Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017: Franco’s big stick
Here we see the lead ship of the Armada Española’s Canarias-class heavy cruisers– the mighty Canarias herself– in her pre-1953 arrangement. The big cruiser, though laid down in the 1920s, survived the Spanish Civil War and, in the end, even Franco himself.
The Spanish Navy of the old days was a colonial power and was very good at it for several hundred years until the 19th Century saw her Latin American holdings disappear along with, after the Spanish-American War, the crown’s Pacific Empire. Said conflict with the U.S. saw most of the Armada’s cruisers destroyed or captured in uneven fleet actions in the Caribbean and Manila Bay.
Post-1898, after losing or condemning 19 of her cruisers 21, all that was left was the old Velasco-class protected cruiser Infanta Isabel and the 5,000-ton Lepanto, finished just too late for the war. Three single-class new ships were quickly built using lessons learned in the conflict: Emperador Carlos V, Rio de la Plata, and Extremadura, followed by the three ships of the Princesa de Asturias-class and the Reina Regente, ordered in conjunction with the three 16,000-ton mini-battleships of the España-class in 1909. This is the fleet the Spanish carried into the Great War, where they were an armed neutral.
In the 1920s, with their turn-of-the-century coal-fired cruisers and dreadnoughts increasingly obsolete, and colonial conflicts such as the Rif War in North Africa draining resources while still setting the need to show the flag in far-away ports, the Spanish ordered the one-off Reina Victoria Eugenia (6,500 tons), two similar 6,300-ton Blas de Lezo-class cruisers, three very modern Almirante Cervera-class cruisers (9,385-tons, based on the Royal Navy’s Emerald-class) and planned for three 13,700-ton Canarias-class ships, with the plan to put the older WWI-era fleet to pasture and phase out their increasingly marginalized battleships.
Based on the British Crown County-class ships of Sir Philip Watts’ design but switched up to a degree, these 636-foot heavy cruisers were handsomely equipped with eight 8″/50 (20.3 cm) BL Model 1924 Mark D Vickers-Armstrong-designed guns, each capable of sending a 256-pound AP shell out to 32,530 yards every 20-seconds.
Another eight 12 cm/45 (4.7″) Mark F Vickers high-angle guns were to be mounted for AAA.
A dozen torpedo tubes, some smaller weapons and a catapult for Heinkel He 60 seaplanes– one of the most dieselpunk looking aircraft ever in my opinion— were to be fitted.
Overall speed on Parsons geared steam turbines was 33-knots and the range was sufficient to sortie to the Spanish outposts in the Moroccan shores, the Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea.
Two vessels, class leader Canarias (Canary Islands) and sister Baleares (Balearic Islands) were laid down at Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval (SECN) in El Ferrol in 1928 and took more than eight years to construct, both still only semi-complete by 1936–a pivotal year for Spain. The third ship of the class, Ferrol, was canceled due to tight budgets.
In July 1936, a pro-fascist military coup led by Gens. Goded and Franco in colonies outside of Metropolitan Spain quickly spread to all-out civil war with the Soviet-allied Republicans against the German-Italian backed Nationalists.
Suffice it to say without chronicling the entire Civil War, the Spanish Navy took a beating in the three-year conflict.
-Canarias‘ own sister ship, the Nationalist-controlled Baleares, was sunk in a battle with Republican destroyers at Cape Palos in March 1938.
-While steaming off Santander on 30 April 1937, the Nationalist-controlled battleship Alfonso XIII struck a mine and sank.
-Spain’s last remaining battleship, Jaime I, was under the Republican flag and was struck by German bombers and eventually sunk by the Nationalists.
-The cruisers Miguel de Cervantes, Libertad and Mendez Nuñez, part of the Republican Navy, escaped at the end of the war and were interned by the French at Bizerte only to be repatriated later in poor condition.
-Of the other ships in the Nationalist Navy, only the light cruiser Almirante Cervera escaped the war largely intact and was Canarias‘ partner in crime.
-The cruiser Reina Victoria Eugenia, renamed Republica by the Republicans and then Navarra by the Nationalists after they recaptured her, also survived though was less functional than either Cervera or Canarias.
The Civil War saw Canarias as the de facto flag of Franco’s fleet, especially after the loss of Alfonso XIII, their only battleship.
The big cruiser plastered Republican positions near the coastline including bloody work along the Malaga-Almeria highway and in the bombardment of Barcelona, intercepted Soviet merchant ships headed to the Republicans with arms, and engaging Republican ships in naval actions– including vaporizing the Churruca-class destroyer Almirante Ferrándiz off Cape Spartel with three salvos of her big 8-inch guns.
In 1938, she almost captured the Republican destroyer Jose Luis Diez, who only narrowly made it to Gibraltar and internment carrying an 8-inch hit in her stern. During the war, she reportedly fired her guns in anger on at least 34 occasions.
In WWII, while Franco never officially entered the war despite being an ersatz Axis state, Canarias and Cervera were the Spanish Navy’s most effective units and the big cruiser put to sea in 1941 to help look for survivors of the German battleship Bismarck after the failed Operation Rheinübung. While she found no surviviors after a three day search of the fallen dreadnought’s debris field, they did recover some wreckage and five bodies.
During the war, she picked up 12 Rheinmetall 37mm AAA guns in a tertiary battery.
Post-VE-Day, she remained the most powerful naval unit under the Spanish flag and in 1952-53 underwent a modernization at SECN that saw her wide Lexington-like funnel separated into two stacks as well as navigational and search radar fitted. Her torpedo tubes were landed.
She helped support the Spanish Legion in the little-known Ifni War in 1957-58 which included some very muscular gunboat diplomacy against Morocco.
Then came the hijacking of the Portuguese liner Santa Maria in 1961 which saw Canarias chase her across the Atlantic, cooperating with a U.S. Navy task force that also shadowed the cruise ship more than 20 years before the better remembered Achille Lauro hijacking. An important development considering Spain did not join NATO until 1982.
She also waved the flag, attending several European ceremonies, participating in goodwill trips to Latin America, excercises with Western navies and visiting overseas holdings.
Here she is in Africa in 1961:
In 1969, Canarias helped evacuate the Spanish from Equatorial Guinea as that Central African country gained independence from the ever-shrinking empire, a fitting final act for a colonial cruiser.
She had outlasted all the other Spanish cruisers, with the three Almirante Cervera-class ships all striking by 1970, Mendez Nuñez retired in 1964, and Navarra paid off in 1955.
By that time, she was among the last all-big-gun cruisers left in the world. The British had broken up their last Crown Colony/Fiji-class near sister ships in 1968, though two, HMS Newfoundland and HMS Ceylon, continued to operate with the Peruvian Navy into the 1970s and one, Nigeria, served the Indian Navy as INS Mysore (C60) until 1985.
Her last modernization came in 1969 when she was fitted with a modern CIC, new radars (Decca 12 navigation set, U.S. SG-6B surface search, Italian Marconi MLA-IB air search) and electronics, while 40/70 Bofors L70s replaced her WWII 37mm and 40mm suites.
The end game came for Franco in 1975, as the Green March wrested Spain’s hold in the Sahara and the overseas colonies shrank to the current lot that are the isolated cities of Ceuta, Melilla, and the Canary Islands. The old dictator himself marched off to the parade ground of lost souls that November.
Pushing 40 and considered obsolete for the last 30 of those years, Canarias was pulled from service and decommissioned on 17 December 1975, the end of an era. She had steamed 650,000 miles on 524 trips in her career.
While several cities sought to preserve her as a museum– including some she had bombarded in the Civil War– money just wasn’t there and the old war wagon sailed to the breakers under her own steam in September 1977.
Parts of her were saved, however, including turret B and the entire admiral’s cabin interior at the Naval Academy at Marín, a 4.7-inch AAA at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria– the capital of the Canary Islands, a rangefinder at the Naval Museum at Ferrol, several anchors around Spain, and other items.
She is also remembered in maritime art.
10,670 long tons (10,840 t) standard
13,500 long tons (13,700 t) full load
Length: 636 ft.
Beam: 64 ft. (20 m)
Draught: 21 ft. 5 in
Installed power: Yarrow type boilers, 90,000 hp (67,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4 shafts, Parsons type geared turbines
Speed: 33 knots (61 km/h)
Range: 8,000 nmi (15,000 km) at 15 kn (28 km/h)
8 × 8-inch (203 mm) guns in four twin turrets
8 × 4.7-inch (119 mm) guns
12 × 40 mm AA guns
3 × 20 mm AA guns
12 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes in triple mounts above water
8 × 8-inch (203 mm) guns in four twin turrets
8 × 4.7-inch (119 mm) guns
8 40/70 Bofors
Belt 2 in (51 mm)
Deck 1.5–1 in (38–25 mm)
Magazine 4 in (102 mm) box around
Turrets 1 in (25 mm), also splinter sheilds were added to 4.7″ mounts in 1940.
Conning tower 1 in (25 mm)
If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International
They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm
The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.
With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.
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I’m a member, so should you be!
Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, October 1995, right as the site closed. As you can tell, it was a popular Inactive Ships location for some real WWII/Cold War heavyweights chilling in the City of Brotherly Love’s mothballs area
Note the battleships USS Iowa (BB-61), and USS Wisconsin (BB-64) at the DD wharf to the far left; naval auxiliaries USS Sylvania (AFS-2), USS Milwaukee (AOR-2) and USS Savannah (AOR-4) at Pier 5; the supercarriers USS Forrestal (CV-59) and USS Saratoga (CV-60); at Pier 4; the mini-flattops to the right are the amphibious assault ships USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) and USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7) at Pier 2. In the back pool is the heavy cruiser USS Des Moines (CA-134) and numerous destroyers and frigates including what looks like at least five Knox-class fast frigates.
Of the above, notably, Wisconsin was the last keel laid for a U.S. completed battleship. She was begun at the same yard on 25 January 1941, meaning her Naval service involving Philadelphia was Alpha and Omega cyclical.
Introduced in 2009, Glock came out with an updated version of their Gen 3 models that featured a very aggressive grip pattern dubbed the “Rough Texture Finish, Version 2,” commonly just called RTF2. While some loved it, others panned it as being too coarse on their hands and clothes, and it wasn’t carried over to the new Gen 4 lines.
Which is a shame, because the 2,000 small icepick-like pyramids on the grip really were my favorite Glock texture.
I give you my RTF2 Gen 3 G22:
But now there is a reason to rejoice, as Glock just announced the RTF2 is making a comeback!
Named for the Puerto Rican city of the same name, Ponce served mostly in the Atlantic Fleet, completing 27 deployments in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.
Originally slated for decommissioning in 2011, the “Proud Lion” was refitted and reclassified, based on the USS Kitty Hawk’s (CV 63) role as an afloat special operation staging base during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. And, she was outfitted with a joint Navy – Military Sealift Command (MSC) crew.
Forward deployed for the past five years, the crew provided vital support to U.S. and allied forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet and Central Command, primarily during mine countermeasures operations, but also in international maritime command and control roles. In doing so, the crew launched, recovered and sustained multiple aircraft, riverine and other vessels. Their actions led to the ship and its crew being awarded the Combat Action Ribbon.
All points Falklands?
Contrary to some reports that had her going to Argentina, which caused heartburn in London, the 46-year-old Ponce now joins the inactive fleet and will be dismantled.
Why was that such a big deal?
During the 1982 Falklands Islands War, the Argentine Navy used three new 10,000-ton Costa Sur-class light cargo ships and a 7,800-ton LST (ARA Cabo San Antonio) to invade the islands, with the latter transporting a mixed battalion of two Marine companies, an Army infantry unit, and 20 LVTP7 Amtracs in the initial attack and the cargo ships landing follow-on supplies to bolster the division-sized garrison.
However, Cabo San Antonio was retired in 1997, leaving just the three cargo ships.
One of the trio, Bahia San Blas, has been converted since then to something akin to the amphibious cargo ships used in island hopping during WWII, and has carried Argentine Army troops to Haiti and the former Yugoslavia on UN peacekeeping missions.
However, while Bahia San Blas can carry a couple hundred sea sick guys in sleeping bags, four LCVP’s on deck (or the Argentine Marine’s aging Amtracs) and containerized cargo, she lacks a drywell for larger landing craft or accommodation for helicopters, meaning she still needs a length of pier to unload and isn’t able to “kick in the door” in a serious amphibious assault with much more than a company-sized force.
Comment on the above from Admiral Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, and the prospect of the Argies getting Ponce: “At a time when the Argentine government still refuses to accept that UK sovereignty of the Falkland Islands is not up for discussion, I would prefer if our friends such as the United States did not sell them a landing ship capable of launching helicopters and large numbers of troops.”
The Marine Corps University History Division’s newest publication is now available online:
It’s 67 pages.
It was 50 years ago this month.
It’s a great read.
On the occasion of the 242nd birthday of the U.S. Navy, the Lone Sailor Statue was unveiled in Pearl Harbor.
Remarks from RADM Brian Fort, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific:
Throughout our nation’s history – and in all of our conflicts – Sailors with integrity who were and are bold decision-makers have risen to the challenge in a crisis to win battles, defend freedom and preserve peace.
That is seapower in action, protecting and promoting security, stability and prosperity.
While we tend to reflect on our Navy’s origins on our birthday, we must also think of all the Sailors who have served and who continue to serve. The Lone Sailor also stands for and represents Sailors in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – and all conflicts and actions in our nation’s history.
Now the Lone Sailor statue will look out over Pearl Harbor, standing watch, “seeing” the USS Arizona Memorial, which represents all ships and Sailors lost Dec. 7, 1941, “listening” to the many voices and many languages of international visitors and “remembering” 75 years ago as our military fought to shape our nation and our world – bringing freedom and democracy to Europe and Japan.
Today, our Navy continues to deploy to protect and promote American interests and values around the world. We continue to stand together with our allies against those who would challenge our freedom. And we continue to live by our core values: Honor, Courage and Commitment.
Under threat of a fine of up to A$280,000 ($219,000), 14 years in jail, and a criminal record for being otherwise caught with an unregistered or illegal gun, Australia’s National Firearms Amnesty concluded on Oct. 1. Australian media is reporting that 51,461 firearms of all type were turned over to police in the three month period, up from the 26,000 tallied by early September.
However, some of the rarer birds were saved….