Wednesday, 25 August 2021

The Spanish Civil War at Sea

I am sure that it is pure coincidence, but lately a number of interesting books about the Spanish Civil War have been published. Last month it was TANK COMBAT IN SPAIN, and this month it is THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR AT SEA: DARK AND DANGEROUS WATERS by Michael Alpert.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters plus two appendices:

  1. Setting the Scene
  2. The Die is Cast
  3. Tangiers and Gibraltar. Franco Crosses the Strait
  4. Reorganisation
  5. Off the Northern Coast
  6. War Material Comes from Abroad. The Insurgents Try to Block Merchant Traffic
  7. The War Against Traffic Continues as the Russians Send War material to the Republic
  8. Winter and Spring 1937 in the Mediterranean
  9. The Naval Campaign in the Calabrian Sea
  10. Non-Intervention and the International Patrol
  11. Two Spanish Navies in Contrast
  12. 1938, Testing the Limits of British Tolerance
  13. Surrender, Evacuation and Flight

  • Appendix I: Technical Details of Spanish Warships
  • Appendix II: Soviet Naval Officers in Republican Spain

The naval aspects of the Spanish Civil War are often neglected in histories of the war, and this book goes a long way to correcting that omission. For example, it explains why the Republic's navy seemed so inactive during the initial stages of the war. (The replacement of actual and potentially disloyal officers left the navy severely lacking in people with command experience and ended up with situations where very junior officers were in command of major naval units. In the case of the battleship JAMIE I, a midshipman was the most senior officer available to command her.)

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has more than a passing interest in the Spanish Civil War. My only criticism is that the appendix that deals with the technical aspects of the warships used by both sides is rather thin, and despite the fact that I am blowing my own trumpet, I think that the relevant section of my book LA ULTIMA CRUZADA would be of more use to many readers.

THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR AT SEA: DARK AND DANGEROUS WATERS was written by Michael Alpert and published in 2021 by Pen & Sword Books Ltd (ISBN 978 1 5267 6436 2).


  1. Bob, Osprey are bringing out an SCW naval book in October.

  2. I was surprised by the tale of the Republican ship being attacked and sunk just off Yarmouth.

    1. Steve8,

      The Nationalist Armed Merchant Cruisers operated over a wide area, The CIUDAD DE VALENCIA may well have been operating in disguise when it sank the SS CANTABRIA off Cromer, and the CIUDAD DE MAHON sank the SS FERNANDO PO in the Bight of Biafra.

      All the best,


  3. I have Paul Heaton`s "Spanish civil War - Blockade Runners" which i highly recommend to anyone interested in the British merchantmen tried to help the Republic.

    1. Richard Baber,

      It is an excellent book, and covers yet another little-known but very important aspect of the Spanish Civil War.

      All the best,



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