Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A exercise in ship reconstruction: A Spanish might-have-been

Whilst reading my recently bought copy of LA FÁBRICA DE ACORAZADOS: LA SOCIEDAD ESPAÑOLA DE CONSTRUCCIÓN NAVAL EN FERROL (1909-1936) by José María de Juan-García, I was struck by the fact that the two surviving ships of the España-class battleships were never seriously modernised at any point in their careers. This is hardly surprising as the Spanish economy after World War I was hit as badly as those of the rest of the world by the crises that occurred during the late 1920s and early 1930s. In addition Spain was fighting an unpopular foreign colonial war in Morocco whilst undergoing massive internal political upheavals.

At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War the light cruiser Navarra (originally called the Reina Victoria Eugenia and then Republica) was in dock in Cadiz being reconstructed. She was taken over by the Nationalists and eventually completed. During her reconstruction:
  • The old coal-fired boilers were replaced with oil-fired ones
  • The superstructure was remodelled and a tower bridge was added
  • One funnel was removed
  • Six of her existing 6-inch guns were moved to the centre line and four former guns were removed
  • Four German 88mm AA guns were fitted
  • The torpedo tubes were removed
Using this as my starting point, I imagined what the Alfonso XIII – the España-class battleship that was captured at Ferrol by the Nationalists in 1936 – might have looked like had she been reconstructed. I have assumed that:
  • The existing coal-fired boilers would be replaced with oil-fired ones
  • New turbine engines would be installed
  • The existing ram bow would be remodelled to improve her sea-keeping qualities and to reduce the amount of spray
  • The superstructure would be remodelled and a tower bridge added in place of the original bridge and forward mast
  • The existing secondary armament would be removed, allowing the original casemates to be plated in
  • The existing anti-aircraft guns would be removed and replaced by more modern ones
  • The reduction in weight would allow a thicker armour belt to be fitted
The original battleship looked like this:

My reconstructed version looked like this:

It is worth noting that the Spanish Navy had considered the reconstruction the two remaining the España-class battleships in mid 1930s. They looked at two possible schemes:

Scheme 1
  • Lengthening the hulls and rearranging the main turrets onto the centre-line
  • Replacing the coal-fired boilers with oil-fired ones
  • Replacing the existing secondary armament with dual-purpose 4.7-inch guns
  • Improving the fire-control equipment
Scheme 2
  • Replacing the coal-fired boilers with oil-fired ones
  • Increasing the number of anti-aircraft guns
  • Increasing the elevation (and thus the range) of the main armament
  • Improving the fire-control equipment
My proposed reconstruction seems to fall somewhere between the two schemes that were looked at, and would have produced a ship that would certainly have been capable of defending Spanish sovereignty during the Second World War.


  1. Think your ideas are plausible and if they had the funds they might have done it.

  2. Don M,

    I actually found out about the two schemes to reconstruct these ship after
    I had produced the side view of my proposed design.

    All the best,



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