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Martin Frobisher came from a similar background to Francis Drake, although he was a Yorkshireman whose family originally came from Denbigh. Orphaned at a young age, he went to sea as an apprentice, and built his career there. In the mid 1500's, the sea was a tough place to be and Frobisher grew up a tough man, brave, and an expert sailor. He had a fierce, unruly spirit which he was unable (sometimes unwilling) to control. There was more than a hint of piracy in his earlier days, though the evidence is not strong enough to confirm it. Martin had a good relationship with the merchants of London and their financial partners (the country's noblemen). In 1575, he was appointed to command an expedition to China and Japan through the North-West passage. Afterwards, Frobisher lead many voyages, only 3 of which are now widely remembered. The voyages left him quite out of pocket, but very high in favour with Queen Elizabeth I. She employed him on her ships, and among other voyages, he accompanied Drake to the West Indies in 1585. Martin Frobisher was held in high regard during the Armada voyage, and was given command of the 'Triumph', the greatest of royal ships. He ranked 4th in the fleet's unofficial hierarchy, having almost as much sea experience as Drake (though not as much fighting experience). Interestingly, he was Drake's most open enemy and loudest critic. Six years after the Armada, he was wounded and died (it is said), a victim of bad surgery.

Many of the other leaders of the anti-Armada fleet were trained under Francis Drake. One exception was Edward Fenton who was second-in-command to Martin Frobisher on 2 occasions. He was almost a 2nd rate copy of Frobisher, with plenty of sea experience, but lacking his flair and determination. He was also openly hostile towards Drake, being quoted as saying "He hath used certain speeches of me which I will make him eat again, or I will make him spend the best blood in his belly".

Among Drake's supporters was Robert Crosse who was his Rear-Admiral of his Western Squadron, but whose career highlight was in the capture of the Spanish treasure-ship 'Madre de Dios' in 1592. Others of Francis Drake's men were the sea family, the Fenners. Thomas, Edward, George and 2 Williams (father and son) of the family joined the fleet. Thomas Fenner was placed on the Lord Admiral's inner council in 1588.

Another of the English commanders was William Borough, one of Queen Elizabeth's servants. He had recently been tried by court-martial, where Francis Drake had sentenced him to death. This was obviously postponed for the Armada.

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