The title, which is abusive given the hybrid nature of the Autogyro, predated the WW2 IJN Akitsu Maru, which also used autogyro and was in addition an amphibious assault ship in the modern sense. At least this was the first ship in Europe to deploy “VSTOL” (in 1934) in operations, although at an experimental level. Anyway, this was a pioneer, a first of three ships in the Armada, including the second of the name from 1967, ex-USS Cabot (Independence class), and from 1982 the Principe de Asturias, also based on a US design and in need of a replacement. But this had the Spanish Navy possessing naval air assets since 1918. The only interruption was between the Dédalo first of the name, being discarded in 1940, and the new one commissioned in 1967.
In truth, the original Dédalo made at the end of WWI Spain a pioneer in naval aviation, alongside Britain, but mostly operated balloons and classic seaplanes. The ship was a conversion from a civilian steamer, and instead of a full flight deck, she had the unique characteristic of being divided in two, operating ballons forward, with a hangar, and seaplanes aft, from a short landing deck. On this standpoint she was very singular, and is also forgotten in the great scheme of things today (but not in Spain through). For all her long interwar career she served semi-exparimentally rather than operationally, testing the waters of airborne naval reconnaissance for the fleet, albeit her slow speed was a deterrent for further integration. She never was a substitute for an aicraft carrier, an endeavour that Spain, in the very troubled interwar, was unable to pursue.
Spanish Naval Aviation
Before going into the details of Dédalo’s conversion and concept, let’s dive into the early beginnings of the Spanish Naval Aviation. Spain’s venture into the 3rd dimension of the sea started below it, with brillant engineers and pioneers, such as Monturiol, Saez and Peral (see the full picture of Spanish submarine development). For the air, an army service in 1896 used ht air balloons for observation, and in 1905 Spain had its first army dirigible. Heavier-than-air development started with the 1909 expedition of Colonel Pedro Vives Vich and Captain Alfredo Kindelán in Europe to adopt a first model, and later create a school. The Aeronáutica Española was first operationally tested over Morocco in 1913, with a unique expeditionary squadron making observation, strafing and bombing missions.
Hydro La Cierva, an autogyro seaplane
Still, the conservative Armada could not ignore experiments made by other navies at the time, but it’s only in 1915 that the first seaplane base was opened at Los Alcazares, Murcia. It was still under supervision of the army though. The Aeronáutica Naval was established through a Royal decree in 1916 in El Prat (todays Barcelona Airport). Since 1912 however, many of the future cadree already trained with the army air corps. The famous roundel was first ported by two Nieuport 80 and one Caudron G.3 in 1920. The Navy therefore looked at the prospect of carrying the numerous seaplanes it acquired, to screen for the fleet. It was also to bring support and coastal reconnaissance along the Morrocan coast during the Rif War.
Spanish licence-built Dornier Plus Ultra
The Navy at that time was equipped with Short models, from UK, but had no domestic production of seaplanes before the experimental (and confidential) HACR Cañete Pirata in 1927. The same year a licence was acquired by CASA (1923) to built the modern, all-metal Dornier Wal, which formed the bedrock of Spanish Naval Aviation both up and during the civil war.
In 1920, the Naval Aviation school was established in Barcelona Naval Aeronautics. This name “Aeronáutica Naval” change was made to accommodate both the aviation and ballooning specialties. The latter was considered rightfully obsolete and reduced in 1926, then eliminated in 1930. Lieutenant Commander Pedro Cardona Prieto was appointed first Director, in charge of selecting new seaplanes for his service.
Of course the adoption of Dédalo changed the capabilities of this branch in 1922, a ship officially called “Estación Transportable de Aeronáutica Naval” or “Naval Aeronautics Transportable Station”, incorporated into the Navy in order to provide an utility Squadron able to transport and provide logistical support for seaplanes in operations. So she was essentally a depot ship with planes to carry the goods. The Spanish Navy still subordonated her use to the army, rather than providing an organic component to Navy Operations. For her, procurement was made of 3 Avro 504K, 4 Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard and 2 Parnall Panther. The diversity was also a way of comparing designs.
Development of the Spanish seaplane carrier
Design of the Dédalo
About the M/S Neuenfels
During WWI, and despite its neutral status, the Spanish Merchant Navy suffered human and material losses due to the urestricted campaign of German submarines in 1917. Pressured both by Spanish shipowners and public opinion, the Spanish government started negociations in August 1918 with German companies in order to obtain compensation for the tonnage lost. As it dragged on, in October 1918 several German ships present in Spanish ports were interned, which in all made it for the tonnage to the losses. This in Spain gave satisfaction to the shipowners, ended the pending arbitration however the disagreement with Germany remained unsolved until he Armistice.
among these vessels was the Neuenfels, one of recent six German steamers seized. This VTE-powered steamer was relatively modern, being laid down in 1900, launched in 1901 and commissined in 1902 to the Deutsche Dampfschifffahrts (DDG Hansa). She was given the provisional name ‘Espana No.6’ and provided immediate employment, now owned by the Ministry of Public Works. She was under the direction of a dedicated office called the «Gerencia de Buques Incautados por el Estado» (management of ship seized by the State) or “GBIE”.
This office took official possession of the vessel for inspection in the port of Vigo on October 23, 1918. The national flag was hosted, and crewmembers from the gunboat Hernán Cortés were mustered to care for the ship, waiting for a new new crew to be asembled, paid by the provided by an assigned new management Company, “Compañía Trasatlántica.”. After a brieg overhal in Ferrol, the vessel was registered in Vigo still apparently as “España Nº6”, and returned to full commercial activity, making nuerous trips in 1919.
In 1920, there was an outbreak onboard of bubonic plague. She had to spend the usual 40-days quarantine in the assigned sanitary control facility, in Mahón. Afterwards, she resume commercial service, making more trips until the end of September 1921. By then, it was decided to hand her over to the Spanish Navy. Indeed, the latter had plans to convert her as a first seaplane/balloon carrier.
Transfer to the Navy as Dédalo
The Spanish Naval Aeronautic Corps had long been interested to acquire or built a seaplane carrier, following the operational service in orther countries. After requesting to the state’s GBIE a transfer, it was agreed and signed by to the Ministry of the Navy and Public Works. España Nº6, was recommissioned as “Dédalo”, Daedalus, a logic choice. The transfer took officially place in November 1921.
Once delivered to the Naval Aeronautics School of Barcelona, the latter came with the conversion proposal. Conversion work started in mid-December 1921, and the study and blueprints were all drafted and conversion made until the start of preliminary tests, on May 1, 1922 over five months. These tests were carried out under the direction of Naval Engineers’s colonel Jacinto Vez, assisted by Lieutenant Commander Pedro María Cardona Prieto. From 1922 her first captain was Wenceslao Benítez Inglott.
Details of the conversion
The transformation into a seaplane carrier was carried out at Talleres Nuevo Vulcano, Barcelona, at a cost 8 million pesetas (1922) and it was quick. Unlike ther, more radical approaches, her superstructure wand masts were kept mostly unchanged. It consisted in modififying her forward part to be dedicated to observation balloons, with her former holds removed, the whole deck pierced and converted into a single hangar space. The goal was to be able to manage and inflate a balloon from the interior of the ship, safe from sea spray and wind, critical for balloon operations.
As such, she was able to carry two A.P. (Avorio Prassone) 1100 m³ captive balloons: They were raised from the mooring mast, using a telephone line. The latter was installed at the port bow with winched cable, but also with a similar holding system as used on foreign mooring masts for dirigibles. She also carried two Italian S.C.A. semi-rigid 1500 m³, 39.3 m independent balloons, one kept operational, and another in reserve.
Avorio-Passone Captive Balloon (1915): Volume 1130 cu.m, Diameter 11,46 m, Length 22,42 m, Max wind 20-25 m/sec.
The mooring post tailored for airships was partly lattice, and placed centerline to the bow. It allowed to navigate one balloon, moored to the post while another was prepared below into the open-air hangar. This way she could operate up to three balloons, one captive and two independent. The captive balloon The hangar also contained spare engines for the nacelles, equipments but moreover batteries for the hydrogen gas cylinders and a small workshop to ensure supply and proper maintenance of the balloons. When not in use, the hangar opening, shaped like a boat, was covered by a waterproof tarpaulin.
The aft part was dedicated to seaplanes. A holding deck was constructed above the original deck, replacing completely the former holding deck. She had a hangar to house the planes inside, although details are not known. This is very likely the two former holds were removed to make way for a larger open space. Part was managed as a workhop, with various payloads, ammunitions and fuel stores. She was still also a depot ship.
On this deck, which was neither “flying nor landing” any plane, but she could host up to twelve neatly stowed seaplanes on deck, and twenty with wings folded in the hangar inside. The 60 m deck had a dedicated lift to raise or lower the seaplanes in the hangar below, provided they had their wings removed due to its small size. This was a serious drawback for operational speed, but ensured to carry many models. The hangar indeed was not considered for preparing planes and rapid launch, but only as a reserve (see “operations”).
Indeed, in total, this made on paper 32 planes, provided they were all wings folded and of the smallest model (see air group), however most publications states an overall capacity for 25, deck and hangar combined. In this fashion, she was still one of largest capacity seaplane carrier in the world, as befitting to a “base”.
Armament & Other Caracteristics
Dédalo’s forward balloon hangar.
As she was commissioned in April 1901, Neufels’ displacement was around 8,500 GRT, but in Spanish service as Dédalo she displaced 9,000 tons standard, 9,900 t fully loaded. She measured 127,4 m long between PP and 132.11 m overall, for 16,76-16.78 m in width, and 7,4 m draft FL. (418 ft x 55 ft x 24 ft 3 in).
Her aft deck measured 60 m (). She was propelled by a single propeller shaft, mated to a 3-cylinder reciprocating engine, later changed to a more modern VTE, which developed 3,000 shp (2,200 kW), provided steam from three coal-burning boilers. Top speed was 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). She carried a crew of 398 officers and sailors, probably comprising also her air group personal.
She also had two projectors, a pole mooring mast at the bow, a ladder-type, lattice mast with four booms to hoist seaplanes. As for close defence, she carried four Krupp 105 mm (4.1 in) guns and two 57 mm (2.2 in) AA guns.
Dédalo air group
In reality, her Operational air group, as completed, was more diverse, and reduced: She carried four balloons (as seen above, two Avorio-Passone and two semi-rigid SCA types). The seaplanes were lowered into the water using cranes, and after splashing down and taxiing, were hoisted onboard by the same means. This air group comprised in all 22 seaplanes:
Five Felixtowe F.3A obervation/bombers
Five Macchi M.18 Fighters
Four SIAI S.13 Reconnaissance-fighters
Four SIAI S.16 Reconnaissance-Transport-Bombers
Five SIAI S.16bis Reconnaissance-Transports-Bombers
This made for a diverse group, filling all the needs of the Navy, with laison and transport models, long-range observation/bombardment models also possibly capable of ASW patrols, and escort fighters. The most capable were the high-performances Macchi M.18s, derived from the wartime Macchi M.5 which range was short and only intended as local defense and escort. Here are the details of each model:
Felixtowe F.3A (1917): Crew 4, 14.99 x 31.09 x 5.69 m, 7,958 lb/12,235 lb (5,550 kg). Prop: 2 × Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII V12 345 hp (257 kW), 91 mph (147 km/h, 79 kn), ceiling 8,000 ft (2,438 m). Armed with 4× Lewis guns, 920 lb (420 kg) bombs underwing
Macchi M.18 (1920): Crew pilot, observer, and gunner, 9.75 x 15.80 x 3.25 m, 1,275 kg/1,785 kg (3,935 lb). Prop. Isotta Fraschini Asso 250 186 kW (250 hp): 187 km/h (116 mph, 101 kn), range 1,000 km (621 mi, 540 nmi), ceiling 5,500 m (18,000 ft), armed with a 7.7 mm (.303 in) Vickers (ring), 4 light bombs underwing
SIAI S.13 (1918): Crew pilot, observer, propelled by an Isotta Fraschini V6 engine 187 kW (250 hp), top speed 197 km/h (122 mph, 106 kn), armed with a 7.7mm (0.303in) MG.
SIAI S.16/16 bis (1919): 9.89 x 15.50 x 3.67 m, 840/2,652 kg (5,847 lb), prop. Lorraine-Dietrich 12Db 298 kW (400 hp), 194 km/h (120 mph, 100 kn) range 1,000 km (621 mi, 540 nmi), ceiling 4,000 m (13,125 ft). Armed with a 7.7mm (0.303in) MG, 230kg (485lb) bombs underwing
The air group was modified during the Rif War. As it progressed, the Navy needed a more modern, high performance and more versatile model. Discussion with Supermarine led to the purchase of a specifically designed variant of the Sea Eagle (1923). Not all 12 planes provided were on board the Dédalo. Some were kept in reserve and for training.
Supermarine Scarab (1924): Based on the 1923 Sea Eagle, and Sheldrake, in pusher configuration and tailored for the Spanish Navy and Dédalo: 12 built, delivered to the Spanish Naval Air Service as a bomber/reconnaissance model in Rif War. .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis, 1,000 lb 454 kg. bombs underwing.
In the 1930s and the civil war (from 1932), she carried a modernized, much reduced air group, without balloons and with only five Macchi M.18 for reconnaissance/bombing and a single Savoia-Marchetti SM.62.
SM.62 (1926): Crew 3, 11 x 15.5 x 4.19 m, 1,900/3,000 kg (6,614 lb), prop. Isotta Fraschini Asso 500 V-12 370 kW (500 hp). Perf. 200 km/h (120 mph, 110 kn) ceiling 4,200 m (13,800 ft). Armed with 4 × 7.7 mm, 600 kg (1,300 lb) bombs.
176.63 oa (166.12 pp) x 16.45 x 5.03 m
7,475 long tons standard, 9,237 long tons Fully Loaded
Dédalo during the Rif War, 1925
She started service at Cartagena in late 1922, under command of Wenceslao Benítez Inglott. A big chunk of the Naval Air Branch (1923-1924) was indeed linked to the Moroccan Campaign, or “Rif War”. From August 2 to November 15, 1922, Dédalo traveled to the coast of Africa to participate in the Morocco Campaign. Her main objective was to map and explore the coast, starting with Beni Urriaguel, and report troop movements of the Rifans, while cooperating with land-based army aircraft and seaplanes based in Mar Chica. Baptism of fire took place on August 6, 1922, with the bombardment of Morro Nuevo and Azibfazar.
The first loss, both of aircraft and pilots occured on June 20, 1923, when one Macchi M.18 crashed in “Los Acantilados del Freus” area, close to the Mola fortress, Menorca. A reported, it happened as a result of a stall while flying very low, resulting in the death of Lt. de Navío Mr. Vicente Cervera (pilot) Juan Suárez de Tangil (observer).
On October 2, 1924 two Spanish Supermarine Scarab seaplanes were shot down during a reconnaissance mission, of the coast of Gómara. They were flying in support of the Tiguisas positions to the point of being submerged by Rifans. One received bullet hits to her fuel tanks just as making a very low-level pass over enemy positions. She made a crash-landing about 500 meters from the coast. The other warned the nearby T-13 torpedo boat, but Rifan boats arrived in between to take their prize, the Spanish seaplane, still defended by pistol, by her crew. The T-13 arrived just in time to save both crew and plane, but the pilot, seriously injured, died in between.
Dédalo in 1930
The next year, Dédalo was sent to another offensive mission, the Alhucemas air-naval operation, taking place in support of a landing. This was for Spain its first complex combined-operation, amphibious and air-covered, with full coordination Army-Navy. It is today still a textbook reference for the modern Spanish Marines. The objective was to definitely “pacifying” the Spanish protectorate of Morocco. As planned on April 30, 1925, the goal was to create a base of operations (in addition to a beachhead) to allow landing and preparing an expeditionary corps of 20,000 men from Cebadilla beach to Adrar Sedun, with an operation area comprising the Morro Nuevo peninsula, Cabo del Quemado, Morro Viejo, Cala Bonita, Buyifar, Monte Palomas and Monte Malmust.
Dédalo and the rest of the naval air group had to spot and attack enemy positions in the initial phase of the landings, recoignise and report any reinforcement maneuver from the enemy, and later, bring air support by reconnaissance inland, boming and strafing enely targets of opportunity. On September 17, 1925, the naval air group bombed Sidi Dris and Cabo Quilates, even going so far as to strafe and bomb well dug-out positions and caves built by the rebels.
Dédalo in the interwar
Until 1925, she proved very valuable services to the Navy and Army during the war in Morocco. Her contribution to the Alhucemas landings notably has been praised and well observed. Her air group performed “projection power” missions with decisive result like her mass bombing on a Rifan Garrison during this support, dropping in all 175 bombs. This was the first landing with a massive air support in world history. In 1924, she sailed to Southampton to be loaded with a dozen Supermarine Scarab, tailor-built or Spain. These were the first Spanish Navy amphibious bombing seaplanes.
In October 1928, she participated in large fleet maneuvers. Later in the 1930s, the Spanish Navy, like the Air Service, were interested in Juan de la Cierva y Codorníu’s autogyro, which brought brand new capabilities with its vertical or short run take-off and landing. Soon, the Navy asked him to test his latest model on the deck of the Dédalo. De la Cierva made a perfect and precise landing on March 7, 1934, with his C.30, registered G-ACIO. A marked area, the world’s first “helispot” was painted on deck for the occasion. For this test, Dédalo was anchored off Valencia. 30 min. later, De la Cierva took off after a short run on 24 m. And again, made history again as the world’s first STO (Shot Taking Off) with a rotary-wing aicraft.
It can be argued the Autogyro was not a “true” helicopter, due to its conventional tail, front engine, and not able to fully hover or take off vertically, but it is generally assumed as the forebearer of more modern helicopters. This model enable brand new capabilities to the Dédalo and the Navy envisioned to acquire the C.30; Indeed, although its range, speed and payload were very limited, the capability to take off and landing quickly allowed the Navy to deployed a swarm of spotters all around the Ship, far quicker than earlier seaplanes.
The Cierva C.30 was widely tested around the world, exported and mostly used by the RAF as the Avro 671 Mk.1 (N.º80 and N.º529 Sqn), also licence-built in France as the Lioré et Olivier LeO C-30 or Germany as the Focked-Wulf C30 Heuschrecke. Having a single pilot onboard, the C.30 had a 6 m long fuselage, 11,28 m diameter rotor, was 3,38 m high, weight 554,5/818 kg fully loaded, and propelled by a 7-cyl radial Genet Major 1A which developed 108 kW 145 hp. It could reach 177 km/h, cruised at 153 km/h over 458 km. It was unarmed, although on the long run it could have been possible to fit forward a Vickers with interruptor gear.
Operating a semi-rigid SCA, date unknown.
Dédalo in Cartagena, 1920. The photo could lead to think she was camouflaged, but this that the projected shadow of the planes stowed on board.
Civil War and Fate
With the troubled situation in Spain after the Rif War, as Support for the Rivera regime gradually faded. Miguel Primo de Rivera eventually resigned in January 1930. Little support for the monarchy in the major cities led eventually to the Republicans to grew support, and on 12 April 1931, the Republicans won the elections, proclaiming the Second Republic, King Alfonso XIII going into exile.
The spanish Navy was “purged” of its most conversative, pro-manarchist or pro-Rivera elements, and reorganized.
The Dédalo was mostly inactive all this time, with an air group largely dilapidated, and lack of maintenance or training. She was held in reserve, not making any fleet sorties and in 1933 it was decided to have her placed in reserve, with a skeleton crew. In 1935 the reserve was permanent, and she was srtipped of air air group (she had in 1930 also her forward balloon hangar scrapped).
Dédalo was decommissioned in April 1936. Dut due to the outbreak of the Civil War, she was partially reactivated in the port of Sagunto, waiting for a possible recommission by Repblican Forces. Eventually, she stayed there until the end of the war in 1939. Under the new Franco Regime, there were little prospect to have her recommissioned as many in the Armada seen the concept as already obsolete. She stayed in reserve again, until definitively stricken from the Navy Lists on March 1, 1940. After being towed to Valencia, she was scrapped. Her name would be given later to USS Cabot transferred in 1967.
Los Portaaviones Españoles: Camil Busquets, Albert Campanera y Juan Luis Coello, Vida Marítima
Chesneau, Roger, Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906–1921.
Ministerio de Defensa (2017). Cien años de aviación naval 1917-2017
The first Dedalo was an aircraft transportation ship and the first in the world from which an autogyro took off and landed.
Busquets, C.; Campanera, A; Coello, J. L. (1994). Los portaaviones españoles. Agualarga Editores
Laforet Hernández, Juan José (2010). lmirantes Horiundos de Canarias: III Jornadas Marítimo-Navales. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País de Gran Canaria. p. 74
Principe Alfonso, Almirante Cervera, Miguel de Cervantes
The interwar Spanish Cruisers
Called different names by historians according either to their launching or completion date, these three Spanish cruisers were a departure of WW1 design, and built in Spain, at Ferrol NyD (Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval). They were light cruisers with strong British influence, designed by Sir Philip Watts in person. They recalled the British Enterprise-class but all their boilers were grouped together to reduce the number of funnels. Main armament was made of Vickers pattern 6-inch guns in single mountings and twin turrets, this was the major attraction of this design compared to previous vessels of the Blas de Lezo class. The programme was initially authorised so-called Miranda law of 17 February 1915. However due to the lack of support of UK to send parts, it was delayed after 1916, construction of the lead ship starting in 1917. The design was revised in between as parts arrived and they were completed in 1925-1930. By that time, their design was already dated, comparable with the American Omaha class and British E class because of their mix of twin and single guns.
Both would served extensively during the Spanish civil war, Alfonso being renamed in 1931 Libertad. Both Libertad and Cervantes served with the Republicans, but Cervera was captured and used by the Nationalists. Galicia (ex-Libertad, ex-Alfonso) and Miguel de Cervantes were partly rebuilt and comprehensively refitted in the 1940s with the “Q” 6-in turret replaced by a catapult and seaplane while their single broadside 6-in mountings were replaced by twins and AA added. They were discarded in the 1960s, 1970 for Galicia.
Design of the Cervantes class
Like for previous designs, the Spaniards turned to British yards to have plans of the latest light cruisers of the new generation built in Great Britain. This were the E-class (Enteprise or Emerald) of the Royal Navy. designed by Sir Phillip Watts’ team they were very similar in dimensions but different internally and externally in a great number of details:
-For aesthetical and practical reasons (pierced funnels were a problem for draft, therefore less funnels the better) and aesthetic ones, the entire compartmentation of the powerplant was revised, as much as for ASW protection than to concentrate funnel exhausts in a single point. Plus with their two raked funnels these cruisers were elegant. One was even called the “dandy of the bay of Biscaye”.
-They also had single and twin masked guns: Enteprise had a twin turret forward, and singles everywhere else, while Emerald only had single ones.
-They carried eight guns rather than seven, which proved a better choice, with an overall better arc of fire.
-They diverged in dimensions, being much longer (176.63 vs. 173.7 m), slightly broader, with slightly more draft, and of course larger displacement.
-They had an aft mainmast, and minimal rigging forward
-Details of their bridge and fire director also diverged
-However just as the Emerald, they were quite fast. The Emerald reached 32 knots, the Cervera 33 knots.
HMS Emerald, on which the design was based. In reality, they were base don her variant, HMS Enterprise, which had twin guns fore and aft. They had eight guns in all, wit varying positions between the two prototypes. The Arethusa and Leander directly derived from them.
Hull and protection
The Cervera class cruisers had a conventional hull shape with a forecastle starting right after the first funnel. From afar they almost looked as destroyers with their fore and aft superfiring gun positions. The stern was raked, the bow almost straight and they did not have the breakwater recessed in the bow’s flanks of the Emerald class. Their speed also came from their shape, with a good 1/10 lenght-beam ratio. Protection was light, comprising a 75 mm belt armour (3 in), 40 mm (1.5 in) on both ends, and had two decks, a protective deck above the waterline, 50 mm strong (2 in), an upper deck 25 mm strong (0.9 in). Only the conning tower was well protected, with walls 150 mm strong (5.9 in). Thickness of the gun shields is unknown, but probably the same as the Emerald, 3-in (75 mm). These figures were slightly better than the E-class.
The Cervera class became the fastest cruisers of the Spanish Navy, they were capable of leading destroyers, conceding just three knots to the Churrucca class (36). This consisted in four Parsons geared turbines, for one shaft each, fed by eight yarrow boilers, producing 80,000 hp, enough for 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph). Range was helped by the fact the were oil-burning, and were noted for 5,000 nmi (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph), lesser than the E-class, capable of reaching 8,000 nm at the same speed. On trials, Alfonso achieved 34.7 knots, a record at that time, for an output of 83,000 shp. These figures did not held the test of time and especially the civil war. By the end of the war, the lack of maintenance, probably had them reaching barely 30 knots.
It was entirely British, and consisted in eight main guns, four secondary, two light and four triple banks of TTs.
The 6-inch (152 mm) guns were placed in three twin turrets, all on the upper positions, “B”, “X” position and amidship, and two single mountings on the decks, “A” and “X” positions. They were of the typical Breech Loading 6-inch (152 mm) L/45 Mk XII also used on the Emerald. They fired a 100 pounds (45.36 kg) Lyddite, Armour-piercing, Shrapnel (2,825 feet per second (861 m/s)). They used a Welin interrupted screw breech, with a recoil Hydro-spring system at 16.5 inches (420 mm). The mount elevated to 30°, for a max range of 19,660 metres (21,500 yd. The average rare of fire was 5-7 rpm.
The four 4-inch (102 mm) guns were 45 caliber dual purpose, AA guns, located either side of the rear deckhouse, near the tripod mainmast and aft superstructure bridge and aft funnel, on side platforms with a good arc of fire. This was completed by two 3-pd (47 mm) guns moslty used as saluting pieces.
The most impressive part of their arsenal was the presence of twelve 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes in four triple banks on the broadside. Due to the recesses in the superstructure, they could pivot to 90°. This gave them the equivalent of a destroyer full torpedo broadside on each side, a potent mix combined with their speed.
After 1945, the Spanish minister of the Navy plan a modernization for many ships, including the three Cervera class cruisers. It was “project nº 133”. It included the addition of a Heinkel He 114 seaplane and revised catapult, and redistribution of all main guns into four twin turrets. A French Decca radar was also to be provided and the bridge rebuilt and modernized as well as extra AA added. Some of these planned upgrades were actually made on Galicia and Miguel de Cervantes. However Cervera was never taken in hands for such modernization as both financial support was not there, and the lack of materials also prevented it. Therefore she was retrograded as a part-time training ship, spending the rest of her career as a training ship until 1965. Her sister-ships survived her longer.
Chesneau, Roger, Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922–1946.
Whitley, M. J. (1995). Cruisers of World War Two
The Cervantes class in service
Named after the admiral Cervera di Topete which fought at the battle of Santiago de Cuba, the cruiser was launched in Ferrol on October 16, 1925, sponsored by the wife of Admiral Emiliano Enríquez. Sea trials started on May 24, 1928, a week and she was commissioned on 15 September 1928. In November 1928, she participated in exercises off the Balearic Islands, hosting King Alfonso XIII, which reviewed the squadron. On April 13, 1929, she visited to Lisbon, while the staff was visited by the President of the Republic nd the government visited the ship on 18 April.
16 May 1929: Cervera sailed to Havana, Cuba, carrying a Spanish delegation led by the Minister of the Navy Admiral Mateo García de los Reyes. They were invited for the inauguration of the President of the Republic, General Gerardo Machado. She departed to spain ten days later.
The Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931 with Francisco Bastarreche at its head, alternating between her as flagship and the destroyer Alcalá Galiano. In October 1934, Cevera shelled coastal towns during the insurrection in Asturia together with the battleship Jaime I. In early 1936, she made an artillery exercise with Jaime I and her sister ships Libertad (ex-Alfonso) and Cervantes, targeting the old unprotected cruiser Conde de Venadito.
When the civil war broke out in July 1936, Admiral Cervera was in El Ferrol, drydocked for a refit her two sister ships never had. She was left under Republican sailors which led her, until the 21st, when the port was attacked by officers and sailors of the Nationalist side. After much fighting she was captured and passed under General Francisco Franco control (in command in october). She was initially under command of captain Juan Sandalio Sánchez-Ferragut, shot by the Nationalists. Cervera was nicknamed “El Chulo del Cantábrico“, the “dandy of biscaye”, as she multiplied mining missions, blockading Republican ports along the coast and shelling coastal towns with impunity, like Gijón, Santander or Portugalete, the Republican submarine base.
Cervera was dispatched to Gijón to help rescuing besieged troops after the Simancas Barracks attack. She was later in a task force, which centerpiece was the battleship España and destroyer Velasco, sent to blockade the Cantabrian coast and shell any meaningful objective. Howeber on August 9, 1936 Cervera hit the British yacht Blue Shadow, targeted as she was coming from Bilbao, carrying British citizens evacuated conducting them off Gijón. Cervera was shelling the port and commander spotted the Blue Shadow, misidentified it for a WW1 ASW vessel. He opened fire, killing the captain Rupert Savile, wounding his wife, two crew members and wounding the passengers. The ship sank quickly, survivors being rescued by the British destroyer HMS Comet, coming from the port of El Musel. This trigerred a diplomatic incident, however due to the alliances of the Nationalists with Italy and Germany, the matter was dropped.
Cervera was also sent to support the blockade of the Strait of Gibraltar. As Republican covoys transited, Cervera participated on 29 September 1936 to the battle of Cape Spartel, duelling with the Republican destroyer Gravina with poor results: She fired 292 6-in rounds for just two hits. Gravina was damaged but managed to escape at full speed, taking refuge in Casablanca. By October 1936 the coast guards Uad Lucus and Uad Muluya were scuttled off Malaga after Cervera showed up.
By January 1937 the spanish cruiser accompanied by the gunboat Galerna spotted, and catch the Panamanian-flagged merchant Andra, sank as she carried various cargoes, circumventing the blockade of the Cantabrian Sea. After a second volley she was disabled but proved impossible to tow, so she was sunk by Galerna.
Cervera went on doing these blockading duties, spotting, identifying and capturing merchant ships of various flags passing by since it started on April 6, 1937. She was about to capture a British merchant ship Thorpehall, when she was catch by three destroyers and escorted to safty to Bilbao. After this, the situation became even more tense:
On 21 April, Almirante Cervera and Galerna faced the British battlecruiser HMS Hood and destroyer HMS Firedrake for three hours, trying to sink three British merchantmen. After hood warned by projector the Cervera, then fired warning shot, the freighters escaped into Bilbao a coastal battery and the Basque armed trawler Biskaya taking charge of their protection. On 4 July, Cervera seized the French steamer Trégastel and fired on the British Latymer off Cantabria, which was chased off. Both tried to enter Santander, despite the presence of the battleship HMS Resolution, under stricts orders not to fire. On 9 july British merchant ship SS Gordonia was also intercepted and arrested to be inspected. She was released and escorted away by British warships. On 14 July Cervera and Galerna, seized the Molton off Santander. It happened inside Spanish waters, under the eyes of the battleship Royal Oak, which could do little but prevent any sinking. Cervera would sank later two Republican coast guard vessels and a merchant ship and shot down a Tupolev SB bomber which targeted her. The Spanish cruiser also played a central role in the capture of the Marqués de Comillas, a liner loaded with Republican 9,000 troops. This is how 1937 ended, quite a remarkable career.
On 17 February 1938, Cervera sailed from Palma de Mallorca with Canarias and Baleares for the shelling of Valencia and on the 22 she was strafed by Republican biplanes Polikarpov R-Z (Soviet Group 30, Soviet pilots but Republican markings) and a second wave of Tupolev SB. She was hit by a 50 kg bomb on the stern funnel, which was a dud, but the impact shatterred the funnel and wounded 25 men, the machine room was also damaged. Other reports another bomb hit, eve more serious, but never confirmed. On 6 March, she escorted a convoy, ending in the Battle of Cape Palos, assisting the Baleares, which that day was torpedoed and sunk by Republican destroyers, rescuing survivors.
On 23 October 1938, she seized the Soviet steamer Tsyurupa. She was renamed Castillo Villafranca and used by the Nationalists. Despite of her near constant service off a shrinking Republican-held coast, the career of the Cervera was somewhat was shiny than the cruiser Canarias. The civil war ended and the cruiser was now showing her age. She received a limited upgrade in 1938-39 but stayed in the same state during WW2. Cervera was not modernized extensively as her sisters after the war, served as a training ship until was written off in 1965.
Principe de Alfonso
Authorized in July 11, 1922, laid down on November 24, launched in January 3, 1927 in Ferrol, Alfonso started her sea trials in September 1927 and by November 1927, carried the king of Spain from Barcelona to Naples for marriage of Princess Anne of France with the Duke of Apulia. The cruiser then stopped for state visits at Malta, Bizerte, Sardinia and Mahón. By the summer of 1928, the King was back on board to assist in the Bay of Santander to the French Atlantic Squadron (Admiral Docteur) visit. King Alfonso XIII visited Sweden in September 1928 and stopped in Kiel. He attended a reunion with Rear Admiral Woelping von Ditter, Vice Admiral Oldekop, Vice Admiral Erich Raeder and Captain Wilhelm Canaris onboard SMS Schleswig Holstein. The ship then transited the Skagerrak, stopping at Stockholm and Gothenburg and returned to Spain via via Skagen, Courtepin in Scotland, Plymouth, arriving in Ferrol in September for a quick overhaul. The king assisted to the fleet’s exercizes off Santander in August 1929 and the great autumn maneuvers in the Mediterranean. However wit the revolution of 1931, the King took exile onboard the cruiser, heading from from Cartagena to Marseille in April, but returned to Cartagena as the Republicans ordered. She was renamed soon Libertad.
Under the Republican flag, Libertad carried Gneral Sanjurjo to Ceuta on April 24, 1931 and later teamed with Cervantes and Cervera to carry troops during the Asturias Revolution of 1934. They landed loyal troops in El Musel, sending their own Marine companies. By October 6-7, Libertad carried and landed the 29th Infantry Regiment in Gijón and fired on the Cimadevilla. The following day she carried out the same mission, adding the Cerro de Santa Catalina as well, with Cervera and Jaime I. By October she remained in El Musel and became in july 1936 when the civil war broke out the flagship of the Republican Navy. She became the most active and efficient Spanish cruiser. She was in Ferrol when the war broke out, and she headed with Jaime I and Miguel de Cervantes to Cádiz. However their commanders leaned towards the Nationalist cause, and during the trip, the crews mutinied and tok control of the three ships, their Officers being shot or jailed. The fleet as ordered headed for Tangier and started a blockade.
On July 20, 1936, Libertad and the fleet shelled Ceuta and two days later with Cervantes, she shelled Algeciras and La Línea. The International Committee however ordered them to leave Tangier, an international city. The cruisers staued in Malaga, trying to maintain strait the blockade in international waters. On August 7, Libertad and Jaime I shelled Cádiz and Algeciras. They sank the gunboat Dato. Later they assisted a failed attempt to land and conquer Mallorca. By September, teaming with Jaime I, Cervantes and five destroyers she headed for Malaga and left the Strait of Gibraltar to support isolated republican forces in northern Spain. Some shelling of the Cantabrian coats were followed by an order to sail back to the Mediterranean, crossing at night the Canarias and Almirante Cervera. They were sighted and therefore no battle followed. By April 1937, Libertad, Jaime I and Méndez Nuñez shelled Malaga. She sortied in May for a similar mission.
In September she teamed with Méndez Nuñez and the destroyers Lepanto, Almirante Valdés, Almirante Antequera, Almirante Miranda, Gravina, Escaño and Jorge Juan, to escort a convoy. However en route off Cape Cherchell (Algeria) they met the cruiser Baleares. The battle raged on for one gour, Libertad being hit by Baleares, but hit her in return twice, setting her ablaze. The republican then withdrawn to Cartagena, being strafed and bomb on their way by national and Italian planes. Libertad was then repaired and inactive until March 1938. The same republican squadron face the Nationalists at the battle of Cabo de Palos. Libertad shot 13 time while the destroyer Lepanto sank the Baleares, one of her torpedoes hitting bow ammunition store. There are little active records aferwards, until on March 5, 1939, Cartagena uprizing forced the cruiser out, with the rest of the Republican squadron, sailing to for Bizerte in Tunisia to be interned. They arrived on March 11 and the crew requested political asylum, while others were internet at Meheri Zabbens camp. The crew was later repatriated on the Mallorca and Marqués de Comillas transports, departing in late March 1939.
Later, the ship was asked for by the new Francosit government and went back in service. Libertad was renamed Galicia and spent WW2 in inactivity. She was modernized however in the 1940s and handed over to the Armada in December 13, 1944. In 1946 Galicia sailed to Buenos Aires, to represent Spain at the inauguration of President Juan Domingo Perón. Her active service went on until
January 1970. She was then discarded, and sold for scrap.
Named after the famous writer, the cruiser made her sea trials in December 1929 nefore commissioning. She showed her amazing speed, reaching 35 knots, the best of the three, superior to many destroyers of the time. She teamed with Almirante Cervera during the Asturias Revolution of 1934 (see above) shelling objectives and landing troops. With Libertad sailed from Ferrol on July 17, 1936, heading to the Strait of Gibraltar when the civil war started, trying to blockade the strait. Crews rebelled onboard and seized the ships from officers largely sympathetic to the Nationalists. She then teamed with Jaime I, Libertad, and seven destroyers (Churruca class), blockading Tangier and the strait of Gibraltar. They shelled La Línea de la Concepción, Ceuta and sailed for their new base in Malaga. They briefly sailed to northern Spain and were ordered back to Cartagena.
On November 22, 1936, Miguel de Cervantes was hit by torpedoes fired by the Italian submarine Torricelli as she was anchored off Cartagena. Damage was seruious but her ASW compartimentation did its job and she was towed to the port’s basin for repairs. They lasted until April 1938. She was only operational again, after months of inactivity, in March 5, 1939. She had to left Cartagena like the rest of the Republican squadron, and headed for Bizerte for internement; The crew was later repatriated and the ship claimed after the war by the new government. Her carried was quiet in WW2. She received a modernization like her sister. In 1949, she carried El Caudillo to Lisbon and later in May 1952, to Barcelona, for the celebration of the XXXV International Eucharistic Congress. She also landed ans assisted Spanish soldiers during the war of Ifni in North Africa. After her long career, she was decommissioned in 1964, sold for scrap.
Argentine ARA Juan de Garay & Cevantes of the Churucca class (1926)
Agreed: Audaz is only arguably the very first destroyer, and Alvaro de Bazan was a frigate, although of the size and capabilities of a destroyer. Anyway, this a tradition spanning from 1885 to this day, of destroyers built in Spain. There is no ww1 Spanish destroyer section planned for the close future, so this post will start with these early development, prior to WW1, and WW1 Spanish destroyers as well.
HD Profile of the Churruca class (Conway’s)
The bulk of this subject is to cover Spanish destroyers types, with a short overview of their armament. There will be nothing on tactics since they differed little from that of the Royal Navy prior to WW2. For actions, see the generic WW2 Spanish Navy for battle actions involving Spanish destroyers; A short overview of their career is also part of each study.
An Iberian flair for innovation
There are several fields that were explored by talented engineers and inventors over the years in Spain:
-The invention of the submarine is shared by Spain with a few other nations but Ictineo was the first ever to feature an Air independent steam engine, by Narcís Monturiol, and Isaac peral the first electric submarine. For more see the Spanish Submarines page.
-Spain also invented the autogyro, and ancestor of the helicopter, and also invented the first helicopter-carrier (Dedalo).
-Spain invented the Steam engine by Jerónimo de Ayanz y Beaumont
-And Spain invented the destroyer for what we are concerned for…
Technically, the Destructor was ordered by the Spanish government in 1885 to UK yards as a torpedo gunboat. She was specifically tailored to hunt enemy torpedo boats, the new threat for larger ships, cruisers and ironclads. The idea came from Fernando Villaamil, second officer of the Ministry of the Navy. He designed his own design of a large torpedo gunboat to search and destroy torpedo boat and protect the Armada.
Since UK was recognised for her expertise in light fast ships, he deposed a tender to several British shipyards and received proposals based on his specifications. In 1885 James and George Thomson of Clydebank won the contest and started the construction of “Destructor” (or “destroyer” in Spanish, one of the two possible origin of “Destroyer” with the British “TBD”). She was laid down at the end 1885 and late 1886, to be fitted out, trialled and commissioned in 1887.
Vilaamil was born from a wealthy nobles and landowners of Asturias (northern industrial Spain). However impoverished, he pursued a career in the Armada, which soon propelled him to higher rank, and ultimately the ministry. Apart the destructor and development of destroyers in Spain, he became a strong advocate of worldwide oceanic sailing as the best training for cadets and embarked in the first onboard the Corvette Nautilus in 1892-1894.
Visiting Cramp in the USA he soon was aware of adopting the latest naval innovations back in Spain. Not heard, his predictions were realized during the abysmal performances of the Armada in the 1898 Spanish-American war where he commanded the destroyer Furor, where he met his fate.
Destructor, the first destroyer
So what made the destructor (apart her name) the first destroyer or precursor of, and not a torpedo gunboat like so many built in the 1880s ?
The design by Vilaamil himself, which known torpedo gunboats designs of the time, and specifically made a lower, lighter, faster ship. In short, a torpedo gunboat/torpedo boat hybrid.
Destructor displaced 348 tons and what made her unique, was she was the first warship ever equipped with twin triple-expansion engine. They generated 3,784 ihp (2,822 kW), allowing her to reach a top speed of 22.6 knots (41.9 km/h). This made her one of the faster ships in the world in 1888, on par with Thornycroft’s experimental Lighting. But she was much larger, armed with one 90 mm (3.5 in) Spanish-designed Hontoria breech-loading gun and four 57 mm (2.2 in) or 6-pounder Nordenfelt guns, and two 37 mm (1.5 in) (3-pdr) Hotchkiss guns. To this impressive artillery was added two 15-inch (38 cm) Schwartzkopff torpedo tubes with three torpedoes for each, so nine in total. The Destructor was manned 60 officers and sailors.
For gunnery, speed and dimensions, her design left nothing to guessing: Her sole purpose was to hunt down torpedo boats at high seas. Therefore most authors agrees that Destructor was indeed an important precursor, if not the invention of the torpedo boat destroyer. She will be covered by a dedicated post.
Spanish Torpedo Gunboats
Since it’s not the main subject here, were are going to cover the subject quickly.
The Armada acquired the Temerario (1889) and Dona Maria de Molina (1896), which were all operational in 1914. The Destructor was classed officially as a torpedo gunboat, but was closer to destroyers in general shape and capabilities. Spanish TGs were larger and slower, at 562 and 830 tonnes respectively.
Temerario class (1889)
Temerario, Nueva España, Galicia, Marques de Molins, Martin Alonzo Pinzón, Vicente Yáñez Pinzón.
The first was launched at Santa Rosalia, Cartagena, the second at Arsenal de Carraca and all the others at La Graña, Ferrol. The first was laid down in October 1887. Others were launched in 1891-92 and the last, Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, completed in 1894.
These were locally designed and built Steel-hulled torpedo gunboats, with a 13 mm (12.7 mm or ½ inch deck armor) protective deck creating a box over the machinery and boilers. The armament was a mix: They had two 120mm/35 Hontoria M1883 gun fore and aft, and four 57/42 plus four 25/40 Nordenfelt QF guns, they also had two 356 TT with three spare torpedoes for each.
Their powerplant was composed of two vertical triple expansion steam engines rated for 2600 HP total fed by to four boilers, two locomotive and two cylindrical types. Endurance was 3400 nm at 10 knots, on 106 (peacetime) to 190 tonnes (wartime) of coal but top speed as registered on trials was 19 knots.
The Temerario class vessels had a length between perpendiculars of 58 meters, a hull 6.73 meters long with a maximum draft of 3.16 meters and her full displacement, deeply loaded was 630 tons. Standard crew consisted of 91 officers, non-commissioned officers and sailors.
When world war broke out they were barely able to sustain 13 knots, 19 when making sea trials. Their participation in the Hispano-American war wa symbolic. Galicia was sold to Venezuela in September 1898 (Bolivar). In 1918, Marqués de Molins was reboilered, having a single funnel, two 120/35, and four 25mm/40, plus the two original 356 mm TT. Apart Nueva España (ex Velox) which was discarded in 1916, and two Pinzon in 1914 the others were discarded in 1920-22, after WW1.
Marques de Molins
The Temerario class vessels saw some heavy action for some of them: During the 1898 American-Spanish war, Nueva España, Marqués de Molins, Vicente Yáñez Pinzón and Martín Alonso Pinzón and Galicia were stationed in Cuba whereas Temerario stayed in La Plata waters. Nueva España, Galicia and Pinzón skirmished with US Navy ships but were not sunk or badly damaged. After the war Galicia was purchased by Venezuela, in serviceas ARV “Bolívar” and discarded in 1920. The remainder were discarded in 1914 (the two Pinzón) in 1916 for Nueva España, 1920 for Temerario and 1922 for the Marqués de Molins.
Author’s illustration of the Temerario in 1898, previously on cyber-ironclad.com Specifications:
Displacement: 562 tonnes standard
Dimensions: 58 x 6,76 x 3,16 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 4 boilers, 2600 hp, 19 knots.
Armour: Decks and bulkheads 1,5 in.
Armament: Four Hontoria 4,7in (120 mm), four 6pdr (57 mm) QF, one 25 mm Nordenfelt Mg, two 356 mm TT.
Dona Maria de Molina class (1896)
Dona Maria de Molina, Marques de la Vitoria, Don Alvaro de Bazan.
All three torpedo Gunboats were built at La Graña, Ferrol, launched in 1896-97, completed in 1898-1900. They were reasonably Fast torpedo gunboats. After modernization Marqués de la Vitoria had one funnel and María de Molina received two close funnels while Álvaro de Bazán kept her original configuration. The first two were rearmed with two 120mm/35, and four 42mm/42 plus two 57/42 Nordenfelt guns; All three were in Spain during the 1898 war and stayed in service during WW1 and the early interwar, discarded in 1926.
Displacement: 830 tonnes standard
Dimensions: 71.6 x 7,98 x 3 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 4 loco boilers, 3500 hp, 19,5 knots.
Armour: Decks and bulkheads 1,5 in, CT 6-in.
Armament: Two Hontoria 4,7in (120mm), four 40 mm Nordenfelt QF, 8 MGs, three 356 mm TTs (one bow).
A single torpedo gunboat for colonial use, built at the Arsenal de Cádiz and completed in 1895. A 747 tonnes, one funnel, 70 x 8.22 m, armed with two 120 mm/35 Hontoria M1883 guns and four 25mm/42 Nordenfelt guns a single 356 TT in the bow plus three trailing tubes. She was propelled two VTE steam engines and four boilers, cranking up 4500 ihp, reaching 20 knots. Endurance was 2000 nautical miles. She was discarded in 1902.
Furor class destroyers (1896)
Furor, Plutón, Terror, Audaz, Osado, Proserpina
Despite Spain became a pioneer of the type, the lack of political will prevented the adoption of destroyers sooner and adoptions of this class somehwat slipped compared to other fleets. The Audaz class became the first operational Spanish destroyer class. They were British-built, at Clydebank NY, and loosely based on the 27 knotters, standard destroyers of that time.
However, as specified by the Spaniards, they were faster and more powerful. The class comprised the the Audaz, Osado, Pluto and Porcupine, were redesigned and leaned towards the “30 knotters”. They were fitted with Normand boilers. Porcupine differed by having wo funnels.
The earlier Furor, Terror and Pluto served with the Cuban squadron and were anchored in Santiago in 1898 when Admiral Schley made his fatal swoop in the. A fierce battle, leaving no chanced to the Spaniards, ended with the destruction of the Furor and Pluton.
The drama of it all was that Fernando Villaamil, which led the DD squadron, knew his destroyers were badly used by Admiral Cervera.
Pluton had a homeric artillery duel with the armed yacht USS Gloucester, which she disabled before being targeted by the guns of larger ships. Terror was the only one to escape from the total destruction of the Admiral Cervera squadron that day, saved by her speed. The others, operating in Spain, did serve in the next war and well beyond. They were converted as minelayers and broken up eventually in 1924-31.
Author’s rendition of Furor in 1898
Displacement: 380 tonnes FL Dimensions: 69,8 x 6,88 x 4 m Propulsion: 2 shafts 3cyl TE engine, 4 Normand Boilers, 7000 hp, 28 knots. Armament: Two 3-in (75 mm), two 2-in (57 mm), 2 x 8mm Maxim Mgs, two 14-in (350 mm) TT. Crew: 65
Bustamante class (1914)
Bustamante, Vilaamil, Cadarso
The Bustamante class destroyers comprised three vessel built in Spain, at the S.E.C.N. yard of Cartagena, to a British design, close to the 1903-1905 River class. They were laid down in 1911-1912 and 1913, launched in 1913-14, and completed between 1914 and 1916. They served during the whole interwar, until 1930–1932, only peacetime service in home waters, with the training squadron. When compared to others designs of the time, they were outclassed, both with a light armament and slow.
This class was started after a gap of 18 years… Again, the government look to the Royal Navy for design inspiration. The move was quickstarted in 1908 when the Spanish Cortes passed a Naval Law to make naval dockyards more efficient and able to deliver more modrn ships quicker. A construction programme was also voted, very ambitious, which included two battleships (the future Espana class dreadnoughts), three destroyers, 24 torpedo boats and 4 gunboats. They were all to be completed in 1914, but of course since deliveries depended on UK supplies, construction stalled and most of these prewar designs were completed after the great war, already obsolescent.
To gain time after many years of near-inactivity, all the ships would be built on British designs. The three destroyers were no exception. They were built by Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval (SECN) a newly setup consortium, to refurbish and manage Spanish shipyards, at Cartagena. Consultants came from either Vickers or John Brown, which were part of the SECN consortium.
The new destroyers measured 64.7 metres (212 ft 3 in) by 6.7 m (22 ft 0 in) in beam and 1.7 m (5 ft 7 in) draught, while they displaced 530 long tons (539 t). They were powered by steam turbines by Yarrow and Yarrow or Normand boilers. They were mated on three propeller shafts. The powerplant was rated for 6,250 shaft horsepower (4,660 kW) total. Top speed was 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph), and range 900 nautical miles (1,700 km; 1,000 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). Armament was very light. It consisted in five Vickers 57 mm (2 in) guns, side-by-side on the ship’s forecastle, aft centreline and on the beam. In addition the Bustamante class carried two banks of two 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes.
With the war in Europe, supplies from the UK were cut as the last ship of the bunch was being completed. Cadarso was provisionally equipped with older 380 mm (15 in) torpedo tubes. These delays, added to an already obsolete design, made the the Bustamante class outclassed by contemporary standards, and after a career of neutrality patrols during the war, and as part as a training squadron in the 1920s, they were discarded in 1930, 1931 and 1932. Therefore they are not listed in Spanish WW2 destroyers.
Displacement: 380 tonnes FL Dimensions: 69,8 x 6,88 x 4 m Propulsion: 2 shafts 3cyl TE engine, 4 Normand Boilers, 7000 hp, 28 knots. Armament: Two 3-in (75 mm), two 2-in (57 mm), 2 x 8mm Maxim Mgs, two 14-in (350 mm) TT. Crew: 65
Spanish Destroyers Armament
Due to their size and origin, apart some locally-produced Hontoria guns, the bulk of heavy and light Spanish artillery came from UK, answering to British standards. Hontoria M1883 L/35 120 mmm (4.7 in): Used on Spanish Torpedo Gunboats Vickers 3-in (75 mm): Audaz class destroyers 6-pdr (57 mm) Nordenfelt L/45: Same, Audaz and Bustamante class 3-pdr (40 mm) Nordenfelt 25.4 mm L/40 Nordenfelt Heavy MG: Same 8 mm Maxim Machine-gun 14-in (350 mm) Torpedo Tubes on Spanish TGs and Audaz class 18-in (450 mm) Torpedo tubes: Bustamante class 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes: Alsedo and Churucca class
WW2 Spanish Destroyers nomenclature
WW2 destroyers in the strict sense were for the most, suviving destroyers of the interwar and the civil war of 1936-39. The WW1 Bustamante class were obsolete in 1930 and scrapped, whereas the Alsedo and Churucca formed the bulk of the destroyer fleet, especially the latter that were on par with British designs of the early 1930s, large and well armed.
Another class was started before WW2, but due to lack of deliveries, armament and subsystems from UK, they were delayed until the end of the war (Audaz class). Also just before WW2, a class of large torped-boats modelled on the French Le Fier class were completed well after the end of the war in 1950. These were 1930s designs in the 1960s.
Alsedo class (1922)
Alsedo, Lazaga, Velasco
The February 1915 navy law was passed by the Cortes, authorising a large extension of the Armada, notably three destroyers of British design. The camed from the same yard that designed the 1913 M-class destroyer of the prewar emergency program. The Spaniard choosed the Vickers and John Brown layout based on the Hawthorn Leslie variant of the M-class destroyer. Since this was a recent design, the British Director of Naval Construction voiced his objection to pass on another nation such recent design, but could no stop the sale, which proceeded unabated.
The Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval (SECN) dockyard at Cartagena took delivery of the blueprints and starte construction of the three Spanish destroyers, all laid down in 1920, two years after the hostilities stopped and three after the Cortes vote. By that type the M-class has been rendered already obsolete, replaced by the V-W classes.
The Alsedo class measured 86.25 metres (283 ft 0 in) overall or 83.82 metres between parallels, 8.23 metres in beam, and 4.57 metres in draft. Displacement of the ship was 1,060 tonnes (1,043 long tons) standard, and up to 1,336 tonnes fully loaded, a stark difference with the Bustamante class they almost dwarved.
For propulsion they had two geared steam turbines, on two two shafts, with steam provided by four Yarrow water-tube boilers, separated in boilers rooms with their own smokestack. Design speed was 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph), quite an improvement over the Bustamante. Alsedo during her sea trials was able to reach 37.2 knots (68.9 km/h; 42.8 mph). By that time she was unarmed however. These Spanish destroyers carried 276 tonnes (272 long tons) of oil, for an autonomy worth of 1,500 nautical miles (2,800 km; 1,700 mi) at 15 knots. They also carried a crew of 86.
The new Spanish destroyer armament was a radical departure of the Bustamante. They carried three of the far more punchy Vickers 4-inch (102 mm) guns. These Vickers designs were built under licence in Spain by Hontoria. They were located one forward on the forecastle, one aft between funnels 2 and 3, and one at the rear. In addition two 47 mm anti-aircraft guns were mounted amidships, later replaced by four 20 mm cannon. In the end two twin 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes were placed on the deck, centerline. They were also quite heavier than the 450 mm of the previous class. In addition, for ASW warfare, they carried two depth charge throwers by 1945 while a more modern rangefinder was installed on her bridge.
Because the war was not over and supplied cut short (already for the Bustamante this caused problems), laying down the keels has been postponed until 1920. Plans to build three more were cancelled eventually, and later a new naval plan asked for more up-to date destroyers, the Churruca class. During the interwar, four 20 mm oerlikon guns were installed, and the old 2-pdr guns removed. They served on the Republican side and survived the war, while Velasco sank the Nationalist B2 (submarine) off Cape Penas (Santander) 19/08/1936.
By 1945 they were given two Deep Charge Throwers and they were stricken in 1957, or 1961.
Author’s rendition of the Alsedo class destroyers
Displacement: 1044 standard/1315 tonnes FL Dimensions: 86,25 x 2,23 x 4,57 m Propulsion: 2 shafts parsons Turbines engine, 4 Normand/Yarrow Boilers, 33,000 hp, 34 knots. Armament: Three 4-in (102 mm), two 2-in (47 mm) AA, 2 x 2 21-in (533 mm) TT. Crew: 86
Churucca class (1926)
Churucca, A. Galiano, S. Barcaiztegui, J.L. Diez, Alm. Ferrandiz, Lepanto, Alm. Valdez, Alm. Antequera, Alm. Miranda, Ciscar, Escaño, Gravina, J. Juan, Ulloa, Alava*, Liniers*
This major class of Spanish destroyers was part of the large naval plan of 1922 and 1930, which were to comprised 8 cruisers, 16 destroyers and 12 submarines. The first early plan on 17 February 1915 by Navy Minister Augusto Miranda y Godoy asked for these destroyers to be simple repeats of the Alsedo class. But there were budget shortcuts, and the decision was delayed several time, until this first option was dropped as the base design was too old.
In the end, the commission in charge of the first group decided to take a new standard, the British Admiralty type flotilla leader of the Scott class design, by then certainly one the best destroyer design in the world. With their standard displacement of 1,560 tonnes, up to 2,120 tonnes fully loaded, 101.50 metres long hull overall, broad beam of 9.68 metres and powerful armament they were a radical departure from Previous Spanish destroyers designs.
When The Churucca class were authorized, fourteen of these as well as 16 submarines were actually completed on the basis of the plans. This destroyer class was so large it was split in three groups. The first had their keels laid down in 1923 while the third group (Alava) was delayed by the Spanish Civil War, World War II, leading to serious redesign and a completion in 1957 as a brand new destroyer class, unique to Spain (see later). The second group ships completed during the Spanish Civil War had no central gun due to the arms embargo imposed on Spain.
Export Success: ARA Cervantes class
Based on recent “Flotilla Leaders”, with nice classic lines typical of the interwar period between the world wars, excellent speed and powerful armament, these Spanish destroyers were the best ever built in Spain, and among the best in the world when the first group appeared. They were also notably cheaper than the original due to their local constructions and immediately met export successes. At the beginning 14 were planned but 18 destroyers were to be built. Argentina indeed voiced her interest for the class very soon, and ordered some.
While Churruca, Alcalá Galiano and Sánchez Barcáiztegui, were launched between May 1925 and July 1926, there was a good will tour of South America by the Spanish Navy. Accompanied by a Dornier “Wal” Plus Ultra which flew to Buenos Aires with heads of government, two destroyers arrived, the cruiser Méndez Núñez and destroyer Alsedo, on February 7, 1926, which coincided with the modernization of Argentinian forces ad of the Navy.
During this appropriately timed visit the Spaniards “pre-sold” their (then) new class of destroyers (Alsedo class) while a delegation visited her, and were impressed by her overall quality. In fact the Spanish destroyer, even already of an obsolete design, aroused so much interest in the ARA that a commission was dispatched to Spain, to start negotiations for the construction of a flotilla of similar units. But they were quickly informed of the new class in construction and their interest skyrocketed, followed by orders;
To facilitate the deal, the Spanish government by Royal Decree of May 25, 1927, granted a loan of 100 million pesetas to Argentina when the admiralty expressed interest for the Churruca class. Therefeore the first initially built for the Armada, Churruca and Alcalá Galiano, were sold to the ARA, and renamed Cervantes and Juan de Garay.
Don Juan de Ulloa
Between 1928 and 1933 the second Churruca and Alcalá Galiano were launched and 5 more, called the first group. The second group would comprise seven more built between 1935 and 1937, financed through savings made from the cancellation of the third heavy cruiser of the Canarias class in Ferrol. The second group was a repeat apparently with no known difference (at least seen in Conway’s), but for their displacement and some details. The 1st group displaced 1536 tonnes, 2087 FL, while the second displaced 1590 tonnes standard, and 2157 fully loaded. No change in armament or performances (but one less main gun, for weight saving or dlivery problems) although the second group carried more fuel, 40 tonnes more to be exact (540 tonnes total).
The second serie however diverged by their reworked and larger bridge and tripod foremast.
Their design was still relevant, as shown by the active service of the Scott class in UK during the war.
Design of the Churruca:
The 100 meters long Churruca (101,98 m) had radically more powerful engines compared to the Alsedo class: They were the first Spanish turbine destroyers, with 4 Yarrow boilers which produced 42,000 hp (31,000 kW) mated on two Parsons turbines, and two shaft propellers. Top speed was 36 knots (67 km/h), with 37-38 knots obtained in speed trials: Churucca (i) made a 4hrs run, reaching an average 37.64kts with spikes to 39.76kts with force heated boilers. Range was 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h) thanks to 480-500 to 540 tonnes of oil. They were also the first oil-burning Spanish destroyers.
Brassey’s basic design overview of the Scott class
The Churruca class were armed with five 120 mm guns (4.7 in) in pivot mounts with armored masks. Two forward, with ‘B’ mount superfiring and the same configuration aft, plus a central gun amidship. During refits this gun was almost always replaced by more AA guns. The secondary armament comprised a single 76 mm AA gun, two triple banks with 21-in tubes (533 mm), two more than on the Alsedo, and first Spanish destroyers with triple tubes banks, and first with two deep-charge throwers, ASW armament. Thanks to this, these destroyers were able to perform a large array of missions. Armament would change over time. The second group’s completion called for more AA guns notably.
As shown by the Almirante Miranda during WW2, they had only four 120 mm guns, but two 76 mm (3-in) AA guns, one in place of the missing 4.7 in between the funnels, the second placed aft of the second funnel. Other design differences for the 2nd group included modernized main guns, Vickers-Armstrong Mk F 120mm/45 guns with larger shields and reworked pivot mounts (no longer delivered after the 1936 neutrality ban), and a new massive director with a 3m rangefinder. The former model had a 2.74 m span. However none of these directors were received before mid- to late-1939, and replaced by improvised rangefinder posts.
In fact, short supplies started in 1931 with the Revolution, deliveries from San Carlos stalled, and prior to the Civil war, the 2nd series lead vessel Almirante Antequera was delivered without director, and the following missed part of their artillery. San Carlos fell to the Nationalists, and the completion of the 2nd series was improvized by the Republicans with what was available at Cartagena.
Due to their numbers, the Churucca class destroyers were very active, and most on the Republican side during the civil war. Only one was lost: Almirante Juan Ferrandiz, sunk in September 1936 in the strait of Gibraltar by the Nationalist cruiser Canarias. José Luis Diez was badly damaged by the Canarias or minelayer Vulcano but managed to be beached at Catalon Bay on 30 December 1938, refloated and towed to Gribraltar to be repaired, and interned by the British authorities until the end of the war.
Ciscar (last ship of the 2nd group) was sunk in shallow waters by Nationalist aviation at Gijon on 21 October 1937, but she was later refloated by the Nationalists, repaired and pressed into service before the end of the civil war, one of the rare Destroyers used by the Nationalists. Alcalá Galiano collided on 11/6/1937 with the cargo Magallanes whereas Churucca was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Jalea off Cartagena 12/8/1937 but she managed to limp back to port and was repaired, but never returning into service as the Galiano. Both were disarmed as the Republican front needed artillery and they stayed idle until the end of the war. They had been further damaged by other air raids in between and repairs were only partial. Sánchez Barcáiztegui, already repaired was definitely lost to air-dropped bombs.
The most famous action was performed by three of these destroyers, torpedoed and sank the Cruiser Baleares. Sanchéz Barcáiztegui, Lepanto, and Almirante Antequera indeed torpedoed the heavy cruiser at night, at around 02:30 AM. The cruiser was hit by a volley of torpedoes, which cut the hull in half and she sank rapidly. This happened at the battle of the Cape Palos (05-06.04.1938), and this was the greated success of the Republican Navy during this war.
On 5 march 1939, the Remaining 8 destroyers fled the surrounded Cartagena to Bizerte, arriving on the 8 march. They were interned by French and later transferred to the new Nationalist government on 31 march. They served in WW2, making only neutrality patrols. Before WW2 they received additional armaments: 25 mm/60 M1938 guns, 40 mm/39 QF Mk II and 20 mm/70 Oerlikon M36 AA guns, sometimes a single 102mm/50 to replace the missing 120 mm (2nd serie). During WW2, Almirante Valdés, Almirante Antequera, Almirante Miranda, Gravina, Escaño, Císcar, Jorge Juan, Ulloa: were given extra AA guns, two twin German FLAK 37 mm/80 SK C/30, and four 20mm/65 C/38, plus four DCTs instead of two.
The Churruca Spanish destroyers served also during the cold war, to be discarded in the 1960s, re-equipped with radars and sonars in the 1950s. Ciscar was lost on rocks at El Ferrol on 17 october 1957. The modified 3rd serie ships served for much longer, until 1980. By then, this 1918 design was hopelessely outdated.
Alcala Galiano. She was the hero of the battle of 05 august 1936, tryinfg to intercept the Nationalist vitoria convoy sailing from Ceuta. She engaged the convoy, but was repelled by aviation. Later the Republican gunboat Dato fired on the very similar HMS Basilisk by Mistake, trigerring a diplomatic incident. Alcalá Galiano was attacked several times by aviaton on her way back and badly damaged.
Jose Luis Diez (order decree from 31/3/1926, completed Sept. 1929). She was part of the 1st group, with a slighty more angled prow (102.0 oa overall lenght), 480 to 500 tonnes of oil, five 120 mm/45 guns and a single 76/45 Vickers Mk SS AA. She definitely ws the mosyt battle-hardened of all, duelling on 27/8/1938 off Gibraltar with the heavy cruiser Canarias, interned in Gibraltar. Fled on 30/12/1938 only to duel with the minelayer Vulcano and running aground, salvaged next day, to be towed off back to Gibraltar and this time interned under strong guard, until the end of the war.
Author’s rendition of the Churruca class destroyers
Displacement: 1536/1590 standard/2087/2175 tonnes FL Dimensions: 97,52/101,50 x 9,68 x 3,20 m Propulsion: 2 shafts parsons Turbines engine, 4 Yarrow Boilers, 42,000 hp, 36 knots. Armament: Five 5-in (120 mm), One 3-in (76 mm) AA, four MGs, six 21-in (533 mm) TTs, two DCTs. Crew: 175
CEUTA class (ex-Italian Aquila class, tr. 1938)
The Spanish Republicans at the start of the civil war possessed all the destroyers of the Alsedo and Churucca class, whereas the Nationalists captured major ships but lacked a suitable escort (outside gunboats). Soon Fascist Italy came to the rescue and in 1938 decided to send four old lead destroyers dating back from WW1: Those of the Aquila class, three-funneled. These were the Aquila, Falco, Gugliemo Pepe, Alessandro poerio, renamed in Spanish service Ceuta, Melilla, Huesca and Teruel, without any change in armament and letter paintained on the hull for identification. They served for a short time without much event and were back in Italian hands, to be resold to the Romanians.
Stern of the Aquila in Romanian service as Mărăști in WW2
The third group
In 1936 the first two of the third group was laid down but construction was soon widely affected by the start of the Spanish Civil War. The lack of funds and material made it stall and delayed until 1939, then started over timidly to be immediately stopped again due to the second world war breaking up and the same supply problems happening again. It was decided to resume work in 1943 since Argentina expressed the will to purchase one, and the admiralty used this as an incentive to complete the others, as the export would finance them. In 1944, however the Argentine Government eventually declined the order, preferring other options (like waiting to purchase surplus USN destroyers after the war, or British ones).
They would however express their interest for a purchase only if the destroyers saw their construction completed in 1951. This third group of course could no longer be a simple repeat of the 1918 Scott class, now totally obsolete. The design had a profound modernization dictated by foreign designs study, but on the same basis. They would form the Liniers class (see below), and were actually larger, with a beam of 3.7 m, and displacement of 2225 tonnes FL, larger crew and modernized armament, reworked superstructures.
Alava (D52), aft view
Alava and Liniers were laid down in 1936, suspended, laid down again in 1939, suspended again, and at least restarted at Cartagena in 7/1/1944 and January 1945 with a few designs changes.
They were launched on 18/5/1947 but completion was delayed as their design was outmoded. They were completed in January and December 1951 to a heavily modified design. Basically the greatest changes were the ommission of the fifth 120 mm gun, redesigned gun shields, three twin German 37 mm AA guns and three single 20 mm guns, placed between and aft the funnels. The greates change was the fitting of two quadruple banks of torpedoes. The tripod mast was larger and the bridge superstructure modified. The initial 1945 design planned for two win 25 mm AA while the 120 mm had a new 45° dual-purpose mount.
In 1960-1962 both Álava and Liniers were drastically reconstructed as ASW frigates. They had a new lattic masts with radars, longer prow, MLA-1B, SG-6B, Decca TM626, two Mk 63 radars, one SQS-30A sonar, and were armed with three DP 76mm/50 Mk 34, three 40mm/70 SP48, two triple ASW 324 mm torpedo tube banks, two 24-barrels (178 total) Hedgehog Mk 11 ASWRLs and eight DCTs plus two DCRs. They served until 1978 and 1980s respectively, amazing for ships which were based on a 1917 blueprint (The scott class leaders).
Evolution of the design (src navypedia): 1951 and 1962 as ASW frigates.
In 1945, the Spanish admiraly was granted onstruction of a class of nine small destroyers (torpedo boats for Conway’s), based on the French Le Fier class torpedo boat design. Seven were laid down in 1939–1940 but as the French surrendered in 1940, construction was stopped and although Germany restarted six of them, rearmed with German AA and main guns armament, none were completed amidst sabotage, labor and materials shortages. Meanwhile Spanish ships were to used the same armament layout as the German ships.
The class was laid down in July-August by the Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval (SECN) shipyard at Ferrol. None was completed before 1953. D37 and 39, the last two, were even completed in 1964 but discarded immediately, in 1964-65, and taken in hands for a reconstrcution. By 1955 all were reclassed as ASW frigates and the first four were completed in 1955 with a modified design, the last with a very different armament. More on these on the coldwar Spanish Page (in writing, to be released soon).
Oquendo class (project, 1945)
Oquendo, Roger de Lauria, Marqués de la Ensenada
These cold war destroyers are listed here because initially it was provisioned in 1943 with the order for nine ships. In the end, with the usual delays during WW2 only three ships were laid down at SECN, and the six would have been “Blas de Lezo”, “Gelmírez”, “Lángara”, “Bonifaz”, “Recalde”, and “Blasco de Garay”. They were cancelled, and reordered again in 1947-48 to a modified design. Initially, they were very much inspired by the US Gearing class destroyers and were armed with the same three twin standard 4.7 in DP turrets, but not a flush-deck hull, but instead a lower aft deck.
The powerplant was to be from Rateau-Bretagne in France but deliveries were much delayed and the first ship was launched not until 1959, 15 years after initial procurement. These made them already obsolescent as missile destroyers were in construction. As a result, only three ships, Oquendo, Roger de Lauria, and Marqués de la Ensenada were delivered, which had a short active life, discarded in 1978-88. more on the cold war Armada page.
The ‘C-class’ Spanish cruisers: Blas de Lezo class
Blas de Lezo in 1929
The Méndez Núñez and Blas de Lezo were a second class of british ‘C-class’ cruisers, made with British-supplied equipments in Spain, at Ferrol. The first world war unfortunately domed these cruisers ordered just when the war broke out and none were completed in time, but well after the war in 1923, 1924 and 1925. As a result they were already obsolescent in 1930 when the old regime fell and Spain was found itself as a Republic.
However in 1932, Blas de Lezo was wrecked, while in 1936 Reina Victoria Eugenia was taken in hands to be rebuilt, leaving only the Méndez Núñez to participate actively in naval operations during the civil war. She will know a new carrier as an AA cruiser during the cold war, totally rebuilt.
Spanish Cruisers in 1914
When WW1 broke out, the Spanish Armada had to rebuilt itself after the losses of the 1898 war with the United States. After the surviving 9000 tons Emperador Carlos V, the two surviving 7500 tons Cataluna class armoured cruisers (Cardenal Cisneros was wrecked in 1905), the small French-built colonial cruiser Rio de la Plata (1870 tons). New ships included the modest protected cruiser Estramadura (2030 tons) but also the modern (1906) Reina Regente.
The latter looked looked fine with her three funnels, flush deck hull, and was armed with ten shielded 6-in guns (by 3 in armor), 12 6-pdr QF guns and two 1-pdr and three torpedo tubes. She was protected by and armoured deck of about 3 1/2 inches (about 85 mm), like the walls of the conning tower.
She was given standard triple expansion steam engines and like previous cruisers can reach 20 knots. However she has been originally proposed in 1896 but was not completed before 1908. At that time, the park of Spanish cruisers was already obsolescent. Budgetary constraints however delayed a substantial naval plan. Eventually it came before the war, with orders for dreadnoughts and modern cruisers, all to be built on British plans.
Comparison between the Reina Eugenia Victoria (top), Blas de Lezo (middle) and Méndez Núñez after 1947.
Construction of the new cruisers 1915-17
The first step was the navy law of 30 July 1914 to order the first ship to Ferrol, on British Vickers Armstrong plans. This was to be the Reina Victoria Eugenia. Unfortunately, and despite being neutral, Spain could not proceed with this clone of the HMS Birmingham without parts, equipment and artillery for the UK, now fully engaged on the western front and mobilized against Germany.
Laid down in March 1915, she was not launched before 1920 and completed in 1923. She will be known as a brand new ship at the end of the civil war on the Nationalist side, as Navarra.
These ships were authorized by means of the modification of the Miranda law, replaced by the so-called Cortina after the Minister of the Navy, Marquis de Cortina. On paper were defined two fast cruisers able to perform scouting missions for the new dreadnoughts. The navy law of February 1915 authorized cruisers close to the early and prolific contemporary British C-class cruisers, part of the enlarged “Town” superclass of light cruisers, the spearheads of the Royal Navy during the war. This was to be the second class.
Both were also to be laid down at Ferrol DyD, and two more ships were planned to be order in 1919, but were cancelled. They suffered the same issues as the Méndez Núñez and Blas de Lezo: Lack of spare parts and materials, no boilers nor armament from the UK.
Blas de Lezo off the African coast
Both Méndez Núñez (after Casto Méndez Núñez, an admiral of the 19th Century) and Blas de Lezo (After Blas de Lezo y Olavarrieta, Spanish admiral of the 1700s) were laid down in SECN Ferrol yards, in April and September 1917. This is why most authors call this class after Blas de Lezo, but not Conway’s as the Méndez Núñez was completed before. Immediately, construction almost stopped as all equipments and parts deliveries from the British sub-contactors of the Vickers Armstrong yards has been iced. Materials started to arrive again towards the end of the war in small quantities, but construction really restarted well after WW1, in 1921. This allowed the ships to be launched in July 1922 and March 1923 and eventually completed two years after, in 1924 for the Nunez (exact date unknown) and March 1925 for the second.
Construction of the Blas de Lezo class
Although they looked close, the Blas de Lezo were distinct from the Reina Eugenia on multiple accounts:
The Spanish admiralty decided for a smaller, cheaper variant of the former, in order to decline it in two ships.
The class displaced less, at 6,312 tonnes fully loaded, for 140,2 m long, 14,02 m in width, and 7,00 m high versus 6,500 t fully loaded, 140,8 m long, 15,2 m wide and 5,6 m in draught.
For the propulsion, the Reina Victoria Eugenia differed from the British model, by having a twin-shaft machinery and a weakened protection. Armament of the Reina Vitoria was even weaker with only two twin banks of torpedo tubes. So for a lighter package, the Blas de Lezo class were better armed.
Propulsion-wise, the Vitoria Eugenia developed 25,000 ihp for 26 knots, while the Blas de Lezo machinery was brand new, and developed 23,000 hp, allowing to reach 27 knots. However this mixed propulsion prevented the ship from reaching a more adequate speed for the 1930s standards, which were above 29 knots for a light cruiser.
It was entirely British, composed of six Vickers 152/50 mm (6-in), four 47/50 mm (2-in), four machine guns, and four triple 533 mm torpedo tubes banks (4×3) or 21-in. The ships were also provided with a 76 mm (3 in) field gun. Due to this British origin, provision delays meant the ships were unarmed for years.
In addition, they had no fire direction which rendered their fire inaccurate also in the 1930s. That’s one of the reasons that explains the Méndez Núñez was completely rebuilt as an A cruiser after the war.
It was light, comprising an armored belt ranging from de 50 mm on both ends to 75 mm in the center. There was also an armored deck 25 mm thick. Gun shields were lightly protected.
It consisted in 12 mixed Yarrow boilers, 6 burning coal and 6 burning oil. This was a substantial advantage for supplies. It also freed internal storage space, allowing to carry more fuel in tanks and giving extra range. The boilers were connected to two Parsons turbines, also supplied by the UK, connected to two locally forged screws.
The Blas de Lezo in action
On February 21, 1925, the brand new Spanish Armada cruiser started her official trials off Ferrol. Once she was fully commissioned, she was to start her service in fleet exercizes but was quickly deployed to cover the Alhucemas landings of 1925 in Morocco (Rif war).
In 1927, she was sent to China, trying to protect Spanish and European citizens during the bloody events caused by the power struggle between Wang Jingwei and Chiang Kai-Shek after the sudden death of President Sun Yat-sen. She later joined an international squadron anchored in the Yangtze River, off Shanghai. She returned in home waters in November of the same year while made a stop over in Manila.
During a naval manoeuver in 1932, near the cape Finisterre, between the coast and the shoal of O’Centolo, she hit one of two unmarked reefs at that time, splitting her keel. The unfortunate cruiser sank five miles offshore, at 76 meters deep (246 feets). Fortunately, the ship filled and sank slowly enough that there were no casualties.
However back home, a war council was held in 1933 to examine facts and establish responsibilities. However no charge was retained against the captain, since the ageing maps distributed to the Navy were at fault. Therefore the Blas de Lezo (which is still located near the reef) saw limited service, from 1925 to 1933, only seven years.
The double life of Méndez Núñez
Double, even triple life, since the ship was ordered under a parliamentary monarchy, knew Miguel Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship (1923–1930), and saw the Republic instituted (1931), but also the civil war (1936-39) and Franco’s regime during WW2, and the cold war until 1969. The ‘double life’ was in relation to her rebuilding in 1944-47.
When commissioned in 1924, the new cruiser participated in some exercise and for er first action, covered the landings of Alhucemas. At the occasion of the historic flight of a Dornier Wal Plus Ultra to Buenos Aires, the Spanish government sent the cruiser to a goodwill visit to Buenos Aires, accompanied by the destroyer Alsedo. These squadron arrived at La Plata on February 7, 1926. The rest of her career back home was marked by summer exercises and is rather obscure or without notable incident.
When the civil war broke out however, in July 1936, Méndez Núñez was in Spanish Guinea (Equatorial Guinea). The crew decided to seize the ship without bloodshed following the coup d’etat of July 18, 1936. Transferring the ship to the Republicans was therefore a civilized and quiet affair, contrasting with the turmoil and in-fighting in other cases.
However the cruiser was not ready for this war. She was clearly outdated, with worn out machinery and insufficient speed, as she barely can make 26kts. She laso had a short-range artillery with an effective firing range below 12,000 m because of old optics of a pre-WW1 technology and no centralized control system.
She fought on the Republican side with hull camouflaged by using the silhouette of a destroyer to confuse observers at a distance, complete with a bow wave, giving also the impression that she was escorted and with a false speed. Crews used to joke about it, calling the ship “Méndez” and its painted fake destroyer “Núñez”. Personal Note: Unfortunately i can’t find any photo of this painting, if you find one, please share it !
On March 6, 1938, under command of corvette captain Pedro Prado Mendizábal, she participated in the Battle of Cabo de Palos.
She was part of a small squadron of 2 light cruisers (with ) and 5 destroyer under Admiral Luis González de Ubieta’s command. After the ships met by chance at the dead of the night, the Republican admiral decided to chase the Nationalist cruiser Baleares, and the duel started at 02:15, both Nationalist cruisers concentrating first on Libertad from a range of about 5,000 m (5,500 yd). Unfortunately for them a star shell was fired which illuminated the Nationalists vessels and soon destroyers where on them, and sank the Baleares. Canarias stayed to continue duelling while covering the convoy to north africa but the battle was soon over. Eventually Méndez Núñez made few other sorties, without incident, and the war drew to its end.
On March 5, 1939, she left Cartagena to the point of falling along with the bulk of the Republican squadron for Bizerta (in Tunisia), arriving on March 11. The next day, political asylum was requested by the crew, was granted but they became confined, under the custody of a few Spanish crew members per ship. The rest of the crews were taken to a concentration camp in the town of Meheri Zabbens.
On March 31, 1939, new loyalist personnel taking care of the interned ships arrived in Bizerte. They went on the steamships Mallorca and Marqués de Comillas. She was back in Spain and still active when WW2 broke out.
WW2 and rebuilding
Franco’s Navy was in poor state, and in no shape to do any action. Certainly not to defy the Royal Navy off Gibraltar, as the idea was evocated by Hitler. Under standards of world war 2, it was clear that the Méndez Núñez design was totally outdated. There were only two options available in 1943, scrapping her or modernizing her as an anti-aircraft cruiser.
The latter was decided, not in the unlikely case Franco would join the axis but more to defend its neutrality and some territories safe, for example the tempting Balearic Islands. Plans were submitted to the admiralty for a complete rebuilding of the ship, which took place with some difficulties, finding spare parts, armaments, and a skilled workforce, between 1943 and 1947. At that date, however she was the most modern Spanish Cruiser in service.
As rebuilt, Nunez was given eight brand new long range 120 mm Vickers-Armstrong guns type F, 45 caliber (5 in), able to fire on aircraft as well as ships (dual purpose). They were placed in superfiring positions forward and aft, plus two abaft the rear superstructure. The configuration was inspired by WW2 AA cruisers, the Dido and Atlanta classes. This was completed by five twin 37 mm guns (presumably German models) of which two were placed in between funnels either side, and two just in front of the aft superstructure.
Details of the new 120 mm/44 Vickers F-type guns
In addition eight single 20 mm guns Flak 38 were placed in various positions at the rear of the ship. However the Spanish sources speaks of four quadruple FLAKvierling, which is consistent as well. A dedicated fire direction system was installed, with a modern Hazemeyer rangefinder forward over the main bridge and one aft, each directing their own guns;
In addition two triple standard 21-in torpedo tubes were maintained abaft the two funnels on the deck. For ASW warfare according to Spanish sources, the ship was also given 2 AsUW mortars, and one deep charges rack.
Needless to say the superstructure was totally rebuilt. The hull was rebuilt as well with many new arrangements for the ammunition wells, storage, crew quarters and two decks below, for the engines rooms. The prow was completely rebuilt as well with a new exagerated clipper shape, upper and longer of 7 feets (2,10 m).
The boilers were rearranged, but the boilers models stayed the same, although with truncated exhausts into two funnels instead of three. A new rig was fitted and her displacement rose to 4680 tonnes and 6045 fully loaded, but speed seemed to stay the same, as the powerplant did not varied and still partly burning coal. Also the ship carried no radar in 1947, but at least a Decca model was installed in 1950.
In her new cold war career there were few notable incidents. In 1947 she was near a magazine which detonated at Cadiz, and despite a rumor the ship was damaged or even sank, it was denied. On December 7, 1957, she participated in a fleet also composed of the cruiser Canarias, and five destroyers (Churruca, Admiral Miranda, Escaño, Gravina and José Luis Díez) making a battle training in front of Agadir, firing on prepared spots. She was eventually discarded in 1963.
Méndez Núñez as rebuilt in 1947
Mendez Nunez (1925)
140.2 x 14.02 x 4.7m (462 ft x 46 ft x 14 ft 4 in)
4,780 long tons (4,860 t) standard and 6,230 fully loaded
6 × 6-in guns (152 mm) in single mounts, 4 × 47mm, 12 × 21-inch (533 mm) (triple banks).
Belt 2-3 in belt (50-75 mm), 1 in deck (25 mm), 6 in conning tower walls (152 mm)
Conway’s all the worlds fighting ships 1922-1946
Whitley MJ. Cruisers of World War 2 an International Encyclopedia
Unfortunately it seems no model kit of these ships in 1925 or 1947 state has been proposed.
There is one somptuous scratchbuilt model however: http://www.modelwarships.com/reviews/ships/sn/Mendez-Nunez-350-fr/pages/31.htm
There has been a metal model made by Germany company Hansa >
There is also a 1/2400 scale on shapeways >
The submarine has many fathers. Among the pioneering nations, Spain has been at the forefront of early submarine development.
Narcis Monturiol was the inventor of no less than the first fully functional engine-driven submarine. The Ictineo I and II however appeared at a time the Armada was still clinging to its old privileges and maintained a traditional fleet of mixed vessels, hoping to keep a wide Empire afloat.
In the 1880s, this situation has worsened amidst economic difficulties aggravated by the loss of the South American Empire after the Bolivarian revolutions. Meanwhile, Spanish engineer and sailor Isaac Peral created in 1888, sixteen days before another pioneering electric submarine, the French Gymnote. It was at the same time the first fully capable military submarine, and first electric battery-powered submarine. A formula which will stayed very much alive for much of the next Century.
Development of Spanish Submarines
The Peral (1888) tested in Cadiz. Unfortunately the model was never adopted by the Navy and was not present during the war of 1898. Its presence could have curbed events during the war, if posted in Cuba or Manila.
These dreams were shattered however in 1898, with the crushing defeat in the hands of the US Navy, but despite of this, nothing was capitalized on this unique skill. When the Armada staff decided to return and give a try to the submarine again, it was already war. Although neutral, the idea of submarines as modern, effective yet still untested coastal defence vessels seems seductive. However the 1880s Peral has been discarded in 1909 and nothing has been attempted since.
Therefore, the naval staff decided to procure submarine through the naval law of 15 February 1915 prospected to find soon the active Holland Company, though the Royal Navy reference (which was its first submersible active type). After the 1916 Fore River Yard Isaac Peral, the admiralty turned to Fiat-San Giorgio and their promising Laurenti double-hull type to deliver two submarines. This became the “A” type, followed by a licence from Holland for more submarines, built at Cartagena DYd, started under the same nav law of 1915 in July 1916. However construction dragged on, to the point the six “B” class were only launched in 1921-23 and completed afterwards. Next was the “C” class, by the same yard and under the same Holland (Electric Boat Company) licence, enlarged and improved, launched 1927-29.
When the civil war broke out in 1936, the Republicans possessed 13 submersibles of various ages and conditions. Their fate was quite diverse, but most served with the Republicans: Sunk, scuttled, or captured. For their next model, the D-class, the Republican government strangely turned to Germany. The first two were laid down in 1933 and 1934 but none was completed in time. Their incomplete, fitting out hull was laid to rest for the whole civil war and WW2 as well, although they were launched in 1944 and completed at the end of the war. The third was barely started so she was completed in 1954, the last worldwide German U-boat of this generation to enter service !
About Narcís Monturiol
The father of Spanish Submarines could be considered on par with T. Fulton, D. De Lôme or John Holland closer to us; This was XIXth Century Vernian Technology at its best. Better than that, it worked at a time most warships were still sailing man-o-war and Frigates.
Monturiol i Estarriol was born in the city of Figueres, the son of a Cooper, he became an editor in 1846, a feminist and utopian communist. Soon he joined the Republican party and departed for France, exiled for a time, returning after the 1848 revolution and later changed occupation for Science instead of politics as the new government censored him. Finding in Cadaques the dangerous job of coral harvesters a cause to work on, he started to work on an underwater device. This went so far as founding in 1857 the first commercial society in Spain dedicated to the exploration of submarine navigation (Monturiol, Font, Altadill y Cia). The next year he presented to the press and investors his scientific thesis ‘The Ictineo’ or fish-ship. In 1859, he built it as Ictineo I, presented to the public in Barcelona in September. At that time most navies were just transitioning to steam and the French Ironclad ‘Gloire’ was just completed.
After the Ictineo I made fifty dives before disappearing because of an accident in 1862, he created La Navegación Submarina to raise funds to built the larger Ictineo II. The latter first sortied on 20 May 1865 and made a dive to 30 meters. It was not using human propulsion but used a chemical mixture generating both heat and oxygen to power a simple engine. It was to be coupled with a classic steam engine to sail on the surface. Just like the first it was made in wood.
The submersible made a new sortie with its new powerplant but eventually on 23 December 1862 his company went bankrupt. Afterwards, Monturiol returned to politics. He would be the first to create a successful anaerobic propulsion system. Only in 1940 the Germans would start again on this principle to improve their classic U-Boats and they would only partially succeed with the Walter turbine, which stayed largely experimental until nuclear propulsion was adopted, nearly a century after Ictineo II…
Another inventor: Cosme García Sáez
Saez was born 1818 in Logroño, and became a Spanish inventor, claiming he was first to invent a submersible, preceding Monturiol and Peral. Self-taught without formal training in engineering, he carried out tests for years and patented a submarine in Spain and in 1860. The submarine was built and successfully carried out official tests in Alicante. The submarine could accomodate just two. On November 16, 1860, another patent was granted in Paris under the name of “Bateau Plongeur” (lit. “diver boat”). Built in Barcelona the boat was transferred to Alicante and tested on August 4, 1860 crewed by the inventor and his son, with successes. Cosme García afterwards had high hopes to built a new model entirely made in copper and went to Madrid to present a model to Queen Isabel II at the palace. The queen showed her admiration but warned Garcia that no finance could be expected as Spain was already head and toe plunged into the costly African war. Cosme García then traveled to Paris and met Napoleon III’s technicians. They invited him to move to Toulon and build one, but Garcia eventually rejected the offer.
Anchored in Alicante, the submarine was evacuated as the port authority estimated it was an hinderance to the marine traffic. His son Enrique García eventually scuttled the ship by opening the valves and it sunk to the bottom where he still remains. His son later tried to offer the submarine again to the Spanish government on the occasion of the Spanish-American War, in vain. In 1993 a committee reevaluated the inventor’s legacy, an institute in Logroño was named after him, and in 2026 a new S-80 Plus type submarine is planned to be named after him.
Ictíneo I (1858)
This very early submarine served from 28 June 1859 to January 1862, financed by public subscription after the idea came 12 years prior. It was made in wood and at the origin was created to allow coral divers to work in safety. The name derived from the Greek ikhtys (fish) and naus (boat). It displaced 10 t (9.8 long tons; 11 short tons), was 7 m (23 ft 0 in) long for the outer hull, and 4 m (13 ft 1 in) for the pressure hull, 1 m (3 ft 3 in) wide for the pressure hull, height and was 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) high for the outer hull. It was human-propelled unfortunately, Hand crank, could stay underwater for two hours and on paper dive to 50 m. In reality when making her first test in Barcelona harbour she hit some underwater pilings, and Montutiol estimated it would cost too much to repair her and instead she was “patched” for the first dive, limited to 20 m. Ictineo I was slow, but Monturiol estimated he could improve her underwater autonomy by developing a compressed oxygen system coupled with a carbon dioxide scrubber. They were never mounted because of the lack of funds, but Ictineo I made some 50 dives, but destroyed when a Cargo rammed her by accident.
Ictíneo II (1864)
This second vessel, also in wood, was created through the company La Navegación Submarina, financed by the people of Catalonia. Technically she was way above the Ictineo I in many respects: Larger, she displaced 46 t (45 long tons; 51 short tons), was 14 m (45 ft 11 in) long for the external hull by 2 m (6 ft 7 in) and 3 m (9 ft 10 in) high. The hull was made in wood again, despite the will of a metalic submarine, much larger as initially planned. It was made of olive wood with oak reinforcements, covered with a 2 mm thick layer of copper. Visiblity was good, thanks to three glazed portholes 20 cm (7.9 in) in diameter, with 10 cm (3.9 in) thick glass. Manoeuvers were made from a conning tower, through an endless screw gear mated to the propeller shaft. She made dives thanks to four ballast tanks of 8 cubic metres (280 cu ft).
But the real genius of the design back in 1862 was she had an air independent steam engine submerged, coupled to a coal-powered steam engine for the surface. The closed-loop engine used a chemical reaction of zinc, manganese dioxide and potassium chlorate. This heated the boiler of a steam engine. This also helped lighting the ship. Same steal engine, two boilers, one for the surface and one underwater. Top speed was 4.5 knots surfaced, and endurance submerged reached 7 hours with a test depth of 30 m (98 ft). Monturiol was satisfied with the design, which was in practice the first combined propulsion submarine. Dupuy de Lôme’s inspired Plongeur released in 1865 had a closed-loop system using compressed air, but autonomy was reduced.
Isaac Peral (1888)
Isaac Peral was an officer with an intense career in the Spanish Navy. After intervening in the Ten Years War in Cuba, Third Carlist War where he was decorated he also worked on a “practical theoretical treatise on hurricanes”, the the survey of the Simanalés canal in the Philippines and in 1883 he took over the chair of Physics-Mathematics of the extended Studies school of the Navy.
After the Carolinas crisis in 1885, he tried to convinced the admiralty that he definitively solved the challenge of underwater navigation. Assisted by the best scientists of the School the project was passed onto the Minister of the Navy, Manuel de la Pezuela, which became enthusiastic about it. Unfortunately, the next ministers showed his indifference, Beránger and Rodríguez Arias buried the folder.
However through the Regent queen María Cristina, the submarine project was reopened, and a prototype built in 1888. The boat was successfully tested but the authorities rejected the invention and even attacked the inventor, which eventually was forced to leave his post in the Navy and called for the public opinion but died due to skin cancer in 1895.
The Peral’s hull was made of steel, spindle-shaped with three trim tanks, with an ingenious valves system. Maximum immersion level was 30 m. The submarine used two electrically driven horizontal axis propellers for manoeuvrability, and had a forward-throwing tube seen also on the North American Holland type. Laid down in harrow on January 1, 1888 the Peral was launched in September, 8 in San Fernando. Tests were carried out on December 25, 1888, with a commission headed by Florencio Montojo Trillo (navy dept. head), and frigate captain Joaquin Bustamante and Quevedo.
The commission imposed Speed tests, Surface navigation and evolutions, Dynamic immersion, with speed tests, torpedo launching tests on the surface and in immersion and tactical sea trials.
The Peral was the first submersible sing electric propulsion, in the Spanish Navy and abroad. As tested in February 15, 1890 by Isaac Peral, range was estimated to 66 hours, or 284 nautical miles (511 km). However daytime attacks failed against the Cruiser Christoforo Columbo and other units, detected at 1000 m. This was aggravated by the estimation by the commission that its autonomy was unsufficient, despite the fact the prototype met Peral’s own specifications.
First serial submarines: WW1
At the beginning of the First World War, the Italian company Fiat-San Giorgio product of the merger with Officine Meccaniche FIAT di Torino of the S. Giorgio shipyards owned by A. Odero, completed the project of a coastal submarine derived from the previous one class Medusa class. In this way, the class F (Laurenti type) was born. The last three of the serie were purchased and served until the 1930s, scrapped because they became obsolete and worn-out. They spent long time inactive due to engines problems but constituted the Spanish A class.
Interwar submarines development
Reflexion about the place and role of submarine in the Armada evolved to reach the same level as in other navies, but with limited funds. Soon, it became imperative to gain the know-how to create submarines in Spain, in particular through the Cartagena Yard which had the required manpower and skills, plus material reserves. Indeed the wartime classes has been built in the USA (Holland design) and Itali (Fiat-Laurenti design), allowing to test the most popular design trends of the day. That was a solid basis for further developments.
The Interwar saw three classes, B, C and D with relatively large and homogeneous series of six boats each. It seems the admiralty first tried the very popular Holland type with the A type (A0 was the US-Built Isaac Peral), while A1-A3 were WW1 era Italian-built boats which gave good (counter-) examples for inspiration and served until 1931-34. The B-class submarines were the first Spanish-built submarines. All made by Cartagena Dyd, they were launched in 1922-27. Their general design was clearly based on the Holland A0-type, with some specifics. The C-class however were improved Holland type but not revolutionary. By that time the design was already obsolescent as surface speed and agility and more TTs were preferred over underwater prowesses. This trend was already readable in th C-type design, which had 533 mm tubes instead of the weaker 450 mm, more torpedoes, and a lessed underwater speed but better diving depth.
The D-type, planned in the 1930s was curiously ordered before the Republicans were in power in 1926, by the Carlists which laned towards Germany. The German design was indeed judged more modern. Howeve the Republicans did not cancelled the order placed to Cartagena once licence was acquired and the D-class were laid down in 1933 and 1934. They were well advanced in 1936 but apparently still not launched, and construction stopped entirely for the duration of the civil war, and only resumed during WW2, both D1 and D2 being launched in 1944. D3 was laid down much later and completed during the early cold war, the last commissionned classic interwar U-boat worldwide…
Spanish submarines during the civil war
The Republican submarines
When the civil war broke out in July 1936, the Republicans possessed all the submarines of the fleet in service, the twelve B and C classes. The Laurenti type A class has been already retired and scrapped. Of the six B class, two were sank in action, B5 by aviation off Malaga and B6 by the nationalist destroyer velasco and other vessels off Cabo Penas. B1-B4 were all scuttled at Cartagena in April 1939 to avoid capture. Only B2 was repaired, only to serve as a floating generator plant during WW2.
The improved C-class also served with the Republicans, with weaker efficiency since some officers were removed from command by fear of Nationalist allegiance. It was less obvious on smaller ships and submarines, but technicity and maintenance somewhat fell to lower standards, traduced by less active sorties at sea. Completed in 1930, the vessels were fresh and modern though, and made good accounts for themselves. C1 was sunk on 9.10.1938 by aviation, C3 was torpedoed by an Italian submarine off Malaga in December 1936, C5 was lost in the Bay of Biscay from an unknown cause, C6 was scuttled at Gijon in October 1937 to avoid capture, C2 and C4 survived and served with the Francist Navy during WW2. Both in fact were being overhauled in France from 1937 and surrendered at the end of the war.
During the Civil War also Republican submarines were used to carry and deliver post between the Iberian Peninsula and the island of Menorca (see the sources). This was a 1938 attempt after the failed attack of the Ebro, to hold the ground and finance the war effort by any meanse necessary. This included issuing a unique and exclusive stamp series, in the shape of propaganda posters made by famous artists in adverstising. 25,000 stamps were made by the Oliva de Vilanova printing works in Barcelona and delivered by classic ways to Barcelona and Maó (Menorca). The latter however fell isolated after the breakowns of all communications and was only supplied by submarine C-4.
The Nationalists attempted to conceal the acquisition of two Italian Archimede-class submarines, (General Mola class), renamed conveniently C-3 and C-5, so claiming the original one has been raised and recommissioned. Modern history tends to consider the kill was likely the result of a torpedoing by precisely such Nationalist-held, ex-Italian submarine, although Conways only states it was “an italian submarine”.
On the Nationalist side indeed, six submarines ended in active service, all Italian-built. These were the two General Mola class boats (ex-Torricelli and Archimedes) – See later. They were both still active during WW2 and the cold war as well, stricken only in 1959, also the last examples of interwar Italian submarines in service. Four more Italian submarines were also provided during the civil war to Franco: Ferraris, Galilei, Iride and Onice. The first were oceanic types of the same class as General Mola (the excellent Archimede class) The last two were renamed Gonnzales Lopez and Aguilar Tablada, showing the Spanish Nationalist flag, but they remained fully under Italian control, with Italian crews and supervision. All four only served for a short time in Spanish waters and were transferred back to Italy.
U-Boats in the civil war: Operation Ursula
The (in)famous Legion Condor deployed notably the pocket ‘battleship’ Deutschland, but also two U-Boats in Spanish waters, U 33 and U 34. Their engagement as kept secret until the Berlin parade of 06 June 1939 in which participated veterans of the Legion Condor including crews of both submarines.
This forgotten chapter of the German Naval History became thus public, but has been surrounded by many myths. This was the first “hot” deployment of Kriegsmarine U-boats. Only a few authors covered this chapter with whatever available documentation over the years, therefore differences with regard the events, and participants emerged. The secret involved including in the case of U-33 and U-34, a strict confidentiality under all circumstances, warranted by death penalty was applied on the crews. Most of these eye witnessed have died in the meantime, either in WW2 or in the cold war.
U-33 at sea in 1937
The mission started in early 1939, led by an either a pocket battleship or a light cruiser as flagship, composed smaller warships for a deployment lasting for 4 to 5 weeks. The 4th Task Force deployed in November-December 1939 was for example led by the Admiral Scheer. In the meantime and before the war ended in June, U-Boats were initially planned to deployed as early as 02 November 1936, but the project was passed onto Rear Admiral Hermann Boehme which set it to August 1936. The secret deployment of both U-boats was officially a training mission under the codename Operation Ursula. The rules of engagement were clear. The captains were authorized to attack at will any spotted “red” Republican vessels, either warships or civilian. The Type VII A U-33/34 were chosen and made U-Flotilla “Saltzwedel”, shortly after commissioning in September 1936.
Radio camouflage included codenames such as Triton and Poseidon during the trip. Both U-Boats were under command respectively of Ottoheinrich Junker and Harald Grosse. They departed Wilhelmshaven during the night 20 to 21 November 1936 and sneaked into the Gibraltar strait. After arrival they were deployed from Alicante and Cartagena respectively. In december apparently, both submarines fired their first torpedoes but missed. They claimed later a unknown Republican destroyer. They also missed another destroyer and the cruiser Méndez Núñez. Deployment went on in 1937 despite the London Submarine Agreement signed also by Germany on 28 November 1936.
Kiosk view of the U-33, date unknown.
However it was agreed Axis submarines would be authorized to patrol the Mediterranean Coast of Spain (Almeria-Valencia for the Kriegsmarine). In the autumn of 1937, sorties focused on west off Gibraltar and in the Bay of Biscay. More U-boats were apparently deployed this year and the next ones, starting with U-25, twelve in all which was consequent given the limited capabilities of the kriegsmarine at that time. Encounters of Republican vessels (and Basque ships) were rare and in any case no attack was allowed, but the experience gained by these officers was later passed onto successes in the early phase of U-boat dpeployments during WW2 associated with names such as Günter Prien, Wolfgang Lüth, Otto Kretschmer, Gerhard Schreiber, Victor Oehrn, Fritz Frauenheim or Werner Hartmann.
Video about the Submarine C3
WW2 Franco’s submarines
With the crippling losses of the civil war, Franco’s Navy, the Armada Espanola, only represented 1/3 of the original Republican helf Navy. Submarines were lost in action or scuttled and never repaired. In all, Franco could only count on the C-class boats, as B-class ones that could be retreived were scrapped in 1939, to the exception of B2 converted as a generator plant to reload batteries of other submarines, and survived WW2.
Of the C-class boats only two remains: C2, discarded in 1952, and C4, lost in June 1946. They were retreived from a French yard while in refit which ended with the civil war. They were among the oldest Holland-type designs afloat at that time.
However Franco has a possible ace in his sleeve into the shape of the D-class submarines. These boats planned in 1926, ordered in 1933 and laid down this year and the next, were certainly svereal fold better than the previous Holland types. A leap forward in capabilities. However construction dragged on to the point they missed completely the civil war, and construction was sonly resumed by 1942-44, when they were launched, but not completed until 1947 and 1951 respectively while D3 was laid down in 1945 and not completed until 1954. Therefore they all missed WW2 but served extensively until the adoption by the Cold War Armada of GUPPY boats under MDAP. Amazingly, so scarce were resources in postwar Spain that these unsuccessful boats served until the late 1960s and 1971 while the G7 was last of the classic German U-boats in active service anywhere else in the world…
But these were not the only axis submarines in service with the Armada when the war broke out in 1939: In addition to the two C-types, the Armada could count on the two General Mola class submarines, and the single ex-German U-boat named G-7. She was the type VIIC U-573, interned at Cartagena after being badly damaged by British aviation in 1943. She was purchased by the Spanish government and pressed into service as G-7. She saw service during WW2 and the cold war, discarded only in 2.5.1970.
The Italian F-Class designed by the head of the Arsenale Reggio of Venice, Cesare Laurenti became world famous as the first double-hulled type. He later designed the “A” series as named in Spain, as a coastal submarine according to the February 1915 naval law. In fact they were the last three of a serie of 24 boats made for the Regia Marina, acquired by the Armada in mid-1916 and called also ‘Tipo Laurenti’.
The A-class can reach submerged 45 m, better than many of its contemporaries (at leas for a coastal type). Each boat had two periscopes 90mm in diameter, for observation and attack. They were given a Gyroscopic compass and a Fessenden underwater acoustic signaling system active up to a range of 5 miles, plus a Forbes speed indicator. The hull was agile, given two groups of horizontal rudders. The aft group was fixed and underwater. The protruding keel’s hull was provided with balance keels and the thickness of the hull was variable in cross-section, up to 9-11 mm thick around the central section, kiosk and bow.
In the space between the two the double bottoms large rectangular openings could be closed. Therefore the lower central, bow and stern inter-hull spaces could be flooded as ballasts while the others were in free circulation. Fuel trim tanks were located between the two hulls also and the inner hull was crossed by transverse watertight bulkheads with communication doors. The three ships initially named F-22, F-23 and F-24 were transferred while in completion despite the Brazilian navy was also declared interested by the purchase and the deal amounted to 1,300,000 lira (1,822,000 pesetas) without torpedoes. In June 17, 1917, A1 became Narciso Monturiol and A2 Cosme García to honor Spanish submarine pioneer, A0 (the previous Holland boat), being named Isaac Peral.
By September 1, 1917 they set sail for Genoa, prepared for the trip to Spain, and arrived 4 days later at Tarragona accompanied by the Extremadura, which escorted them, and later Cartagena on April 14, where they were enlisted with Isaac Peral (A0) to form the A-class, first active Spanish Navy’s Submarine unit. The colors of the Spanish flag were painted on their kiosk, to avoid confusion and to signal neutrality. However these boats became outdated after the war and suffered frequent engines breakdowns. They were scrapped in the 1930s.
Notable events included August 22, 1919, King Alfonso XIII as guest of the A1. In December 21, 1920, the Submarine Instruction Division was formed with the A-class assisted by the Kanguro rescue ship and two torpedo boats. In June 1922, A3, Isaac Peral and B1 assisted troops at the Rock of Alhucemas, providing supplies and later reconnaissance and protecting the other two submarines. In 1923 the Mahón Submarines Division was created with A1 and A2. In 1927, Cosme García (A2) suffered a quick flooding of the torpedo room. The vessels however reached harbour and was salvaged with the help of two floating cranes. In 1931, she was discarded and scrapped, A3 followed by May 18, 1932, and A1 in September 1, 1934.
B class submarines (1922)
These 6 units were built by the Spanish Shipbuilding Society (SECN) in Cartagena, Spain (Bazán, Izar and Navantia). They were based on Class F-105 of the Holland Patent Electric Boat Company and were started in 1917 and licensed by the Electric Boat & Co, at a unit cost of 3 800 000 pesetas.
Their maximum immersion level was 60 m through a triple layer hull, the tough inner hull being circular in section to withstand high external pressures, the outer hull, lighter in construction, but arranged to receive high external pressure, calculated for a 30 m depth.
Design of the B-class submarines
Vertical control was installed aft and fully compensated, built in a special class cast steel with a total area of 4.94 m². Its diving apparatus consisted of two balanced rudders at the stern and two balanced rudders at the bow. The bow and stern diving wings were totally independent, maneuvered by different operators. There was a quick shift for electrical to manual mode and reverse.
They were fitted with a VS Boston Magnetic needle installed on the bridge and locked in a waterproof display case. They also had a Sperry Gyroscopic needle Mark II, Mod. 6, with a voltage regulator and three repeaters. The kiosk received two 74 and 86 cm Kelmorgen Optical signature periscopes, located in the control chamber, of the rotating type, operated by hand mechanism. Magnification was from 1.25 to 5, thanks to a Zeiss rangefinder for the launch of torpedoes. The periscopes could not work by night time given the low brightness.
One Acoustic probe was installed in 1929. Since 1931 they were given a Forbes slider in fuel tank No. 5 by S.E.C.N. One tote first one was installed in the stern storage chamber, on the gyroscopic needle. There also a small speed one in the control chamber between depth gauges. The high speed one was installed in the turret. The hull could be immobilized thanks to two 450 kg anchors at the end of a 16 m galvanized steel towing cable. To tie a buoy, the hull had two elbows of galvanized steel, 25 m long each as well as an electric winch and hand backup on the bow deck.
Propulsion consisted in two three-bladed manganese bronze blades, of a diameter of 622″, turning outward and rotating at 367 rpm at a top speed of 15 knots. Fuel consumption in 24 hours was 5232 kg at 320 rpm and 2016 kg at 250 rpm with a single engine, total fuel capacity was 51 129 l, reduced after the installation of the slide in 1931 to 50 186 L. In wartime, there was still the possibility of using ballast no. 2, to store 81 196 l of diesel. Capacity of the main lubrication oil tank was 5180 L, and return tank 1885 L. The shafts were driven by 2 diesel engines 4-stroke NELSECO for the surface and two electric motors with a battery of accumulators of 120 elements TUDOR and in backup two small electric motors procuring power in emergency for one hour. The disels were rated for 700 CV at 300 rpm and electric motors 210 CV + 420 CV (for one hour). This made the B-class quite fast underwater, as customary for Holland boats: 10.5 knots versus 16 on surface.
Their maximal depth was 60 m, normal operative depht 40 m. Autonomy was 2600 nm at top speed in surface, 4900 at 10,5 knots cruise speed, and 10,5 nm submerged or 90 at 4,5 knots.
They were armed with four tubes, two in the bow (with four torpedo Bliss-Leavitt in reserve plus two in the stern, and two in reserve. The Vickers 3-in gun was supplied with 200 rounds, including 120 high-explosive and 80 armor-piercing.
Career of the B-class submarines
These boats never received named but identification numbers painted on their kiosk. Their captains had the rank of ship’s Lieutnant until the beginning of the civil war.
Of the six class B, four were sen to the Naval Base of La Graña (Ferrol) and the other two remained at Cartagena. The B-1 and B-3 actively participated in the Rif war (Morocco), evacuating civilian personnel from the Vélez de la Gomera rock, and carrying water supply to the Rock of Alhucemas under enemy fire. The six submarines were active and in Republican hands during the Civil War, as well as the six Class C. By the end of the Civil War however four remained scuttled at Cartagena naval base. They were refloated, however their poor state banned any repair for two of them.
The B-1 collided in Alicante in 1937 with an English freighter. The bow superstructure was badly damaged, and the B-1 was left unrepaired until the end of the war, used as a target ship afterwards. B2 carried a Soviet officer using the pseudonym “Tomás Asensio” to discuss supplies with the Republicans. She ended half submerged in Cartagena. Refloated, she was used later in the Naval School of Mechanics in Ferrol. From 1948 she became a “floating power plant” until 1951 and sold for scrap but was lost during a storm while en route from Ferrol to Aviles for scrapping.
B-3 lso collided with a ship, Norwegian SS “Frank” in October 1937. She was repaired but relatively inactive and was scuttled in Cartagena at the end of the war. She was refloated and scrapped.
B-4 was bombed in Malaga in 1937, and discarded by the Republican Navy on March 15, 1937. She was also scuttled in Cartagena, refloated in 1939 and discarded again in 1941.
B-5 disappeared around April 15, 1937 near Estepona (unknown causes). B-6 was sunk on September 19, 1936 duelling on the surface with the armed tugboat Galicia, and later Ciriza and destroyer Velasco. The crew surrendered, and B-6 was later sank in the waters of Cape Peñas.
Displacement: 556/563 t surface, 716/718 t submerged Dimensions: 64,18 m, 5,60 m wide (external) or 5,18 m (internal), and 3,55 m high Armament: 4 x 450 mm TTs (2 bow, 2 stern) +6 torpedos Bliss Leavitt, 1 x 76,2 mm/45 gun, 200 rounds Engine: 2 screws diesel 4-stroke NELSECO, 2 electric motors TUDOR, 2 extra motors for emergency Top speed: 16 knots surfaced, 10.5 underwater Immersion and range: 40-60 m, 4500 miles at 10.5 knots surfaced Crew: 28-34
C class submarines (1928)
Submarine C3 and support ship Kanguro in Cartagena
Design of the C class
Spanish engineers pushed the envelope of the WW1-era patent from Electric boat, still active, on this serie of Holland design, leading to six boats launched at SECN (Sociedad Española de Construcciones Navales) in 1927-29 and completed in 1929-30. In short, they were faster on surface, had a better range, better underwater dive, and more powerful torpedoes with 533 mm tubes, to the cost of a slight decreased underwater speed, the trademark of a classic Holland design.
In 1923 the S.E.C.N. modified the old Holland 105F blueprints, larger and better armed, closer to the 1920 S-series built for the US Navy. In the hull shape, hydroplanes system, conning tower and other aspects many similarities were noted. However this was still an improvement of the earlier the B class. The major limitation was the number of batteries, identical to those of the B class. This severely limited the underwater speed and range. Numeral were no longer painted on the kiosk with the exception of the C-1 named Isaac Peral after the first was discarded.
The six units were identical in general appearance but had some some internal variations: Indeed all the boats lacked torpedo launch direction. They had however like the B-class underwater communication telephone and on the C-1 and C-2 Fessenden oscillators. Their maximum range was 2 miles. This was upgraded on C-4 and C-5 Electro-acoustic units with a range of 8 miles and Forbes type slide. Maximum immersion level was estimated 80 meters, and chances of a crushing dramatically augmented beyond. Unit cost was 13 186,000 pesetas.
These Class C submarines were quite active during the civil war. One carried officers of the Soviet Navy, but overall they did not achieve any kill.
If the C-3 was apparently torpedoed by U 34 with the loss of 37 men, there were also claims of an Italian submarine. C-5 was lost in unknown circumstances but Nationalist propaganda attempted to revendicate this as a kill by an Italian submarine, possibly even General Mola or General Sanjurjo. C-6, was scuttled and badly damaged before capture in Gijón. C-4 was lost in an accident in maneuvers, and was rammed at full speed by the destroyer Lepanto on June 27, 1946 cutting her in two.
The C3 in action
Among all these vessels, the career of C3 is a good example of a typical career of a Spanish submarine at that time. At the start of the Civil War on 18 July 1936, C-3 was in Cartagena harbour, under Lieutenant Rafael Viniegra González. She sailed with submarines B-6, C-1, C-4 and C-6 to the Gibraltar Strait. Capitán de Fragata Francisco Guimerá Bosch blockaded the strait and interdicted transport of rebel troops from North Africa, patrolling along the Andalusian coast.
On 20 July, the flotilla entered Málaga harbour as their crews decided to get rid of their executive officers, to the exception of Capitán de Corbeta Lara, jailed as supposed sympathizers of the rebels. The submarine fleet then departed Málaga for Tangier, escorting the oil tanker Ophir. On 27 July, the Málaga force was deployed off Cadiz to catch a Nationalist convoy. The latter prioved to be a decoy, the true one crossed in another point. C-2, and C-6 patroled in front of Ceuta harbour block entrance to the cruiser Almirante Cervera, coming from the Ferrol. In August, C-3 sailed for the Cantabric Sea with the C-6 and made another trip with C-4 and C-5. They all attempted to locate the battleship España and Almirante Cervera and escorted freighters.
C-3 was back in the Mediterranean in October, and on 12 December 1936, she was sailing on surface 4 nautical miles southeast of Málaga when capt. Alférez de Navío Antonio Arbona Pastor, was in the kiosk observing the sea when at 14:19 a massive explosion ripped her starboard bow apart. The C-3 sank quite quickly. This explosion was observed by the coastguard vessel Xauen two miles away and two fishing boats. The only survivors were the pilot, García Viñas in the kiosk as well as sailors Isidoro de la Orden Ibáñez and Asensio Lidón Jiménez, dumping trash and garbage on the deck when it happened. The Axis soon revendicated the kill, U-34 (Kapitänleutnant Harald Grosse), for Operation Ursula for the Germans, while the Republicans claimed it was an internal explosion. A seach began the next days, but only a large oil slick was found.
Displacement: 925 t surface, 1144 t submerged Dimensions: 76,3 m, 8,3 m wide (external) or 5,7 m (internal) Armament: 6 x 533 mm TTs (4 bow, 2 stern) +4 torpedos Bliss Leavitt, 1 x 76,2 mm/45 gun, 200 rounds Engine: 2 screws diesel 4-stroke Vickers, 2 electric motors TUDOR 1000 hp Top speed: 16.5 knots surfaced, 8.5 underwater Immersion and range: 80 m, 6800 miles at 10 knots surfaced Crew: 40
General Mola class submarines (1937)
The General Mola and Sanjurjo, two prominent figures of the Nationalists after Franco, were formed Italian Archimedes class submarines transferred to Spain in 1937. Back in 1931 four submarines were laid down in Italy under the names of Archimede, Torricelli, Ferraris and Galilei, making the Archimede class. They retained the hull lines of their predecessors but had more autonomy and greater armament than the Settembrini Class. They were good walkers in surface, stable, fast, with excellent handling and sturdy enough to dive to 90 m with safety.
On September 11, 1936, a meeting was held in Cáceres between the heads of the Nationalist Navy and of the (future) Axis. By decision the latter were to send submarines in aid of the nationalist fleet which did not had any. They would act operationally under the overall naval command of the rebels. On April 29, 1937 Italian submarines were examined by Admiral Somigli, head of staff of the Regia Marina, and after premises were accepted, Archimede and Torricelli were picked up.
After a brief period of maintenance and short overhaul, both submarines left Gaeta on April 17, 1937, heading to the Nationalist-held Balearic Islands. They had a reduced operating crew with Italian sailors and some Spaniards which were already sent to train in Italy.
On the 19th of April, they drop anchors in a small bay on the island of Cabrera. There, they were met by the two armed vessels which sailed previously from Cádiz, with the Spanish crew. It was made up of volunteers from other units of the Navy. The two submarines were delivered after disembarking Italian personnel. They started a period of training, and were initially named C-3 and C-5 in commission, to confuse the Republicans about their supposed origin, sunken C-class boats recovered, and hide their true origin. Later in August they were renamed General Mola and General Sanjurjo.
These submarines were soon joined by four more, the two remainder of the class, Ferraris and Galilei for commonality, and the Iride and Onice of the coastal Perla class, receiving at first the false names of General Mola 2º and General Sanjurjo 2º and later González López and Aguilar Tablada. For four months they increase confusion in Republican naval intelligence, on purpose. They all operated from Sóller naval base in Mallorca against republican and neutral merchant traffic bound to the Mediterranean coast of Spain. They operated in coordination with auxiliary cruisers, the Cruiser Division, the legion and axis aviation, as well as other Italian submarines Italians. They also performed surveillance and espionage missions. One was at some point believed to have sank the submarine C3.
General Sanjurjo’s first captain was Pablo Suances Jaúdenes. In May 13, 1937, together with General Mola she sailed towards the Sicilian canal, carrying out exploration missions in the Spartivento canal. Both torpedoed and sank the City of Barcelona, a 3946-ton vessel off Tordera cape, near Malgrat. The ship was carrying volunteers from the International Brigades. They also torpedoed the motorboat Granada, returning to Sóller. They made a second patrol from June 29 to the Catalan coast. There, they surprised the oil tanker Campero, later damaged by artillery fire, but she survived and was saved by the intervention of Republican aviation. On July 26 both submarines sank near Alicante the Cabo de Palos of 6342 tons. On August 21 they made their third raid, to locate a seaplane.
On August 30, Mola attacked the Ciutat de Reus with artillery (shortage of torpedoes) about 20 miles off Sète, France, but the ship fled in French waters. In September both submarines made another patrol and in mid-October moved to Taranto for refit, until November 25.
Once the war was over, her stern artillery pieces was suppressed. On February 7, 1943, Gen. Sanjurjo was attempting a rescue mission when she was attacked by British submarine HMS Torbay, 55 miles east of Cartagena. She had been indeed mistaken for an Italian submarine. The Armada from then ordered the kiosk of both subs to be painted white as a result of the incident.
Sanjurjo made her last trip to Alicante on April 27 and discarded on July 14, 1959.
G class submarines (1942)
On June 8, 1940, U 573, a VIIC type U-Boat was delivered by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg to the Kriegsmarine on June 5, 1941. She started her career under Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Heinsohn. He was assigned to the 3rd Fleet in Kiel and by September, La Pallice (France) until January 1942.
On December 21, the U 573 crossed the Strait of Gibraltar for the 29th Fleet based in La Spezia. On her four patrol she sank the Norwegian Hellen of 5289 t. On April 29, 1942, she was northwest off Algiers, when detected and attacked by a Lockheed Hudson of the 233 Squadron RAF. She was near-missed by 325-pound depth charges, taking serious damage. Too damaged to join La Spezia she turned instead to the nearest harbour, Cartagena, reached on May, 2 using only the electric port engine, the only left working.
The Spanish government granted three months for repairs, despite Allied protests but this proved impossible. According to international laws, the submarine was to be requisitioned, and documentation and some part of the equipment destroyed and the crew sent back to Germany. However it was decided in Germany to sale it instead to the Spanish Navy for 1,500,000 reichsmarks. She was received on August 2, registered on the Official Ship List of the Navy as G7. The crew and their commander were repatriated in March 1943.
The G7 was repaired from December 30, 1942, waiting for German information and technical assistance. Eventually the process really started in August 1943. This would go on until until 1947. G7 made her new sea trials, but was outdated, although the best Spanish submarine in service. The D class were already of an older design, the VIIA.
Attempts were made to modernize her, and eventually Bazán Yard started work in 1951 to develop a snorkel to be used on the D-class as well and General Mola Class. However this never happened. Eventually, G7 typical bow trimmer was suppressed and a 20 mm aft AA gun was kept until the sixties.
Until 1959 and the transfer of S-31 Admiral García de los Reyes, under 1953 MDAP Agreements the G7 was the best Spanish submarine despite its lack of sonar, radar and snorkel. In 1961 she was renamed S-01 and was painted in black overall and later discarded in May 2, 1970. She was scrapped, despite efforts for her conservation. Only her deck gun, 88 mm/45 Rheinmetall Borsig is exposed in the Naval Museum of Cartagena.
D class submarines (1944)
Reconstitution of the D-3 as completed in 1954
The State-held former Vickers delegation shipyards of Cartagena, Ferrol and Carraca in Cádiz received for the Armada a project of oceanic submarine of 1,000, 20 knots (surface). The SECN entrusted naval engineer and director Áureo Fernández Ávila (Ferrol), which tried to achieve an improved “C” type. This however proved quite difficult.
Navy Minister José Giral promulgated the naval Law of August 30, 1932, with an order in November 22, 1932, to built the class D. The first keel was laid down on September 23, 1933. This was a splendid subersible for its time, displacing 1,000 tons and with a 120 mm cannon, six 533 mm tubes, 9.5 knots underwater and a 80 meters depth. However soon, despite the contracted three years for completion, work progressed very slowly.
Twenty years in the making, since the keel was laid down
Meanwhile in Cartagena were started the D-2 and D-3, laid down on November 19, 1934 and December 11 1934. Construction called for the classic riveting system abandoned elsewhere, illustrating the technological gap of the Spanish industry. Adding to the complexity of the project, insufficient financing, and a long assimilation of the licence to built the two powerful 2500hp “Sulzer” diesels by SECN also took their toll on the project.
Construction dragged on for two more years, until the civil war broke out. Work on D1 stopped abruptly, and on the D-2 and D-3 as well. They were barely started due to a shortage of of materials. They were left abandoned, rusting in their slipways until 1939.
World War II broke out shortly after and at the end of 1939, decision was to be made whether replacing them with new modern German or Italian types or complete them with Axis assistance, which was the choice made in February 1940. Their design was modified, with the replacement of British-made equipment by German and Italian hardware. However, delivery took time.
Since the 1908 contract signed with the State Naval Construction Society had expired, the State Military Naval Construction Council was created, headed by naval engineer Áureo Fernández Ávila to andle this redrawn of the design, modifications and completion.
One of the very rare photos of the D2 (later S21) in 1952.Source
However with a country and industry ruined, lack of materials of all kinds and restrictions, little could be done. Not only construction was very slow, but the boats accumulated defects, together with a cost which doubled, from 17,400,000 to 32,500,000 pesetas.
On May 11, 1944, D-1 at last was launched after ten years, but delivery would only take in March 1947. Indeed the axis being defeated no support could be expected and new sources for parts must be secured. Trials showed the D-class experienced negative transverse stability when surfacing, raising the keel almost vertical.
The low quality steel used made her displacement rose to 1,095 tons and dive tests off Mazarrón showed a crushing tolerance down to 50 meters. At the end of 1944 D-2 was launched but not operational until May 1951. D-3 was launched in 1952, commissioned in 1954, twenty years since her keel was laid down.
All three could launch standard WW2 German torpedoes G7a and G7e which were in stock. The “D” accumulated so many defects they were relegated to training missions. They were procured however a deck-mounted 88 mm Krupp cannon instead of the intended Vickers-Armstrong 12 cm gun and the two AA MGs. However reports of defects accumulated: ‘Vicious’ ballast system causing poor stability, numerous other hull defects, bad ventilation and habitability. On top of this, the Spanish Sulzer diesels copies produced a strong vibration which curtailed dramatically their reliability.
S-22 in the 1960s after modernization. The hull is streamlined, a new conning tower was built, modern equipments for the sonar, radar and sensors. S-22 and 23 were discarded in 1971. Never modernized however, the training submarine S-11 (former D-1) stayed in her original U-Boat style until 1965. SOURCE
In 1956 with the help of the US Navy, it was decided to modernize the D-2 and D-3. On October 15, 1960, D-3 went to drydock in Cartagena followed later by D-2, revised completely by Spanish and North American engineers. Drafted modifications were made, to go from surface training ships to fully capable attack submarines. Bazán went as far as disassembling the outer hull, deck and conning tower, leaving only the inner hull intact. Work affected the water lines, more hydrodynamic, a new smaller support for the gun was mounted and 88 mm gun deleted as well as the the pair of aft launching tubes.
Electronic sensors of US manufacture were integrated, SJ-1 radar, WFA-16 sonar, however no Snorkel was included. The power plant was not altered but the revised hull allowed fater speeds, down to 18 knots in surface and 10 in immersion. The crew rose to 74 men. On June 15, 1961 the D-2 and D-3 were renamed S-21 and S-22, and work ended on December 15, 1962 for S-22 and April 15, 1963 for S-21. Despite of this, both proved still defective, noisy and dangerous due to their poor transversal stability. Both were retired ten years after, in 1971.
The two heavy cruisers Canarias and Baleares were the first of this kind built in Spain. They were ruled by the Washington Treaty, of the classic “8×8 inches – 10,000 tons” type, whereas Spain never signed the treaty. Proceeding as usual in consulting British engineers, including Phillip Watts, the Spanish built their ships locally, strongly inspired by Kent class (County class). However the civil war erupted and both ships were captured by the nationalists. They would be used against the Republican navy and shipping with great efficience. Only the Canarias survived and stayed in service through WW2 and the early cold war, only discarded in 1975.
Provision for the two cruisers started as soon as the Cortes approved the new naval plan and a commission contacted the shipyard responsible for the lead ship of the “County” class in Great Britain by 1926. This year, Sir Philips Watts, former director of the Technical Service of the British Admiralty and designer of the previous class Prince Alfonso (renamed “Galicia”) was contacted. The Canarias’s construction was ordered during the Government of General Miguel Primo de Rivera, but it was considerably delayed after the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931 and did not enter into service until the civil war, seized by the Nationalists still uncomplete.
Canarias in artillery training max elevation
Design of the Canarias
The hull’s dismensions and shape, and general arrangement and superstructure (but the bridge) mirrored without doubt the large ocean-going County class. Like previous designs, British inspiration was prevalent. However both ships were built in Spain, and the admiralty altered the design many times in the early 1930s.
The differences with the Kent design were numerous for the completed ships: The machines in particular were rearranged in order to provide a little more power, giving them this characteristic single large funnel, allowing them to reach 34 knots. Torpedo tubes were fixed in the hull, bridge superstructure design evolved from the blueprints and ended with this very characteristic look.
If the hull was roughly similar to the County design, flush deck, tall and roomy, they had anti-torpedo bulges from the start and a slightly narrower beam. The final ship was also slightly lighter compared to the average County class at 14,150 tons fully loaded. Also as requested by the Spaniards, a more powerful machinery was installed, requiring rearrangements of the machinery space, and the final boiler rooms design made for a trunking of all exhausts into a single massive funnel.
The original design included a catapult for a Hawker seaplane, which was never installed, as well as a powerful secondary AA artillery.
Installed rated power was 90,000 shp (67,000 kW), driving four shafts Parsons geared steam turbines fed by eight Yarrow boilers. Top speed, requested and obtained in sea trials (which took place when the civil war broke out) was 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph). Overall range was 8,000 nmi (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). This was much faster than the Counties at 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h; 36.2 mph) but range stayed the same. This long range was no longer required because of the absence of a colonial Empire to patrol, but intended rather to be used as commerce raiders.
The Spanish-built Canarias (Ferrol) never received the secondary armament of the County-class and lacked efficient AA. The Canarias when making her sea trials in 1934 was provisionally armed with the 102 and 57 mm guns of the battleship España. She was rearmed later with eight 120 mm AA, 4 twin 20 mm mounts and trwo twin 12.7 mm AA.
The Baleares was hastily completed by the Nationalists with provisional fire system and the 203 mm rear turrets missing. She was provided 120 mm and 100 mm by the Italians and British 40 mm Bofors AA guns, and her 8-in rear turrets only in 1937.
Postcard of the Ferrol museum
Although the ships were slightly lighter and more powerful, they were not better protected, still constrained by the 10,000 tons limit, and this was woefully inadequate for a heavy cruiser: The belt was 2 in (51 mm), decks 1.5–1 in (38–25 mm), magazine box was 4 in (102 mm), the Turrets 1 in (25 mm)and the Conning tower 1 in (25 mm). Compared to this, the County class had 1.25-inch (32 mm) over the machinery, 1.5-inch (38 mm) over steering gear, 1–4-inch (25–102 mm) on the main citadel’s sides and 1-to-2.5-inch (25 to 64 mm) crowns while the turrets were 1-inch (25 mm) faces, sides, rears, crowns & barbettes.
Superb colorized photo by Hirootoko Jr. of the Canarias in 1937
A naval law, was proposed on 8.9.39 but never voted amidst perspectives of entering into the war, making provisions for the construction, of four battleships and destroyers of two cruisers of the “Super Washington” type carrying reconnaissance planes, derivatives of the Canarias design. They displaced 17,500 tons fully loaded, but if the armament and silhouette was reminiscent of the Canarias, the difference was in using four triple turrets, a massive leap forward. Ferrol never received the order to lay down the keels.
Rare archives photo – credits: La Voz de Galicia
Web poster of Spanish Civil War ships. Bottom: Canarias class.
The deadly sisters of the Civil war
The Baleares was launched on April 20, 1932 and her sister ship Canarias entered into service on December 20, 1936 and the construction of a third cruiser of the same type was abandoned in favor of six “Churruca” class destroyers. Canarias and Baleares were both making their final sea trials when captured by the Nationalists in 1936.
The Baleares in action
Baleares was completed lately, missing a rear turret for some time. On 12 July 1937, she crossed the path of a convoy pff Valencia, two cargos protected by six Republican destroyers. She fired on them and after a short while, the Republican ships escaped.
7 September 1937 in the afternoon, Baleares attacked another Republican convoy, with four merchant ships escorted by the cruisers Libertad and Méndez Núñez plus six destroyers off Algeria. This fight became the Battle of Cape Cherchell. Basically Libertad and Méndez Núñez spotted and engaged the Baleares, leaving the convoy to break off and escape protected by the destroyers.
The duel was intense. The Baleares hit both cruisers but was damaged in return by accurate fire from Libertad. Some critical areas were hit, like a fire in the 120 mm ammunition stores. She escaped and was kept for long repairs. But the fight was partially succesful as in the confusion of the battle, two Republican freighters which changed course in precipitation ran aground near Cape Cherchell. One became a total constructive loss while the other was later towed into safety by French authorities.
In March 1938, on the 6th, the Baleares was attacked by the destroyers Barcaiztegui, Lepanto and Artequera at Cape Palos, and sunk in a torpedo. This was the Battle of Cape Palos (see below).
Battle of Cape Palos (March 5–6, 1938)
Naval battles of the interware are quite rare. The battle of Cape Palos is one of these rare engagements, not only of Spanish versus Spanish, but with major units involved. It was the largest naval battle of the Spanish Civil War, during the night of March 5–6, 1938, off Carthagena.
It all started because of the protection of a convoy with African troops and ammunitions from Italy, vital for the following operations. Vice Admiral Manuel Vierna Belando sailed from Palma de Mallorca Naval Base with the two heavy cruisers Canarias and Baleares, light cruiser Almirante Cervera, and three destroyers.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Republican Navy under Admiral Luis González de Ubieta sailed from Cartagena with the two light cruisers, Libertad and Méndez Núñez and five destroyers, in search of Belando’s squadron. After a day navigation, the destroyers detached themselves, taking distance. Despite heading in opposing directions the cruisers met by chance during the dead of night of 5–6 March 1938. The two lines were passing by each others when a Republican destroyer spotted the squadron and torpedo attacked, but missed. The more agressive Republican admiral decided to not wait and provoke the fight, turning his ships in the most favourable position.
Oventually the Republicans opened fire at 02:15, under 5000 m with the cruiser Libertad. The Nationalists replied, but in the confusion one of these ships fired a star shell, illuminating their position to Republican gunners. In addition, the Republican admiral sent his three desotroyers Sanchéz Barcáiztegui, Lepanto, and Almirante Antequera closing the distance to and firing four torpedoes each. At least two or three of these (possibly from Lepanto), hit the Baleares between ‘A’ and ‘B’ turrets, detonating her forward magazine.
The ship blew up but damage was contained enough for the admiral ship (De Vierna had its mark on her) to stay defending the area, while the rest of the fleet was ordered back to protect the convoy. The Baleares would sink later, survivors being picked up by nearb observing british destroyers. The Republicans held the battle as a triumph. Naval commander Luis González de Ubieta was rewarded in all regalia by the government. No other massive engagement of that scale happened until the end of hostilities.
The Canarias during the civil war and ww2
Canarias was the flagship of the Nationalist Navy. During her wartime career she managed to sank 34 ships, fufilling her intended commerce raider role, like one of her most famous action against the Soviet merchant Komsomol off Oran, fully loaded with soviet armament. She also sank military ships such as the Spanish Republican destroyer Almirante Ferrándiz (Battle of Cape Espartel). Canarias also was instrumental in the Battle of Cape Machichaco on 5 March 1937. She sank later the Basque Auxiliary Navy naval trawler Nabarra and badly damaged the destroyer José Luis Díez, which narrowly escaped and took refuge at Gibraltar on 29 August 1938. She also captured the Republican liner Mar Cantábrico, later converted to an auxiliary cruiser.
The cruiser stayed mostly inactive during WW2, still as flagship, but took part in the search for survivors from the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941, which sank in the nearby bay of Biscay. She only recovered bodies. Suvivors (about 110) has been picked up earlier by British ships nearby the sinking; the bodies were likely exhausted men left in the water for more hours when an U-boat alert was given.
The Canarias in the cold war
The Canarias survived the conflict, having sank the destroyer Ferrandiz on September 29, 1936 and severely damaged the Diez on November 30, 1938 in the bay of Catalonia. She was modernized in 1940, losing her flank TTs and receiving new shields for her 120 mm guns.
Blueprint of the Canarias after reconstruction in the 1960s (credits navypedia)
The Canarias became not only the last Spanish cruiser, but the oldest “Washington cruiser” worldwide in existence.
Towards the end of the 1940s, the 120-millimeter guns were replaced locally-made equivalen fitted with protective mantlets and later German-designed but Spanish-built twin 37 mm AA.
She was extensively modernized in 1952-53, with a revised machinery and two funnels, a return to the initial project, as on blueprints a pair of funnels already appeared. The two old Fairey Osprey seaplanes, originally intended to be taken aboard, were dropped in favor of a provision to carry later a light helicopter on the aft deck. The twelve lateral launching tubes were removed in 1960.
In 1964, four of her six twin 37/80 mounts were replaced by four singles Vickers 40mm. The Canarias by that time used a whole array of calibers, 20, 37, 40, 120 and 203 millimeters, a nightmare for intendance. The 8-in barrels had been changed multiple times and during the cold war were still a solid proposition for shore bombardment, capable of a volley every 16 seconds at max Rpm.
In the later 1960s plans were drawn by the admiralty for a conversion as a missile cruiser, with negociations to get the Terrier SAM, and semi-auto 127 mm turrets were received and stored at El Ferrol, scheduled to take place of the 120 mm. Eventually they were fitted on the cold war destroyers Roger de Lauria and Marques de la Ensenada. Theere was a unique navigation radar but soon a CIC (Combat Information Center) was installed. Radio & detection equipments were modernized as shown in the new larger navigation bridge. Detection however was only equivalent the Jupiter or Alava class frigates.
The Canarias remained the flagship of the Fleet when old dreadnoughts were long gone. During her career she cruelly lacked adequate communications systems and task force center proper C&C installations. She was long maintained because of her heavy artillery and speed whereas her antiaircraft artillery provided enough densit.
Lastly she was roomy and with a tall freeboard tailored for the bad weather in the Atlanic. For ASW warfare her means were limited to two ASW mortars, soon removed. Partisans for her retirement advanced the limitations of her Washington type design, with a heavy artillery and good speed but on sacrificed protection and overall weak hull. Her tall hull also made a better target.
The slow retirement of the Canarias began in 1974, placed in reserve status with reduced crew and commanded by a frigate captain. In 1975 she was struck from the lists for good and placed on auction for scrapping. Plans to keep her as a museum ships was rejected. The hull was sold 62,205,636 pesetas for a construction which cost was 90 million pesetas originally and scrapped aftwards in 1977.
8 × 203 mm (8 in)/50, 8 x 120 mm, 12x 533mm (21 in) TTs broadsides
Belt from 50 to 110 mm, decks 25 – 110 mm, Turrets 25 mm
Conways all the world’s fighting ships
http://www.fr.naval-encyclopedia.com/2e-guerre-mondiale/marine-espagnole-2egm.php Baleares as built (illustration)
themurostimes.com/2015/12/09/historia-do-acorazado-canarias/ Modernization profile of the Canarias – 1960
Reina Victoria Eugenia aka Republica (1931) aka Navarra (1936)
Too late for the Great war
The Reina Victoria Eugenia was a single ship, close in superficial appearance to the following Mendez Nunez class, but totally different ships nonetheless, so the latter will be seen separately. They are part of these ships ordered before or during the great war, but not yet seeing the second world war as Spain remained neutral. So we talk about an interwar cruiser here, which fate was narrowly linked to the political turmoil of the interwar. And the very peculiar situation of Spain in the 1930s. She even missed most of the civil war as she was entirely rebuilt and served until 1956.
A class of prewar British design
Basically the three cruisers were part of the 1914 program approved by the Cortes (parliament) following the 1908 navy law for the building of three dreadnought battleships. These were the accompanying cruisers. The British design was then favored and in 1912, the “Town” class was the one that the Spanish Admiralty was interested in, but authorization in July 1914 meant the war erupted and the keel of the first ship was actually laid down at Ferrol NYd on March 1915 only, and completion was delayed by the provision of artillery, telemetry and other equipment from the UK. So much so that this Spanish “town” cruiser was only launched in April 1920, well after the war and completed in 1923.
In between, the Spanish admiralty has renounced to order more ships of the same sort and rather had to accept a smaller, more economical ship, known as the Mendez Nunez class, authorized by the Navy Law of 15 February 1915. They too were laid down at Ferrol quite late, in April and September 1917 to see any useful wartime completion. They were launched in 1922-23 and completed in 1924-25, by which time their design was hopelessly obsolete.
Design of the Reina Vitora Eugenia
In all-out appearance, it was like the Spaniards purchased the Birmingham class blueprints and modified the design to suit their needs. The Reina Vitoria Eugenia was a 5500 tons light cruiser, 25 knots, armed with nine 6-in guns, and with limited protection. The main differences however with the British design was that the boilers were rearranged in three separate boiler rooms, and one funnel was sacrificed while the other were better truncated.
The Armada ship Queen Victoria Eugenia (named after Queen consort Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg) was the sole cruiser built in Spain since the Reina Regente in 1906. The British design was a good way to leapfrog design advancements, at least as far as prewar design was concerned since the original ship was from 1914. She displaced 5502 tons standard, with dimensions of 134 m long (440 ft) by 15.1 m (49ft 8in) and 4.8 m in draught (15ft 9in). Crew was 404 sailors and officers. She was built at the Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval in Ferrol.
Power and performances:
The Vitoria Eugenia was propelled by two shafts connected to steam geared turbines from Parsons, while they were fed by 12 coal-firing Yarrow boilers, for a total of 25,500 hp. This was enough for a top speed of 25.5 knots (47.2 km/h). 660 tons of coal was carried, allowing a range of about 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) at 15 kn (28 km/h).
Her main armament was comparable to the standards of the time, while secondary armament was almost an afterthought:
Nine 6-inch/50 Vickers-Carraca (152 mm) guns in single mountings, with protective masks
four dual-purpose and saluting 47mm guns (3-pdr AA guns)
Four AA MG (Vickers type)
One landing 76 mm Vickers gun
Four 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes in traversing twin banks each side
Protection was maximized around the conning tower, with walls 6-in thick (152 mm) while the belt ranged from two to three inches (76 mm) in thickness. To be precise 1.25 in (32mm) on both ends of the belt. The decks were, as customary at that time, only 76 mm thick (3 in). However, it is not precised what type of steel was used, Harvey, Vickers or local steel.
Reina Vitoria Eugenia class (1922)
140 x 15.1 x 4.8m (440 x 50 x 16 ft)
5,400 t standard, 6,400 t FL
2 turbines, 12 Yarrow coal-fired boilers
25.5 knots (40 km/h)
4,500 nmi (8,300 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)
9 × 152 mm (6 in)/50, 4 × 47 mm AA (3 pdr), 2 MGs; 2×2 533mm (21 in) TT
Belt 32-76 mm (1.25-3 in), Deck: 76 mm (3 in), Masks: 76 mm, CT 152 mm (6 in)
Upon completion, Reina Vitoria Eugenia served actively with the 1st cruiser division. In January 1925, together with the Destroyer Alsedo, she went to Lisbon to commemorate the IV Centenary of Vasco de Gama.
She became the flagship of the Spanish squadron deployed in support of operations in the Rif war, in Morocco. However in 1931 Spain the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed and the cruiser was renamed accordingly, Republica. From then on, however budgetary cuts imposed limited yearly training exercises. Compounded by the consequences of the 1929 crisis.
The civil war: Cruiser Navarra
When the civil war broke out, Republica was decommissioned, in drydocks at Cadiz on July 18, 1936 for a refit. She has been disarmed and her boilers has been removed. However she was later captured by the insurgents.
After the fall of Bilbao in June 1937, the possibility of modernzing this old cruiser was overviewed and a reform project was presented and approved at SECN’s Ferrol Yard. A towing of the ship was ordered from Cádiz to Ferrol, arriving in the end of July 1937 under the name Navarra, which had come into force on June 19. Work on the ship began in the last months of 1937, initiating clear-scrapping of the structure and better access to the machinery below out in open air.
Left side of the Navarra after refit – http://www.revistanaval.com
Work on the ship consisted, as José María González-Llanos stated:
“A tour of all her hull and equipments, which were practically new, the modification of the artillery, with six brand new 15,24 cm guns, with mounts allowing greater elevation, belonging to shore batteries. This went also with modifying deeply all the provision of accommodations and services of the ship, thus totally modernized.
The main work that was carried out was the transformation of the machinery. This ship had always been defective, due to the large direct turbines of 22,500 HP of power, which by the large masses that constitute them provoked dilatation effects and considerable relative movements, creating faults in the drives. On the other hand, radial clearances due to corrosion were exaggerated and made consumption was really excessive, to the point that the twelve mixed boilers coal-oil original Yarrow boilers that the ship had, were not able to give the steam necessary to develop the designed power and corresponding speed, of 25 knots.”
Regarding the armament, the new cruiser mounted a main battery, centerline, of six 152.4 mm Vickers cannons, delivered by the Army from the coastal artillery unit of the Cantabrian coast. For air defense, four 88mm L/45 guns were ordered from Germany and received in kits for assembly and as many Italians as Isotta-Fraschini Breda “Scotti” IF 20mm /70 machine guns were purchased from Italy.
After modernization the ship’s displacement rose to 6,500 tons at full load, and length jumped to 140.8 m for 15.2 m of beam, and 5.6 m draft. Top speed was almost unchanged at 25 knots and the armor was unchanged. The crew was down to 350 sailors and officers.
Officially, reconstruction started in 1937 and was achieved in 1938.
The reconstruction included:
Removal of three side 6-in guns (only six kept, replaced on superfiring positions, two forward, two rear and the last two abaft the bridge and second funnel, centerline)
Completely new streamlined superstructure and shorter masts
Eight brand new Yarrow oil-fired boilers (speed loss about 1 knot but better range)
Exhausts truncated into two funnels
Addition of four German 88 mm/45 FLAK guns
Addition of two twin Isotta Fraschini mounts/Breda 20 mm AA guns
Removal of the TT banks
Navarra was back in service at the end of the fight, to replace the loss of the Balearic Islands. She re-entered service in June 1938. But her usefulness was limited as she was the slowest of all three Spanish nationalist cruisers, Canarias and Almirante Cervera.
Russian illustration of the Republica in 1933 and Navarra after reconstruction in 1938
In July 1938, Navarra joined the Nationalist fleet and the Cruiser Division, along with the Canarias and Admiral Cervera, serving as a replacement after the terrible loss of the cruiser Baleares on March 6.
Commanding Officer José Ramón Carbonell Rubio noted in his journal:
“Aesthetically, the new Navarra left a lot to be desired. Not only the heresy of chimneys was her main sin, but her horrible bridge, half Egyptian pyramid and half dovecote, reminiscent of the Graff Spee and the Canarias, but worse in effect as it was not high enough to escape the infernal smoke from the new chimneys, clouding permanenlty the fire control.”
Navarra in WW2
Navarra, despite her modernization, was mostly kept for training and served as such until 1951, in May. She was auctioned and scrapped in June 1956, and her battery however had survived. Two of her deposed guns in 1936 has been relocated at Costa J-4 in Cabo Silleiro, Pontevedra, fighting during the civil war and relocated in 1943.
141 x 15.1 x 4.8m (440 x 50 x 16 ft)
4,857 t standard, 6,500 t FL
2 Parsons turbines, 8 Yarrow oil-fired boilers
26 knots (48 km/h)
4,500 nmi (9000 km) at 15 knots (25 km/h)
6 × 152 mm (6 in)/50, 4 × 88 mm/45 AA, 2 x 20 mm AA
Belt 32-76 mm (1.25-3 in), Deck: 76 mm (3 in), Masks: 76 mm, CT 152 mm (6 in)
Shipbucket’s modified, “rendered” profile of the Navarra in 1938
Read More & sources
Beevor, Antony (2000) The Spanish Civil War.
Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1906-1921 and 1922-1947
Fernández, Carlos (2000). Alzamiento y Guerra civil en Galicia 1936–1939. Vol.1.
Moreno de Alborán y de Reyna, Salvador (1998). La guerra silenciosa y silenciada: historia de la campaña naval durante la guerra de 1936-39. Vol.3.
Whitley MJ. Cruisers of World War 2: an International Encyclopedia
https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navarra_(1923) Del República al Navarra: historia de una transformación
After the crushing defeats of 1898 in the hands of the US Navy and the loss of the remnants of the Spanish Empire, the Armada was plunged into disarray. The seven years that followed the battle have seen Spain slowly recuperating of the neglect and speculation that have sent gallant men and their antiquated ships to their doom. 1908 was a crucial year, as the Cortes approved a realistic naval modernization plan, crowned by the building of three modern dreadnought battleships. The España class would remain the only Dreadnought and last battleships in service with the Spanish Armada. They will serve in the Great War, and the Interwar year (one lost in 1923), before being divided between belligerents of the Spanish Civil war, in which the last two were sunk. Therefore Spain entered WW2, neutral, with no capital ships and half its previous cruiser force. Nevertheless, the class was interesting in many aspects, as a British-Spanish quite unite design.
Previous naval plans
As stated above, the 1908 naval law defined an ambitious plan, and the three dreadnoughts were top of the list. As a reminder, the last modern Spanish battleship, the Pelayo, was a French-built 1886 barbette battleship typical of the country and era with a lozenge-configuration and single guns of large caliber and long range (340 mm). In home waters when the 1898 war broke out, the Pelayo was left to defend Spanish coasts with a few modernized antiquated ironclads used as coast guards. In 1907, the Pelayo was no longer relevant at the age of Dreadnoughts. However, Spain had neither the know-how or capabilities to built domestically modern battleships from scratch.
An effort was already undertaken in 1903, the naval plan calling for seven 15,000-metric-ton battleships plus three 10,000-metric-ton cruisers. Needless to say, Spanish economics did not allow such ambitions. The Fleet Plan of 1905 still proposed a smaller fleet of eight 14,000 t battleships, but government instability also killed it. A more moderate plan was at last proposed under the new minister of Marine in 1907, Antonio Maura which chose three 15,000 tonnes battleships, less than half of the previous plan. It seemed more realistic and was voted the next year, ending in the 1908 naval law.
Genesis of the España class
This delay, from 1903 to 1908 was crucial as it spared Spain the construction of pre-dreadnoughts. Instead, the Armada saw the experience gained with the world’s first commissioned all-big-gun battleship, HMS Dreadnought and USS South Carolina.
The pre-requirements as formulated by the Navy staff included three main aspects:
-The Armada needed to defend its three main naval bases: Ferrol, Cádiz, and Cartagena.
-The new ship must deal with budgetary constraints, tailored for the frail Spanish economy and industrial sector.
-The third constraint came also from the existing dockyard facilities. The choice of building the ship rather than purchasing them in Great Britain was essentially economic. Shipbuilding in Spain was way cheaper. Funds were lacking any way to build either larger battleships or larger dockyards.
Battleship España at Ferrol in 1913
The final design was to come with a compact design, retaining the maximum firing effectiveness and adjusted armor protection. The Spanish Navy started discussing these requirements with Armstrong Whitworth and Vickers already in 1907 and on 5 September 1907, Vickers provided a proposed a 15,000-ton design armed with eight 12-inch guns. This was quite influential and became the basis to draw the final requirements issued on 21 April 1908.
Construction and design
These ships were eventually authorized by the Navy Law of 7 January 1908 and built by the SECN syndicate; they were the smallest battleships of the dreadnought type ever constructed. Indeed their speed, protection and freeboard (about let amidships) being well
To avoid rebuilding existing docks, they were built shorter than if a fully rational design were possible. The main belt was 6ft 7in deep and extended between the end barbettes. The Bullivant net defense was fitted. For the end 12in turrets, the arcs of fire were about 270°, and for the echelon turrets, 180° and 80°; the guns were 24ft 6in above water, maneuvered by hydraulic power, with all-round loading at any elevation. The Vickers-type directors were in the lower top on each mast.
Entry into service
All three ships were launched in succession in the same yard, SECN, Ferrol, which had the largest basin in Spain. The first dreadnought, España was laid down on 6 December 1909, launched 5 February 1912 and completed on 23 October 1913. Alfonso XIII followed on 23 February 1910, launched 7 May 1913 and completed on 16 August 1915. So she entered in service when the war was ongoing. However Jaime I, laid down on 5 February 1912 was launched on 21 September 1914 and was ready to operate at sea in 1917, but completion was delayed by non-delivery of material from Britain during wartime, until 20 December 1921.
After WW1, Alfonso XIII (renamed España in April 1931, as the latter was lost on an unchartered rock years before) was laid up at Ferrol in 1934, refitted in 1936, to fight and be lost during the civil war. Jaime I was also modernized, took part in the civil war and suffered a devastating accident in, 1937 magazine explosion followed by a devastating fire. She was discarded on 3 July 1939 waiting to be scrapped.
Laid down at the Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval shipyard in Ferrol on 6 December 1909, she was completed on 23 October 1913 but she had to wait for her sisters to be operational and form the 1st Squadron of the Spanish fleet. Spain remaining neutral, the battleship España sailed in mid-1915 crossed the Atlantic to represent Spain at the opening ceremonies for the Panama Canal, Portugal being the only other nation, with the USA to spare ships for ceremonies.
In 1920 the battleship also participated in the quatercentenary of the discovery of the Straits of Magellan in Chile and was the first Spanish Armada ship to cross the Panama Canal. In January 1921, however, she ran aground in off Puerto Montt on her trip back and was refloated and able to carry on. However her hull was badly dented on 150 ft (46 m), some rocks puncturing holes 8 ft (2.4m) and smaller between frames and on the starboard side. Divers worked over the clock to pour concrete so that she can sail to Balboa, where was repaired before making her return trip. hen back, she was sent to the training Squadron and also provided fire support to the Army in Morocco during the Rif War. However, one of these coastal shelling ended badly. When she was off Cape Tres Forcas (near Melilla) on 26 August 1923, she ran aground.
The Spanish Navy hired salvage companies but both declined after studying the wreck. Therefore the Navy had to drop these plans but try to remove as much weight as possible and raise her later. The guns were the first removed followed by armor plates, machinery, ammunition stores. Eventually, her hull was sealed, partially drained but she has to wait for equipment from Italy and meanwhile was severely toasted by several violent storms. A new survey showed her damaged hull could not be raised anymore, broke in two in November 1924. The decision was taken to leave her there. The guns recovered were recycled in coastal batteries, still extant in 1999.
Battleship Alfonso XIII
Alfonso XIII during a naval review in 1915
Alfonso XIII was launched on 7 May 1913, completed on 16 August 1915, after the war has erupted. She was not therefore hit by shortages. She joined the 1st Squadron of the Spanish fleet, and in August 1917, assisted in the suppression of general strikes in Vizcaya and Bilbao. Postwar cruises to show the flag, including Annapolis and Maryland. She also supported the Spanish Army on the coast of Morocco (Rif War), shelling insurgents positions south of Melilla, allowing an assault by the Spanish Foreign Legion.
In August the next year, she took part in the first Spanish combined arms operation and in September 1925, shelled positions defending the Al Hoceima landings, a decisive Franco-Spanish operation in the Rif war. She became the flagship of the local naval force, and in April 1931 after a change of regime, she became part of the Spanish Republican Navy, and renamed España. The latter had been wrecked indeed in 1923.
Author’s what-if reconstruction of the Espana and Jaime I rebuilt in 1934-37 as Deutschland-like light battleships
In 1934 she was laid up at Ferrol and while the Spanish Navy discuss rebuilding she and Jaime I into German Deutschland-class like light battleships: They would have received brand new oil-fired boilers, their hulls would have been lengthened, the main battery rearranged on the centerline and secondary battery replaced by superstructure0 mm (4.7 in) guns. But the budget was sorely lacking for these grandiose plans, and the final modernization was far more limited, accepted in 1936. The plan called for some superstructure and fire director changes, additional anti-aircraft guns were fitted, oil-fired boilers, the main guns being elevated for more range.
After Franco’s coup in July 1936 she was still in Ferrol’s drydock. While the Army landed in Ferrol sided with Nationalists, sailors who supported the Republicans took control of the ship soon joined by the cruiser Almirante Cervera. Both ships started an artillery duel with the Nationalist-held shore batteries and the Nationalist destroyer Velasco. The engagement lasted for days and wrecked the whole harbor, while both Republican ships were badly damaged. Their crews eventually surrendered.
España entered a long refit and sailed for Nationalist fleet. This task force comprised the Almirante Cervera and Velasco, which started to captured or sink Republican and foreign merchant ships. One of the most valuable prize for España was the freighter Mar Báltico loaded with iron ore on February 1937. She also interdicted the British steamer SS Consett to enter Santander. However the same day, España struck a mine (led by Nationalists but not chartered) and sank off Santander. This took three hours, leaving time for the crew to be rescued by Velasco.
Battleship Jaime I
Jaime I was the last Spanish dreadnought to be started in Ferrol in February 1912 and launched on September 1914, but work stopped completely as critical components from Great Britain were now blocked because of the war. The Royal Navy indeed requisitioned all available hardware and ceased deliveries. Although the ship was ready to go to sea by 1917, but she was not completed until well after the end of the war, on 20 December 1921. She was part of the 1st Squadron of the Spanish fleet and first saw action in the Rif War, shelling insurgents coastal battery and troops (which returned fire) in 1924.
When the civil war broke out, she fought with the Republican Navy. Jaime I and other ships were alerted or Franco’s coup and mutinied against officers sympathetic to the Nationalist cause. The ships, therefore, stayed under Republican control but poor discipline and distrust towards officers that were not killed hampered the ship capabilities. Nevertheless soon Jaime I bombarded Nationalist strongholds like Ceuta, Melilla and Algeciras. In the latter harbor, she also sank the Nationalist gunboat Eduardo Dato, which was burned down to the waterline (later refloated, repaired and returned to service). Jaime I was however lightly damaged by a Nationalist air attack at Málaga on 13 August 1936, when a bomb hit the bow.
In May 1937 after she had been grounded and conducted in drydock for repairs, she was attacked again. Three bombs hit her but the damage was limited. In June at Cartagena an accidental internal explosion and fire took place, which wrecked her. Suspicions of sabotage were also strong. But the end result was she was declared not worth any repairs and was discarded on 3 July 1939, and broken up later in 1941.
In 1940, her the guns were recovered to be reused in the Gibraltar strait coastal defense batteries D9 El vigia and D10 Casquebel near Tarifa. They survived until the 1980s.
España class (1912)
140 x 24 x 78m (460 x 79 x 26 ft)
15,700 t standard, 16,450 t FL
4 turbines, 12 Yarrow coal-fired boilers
19.5 knots (36.1 km/h)
5,000 nmi (9,300 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)
8 × 305 mm (12 in)/50, 20 × 102 mm (4 in), 4 × 3-Pdr, 2 MGs
Belt 203 mm (8 in), Deck: 38 mm (1 in), Turrets: 203 mm, CT 254 mm (10 in)
Beevor, Antony (2000) The Spanish Civil War.
Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1906-1921 and 1922-1947
Fernández, Carlos (2000). Alzamiento y Guerra civil en Galicia 1936–1939. Vol.1.
Moreno de Alborán y de Reyna, Salvador (1998). La guerra silenciosa y silenciada: historia de la campaña naval durante la guerra de 1936-39. Vol.3. 3D model and the battleship more in detail