35 most important naval battles

Time Periods

Early Cvilizations

Approx. 1500 B.C. - Approx. 600 B.C.

Classical Period

Approx. 600 B.C. - Approx. 600 A.D.

Post-Classical Period

Approx. 600 - 1450

Early Modern Period

1450 - 1750

Industrial Revolution

1750 - 1900

Modern Period

1900 - Present


Battle of Salamis

Approx. 480 B.C.

Greeks versus Persians.
Outcome: Decisive Greek Victory
Strength: Greeks: 371-378 ships, Persians:~900-1207 ships
Casualties: Greeks: 40 ships Persians: 200-300
Victory at Salamis ends Xerxes' invasion and preserves Greek freedom.

Battle of Aegospotami

405 B.C.

Athens versus Sparta
Outcome: Total Spartan Victory
Strength: Sparta:180 ships Athens: 170 ships
Casualties: Sparta:minimal Athens:161 ships captured, 3000 sailors executed.
Sparta's surprise attack on the Athenians allowed Sparta to capture the Athenian fleet, thus cutting off besieged Athens' supply lines, ending the Peloponnesian War.

Battle of Aegates Islands

241 B.C

Rome versus Carthage
Outcome: Roman victory in First Punic War
Strength: Rome:~200 ships Carthage:~250 ships
Casualties: Rome:30 ships Carthage:50 ships, 70 captured.
Roman victory at the Islands forces Carthage to sign a peace treaty to end the First Punic War, ceding Sicily to the Romans.

Battle of Actium

31 B.C.

Octavian versus Mark Antony
Outcome: Octavian's Victory, Octavian becomes Emperor.
Strength: Octavian: 250 ships, Antony: 290 ships
Casualties:Octavian:~75 ships, Antony:200 ships sunk or captured.
Octavian's victory over his rival Antony, marks the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Empire. OCtavian becomes Caesar Augustus, the first Roman Emperor.

Battle of Sluys


England versus France
Outcome: Decisive English Victory
Strength: England:120-150 ships,France 190-213 ships
Casualties: England: Unknown(minimal) France: 16,000-18,000
This battle marks the beginning of the 100 years war between Britain and France. The victory allowed greater English presence in France.

Battle of Lepanto

7 October 1571

Holy League versus Ottoman Empire
Outcome: Decisive Holy League victory
Strength: Holy League: 212 ships, Ottomans: 251 ships.
Loses: Holy League: 17 ships, Ottomans:187 ships
Ottoman defeat leaves Christianity in control of the Mediterranean.

Battle of Gravelines

8 august 1588

English versus Spanish
Outcome: Crushing English victory
Strength: Unknown due to irregularity of ships
Loses English:8 fireships Spanish: 66 ships
The Spanish Armada is scattered and destroyed by the english fire ships, leaving them vulnerable to the following storms, thus preserving English independence.

Battle of the Downs

21 October 1639

Dutch versus Spanish
Outcome: Dutch Victory
Strength: Dutch:95 ships, Spanish:38 ships
Loses: Dutch:1? Spanish:16?
Dutch defeat of the Spanish marks the decline of the Spanish golden age, and the beginning of Dutch ascendency.

Battle of Goodwin Sands

29 May 1652

English versus Dutch
Outcome: Draw
Strength: English: 27 ships Dutch: 44 ships
Loses: English: None, Dutch: 1 ship captured.
An accidental provocation of Dutch ships when a British warning shot inadvertently hits a Dutch ship, this minor engagement begins the Anglo-Dutch wars.

Raid on the Medway

9 June 1667 - 14 June 1667

Dutch versus English
Outcome: Decisive Dutch victory
Strength: Dutch: 60 ships, English: Mainly forts
Loses: Dutch: 8 fire ships, English: 13 ships
The Dutch humbling of the Royal Navy allowed a swift end to the Second Anglo-Dutch war.

Battle of Bantry Bay

11 May 1689

English versus French
Strength: English: 19 ships, French: 24 ships
Loses: none
The draw at Bantry Bay put an end to the French invasion of Ireland that was planned, even though the English squadron was badly mauled.

First Battle of Cape Finisterre

14 May 1747

English versus French
Outcome: English victory
Strength: English: 17 ships, French: 16 combat ships.
Loses: English: None French: 18 ships
Destruction of the French Convoy was a major blow to French interests in America.

Second Battle of Cape Finisterre

25 October 1747

English versus French
Outcome: English victory
Strength: 14 ships French: 8 combat ships
Loses: English: None French: 13
Destruction of the French Convoy was a major blow to French interests in America.

Battle of Quiberon Bay

20 November 1759

English versus French
Outcome: Decisive English victory
Strength: English:29 ships French:27
Loses: English: 2 ships French: 7 ships
The French are rendered unable to effectively resupply their armies in America and Canada, giving the British almost free reign. The lack of protection for French merchant fleets also forces France into a economic depression, forcing it to default on its debt.

Battle of Cape St. Vincent

16 January 1780

English versus Spanish
Outcome: English victory
Strength: English: 24 ships Spanish: 11 ships
Loses: English: None Spanish: 5 ships
The defeat of the Spanish fleet allowed Gibraltar to be resupplied by the British admiral, foiling the Spanish siege efforts.

Battle of Vyborg Bay

July 4 1790

Sweden versus Russia
Outcome: Swedish strategic victory
Strength: Sweden: ~400 ships(many very small) Russia: 192 ships
Loses: Sweden: 14 combat ships Russia: 6 combat ships
Allowed Swedish fleet to escape the blockade of Vyborg, setting up the battle of Svensksund. The battle had more far reaching effects on naval tactics.

Battle of Svensksund

9 July 1790 - 10 July 1790

Sweden versus Russia
Outcome: Decisive Swedish Victory
Strength: Sweden: 176 ships Russia: 145 ships
Loses: Sweden: 6 ships Russia: 73 ships
Swedens crushing victory over the Russian Fleet allowed Sweden to win back territory taken from it by the Treaty of Nystad in the following treaty of Treaty of Värälä.

Glorious First of June

1 June 1794

Britain versus France
Outcome: Draw
Strength: British: 25 ships French: 26 ships
Loses: British: None French: 7 ships
The severe tactical defeat of the French inflicted by the British was offset by the passage of the French grain convoy that the French fleet is trying to protect.

Second Cape St. Vincent

14 February 1797

British versus Spanish
Outcome: British victory
Strength: British: 15 ships Spanish: 24 ships
The defeat of the much longer Spanish fleet by Lor Jervis allowed him to resume his blockade of Cadiz and send a squadron back into the Mediterranean.

Battle of Camperdown

11 October 1797

British versus Dutch
Outcome: Close British victory
Strength: British:16 ships Dutch:15 ships
Loses: British: None Dutch: 9 ships captured
The destruction of the Dutch fleet at Camperdown effectively crippled the French puppet state. It also had the bonus of calming mutinous British crews who participated in the Nore and Spithead mutinies.

Battle of Copenhagen

2 April 1801

British versus Danes
Outcome: British victory
Strength: British: 12 ships Danish: 18 ships
Loses: British: None Danish: 15 ships
The destruction of the Danish fleet in Copenhagen led Denmark to make peace with Britain, taking it out of the League of Armed Neutrality.

Battle of Trafalgar

21 October 1805

British versus Franco-Spanish
Outcome: Decisive British victory
Strength: British:27 ships Allies:33 ships
Loses: British: None Allies: 21 ships
The defeat of the Combined fleet by Nelson ended all French hope for an invasion of Britain, and secured British naval supremacy for the next century.

Battle of Jutland

31 May 1916 - 1 June 1916

U.K. versus Germany
Outcome: draw
Strength: British: 71 ships German: 38
Loses British: 6 ships German: 6 ships
The only major fleet action of WWI, Jutland was highly indecisive. The German High Seas Fleet inflicted more damaging casualties on the British, but fled back to Kiel, never to sortie again.

Battle of the Atlantic

3 September 1939 - 8 May 1945

Allies versus Germany
Outcome: Allied victory
Strength: Allies: ~10000 assorted ships Germany:1104 submarines
Loses: Allies: 3675 ships Germany: 783 submarines
The German U-Boat was a highly effective commerce raider, and with the U.K. cut off from mainland Europe, supplies had to arrive through the North Atlantic from America. Germany attempted to spot these supplies from getting to the U.K. using their submarine fleets. At first they were very successful in their interdiction efforts, but advances in sub-hunting technology and tactics allowed Allied convoys to pass through much more often.

Sinking of the Bismark

23 May 1941 - 27 May 1941

Britain versus Germany
Outcome: British victory
Strength: Britain:17 ships Germany:2 ships
Loses: Britain:1 ship Germany: 1 ship
After the destruction of HMS Hood by the Bismark and Prinz Eugen, the two ships separated. The Bismark was eventually hunted down and destroyed, thus ending German surface incursions into the Atlantic.


Battle of Red Cliffs

208 A.D.

Sun Quan versus Cao Cao
Outcome: Sun Quan's victory
Strength: Sun Quan: 50,000, Cao Cao 230,000
Casualties: Unknown
The defeat of the warlord Cao Cao marks the end of the Han Dynasty, and the beginning of the 3 Kingdoms Period.

Battle of Tsushima

27 May 1905 - 28 May 1905

Japan versus Russia
Outcome: Decisive Japanese victory.
Strength: Japan: 58 ships Russia: 28
Loses: Japan: None Russia: 28
The total destruction of the Russian fleet wins Japan the Russo-Japanese war, giving them a foothold in mainland Asia with which to launch more attacks.

Battle of Savo Island

8 August 1942 - 9 August 1942

Japan versus U.S.
Outcome: Japanese victory
Strength: Japan:8 ships U.S.: 8 ships
Loses: japan: none U.S. 4 ships
Japan attempted to resupply Guadalcanal by sea to relive its beleaguered garrison on the island.

Battle of Leyte Gulf

23 October 1944 - 26 October 1944

U.S. versus Japan
Outcome: U.S. victory
Strength: U.S.:236 ships Japan:67 ships
Loses: U.S.: 6 ships Japan: 28 ships
Japan risked all on an attack on the U.S. invasion fleet in the Philippines. The massive Japanese battleships were turned aside by the concentrated attacks of 4 destroyers and the American air forces.

Operation Ten-Go

7 April 1945

U.S. versus Japan
Outcome: U.S. victory
Strength: U.S.: 58 ships Japan:10 ships
Losses: U.S.:3 ships Japan: 7 ships
The last gasp of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Yamato, the largest warship ever, was sent on a suicide mission to destroy the U.S. invasion force on Okinawa. Yamato and its task force were intercepted by American forces and destroyed, Yamato taking up to 11 torpedoes and 8 bomb hits before its magazine exploded.


Battle of the Delta

Approx. 1190 B.C.

Battle between Ramses III and the Sea Peoples.
Egyptian Victory saved Egypt from destruction.
Strength: Unknown
Casualties: Unknown

Battle of Aboukir Bay

1 August 1798 - 3 August 1798

British versus French
Outcome: Decisive British victory
Strength: British:13 ships French:13 ships
Loses: British: None French: 11 ships
The complete and utter destruction of the French fleet left Napoleon's army stranded in Egypt and gave England complete control of the Mediterranean


Battle of the Saintes

9 April 1782 - 12 April 1782

British versus French
Outcome: Decisive British victory
Strength: British:36 French:33
Loses: British: None French: 5 ships

Battle of Pearl Harbor

7 December 1941

Japan versus U.S.A.
Outcome: Decisive Japanese victory
Strength: Japan: 43 ships U.S.A.: 50 ships
Loses: Japan: minimal U.S.A.:19 ships
The destruction of the U.S. Pacific fleet was almost fully achieved at Pearl Harbor, Japan only failing to destroy the American carriers, submarines and fuel depot. This battle entered the United States into the war, with dire consequences for the Axis.

Battle of Midway

4 June 1942 - 7 June 1942

U.S.A. versus Japan
Outcome: Decisive U.S. victory
Strength: U.S.:42 ships Japan: 21 ships
Loses: U.S.:2 ships Japan:5 ships
The destruction of the majority of the Japanese fleet, essentially crippled Japan for the remainder of the war.