A Long Start to a Long WarEdit
A lieutenant dressed in an impeccable uniform stepped out of the Admiralty Building into the pouring rain, clutching his cloak around him. Concealed in his cloak was a bundle of sealed dispatches for him to bring to the Office of Naval Affairs. Waiting for him there would be several Admirals, as well as two Sea Lords. He hurriedly marched through the alleys and streets, ignoring the rain that soaked him throughly. After a good half hour of walking, he arrived at the steps of the Office. He opened his cloak to show the Marine sentry his uniform, and he was bypassed. He grabbed the despatches out from his cloak and searched the hallways, until he found a large, closed room. With a knock, he entered and removed his hat.
"My Lord," the lieutenant said, gasping, "the dispatches. Lord Mallace says they are of the utmost importance, my Lord. He begs you to open them at once." the lieutenant handed the despatches to a young, lean man in the uniform of the First Sea Lord. He scanned over the lieutenant before dismissing him, and then turned to the despatches. He opened them and read over them quickly, and a worried look came over his face.
"The Spanish have finally shifted their fleets out of the Bay of Cadiz," he began, "but unfortunately, they are shadowing our movements here to the West Indies. They are completely ignoring our weak defenses left at England and attacking with both barrels here, so to speak." Only three squadrons of ships of the line had been left in the Channel, while the main force of Britain's Navy had been stationed in the West Indies. The Spanish, instead of taking advantage of that opporutunity, followed the British to the West Indies and trapped them.
The Sea Lord shifted his gaze across the faces of the Admirals. They were all worried, or at least appeared to be. The room was filled with silence, with the exception of the rain beating on the windows. It was one of the older Admirals that spoke first. "Lord O' Reilly, do we know the exact number of enemy ships en route here?" he inquired.
"Indeed, we do. They have thirty four ships; eighteen ships of the line, nine frigates, three sloops of war, and four brigs. A large force." O' Reilly stated matter of factly. That amount of Naval power had never been gathered in the history of the Spanish Navy, and it was utter shock to every occupant of the entire room to hear the news.
A second Admiral spoke this time. "And, my Lord, how many ships are on station here?" he asked, nervously. The great grandfather clock ticked on and on, for seemingly an eternity, before he received his reply.
"Twenty nine; seventeen ships of the line, ten frigates, and two sloops of war," O' Reilly replied. A five ship difference could be the difference between life and death, victory and defeat.