Warships in the Spanish Civil War, Angus Konstam

Warships in the Spanish Civil War, Angus Konstam

New Vanguard 300

We start with a history of the Spanish Navy as it rebuilt after the disasters of the Spanish-American War of 1989. Most of the ships in use during the Civil War were loosely based on First World War era designs, starting with pre-war Dreadnought type battleships, which were followed by a series of cruisers, destroyers and submarines based on either wartime or early post-war British designs. Some of these ships took far too long to complete, so the two heavy cruisers launched in 1931-32 still hadn’t been completed when the civil war broke out in 1936.

There are some minor mistakes. The Spanish Canarias class of heavy cruisers were based on the British County class cruisers of the 1920s, the first of which was designed during the tenure of Sir Eustace Tennyson d’Eyncourt as Director of Naval Construction. However here Sir Philip Watts, who held the post until 1912 is given credit, possibly because he had a hand in the design of the pre First World War Monmouth class, which was also sometimes known as the first County class. However this doesn’t affect the value of the book.

I would slightly disagree with the description of events that saw some of the rebel officers overthrown by their crews as mutinies. Having rebelled against the democratically elected government they were meant to be serving, surely it was those officers who had mutinied and the crews who were loyal. As a result the bulk of the active fleet remained loyal to the democratic government, but tragically the traitors managed to capture the naval base at El Ferrol, and with it one battleship, one light cruiser and the two unfinished heavy cruisers.

We get a good account of the outbreak of the civil war and the split in the fleet. Sadly the Republican fleet was unable to prevent Franco shipping his army from Africa to mainland Spain, tipping the balance of the war firmly against the government. The Republicans were never able to use their naval power to sweep the rebels off the seas, and their task got harder when the Italians sent a force of submarines to intervene directly in the war. One gets the impression that a combination of the two relatively modern heavy cruisers and more experienced officers gave the rebels a big advantage over their more numerous opponents. This is followed by a detailed account of the naval side of the war, which is less famous than the land battles, but was of great significance, as it helped decide who could safely ship supplies into the country. This was a costly war, in which both of the country’s battleships and one of the heavy cruisers were lost (although only one was lost in combat).

We finish with the specifications of all of the ships involved, covering the battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines and gun ships in detail, with a list of the ships in class with their fate followed by the specifications of the type.

This is a good account of an unfamiliar part of the Spanish Civil War, with a good balance between the technical history of the ships and the actual fighting at sea during the conflict.

The Pre-War Spanish Navy
The Navy during the Rising
Command and Manpower
The Naval War

Author: Angus Konstam
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 48
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2021

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