at battle sites in the seas around the UK.
 
The locations of battle sites are rarely accurately recorded and discrepancies between sources are common. It was necessary, therefore, to evaluate individual sources to ascertain the most reliable data to characterise and map battle events.

Battle sites were plotted as points interpreted from the text of secondary sources (such as personal accounts) and, where possible, primary historical sources and charts. References to the direction of travel, line of attack and distance from the coast were used to locate points as accurately as possible. The sites of major battles were often plotted as a series of points, reflecting individual engagements. Where the distance of the battle from the shore could not be determined, points were plotted 15km offshore from the location described. Each point was also given a 15km buffer to compensate for any remaining uncertainty. The majority of battles mapped were located in the English Channel, with a high concentration in battle events recorded off the Downs in the Dover Straits.