Canarias class



Ships Canarias, Baleares (Nationalist Navy )
Displacement 10,000 tons standard, 13,200 full load
Dimensions Length: 193.90 m (636'') Beam: 19.50 m (64') Draft: 6.50 m (21' 4'')
Machinery 4 Screws, Parsons Turbines , 8 Yarrow Boilers 90,000 HP.= 33 knots. 8,000 miles/15knots
Armament 8x203 mm (8'') /50 cal. -8x120 mm (4.7'') /45 cal. AA;Canarias: -4x40 mm AA -4x20 mm AA;Baleares: -4x100 mm AA -4x20 mm AA
Armor V=100-50 mm (4''-2'') H=75-25 mm (3''-1'') Turrets= 25 mm (1'') Bulges
Crew 1,200

Botadura del Canarias

The heavy cruisers of the Canarias Class were designed by M.Watts after the British County class, whose general hull lines and main armament can be observed on the Spanish cruisers. The three funnels of the County cruisers were reduced to two and trunked into a single odd-looking uptake. The superstructures was also different, more modern and compact. Horizontal protection was similar to that of their British cousins, but vertical protection was increased. Torpedo bulges were boosted. The machinery was also enhanced in order to reach 33 effective knots. As with the Counties, these cruisers were good seakeepers. The antiaircraft armament consisted in eight 120 mm guns and smaller AA that changed during the war. They were designed to feature 12 fixed torpedo tubes and a catapult but none of these was ever fitted. The Baleares entered service with only three (two according to some other sources) of their 203 mm turrets. They were rushed to commission and would be completed during the war.

Their construction began in 1928, political troubles delayed their completion and as of July 1936 they were still fitting at El Ferrol. They therefore fell in the hands of the Nationalists. Their speed and armament were to become among the most valuable Nationalist assets in the conflict.


Laid down: 15 August 1928. Launched: 28 May 1931. Completed: September 1936. Retired : December 1975

Clic para ampliar
Canarias 1937

The most famous and active of the ships of the Spanish Civil War entered in service in September 1936, with 102 mm guns instead of the 120 mm AA guns, and a director for land guns. As the ship was quickly commissioned and her crew (for the most part made up of young volunteers) mostly untrained, the Canarias was not used in the Bay of Biscay against the Republican fleet. The Canarias was instead sent with Almirante Cervera to the strait of Gibraltar after the bulk of the Republican fleet headed North. On 29 September, the cruisers spotted two Republican destroyers blocking the strait (Almirante Ferrándiz and Gravina). The Canarias opened fire against the Ferrándiz at 20000 mt. and scored a fatal hit with the third salvo, sinking the destroyer in a few minutes. The Gravina could manage to escape unscathed to Casablanca. In only a handful of minutes the Nationalists were able to wrest the control of the strait from the Republicans. Moving the Republican fleet to the Bay of Biscay turned out to be a major strategic mistake.

In the following months (almost always with the Cervera) she alternated operations in the Bay of Biscay with those in the Mediterranean sea, bombarding the Catalan coast, and supporting the seize of Malaga. In October, the cruisers attempted to intercept the Republican fleet returning to the Mediterranean: the two squadrons crossed their paths at night without founding each other. On 12 December, Canarias sank the Soviet cargo ship Konsomol off Oran. The sinking spurred an international incident, and since then the Soviets would be much less willing to sacrifice their merchant ships to support the Republicans.

In February 1937 the Canarias collided with a Greek freighter and she had to be repaired in Cadiz. Baleares then joined her and both cruisers were transferred to their new homeport in Mallorca. In March, she fought in the Bay of Biscay seizing several cargo ships. On April 25, Canarias and Baleares, after bombarding Malaga, entered the harbor of Cartagena and harassed the Republican fleet. After a short skirmish without consequences on either side, the Nationalist cruisers left before enemy shore guns (380 mm-15'') were able to join the fray. They then attempted to intercept the Jaime I which had run aground the previous day but could find shelter in time at Almeria.

The Canarias, with the others cruisers, escorted convoys coming from Italy. The night of 23 September, somewhere off Calella (Menorca) the cruiser seized two transports bound for the island, after the three escorting destroyers had fled. In October 1937, after the fall of the northern front, the Nationalist fleet operated in the Mediterranean sea. In January 1938 the Canarias bombarded Barcelona, and in February the Nationalist cruisers bombarded various ports on the Republican controlled coast besides escorting several convoys.

On 6 March 1938 the Baleares was sunk while on escort duty. The Canarias, astern in the line formation, took command and proceeded with her escort duty, leaving sailors from the unfortunate ship in the water. They were rescued by British destroyers and when Canarias and Cervera returned after the mission to recover the Nationalist sailors, they were met by a Republican air raid that fortunately didn't score any hit.

The Republican Navy wasn't able to take advantage their victory, and cruisers Canarias, Cervera and Navarra, continued with their relentless job of blockading, escorting and bombarding.

On 27 August, the Canarias intercepted enemy destroyer José Luis Díez sorting from Le Havre and bound for Cartagena. The Canarias was able to cripple the destroyer with a single hit but the hapless José Luis Díez could escape to Gibraltar. Until the end of the war, the only action worth of notice is the blockade of Cartagena in the last days of the war.

After the war the Canarias underwent various modifications until she was withdrawn from service in 1975.


Clic para ampliar
Baleares 1938

Laid down: 15 August 1928. Launched: 20 April 1932. Completed: 28 December 1936. Sunk: 6 March 1938

Like her sister, at the beginning of the war the Baleares was laid up at El Ferrol . She entered in service, still unfinished, in December 1936. The Baleares did not carry the fourth turret until the summer of 1937. She accompanied the Canarias in the first missions at the beginning of 1937, but she operated almost always alone thereafter. At dawn on May 20, while escorting a tanker in fog, she crossed the bulk of the Republican fleet, (two cruisers and six destroyers) but was only able to spot the first two ships in the line and exchanged fire with them without consequences on either side.

On 12 July, off Valencia the cruiser found six Republican destroyers escorting two ships. She scare them off with gunfire but the freighters could escape.

In the morning of 7 September, alone again, the Baleares found a convoy of four westbound freighters, escorted by the Libertad, the Méndez Núnez and seven destroyers off cape Cherchell (Algeria). Though in an unfavorable position, between land and the enemy force, the Nationalist cruiser engaged the two opposing cruisers while Republican destroyers would stay with the convoy.. Despite fire from the Baleares was far from accurate, she managed to score a hit on the Libertad, but received was in turn two shells from the enemy cruiser and one of them started a dangerous fire in the 120 mm magazine. While the other cruiser Méndez Núnez was out of Baleares' range, the Libertad broke off the engagement and turned toward the convoy. The Baleares then started to shadow the enemy fleet. In the afternoon, after repeatedly losing contact, the Baleares was able to find the Republican cruisers again and another inconclusive skirmish started. She eventually broke off the contact and waited for the Canarias, steaming from Ceuta, to resume the chase. But the two Nationalist cruisers could no longer find the convoy that meanwhile had entered the port of Cherchell. Neither were they able to spot the enemy warships, enroute to Cartagena. Despite the damage the lonely Baleares could prevent the enemy convoy from reaching their destination in the Spanish Republic.


In the following months she continued to team with the Canarias in nearly all her missions.

The night between 5 and 6 March 1938, the three Nationalist cruisers were escorting two freighters, seemingly a routine operation (admiral Moreno the squadron commander, had just given the fleet to his subordinate admiral Vierna) met with a degree of overconfidence. The Republican admiral Ubieta had prepared a raid of MTBs against the cruisers in Palma de Mallorca with the distant support of the Republican fleet. The MTBs operation was cancelled due to the bad weather, but Ubieta decided to stay at sea. Thus the two forces were on a collision course, without either knowing one of the other, toward Cape Palos . At 00.36, almost at the same time, the cruisers Libertad and Méndez Núñez and the five accompanying destroyers sighted the three Nationalist cruisers at 2,000 meters, but only one of the destroyers could manage to fire torpedoes before losing contact. The two forces made several course changes and at 02.00 the Baleares found the enemy squadron again and opened at some 2000 meters. But this time admiral Vierna made the mistake of firing star shells on the horizon, giving away his position to the enemy. Now the Republicans had time to respond: the Baleares was hit by gunfire from the Libertad and almost simultaneously by one or two torpedoes (probably from the Lepanto) that wrecked the ship and blew up the forward magazine and the bridge. The ship stopped dead on fire from bow to stern, quickly developing a list. The Canarias, right behind the Baleares, dodged the hulk, and guided the Cervera outside enemy range. The Republicans didn't pursue and left the area. Canarias and Cervera escorted the convoy until safely homed, then returned to rescue the survivors. Royal Navy destroyers joined in the operation but 700 men had already followed the cruiser to the bottom of the sea.

As the destroyers purchased from Italy were aging and slow, the Nationalists Command could only use only their cruisers, despite the huge risks involved in engaging enemy destroyers and torpedo boats, especially at night. Four years later US and Australian cruisers off Guadalcanal would learn a lesson the hard way.

Cervera class

Libertad (ex-Príncipe Alfonso)


Ships Libertad (ex-Príncipe Alfonso) and Miguel de Cervantes (Republican Navy ), Almirante Cervera (Nationalist Navy )
Displacement 7,975 tons standard, 9,240 full load
Dimensions Length: 176.62 m (579' 6'') Beam: 16.61 m (54' 6'') Draft: 5.03 m (16' 6'')
Machinery 4 Screws, Turbines Parsons, 8 Boilers Yarrow 80,000 HP.= 33-34 knots. 4,950 miles/15 knots
Armament 8x152 mm (6'') /50 cal (3 double mounts and 2 single mounts) -4x101.6 mm (4'') /45 cal. AA -2x47mm AA -12 torpedo tubes - 533.4 mm (21'') (4 triple mounts)
Armor V=75-50 mm H=25 mm
Crew 566

These light cruisers were designed after the British "E" class ( Emerald and Enterprise), though differences in armament arrangement, funnels, torpedoes and other details made them considerably superior to their Royal Navy counterparts. Good ships, their main disadvantage being the main guns in opened mounts, oddly in two single and three double mounts. Handsome, fast and well armed for their displacement, at the beginning of the war they were among the most valuable assets for either navies.

The three ships were built at El Ferrol and entered in service before the proclamation of the Republic. The Libertad and the Cervantes maintained their aspect during the war, but the Cervera lost the tripod mast (replaced by a pole mast) and received funnel caps. As with all the Nationalist ships, a black stripe was painted on the funnels.

Libertad (ex-Príncipe Alfonso)

Clic para ampliar
Libertad 1936

Laid down: 24 November 1922. Launched: 3 January 1925. Completed: 20 September 1927. Retired : 2 January 1970

She was the most active and effective of the Republican ships. Flagship of the fleet during nearly all the war, she was involved in all of the most noteworthy actions. Originally she was named after the heir of the Crown (Príncipe Alfonso.)

At the beginning of the war the Libertad was in Ferrol, and with the Jaime I and Miguel de Cervantes she received the order to head for Cadiz. The officers were uncertain over which faction they wanted to side with. While underway the crew mutinied and took over the ships, arresting the officers. Already clearly on the side of the Republic, and following orders from the government, the fleet regrouped in Tangier. On July 20, the Libertad and several destroyers bombarded Ceuta, and on July 22, with the help of the Cervantes, Algeciras and La Linea.

Eventually the International Committee ordered the Republican fleet to leave Tangier. From then on they would be homported in Malaga, and they would maintain the blockade of the strait. On August 5, the Nationalists succeded in forcing a convoy trough the strait. On August 7, the Jaime I and Libertad bombarded Algeciras and Cadiz.

Near the end of August, the Libertad took part in the unsuccessful attempt at seizing Mallorca. On September 26, together with the Cervantes, Jaime I and five destroyers, the cruiser crossed the strait of Gibraltar heading North to help the isolated Republican-held territories in northern Spain. The strategic mistake was to have significant consequences. On September 29 , the Nationalist cruisers swept across the destroyers guarding the strait and had them flee. From that moment on the Nationalists would move Morocco-based troops onto the peninsula without hindrance. Over the following month the Republican fleet only carried on shore bombardments in the Bay of Biscay. They were then ordered back to the Mediterranean. While underway the fleet crossed enemy cruisers Canarias and Cervera at might without being spotted.

The Republican Navy was later moved to Cartagena. On 23 April 1938, the Libertad, Jaime I, Méndez Núñez and some destroyers bombarded Malaga. On their way back to the Cartagena harbor they were met and harassed by the Nationalist cruisers. On May 20 the Republican fleet encountered the Baleares in thick fog, which escaped after trading salvos with two destroyers .

On September 7, the Libertad, Méndez Núnez and seven destroyers, while escorting a convoy off cape Cherchell again spotted the Baleares . (see Baleares). While withdrawing to Cartagena, the Republicans were attacked by Nationalist and Italian airplanes.

At the beginning of March 1938, the Republicans studied a possible operation using MTB's against the enemy cruisers, which were then in port at Palma de Mallorca. Cruisers Libertad and Méndez Núnez and destroyers Sanchez-Barcáiztegui, Almirante Antequera, Lepanto, Gravina and Lazaga would distant cover to the mission. Bad weather prevented the use of MTB's and the battle of Cape Palos would briefly ensue (see Baleares). The Libertad, was again the flagship of the Republican fleet. This time the destroyers were used aggressively and succeded in coordinating their attack and were able to sink an enemy heavy cruiser. Having expended all their torpedoes and being the weather foul, the Republicans decided to head back to Cartagena. After that victory, the Republican cruisers did not accomplish much else.

The Republican area of control was again divided in two in April 1938, but their navy was able to maintain communication between zones by using submarines and destroyers. The cruisers were kept at Cartagena until March 1939, when, following the fateful events at the end of the war, they were transferred to Bizerta (Algeria).

After the war, the ship was renamed Galicia. Together with the Cervantes, she would be refitted and see service until the 60's.

Almirante Cervera

Clic para ampliar
Almirante Cervera 1937

Laid down: 14 April 1923. Launched: 16 October 1925. Completed: 15 September 1928 Retired : 31 August 1965.

When the war began, the Cervera was in dry-dock at El Ferrol, and fell in the hands of the Nationalists. On July 26, the cruiser departed to Gijon to support to the isolated Nationalist garrison. Over the following months, accompanied by battleship España and destroyer Velasco (the only one that sided with the Nationalists at the outbreak of the war) bombarded and attempted to blockade the Republican-controlled coast in the North.

Almirante Cervera

When the Republicans sent theirs ships to the North, the Cervera and Canarias forced the blockade of the strait. From then on, her destiny was to follow the path of Canarias and Baleares (see both).

On 22 February 1938, Cervera was hit by Republican bombers and badly damaged.

Almirante Cervera

She was not to undergo an extensive refit like her sister and was kept in service with the Spanish Navy up until the 60's.

Miguel de Cervantes

Clic para ampliar
Miguel de Cervantes, November 1936

Laid down: March 1926. Launched: 18 May 1928. Completed: 14 February 1930 Retired : 1 July 1964.

She was the last in her class, her wartime activity was more limited than her sister's (the Libertad.) With the Libertad, the Cervantes was in El Ferrol at the beginning of the hostilities and during the first months they would share a common fate.

On November 22, when the rest of the fleet was returning from a sortie in the Bay of Biscay, the Cervantes was hit by one or two torpedoes fired by Italian submarine Torricelli, while anchored off the port of Cartagena. Though badly damaged, the Cervantes was taken in tow and brought to the nearby harbor. In order to fit the cruiser, the small drydock in Cartagena had to be lengthened. A bomb later damaged her again, delaying the completion of the repairs until March 1938.

Miguel de Cervantes

After returning to service the Cervantes did not participate to any major operation. At the end of the war, with the rest of the Republican Navy, she fled to Bizerta.

Méndez Núñez

Ships Méndez Núñez (Republican Navy )
Displacement 4,780 tons standard, 6,045 full load
Dimensions Length: 140.80 m (462') Beam: 14.02 m (46) Draft: 4.72 m (15' 6'')
Machinery 4 Screws, Turbines Parsons, 12 Boilers (6- fuel and 6-coal) Yarrow 43,000 HP.= 29 knots. 5,000 miles/13 knots
Armament 6x152 mm (6'') /50 cal. -4x47 mm. AA -4 machine guns AA -12 torpedo tubes 533.4 (21'') mm.(4 triple mounts)
Armor V= 75-50 mm (3''-2'') H=25 mm (1'')
Crew 320
Clic para ampliar
Méndez Núñez 1936

Laid down: 1915. Launched: July 1922. Completed: September 1924 Retired : 8 February 1964.

The Méndez Núñez had a sister ship named Blas de Lezo who accidentally sank in 1932. Both these cruisers were based on the British "C" class, but better armed. Over the entire life Méndez Núñez maintained a mixed combustion machinery that handicapped her performance.

Méndez Núñez

When the war started, the Méndez Núñez was in the Spanish colony of Guinea. After several incidents she managed to reach Cartagena. The cruiser did not participate in the campaign off the northern coast, but she was kept blockading the strait. After the return of the Republican fleet, the Méndez Núñez followed in the footsteps of the Libertad (see Libertad and Baleares) in the more important actions, (Cherchell and Palos) but her low service speed was a serious hindrance to the Republicans. AT the end of the war she fled to Bizerta with the rest of the Republican Navy.

Postwar Méndez Núñez was converted to an antiaircraft cruiser, and was kept in service for many years.

Navarra (ex-República, ex-Reina Victoria Eugenia)

Ships Navarra (ex-Republica, ex-Reina Victoria Eugenia) (Nationalist Navy )
Displacement 4,857 tons standard, 6,500 full load
Dimensions Length: 140.82 m (462') Beam: 15.22 m (50') Draft: 5.59 m (18' 4'')
Machinery 2 Screws, Turbines Parsons, 8 Boilers (4-fuel, 4-coal) Yarrow 25,000 HP.= 25 knots. 4,000 miles/15 knots
Armament 6x152mm (6'') /50 cal. -4x88mm (3.5'') /45 cal. AA
Armor V= 75-50 mm (3''-2'') H=75 mm (3'')
Crew 350 (?)
Clic para ampliar
Navarra 1938

Laid down: 31 march 1915. Launched: 21 1920 April. Completed: 6 July 1922 Retired : 3 December 1955.

Her first name was Reina Victoria Eugenia (the English Princess, King Alfonso XIII's wife). In 1931 the Republican Government renamed her República (Republic). She resembled a 1913 Birmingham . When this cruiser entered service she was a already an obsolete ship, mostly because of her low speed.

Navarra (ex-Republica, ex-Reina Victoria Eugenia)

In 1936 she was moored out of service at Cadiz. Plagued by a serious lack of ships, the Nationalist Navy decided to tow her to El Ferrol in 1937 for an extensive refit. Modifications involved the reduction of funnels from three to two, a change in the arrangement of three guns, a new bridge, new AA and the replacement of her twelve aging boilers with eight of a newer type. In June 1938 the cruiser reappeared with a totally different aspect and with a new name: Navarra.

The Navarra was to replace the sunken Baleares, but the low speed did not allow to keep pace with Canarias and Almirante Cervera. She was used in blockading the enemy coast over the last months of the war.

Postwar the Spanish Navy hardly used her anymore due to the ship's obsolescence.



Back to Warships of the Spanish Civil War