(From Soviet-empire): Chronology of Spanish Republican naval actions + Comintern (Wollweber) sabotages
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(From Soviet-empire): Chronology of Spanish Republican naval actions + Comintern (Wollweber) sabotages
Note 1: The article used the term “Rebel” to describe the coalition of fascist/right-wing military led by Francisco Franco and backed by the Nazi German and Fascist Italy. To better fit the neutral political stance of this forum, all the terms have been reversed with the word “Nationalist”: a common word used by many western sources even if it was itself coined by Joseph Goebbels to politically equate the two warring parties.
Note 2: The article doesn’t include all the (covert and illicit) attacks committed by Italian and Spanish nationalist submarine or surface attacks against international merchants as well air attacks against these vessels. It should be stressed that the Republican Navy deliberately avoided to perform such attacks (for example not a single torpedo attack by Republican submarine was ever carried out against merchant ships), and the merchant ships encountered were simply prompted to sail away rather then being sunk or seized. Excluding few specific operations (early attempts, Majorca landing), the Republican Navy mostly focused on the defense or searching the propaganda victory against the enemy cruisers. This political policy to restrain attacks on merchants was one important element of the Republican defeat. The article also doesn’t include merchant ships sunk or damaged by aviation (once again, it was mostly pro-Republican shipping) or the few losses occurred due mines.
todoavante.es (top source in Spanish! Neutral)
marinavasca.eu (top Basque source);
Various Italian books and authors (Giorgio Giorgierini, Franco Bargoni)
Updates with the latest version on Soviet-empire thread:
1) attack on Churruca on 31 Aug/1 Sept 1936
2) attack on Canarias on 22 Sept 1936
3) attempted operation by MAS boats on 6 Febr 1937
Added the subsequent massacre of Málaga-Almería road
4) some corrections on sinking of Cabo Santo Tomè on 10 Octobr 1937
5) some text revision at the end of Battle of Cape Palos on 5-6 March 1938
6) loss of patrol boat C-17 placed correctly on 23 Jan 1939 (not 1938)
7) name fix and location added for loss of Nuevo Pepe Leston on 24 Jan 1939
8) reworked text for 5 March 1939
9) added loss of a Republican I-16 on 6 March 1939
10) some text reworked for loss of Castillo de Olite on 7 March 1939
16 July 1936
According some sources, Republican destroyer Almirante Ferrándiz allegedly seized three fishing boats off Barbate. This is clearly wrong because the destroyer was at Barcelona between 15 and 17 July.
19 July 1936
Republican submarine C-1 seized in the Strait of Gibraltar the troop transport Monte Toro (851 GRT). It is the first victory of the few republican submarines’ victories in war. The Nationalists employed the vessel to ferry soldiers across the Strait but she was empty at the time of seizure. Interestingly, the previous day she sailed out of Melilla harbor towing the loyalist Republican destroyer Almirante Valdes that was by coincidence inside the Nationalist -controlled harbor at the time of the military coup.
Destroyers’ crewmembers, made the enemy believe their ship joined the coup, and needed towing assistance after a minor grounding to secretly escape the harbor (with complicity of some loyalist sailors onboard Monte Toro), and rejoin the Republican Fleet.
The Republican Navy however credited C-1 and not the destroyer for the actual seizure of the vessel.
26 July 1936
Republican submarine C-4 launched a torpedo and then fired 37 shells against a pair of enemy troop transports, causing at best some minor splinter damages, but this is left unconfirmed.
28 July 1936
Republican submarine C-4 damaged by coastal artillery. On the same attempt to blockade, the Republican submarine C-2 encountered the German merchant Sebu, but faithful to official governmental line of naval warfare, she didn’t attack and contended to order the ship away and prevent to anchor in the port of Larache.
5 August 1936
Republican destroyers Alcalá Galiano, Almirante Valdes and Lepanto attempted to attack an enemy convoy that was transporting troops. The two enemy transports Ciudad de Ceuta and Ciudad de Algeciras, together the tugs Arango and Benot carried 3000 soldiers and they were escorted by the gunboat Eduardo Dato, the patrol boat Uad Kert and the old torpedo boat T-19. A Breguet enemy bomber aircraft damaged the Lepanto, suffering one dead and five wounded and was forced to return under cover of destroyer Churruca.
Also the destroyer Almirante Valdes was hit by an aerial bomb and damaged and could not reach the convoy. Alcalá Galiano found the convoy alone, could not reach with her fire the merchant Ciudad de Algeciras (some sources however speak about splinter damages inflicted), and was damaged by the Eduardo Dato and bombers Dornier, suffering 18 dead and 28 wounded.
7 August 1936
As revenge for the failure of two days before, the Republican battleship Jaime I, escorted by the light cruiser Libertad, sunk into the harbor of Algeciras the Nationalist gunboat Eduardo Dato. It’s the main victory and only sinking caused by a battleship during the Spanish Civil War. It’s also the one and only full sinking scored by a battleship aligned with a communist or socialist government in history of naval warfare (Soviet battleships never achieved it). During the attack was also heavily damaged with a single hit (from the battleship) the enemy patrol boat Uad Kert.
The enemy will later recover the gunboat in 1937.
13 August 1936
Republican battleship Jaime I damaged by enemy air attack, with 6 killed.
On the same day,
According a Soviet source, Republican submarine C-3 attacked and sunk two Nationalist -controlled trawlers in Malaga area. While the episode is possible, there is scarce information of this claim, also because C-3 would later sunk in December.
16 August 1936
Nationalist patrol boat Tiburòn attacked by Republican aircraft and then surrendered. Used by the Republican Navy with same name, but eventually captured in harbor by Nationalists in Bilbao (1937)
On the same day,
Republican submarine C-2 on blockade operation intercepted the Italian merchant Nereide. Rather than sinking her, she attempted to detain her but the intervention of Italian destroyer Antonio da Noli forced the C-2 to leave.
22 August 1936
The Republican submarine C-1 damaged in harbor by enemy air attack
24 August 1936
Republican submarine C-2 intercepted the German merchant Lahneck. Despite the presence of German torpedo boat Leopard, she submarine successfully prevented the merchant to reach the Nationalist -controlled harbor and made her to sail to Lisbon. This last incident was another remarkable example of the extremely self-restrained behavior of Republican submarines, avoiding sinking German or Italian shipping to remain loyal to International rules.
31 August 1936
Republican submarine C-5 attacked the Nationalist battleship España with four torpedoes but did not score hits.
During the night between 31 August and 1 September, three Italian S.81 bombers attacked Malaga and inflicted damage to Republican destroyer Churruca.
1 September 1936
Republican submarine C-6 faced in a gunfire battle the Nationalist patrol boats Tritonia and Virgen del Carmen, then joined the armed tug Galicia and Argos, later the patrol boats Juan Ignazio and Denis and finally an Italian seaplane Savoia-62 with the Nationalist destroyer Velasco. Despite the huge numerical superiority, C-6 could retire after scoring hits and damaged the patrol boat Juan Ignazio. Republican sailors perceived negatively the outcome of the fight, because such intense anti-submarine activity was unexpected.
3 September 1936
Republican submarine C-5 attacked on the surface by the Nationalist patrol boats Tritonia and Virgen del Carmen. The submarine dived and suffered an attack with depth charges by Nationalist destroyer Velasco that inflicted some damages.
8 September 1936
A mutiny occurred on the Portuguese destroyer NRP Dão and the sloop NRP Afonso de Albuquerque. Sailors were inspired by the Spanish Republican struggle and were part of the group named “Organização Revolucionária da Armada” related to the Communist Party. While both ships were successfully seized by rebellious sailors (most of officers captured), no other ship joined and coastal artillery shelled them. Both ship suffered damages, beached and surrendered. 12 mutineer sailors killed, 20 wounded and 238 captured. Leader of the revolt committed suicide on Dão.
10 September 1936
Nationalist patrol boat Txit-Ona heavily damaged by Republican aircraft, the ship was then disarmed.
11 September 1936
On the same day, Republican submarine C-4 spotted the Nationalist -controlled trawlers Nuevo Alvarez Feijóo (69,6 GRT) and Feliciano Alvarez Feijóo (111 GRT) and attacked them. The first trawler tried to escape and was shelled and sunk, while the second ship surrendered and brought to Gijón. The catch of fish distributed to the civilian population. Interestingly the detained vessel proved useful in 1937 to evacuate by sea 250 militiamen and reach French waters. The attack, occurred off Vigo, is poorly described even in Spanish text, but it accounts for a rare Republican submarine’s victory.
12 September 1936
After the failed attempt to liberate Majorca Island, Republican forces pulled back the last troops from the Island but left behind the landing barges K-12, K-14 and K-16 all captured by Nationalists. Each barge could carry 300 troops or 150t of cargo. Bought from England in 1921 to operate in Morocco.
19 September 1936
Republican submarine B-6 attacked in Basque waters with gunfire the Nationalist armed tug Galicia: the enemy tug suffered from 2 to 5 direct hits with human losses (1 KIA, 13 WIA) and heavy damages, however the submarine was counter-attacked by the armed tug Ciriza and the destroyer Velasco. The submarine hardly damaged by Velasco's gunfire and crew decided to self-sunk the B-6 to prevent her capture. 39 crewmembers captured out of 41. The old submarine scored a damaging victory, but was quickly attacked by an enemy destroyer and hit with gunfire, forcing the submarine to self-sunk to not be captured: the loss of the submarine was the only one caused by destroyer during the war.
22 September 1936
A Republican Potez-540 bomber attacked without success the Nationalist cruiser Canarias in Galician waters, even if later they claimed to have hit the ship.
29 September 1936
Battle of Cape Espartel
Units loyal to the Republic, active in the Atlantic, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to join the units in the Mediterranean Sea.
Nationalist heavy cruiser Canarias and the light cruiser Almirante Cervera, attacked the republican destroyer Almirante Ferrándiz, that was sunk by Canarias with 6 hits, while the destroyer Gravina received only moderate damages because of 2 hits from the Almirante Cervera.
Of 160 crew-members of the Ferrandiz, 31 were captured while other 25 were rescued by the French merchant Katoubia.
The Nationalists scored an important victory, forcing the Republican ships out of the Strait and causing no further trouble for the their transports (even if actually the Republicans had made only a single failed attempt to intercept a convoy).
9 October 1936
The Nationalist light cruiser Almirante Cervera sunk the Republican patrol boats Uad Lucus, Uad Muluya , and the smaller I-5 (a former customs ship)
12 October 1936
Republican submarine B-4 sunk by enemy air attack into the Malaga’s harbor. The unit was raised some days later but never repaired.
30 October 1936
The Nationalist heavy cruiser Canarias sunk the Republican patrol boat Marinero Cante
10 November 1936
During an air raid in Bilbao harbor, the Republican submarine C-2 claimed to have shot down an attacking enemy bomber.
The claim is so far unconfirmed, and if indeed the Nationalists lost a plane, other reasons should be taken in consideration too (other ships’ fire, ground AA batteries etc.).
15 November 1936
The Basque armed trawlers Mistral (later renamed Gipuzkoa) and Heuzkal Herria (later renamed Bizkaya) faced and forced to retreat the enemy destroyer Velasco that suffered some damages with one wounded, while also the Mistral suffered some damages with two wounded. It was the first and main engagement won by the small Basque Navy against the stronger enemy.
22 November 1936
Republican light cruiser Miguel de Cervantes damaged with a torpedo by the Italian submarine Torricelli. The Italian submarine scored one of the best submarine successes during the war: the Republican cruiser was heavily damaged and could not return in service for most of the conflict. Later Torricelli become General Sanjurjo of the Nationalist Navy.
6 December 1936
Nationalist armed trawler Virgen del Carmen defected to the Republicans and joined the Basque Navy with the name Donostia.
12 December 1936
Republican submarine C-3 sunk by the German submarine U-34 with torpedo.
Only 3 sailors survived, at first the Republican Navy thought it was an accident, later it was believed that an Italian submarine was responsible of the attack. Only after the WWII it was discovered that was a German attack.
The German submarine scored the only German success during the war, but it was also the only submarine-vs-submarine victory achieved during the conflict.
20 December 1936
Republican warships usually were never involved in attacks or seizure of merchants (differently from the Nationalist). However, the Basques attempted a similar activity: the armed trawler Bizkaya seized the German merchant Pluto, however the Republican command ordered to release immediately the ship.
23 December 1936
The Basque armed trawler Bizkaya seized the German merchant Palos. Once again, by political decision the ship released (5 days later), but part of cargo confiscated.
Night between 26 and 27 December 1936
Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli was damaged with depth charges by the Republican destroyers Almirante Valdes and Lazaga, after an unsuccessfully torpedo attack. It was the first successful attack with depth charges by Republican destroyers.
31 December 1936
Republican submarine C-5 disappeared after leaving the harbor of Bilbao. Like the loss of B-5, there has been speculation over an intentional sabotage action of the commander. However, there is little proof for this theory and the most likely reason remain an accident due the general age of the vessel and the difficulties in maintaining the submarines operative.
3 January 1937
Inconclusive clash between the republican destroyer José Luis Díez with the Nationalist patrol boat Galerna.
7-8 January 1937
The Basque armed trawlers Gipuzkoa and Nabarra together the destroyer José Luis Díez, fought against the Nationalist destroyer Velasco that was escorting the merchant Genoveva (used as mine-carrier, with 100 mines). The Nabarra suffered 3 hits and a fire, but the enemy retreated to not risk losing the merchant.
14 January 1937
Nationalist heavy cruiser Canarias hit by a 100kg bomb launched by a soviet-made SB-2 bomber, causing moderate damages.
17 January 1937
The Basque armed trawler Goizeko Izarra sunk by a mine (crew of 17 KIA)
18 January 1937
The Basque auxiliary minesweeper Mary-Toya sunk by mine (6 KIA).
6 February 1937
The Italian motor torpedo boats MAS-435 and MAS-436 operated off Malaga with the intent to attack the harbor but with unexpected full darkness crew was disoriented and could not find the entrance, MAS-435 launched a torpedo without effects against a silhouette in the darkness. The missed target was the very same Italian destroyer Giovanni Da Verazzano that launched the crafts as mothership.
7 February 1937
The Republican patrol boat Artabro sunk by enemy air raids in the harbor of Malaga.
8 February 1937
The Republican minesweeper Xauen sunk by enemy air raids in the harbor of Malaga.
On the same day, occurred a bloody massacre on the Málaga-Almería road: thousands of civilians escaping from Malaga under fascist Italian-Spanish assault, were deliberately strafed by airplanes and directly shelled by Nationalist warships including the heavy cruiser Canarias, Baleares and the light cruiser Almirante Cervera. The reported number of casualties move from 3000 to 5000 killed.
14 February 1937
The Italian light cruiser Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta made one of the many secret Italian operations against the Spanish Republic, randomly shelling Valencia. During the bombing (25 people killed), the Republican gunboat Laya returned fire from the harbor, scoring one hit on the cruiser (no casualties) with minor damages. The surface secret raids of the Italian Navy have been hidden for decades! Republicans believed it was Baleares or Canarias. While the damage was not serious, the smaller gunboat proved a relatively accurate firing scoring hit on the enemy without suffering damage.
21 February 1937
Republican submarine C-6 suffered damages because of an enemy air attack while on patrol in open sea.
5 March 1937
Battle of Cape Machichaco
Nationalist heavy cruiser Canarias, near the Basque coast, encounters the armed Basque trawlers Gipuzkoa, Bizkaya, Nabarra and the smaller Donostia escorting the merchant Galdames (full of civilians). There was a gunfire battle, the Gipuzkoa was damaged with 5 dead and 12 wounded, but with the help of a coastal battery the enemy retreated and the damaged ship (which extinguished a fire on board) was saved. Also the Gipuzkoa managed to cause minor damages to the Canarias, causing one dead and one wounded.
The Bizkaya had the opportunity to recover the merchant Yorkbrook (1236 GRT) (that has been previously seized by Canarias), but Canarias began shooting again. Recovering the merchant would provide the Basque forces with a precious cargo of Japanese-made artillery guns carried onboard.
The enemy cruiser hit the Galdames , killing a woman and 3 children and forcing the ship to surrender.
After few shells against Donostia, the cruiser finally focused on Nabarra, sinking her with 29 dead, including the commander, despite a brave resistance.
20 sailors of Nabarra were captured, they were going to be executed but thanks the personal request of Canarias' commander, they were spared.
While the recovering of Yorkbrook allowed to evacuate many civilians when the Italian and Nationalist army attacked the Basque militias and captured Bilbao, the capture of Galdames was a sad event. One man shot by Nationalist still on board when he attempted to leave the ship, later other refugees would be killed including Manuel Carrasco Formiguera (a member of the Basque Government).
15 April 1937
Republican submarine B-5 disappeared on sea. While it is common the theory of a direct suicidal sabotage of the same commander (later praised by the Franco’s regime postwar for this alleged action), the most obvious reason of the loss remains the poor state of the vessel that reported leaks during the previous navigation.
25 April 1937
An inconclusive meeting between the German light cruiser Leipzig and the Republican destroyer Sánchez Barcáiztegui.
30 April 1937
Nationalist battleship España was struck by a Nationalist mine laid by the minelayer Júpiter near Bilbao and started sinking with only 5 dead.
A group of Republican bombers Gourdou GL.633 attacked the sinking ship and the pilot Miguel Zambudio claimed to have scored at least a single direct hit with a 100kg bomb. The loss of the battleship had mainly a moral and propagandistic value (her combat value wasn't high).
The loss of the old battleship had (at this point) mainly a propaganda value because the role of leading warships was now firmly done by the cruisers. The Republicans highly praised the air attack (even if the mortal blow was actually scored previously, by the friendly-fire mine explosion).
1 May 1937
Inconclusive skirmish between the Republican destroyer Císcar and the Nationalist patrol boat Galerna.
7 May 1937
Nationalist motor torpedo boat Javier Quiroga sunk near Gibralter because of an accidental collision with the sister unit Cándido Pérez (both were former Italian MAS units).
12 May 1937
Again the Republican submarine C-6 under the command of the Soviet officer Ivan Alekseievich Burmistrov, suffered damages because of an enemy air attack in harbor.
21 May 1937
Republican battleship Jaime I, was damaged by three bombs during an Italian air attack. On ship was present the soviet advisor A.P.Labuid.
On the same day, Republican destroyer Císcar accidentally rammed and sunk the small Basque auxiliary minesweeper D-18.
25 May 1937
Italian auxiliary cruiser (armed merchant) Barletta was damaged by Republican Air Force, with 6 dead and 5 wounded.
28 May 1937
German battleship (sometimes classified as heavy cruiser or pocket battleship), Deutschland badly damaged by a Republican ex-soviet Tupolev SB-2 bomber, there were 31 dead and 74 wounded.
Crew of the aircraft were the soviets Captain Anton Progrorin and Lt. Vassily Schmidt. As retaliation, the German battleship Admiral Scheer made a violent bombing of civilian targets causing 19 killed and 55 wounded in Almeira.
10 June 1937
In Basque waters there was a short inconclusive battle between Republican destroyers Císcar and José Luis Díez against the light Nationalist cruiser Almirante Cervera. No damages on both sides.
Interestingly, both destroyers received Basque crewmembers on 31 May replacing the Spaniards sailors.
13 June 1937
A Nationalist air raid in Portugalete harbor sunk the small Basque auxiliary minesweepers D-14, and D-24. D-20 was a total loss, and the small minesweeping launch L-2 sunk.
17 June 1937
Republican battleship Jaime I exploded with the death of up 300 sailors (other lowest estimates say about of 80-170 killed and 150-200 wounded). Causes of sinking are unclear: it has been suggested a sabotage, but it's probable that it was actually an accidental inner detonation. The ship was old and her combat value was low (especially after the loss of the sister-ship España, in Nationalist hands).
Moreover it was the light cruiser Libertad that had took the effective role of flag-ship of the Republican Navy.
Soviet advisor on the ship was V.L. Bogdenko (that had replaced A.P. Labuid) and survived.
The wreck of the ship was recovered but could not be repaired.
18 June 1937
Nationalist motor torpedo boat Falange sunk by accidental fire in Malaga harbor. It was a former German unit.
On the same day, the Nationalist light cruiser Almirante Cervera, alongside patrol boats Galerna, Ciriza and Fantastico, attacked the Basque armed trawlers retreating to Santoña. The armed trawler Gipuzkoa suffered 1 killed and 3 wounded, while Bizkaya briefly returned fire without effect. A third Basque vessel, the Iparreki Izarra, did not engaged the enemy.
20 June 1937
Republican submarine C-6 under the command of the Soviet officer Ivan Alekseievich Burmistrov launched two torpedoes against the light cruiser Almirante Cervera, without results.
12 July 1937
Republican destroyers Lepanto, Churruca, Almirante Miranda, Almirante Valdes, Gravina (with soviet advisor V.L.Bogdenko) and Sánchez Barcáiztegui escorting the tanker Campillo, had a short battle against the heavy cruiser Baleares. No damages on both sides. After the engagement, ex-soviet Republican motor torpedo boats led by the soviet commander Y.N. Uzhvenko made an unsuccessful torpedo attack, launching 3 torpedoes against Baleares.
13 July 1937
According some sources the Republican destroyer Churruca seized in Gibraltar strait the Nationalist merchant Cala Mitjana (cargo of sugar) according some sources.
While also reported by press of the time, this appears wrong: Churruca spent the days between 9 and 19 July she patrolled Valencia area, taking part at the clash with cruiser Baleares.
30 July 1937
Republican motor torpedo boats n°31 and n°41 attacked by German He-59 seaplanes.
A Spanish sailor died on n°31, three Soviets were wounded together a Spaniard. On n°41 there were two Spaniards wounded but the unit was lost due heavy damages.
The Republican Navy had received only 4 former soviet motor torpedo boats of G-5 class (other units never reached Spain, despite plans, also plans to build units directly in Spain were never accomplished).
A German He-59 (pilot: Hans Hefele) seaplane suffered damage by naval fire, forced to splash down but successfully recovered by Nationalist Navy.
It is unclear if motor torpedo boats responsible for this, Soviet advisors lamented ineffective defensive fire but still they could have scored hits.
It is also possible the seaplane suffered damages attacking the Republican destroyers Escaño and Almirante Valdes.
10 August 1937
Short battle near Gijon between the Nationalist minelayer Júpiter and the Republican destroyer Císcar. The Júpiter suffered a hit with some damages and escaped. The enemy cruiser Almirante Cervera could not reach in time the place of the clash.
12 August 1937.
Republican destroyers Churruca and Alcalá Galiano, attacked by the Italian submarine Jalea, one torpedo damaged the Churruca, but the ship towed to safety by the second destroyer. Churruca suffered 4 dead and 8 wounded, on ship was present the soviet advisor S.D.Solouchin.
14 August 1937
The small Basque auxiliary minesweeper D-17 sunk by accident.
20 August 1937
Republican destroyer Lazaga missed by torpedo launched by the Italian submarine Giuseppe Finzi, the submarine was counter-attacked and lightly damaged with depth charges.
24 August 1937
Republican submarine C-6 under the command of the Soviet officer Ivan Alekseievich Burmistrov suffered damages due depth charges by the Nationalist heavy cruiser Baleares. Some sources report that C-6 attacked the cruiser with torpedoes, but this appears wrong (even if that was the likely commander’s intention).
25 August 1937
The Republican destroyer José Luis Díez while sailing to attempt reaching Mediterranean Sea, encountered the Nationalist trawlers San Fausto (103 GRT) and Con (107 GRT): both shelled and sunk and 24 sailors captured. This rare attack committed by the Republican destroyer to protect the secrecy of her voyage.
27 August 1937
The Republican destroyer José Luis Díez, with a (fake) number to resemble a British destroyer, tried to reach the Mediterranean Sea: she was attacked by the Nationalist heavy cruiser Canarias , causing some damages and trapping the destroyer in Gibraltar waters. During the battle there were also the cruiser Navarra, Almirante Cervera, the minelayer Júpiter and the destroyers Huesca, Ceueta and Melilla. Destroyer suffered 2 killed, 6 missing and 10 wounded but also the 24 fishermen captured previously died when their room was flooded by leak.
28 August 1937
Republican submarine C-4 damaged in harbor by enemy air attack, partially repaired by the crew directly on the place.
7 September 1937
Battle of Cape Cherchell
Republican light cruisers Libertad and Méndez Núñes, were escorting a convoy (four merchants: Aldecoa, Antonio Satrùstegui, Mar Caribe, Mar Blanco) together the destroyers Lepanto, Almirante Valdes, Almirante Antequera, Gravina, Jorge Jouan, Almirante Miranda and Escaño. Suddenly the Nationalist heavy cruiser Baleares attacked.
During the battle, Libertad scored first one or two hits on the enemy, and then other two direct hits and the Baleares was forced to retreat with 3 dead and 26 wounded.
Some sources claim that Libertad suffered a minor hit without real damage, but this is unconfirmed (at the worst it was a splinter).
Soviet advisor on Libertad was V.A. Alafuzov.
After the engagement, an Italian air attack, scored only one bomb hit on the destroyer Escaño that suffered little damage.
For the first time the best warships of the Republican Navy, confronted and defeated a modern enemy naval unit.
The engagement however even if it was tactically a victory, had a strategic failure because the merchant ships were left alone: one grounded by accident in Algerian waters and the other one was forced to take shelter in Algerian harbor, being interned by French.
Both merchants could not reach Republican waters.
13 September 1937
According some sources, the loss of the old Nationalist torpedo boat T-2 (officially due grounding) could have been related to a torpedo attack made by Republican submarine C-6 under command of soviet Ivan Alekseievich Burmistrov. There is no confirmation however about an involvement of the submarine. This theory so far lacks of solid proof of claim of Republican action, official Nationalist records reports no enemy presence.
17 September 1937
Republican destroyers Almirante Antequera, Escaño, Gravina and Sánchez Barcáiztegui had a short battle against the heavy cruiser Canarias, while escorting the merchants Jaime II and JJ Sister. Almirante Antequera launched 2 torpedoes without effect. The soviet advisor I.Eliseev insisted to prolong the fight and even if a single enemy shell caused minor damages on Sánchez Barcáiztegui: this destroyer launched 4 torpedoes missing the Canarias, but forcing her to retreat. The destroyers however retreated leaving the merchants Jaime-II (1370 GRT) and Juan J. Sister (1554 GRT) unprotected and enemy seized both.
28 September 1937
When Republican submarines C-2 and C-4 stationed in France after the fall of the Basque country, Nationalists attempted to seize the two vessels. A group of agents, led by two traitor officers including the very same commander of C-4, sailed on a small boat to board the other submarine.
At first, the crew of C-2 suspected nothing, but when they revealed weapons, a sentry on the turret shot and killed an agent and the rest of the group escaped on the boat. The incident prompted the Republican Navy order the submarines back in the Mediterranean after direct command of Soviet officers.
10 October 1937
Republican blockade-runner Cabo Santo Tomè attacked by the Nationalist gunboats Eduardo Dato and Cánovas del Castillo. The Republican ship was armed with four 75mm and four 45mm guns (despite some claims she never carried two 152mm guns) but after some resistance she was badly damaged and grounded; the crew finally scuttled the ship. During the engagement, the Republicans suffered 1 dead and 7 wounded. Gunboat Cánovas del Castillo was also seriously damaged during the fighting, suffering 7 wounded.
NOTE: this article do not include attacks on merchants, but Cabo Santo Tomè was effectively one of the 10 officially rated “Blockade Runners” of the Navy, plus another vessel used for such role but rated as “auxiliary cruiser”.
15 October 1937
Republican submarine C-6 under the command of Soviet officer Ivan Alekseievich Burmistrov, launched two torpedoes against Nationalist minelayer Júpiter, but missed the enemy. Some sources claims that the submarine damaged in following depth charges attack, but this is unconfirmed.
20 October 1937
Republican submarine C-6 under the command of Soviet officer Ivan Alekseievich Burmistrov, badly damaged in harbor by enemy attack and finally scuttled by crew.
21 October 1937
Republican destroyer Císcar sunk by an enemy air attack into the Gjion's harbor. The loss of Císcar was a bad blow because was one of the only two Republican destroyers left in the north.
17 February 1938.
Nationalist light cruiser Almirante Cervera badly damaged by two bombs of Republican bomber Tupolev SB-2, there were 17 dead and 25 wounded.
Night of 5-6 March 1938
Battle of Cape Palos
The major naval engagement of the War: it was the most notable naval battle and one of the major Republican Victories.
The Republican Navy, together the Soviet advisors, has long decided to hit one or both the best ships of the Nationalist navy, the heavy cruisers Canarias and Baleares or the Almirante Cervera.
Previous attempts with submarines failed (due the bad state of submarines and lack of training).
It was decided to make an attempt using the few available former soviet motor torpedo boats: a battle group formed by the light cruisers Menendez Nunez and Libertad together the 5 destroyers Sánchez Barcáiztegui, Lepanto, Almirante Antequera, Gravina and Lazaga under the command of Vice-Admiral Luis Gonzalez Ubieta had to escort the motor torpedo boats to the enemy harbor.
Because of bad weather, the soviet motor torpedo boats could not start the operation.
But while the escort ships were coming back, they unexpectedly faced their enemies: the two heavy cruisers Canarias and Baleares together the light Almirante Cervera under the command of Admiral Manuel de Vierna, escorting a little convoy.
Soviet advisors suggested to use the destroyers for torpedo attacks, two early torpedoes fired by the destroyer Sánchez Barcáiztegui missed the enemy.
The two groups crossed their path during this first clash, and then the enemy made a complete turn and missed eye contact.
The two groups crossed again and spotted each other for the second time.
Each of the Republican destroyers fired 4 torpedoes, except the Almirante Antequera that fired 5, while Gravina and Lazaga did not fire.
Of 13 torpedoes launched, 2 of the Lepanto and probably also 1 of the Almirante Antequera hit the enemy cruiser Baleares. The enemy ship was in critical conditions and Vice Admiral Ubieta opened fire with the guns of the cruiser Libertad.
It has been reported that Baleares could have suffered up two hits from Libertad's fire.
Observing their ship burning and sinking the other two enemy cruisers retreated.
After the sinking of the enemy cruiser, the neutral British destroyers moved to help the sailors: Republican bombers mistook the destroyer HMS Boreas for a Nationalist unit, and she was damaged suffering 1 dead and 4 wounded.
The Baleares sunk, 786 (or 788 according to different sources) sailors included the Admiral Manuel de Vierna died. 469 (or 435) saved.
This victory was a great success for the Republican Navy: its value was of importance to rise the moral but it come too late to change the tide and the result of the conflict. Ubieta (that will die in exile after the defeat of the Republic, in 1950) was awarded with the Laureate Plate of Madrid (highest Republican decoration) while the two cruisers and the destroyers Lepanto, Almirante Antequera and Sánchez Barcáiztegui received a new special pennant flag as award, the Distintivo de Madrid (a flag decorated with the Coat of Arms of Madrid City).
Also Soviet advisors collected valuable information about the naval torpedo as a primary weapon. The heavy cruiser Baleares remains to date, the largest and most significant warship ever sunk in action by a Fleet loyal to a socialist or communist government.
The engagement (as often happened for other war experiences of the Spanish Civil War), proved to be highly instructive: the time of gunfire battles for battleships and cruisers was ending, giving place to torpedoes and aircraft attacks.
7 April 1938
Republican patrol boat Rio Urumea sunk by German He-59 seaplane.
15 June 1938
Republican gunboat Laya sunk in the harbor of Valencia because of enemy air attack
18 August 1938
Republican submarine chaser DAR-1 lost for unclear reasons. The class was composed by small wooden boats and only used for coast/harbor guarding duties.
On unclear day of August 1938
During the voyage to reach Mediterranean Sea, some Soviet sources claim that Republican submarine C-2 sunk a vessel. Possibly a trawler. During the voyage, the ship was under Soviet command of Nikolai Yegipko. Other Soviet sources make no mention to this alleged attack at all.
9 October 1938
Republican submarine C-1 sunk in Barcelona by enemy air attack. Raised but not repaired.
The commander of the submarine was the soviet officer I.V. Graiez (he survived).
On unclear day of October, another victim of enemy air raid on Barcelona was the unfinished minelayer Capitán de Corbeta Remigio Verdia.
The vessel at the beginning of the Civil War was active as a merchant but she was formerly a British-made Hunt class minesweeper: plans to complete the vessel as minelayer dropped because of damage and not repaired before the end of the war.
18 October 1938.
Nationalist minesweepers Calderon de la Barca and Cervantes-6 sunk by mines.
Note: there is scarce mentions of these vessels: Nationalists used many former civilian trawlers and some returned to that service even during the conflict.
5 November 1938
Republican (former soviet) motor torpedo boat n°31 was lost by air attack in Cartagena.
30 December 1938
Republican destroyer José Luis Díez was damaged near Gibraltar by the Nationalist gunboat Calvo Sotelo and the minelayers Vulcano and Júpiter: she received two shells by the Júpiter with 7 dead (other sources say 4 killed) and 12 wounded, Vulcano suffered 5 wounded. The destroyer run aground into British area and part of the crew rejoined republican forces after some time in British prison. The efforts of the crew in battle were highly praised by the Republican Navy. The final demise of the destroyer came due the use of the enemy large minelayer: despite their class, they had a powerful weaponery and were effective. The last-stand of the Josè Luiz Diez was still honoured by the Republic. It's interesting to know that her commander will join the Free France Navy during the WW2
8 January 1939
Republican motor torpedo boat n°11 (one of the two survived republican ex-soviet motor torpedo boat) attempted to attack alone the heavy cruiser Canarias and the light cruiser Almirante Cervera: the two torpedoes missed even at first it was believed that they hit a target.
23 January 1939
Republican patrol boat C-17 sunk in Barcelona due enemy air raid.
24 January 1939.
Nationalist minesweeper Nuevo Pepe Leston sunk by mine off Tarragona.
5 March 1939.
With the imminent downfall of the Republic and the Casado’s coup, the Republican Navy in Cartagena come under threat of the mutinied coastal artillery in the city and prepared to leave the harbor, an air attack however damaged the Republican destroyers Sánchez Barcáiztegui, Alcalá Galiano and Lazaga, preventing their escape from the city.
6 March 1939
A Republican Polikarpov I-16 fighter (pilot Lt. Gerardo Gil Sanchez POW) attempted attacks over Nationalist shipping but was shot down. Reportedly by anti-aircraft artillery but with scarce details.
7 March 1939.
Nationalists dispatched ships toward Cartagena, but meanwhile loyal Republican units retook control of the city and the coastal artillery (381mm).
Shells were fired against the troop-transport Castillo de Olite (3545 GRT) that suffered 3 direct hits: the damage was massive and the transport sunk, 1476 enemy soldiers or sailors killed, 342 wounded and 294 captured.
It was a last revenge against Nationalist Navy, which suffered so great losses when they've already won the war. It's also considered to be the greatest loss of life from the sinking of a single ship in Spanish history.
The Republican ship however sailed to exile without returning to Cartagena out of the infighting between the different Republican factions.
With the downfall of the Republic, the Soviet Union seized a number of ships located in Soviet harbors in Black Sea to prevent their joining to the newly installed regime. Apart a number of merchants, the vessels seized included two official-rated Blockade-Runners: Cabo San Augustin (armed with 4-75mm guns) and Juan Sebatián Elcano (no weapons).
It is unclear, but it seems likely seizures just involved port officers and Republican sailors collaborated and the seizure occurred to prevent the likely demand by Francisco Franco to return the ships.
Technically the Second Republic disbanded on 1 April 1939, so both vessels displayed Republican flag at the time of the seizure.
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Re: (From Soviet-empire): Chronology of Spanish Republican naval actions + Comintern (Wollweber) sabotages
The Wollweber Group was a secret communist international organization directed by the Soviet NKVD services and officially loyal to the Komintern.
The organization named after its leader Ernst Wollweber, a German national who took part in the failed Wilhelmshaven mutiny in 1918.
The group carried on sabotages and bomb attacks on ships across Europe in late ’30 and was formally named “Organization Against Fascism and in Support of the USSR” (other informal names, alongside the commonly used “Wollweber Group” were “Wollweber League”, “Wollweber Union” and “Union of Seamen”).
Membership of the group was international and involved sailors and workers in harbors.
The operations directed in support to the Republican Side during the Spanish Civil War and against Japanese ships.
The group was active even after the German-Soviet not-belligerence treaty for limited actions during the Winter War, but suffered a blow when the leaders arrested in Sweden.
Ernst Friedrich Wollweber would later survive the WW2 and become Minister of the State Security of the DDR. A co-leader, the Norwegian Martin R. Hjelment (responsible for the North-Atlantic Area), arrested by Sweden police was passed to Gestapo and executed in 1944.
Despite their leader loss, the Norwegian branch was the most unscathed by the Gestapo hunts, and the local branch later developed into the WWII Resistance movement “Osvald-Group”.
(main source: Alexander Rosin on the Russian blog alerozin.narod.ru)
Mysterious fires have been associated with the earlier operations of Wollweber Group, but none was confirmed and likely to be accidents, these include:
Multiple fires on British liner Bermuda (19086 GRT) (burned in 1931 after two separate fire incidents the shipyard in Belfast).
Fire on passenger ship Duke of Lancaster” (3608 GRT) in Heysham on 27/Nov/31 (ship recovered).
15 May 1932
The French liner George Phillipar (17359 GRT) sunk by fire in the Gulf of Aden. While officially blamed to an accident, there are rumors about a possible action of the very first agents of Wollweber Group. Later French inquiries confirmed the accidental nature of the fire. Interestingly, a Soviet tanker took part at the rescue operations.
?? September 1937
First confirmed action of “Wollweber Group”, attack on the Italian merchant Alfredo Oriani (3105 GRT) ship in Antwerp (Belgium), with a bomb. A local agent carried onboard two incendiary bombs but no explosion occurred likely due mistakes from the operator.
?? November 1936
The German merchant Cape Anconia suffered a powerful explosion in Lisbon Harbor and sunk.
24 people killed during the sinking and 8 went missing (four probably just left the ship in time).
Details, actual responsibility, and clear identity of ship are unclear.
18 November 1937
First successful action and one of the full sinking achieved. The Italian merchant Boccaccio (3097 GRT) (cargo: 2300tons of metal) sunk 29 miles from Brest In open sea. Agents inserted an explosive device in Antwerp (Belgium) and planned for the ship to sink slowly to avoid casualties (1 Italian officer however died).
29 January 1938
Incendiary bomb found on the Polish liner Batoroy (14287 GRT).
?? March 1938
German merchant Saar suffered damages by bomb in the port of Reval. Operation apparently carried on by the Danish Branch of the “Wollweber Group”.
2 March 1938
Japanese merchant Tajima Maru (7296 GRT) suffered an explosion in Breerhaven (Germany) but suffered only minor damages. The bomb placed in Rotterdam by German agents. The ship would later be renamed “Tazima Maru” and sunk in 1944 by American submarine.
19 March 1938
Another rare full sinking occurred when the German merchant Klaus Böge (2340 GRT) sunk in the North Sea, west of Esbjerg. The ship left the Oslo harbor and was sailing to support the Nationalists in Spain apparently with a cargo of explosive (or mineral ore according other source). Interestingly the Norwegian agent shouted from the dock “Rot Front!” while the ship was leaving to her fate.
9 April 1938
Once again the Polish liner Batory (14287 GRT) attacked. Once more, the incendiary bomb found in time and the ship suffered no damage. The ship departed from Copenhagen and known to trade with the Nationalists in Spain.
13 May 1938
Fire by explosion on the German merchant Nordeney in Hamburg.
According other source the bomb was found in time.
22 May 1938
Into the Danish shipyard of Frederikshavn (Denmark), bombs thrown to the newly constructed trawlers Ciergo and Abrego, inflicting damages, both ships destined for delivery to the Nationalist Spain authorities. The operation also included local Danish communists and local police detained several attackers.
23 June 1938
Arson on the German merchant Hestia, while being stationed in Passarges (nationalist Spain).
27 June 1938
German merchant Feronia suffered damages in the Kiel Damage after bomb explosion.
30 June 1938
Bomb explosion occurred on the Italian merchant Aventino (3861 GRT) while she was sailing between Tripoli and Tunisia in Mediterranean Sea. A number of sources claim ship sunk, but actually suffered only some damage (she sunk 1942 during WW2).
On the very same day, a bomb found on the Italian merchant Felce (5649 GRT) in Taranto harbor (Italy).
24 July 1938
The Japanese merchant Kasii Maru (8408 GRT) suffered heavy damages in the English Channel.
Despite the heavy damages, there were no victims. The explosive placed by the Belgian branch in Antwerp.
While claimed as a total-loss, the ship actually served again, until her sinking in 1944 by US plane.
7 August 1938
The large German passenger ship Reliance (19980 GRT) suffered a fire in Hamburg and become a total loss.
While this loss is not particularly detailed (likely due eventual capture of German agents), it was apparently the largest loss caused by the “Wollweber Group” because the Reliance was beached and never recovered until being scuttled in 1940.
22 September 1938
German merchant Phila heavily damaged in Konigsberg (large hole on the bow) after a bomb.
The bomb apparently carried onboard in Riga Harbor.
?? Autumn 1938
German merchant Deutschland suffered an explosion by bomb in Newfoundland.
4 November 1938
German merchant Vancouver (8269 GRT) suffered an explosion due bomb or limpet mine at Oakland Bay near San Francisco.
On unclear date, apparently still 1938, two other attacks related with “Wollweber Group” with damages inflicted to the Danish merchant Westplein and the Romanian merchant Bessarabia. Unknown details.
In 1939 the “Wollweber Group” made no significant action for two reasons:
1) Orders from Moscow due the Non-aggression Treaty between German and Soviet Union.
2) Heavy losses in terms of arrests by multiple European police, often with heavy participation and intelligence work from the German Gestapo. All members of Belgian and Dutch groups arrested.
The fire onboard French liner Ile de France (43153 GRT) on 18 April 1939 (with damages, later ship rebuilt) sometimes credited in old sources to the Wollweber Group appears very unlikely for the above-mentioned reasons.
While not active in naval attacks, the “Wollweber Group” committed two bomb attacks against Finnish train lines during the Winter War in support of the Soviet war operations.
In May 1940
The “Wollweber Group” could mostly operate from the neutral Sweden as main base of operations.
4 June 1941
Mass arrest in Sweden of the local survived branch: 74 arrested and many sentenced. The co-leader of the “Wollweber Group”, the Norwegian Martin R. Hjelment was passed from Sweden police to the Gestapo and then executed in 1944.
Possibly the very last action of the “Wollweber Group”, a failed attempt to attack with bomb the Finnish merchant Figge in Swedish harbor. It would be also the only WW2 related operation.
The most unscathed section of the “Wollweber Group” was the Norwegian branch: with the beginning of WW2 they re-organized as local partisan sabotage group named “Osvald Group” (after their leader) with close links to the Norwegian Communist Party and the Soviet Union.