Good afternoon, gentlemen:
Now, probably one of the most complex foreigner intervention in the Spanish Civil War, the involement of the Italian Regia Marina. The italian fascist dictator B. Mussolini was supporting several Spanish monarchist groups (with money, and giving some military training in Italy), and only 5 days after the initial coup d´etat at Morocco, he gave a substantial aid to Gen. Franco forces in the form of military airplanes which were very important (together with the german Ju-52) in the ir bridge between Africa and Andalusia.
But the naval intervention in Spain was decided in November 17th 1936 in Rome, in a meeting between Admirals Pino and Gianbernardino (italians) and Captains Lange and Heye (germans). Cape Gata (near Almeria) defined the patrol Areas: to the North for Germany and to the South, for Italy. In case of necesity, the german submarinas were able to use the harbour of La Maddalena as a shelter. Although the main objetives were the battleship Jaime I and the republican cruisers, the submarines were cleared to fire to any Spanish (or Russian) vessel, military or civilian whithin 3 miles of the Spanish coast going to any Republican harbour was a valid target. Any information to Spanish "White" (that is, rebel/nationalist or later francoist) naval authorities must be avoided, and in case of an investigation after a successful sinking, both german and italian authorities must show a cynical attitude denying any accusation or showing complete surprise. In this meeting, no Spaniard was present.
The inmediate consequence of the German-Italian agreement was the torpedoing of the republican 6-inch cruiser Cervantes (qv) off Cartagena, November 22th 1936 by the submarine Evangelista Torricelli. The spanish cruiser remained out of service until March 1938.
Three weeks later, the german counterpart, Operation Ursula, score another success, as U-34 (qv) sunk the submarine C-3 off Malaga.
The german-italian naval aid was formalized in December 30th 1936, in a meeting aboard cruiser Canarias (qv) at Cadiz, between Admirals Cervera and Moreno (Spaniards), and Admirals Iachino (Italian) and von Fischel (German). Mainly giving information about the movements of the republican vessels and the naval traffic across the Mediterranean Sea.
During January 16-17th night, Torricelli made a night attack, shelling the harbour of Barcelona during 15 minutes.
Two weeks later, January 30th 1937, the republican steamer SS Delfín, was spotted off Torrox by a Legion Condor seaplane. Inmediatly 3 seaplanes from AS-88 Sqn, from Atalayón AB were dispatched, and although the torpedo attack failed, Delfín´s skipper made an intentional grounding in a beach, and no lives were lost. The next night, the italian submarine Ciro Menotti fired two torpedos to the grounded Delfin and claimed sinking her.
As the steamer remained "afloat", she recived a futher air attack by He-59 seaplanes. A 250 kg bomb destroyed the midsection of the ship, and a severe oil leaking run ashore, the beach is now known as Calaceite (oily beach).
Almost a week later, February 8th, the steamer SS Navarra was surprised in the Tarragonian coast by the Italian submarine Galileo Ferraris, and was sunk after a torpedo attack.
The following night, the submarine Ettore Fieramosca shelled Barcelona´s harbour, firing 35 times her 120 mm gun during 15 minutes, one of the shells damaged the steam oiler Zorroza (qv).
This first submarine campaign was halted after severe protests in the Non-Intervention Committee. But during the summer, heavy reinforcements from the Soviet Union arrived, and the republicans launched several bloody offensives in an attempt to distract rebel forces from the beseiged Basque, Cantabrian and Asturian territories. So, the first week of August 1937, General Franco send his own brother, Nicolás, to Rome and in the Italian captial he claimed for an urgent help for stopping the continous flow of russian materiel.
Almost inmediatly, the second campaign begun. In an attack of piratical nature, the italian destroyer Saetta (qv) torpedoed and sunk the big spanish oiler Campeador (qv), off Ras el Mustafa (Tunisia) in August 11th 1937.
The next day, off Cartagena, the submarine Jalea torpedoed the republican destroyer Churruca, and destroyed the boiler room.
This time, the italian submarine was painted black, and any identification on the sail and hull was suppresed, and she had an spaniard officer as faje commanding officer.
In August 15th, as far as the mouth of the Turkish Straits, the submarine Ferraris (As a "Legionary" vessel, the submarine was painted black, with a fake numeral sign in the sail, with a fake Spaniard skipper, but with an Italian real crew in spanish uniforms, opperating under Spanish command and flag, but owned by Italy) torpedoed and sunk the liner Ciudad de Cadiz, and three day later did the same thing against the steamer SS Armuru. Both vessels were lost.
In August 31st, the modern soviet motorvessel Timiryazev was torpedoed, shelled and sunk by the Italian destroyer Turbine, off Tigzirt.
The same day, probably due a similar shape, the italian submarine Iride made a failed attack to the british destroyer HMS Havock (despite being clearly identified with the NIC signs). The destroyer despite the use of ASDIC was unable to find and destroy the italian sommergibile, as the depth charges don´t harm the fascist submarine.
This was also a Legionary submarine: Italian officers and sailors, with a fake Spaniard commanding officer, under control of the Spanish Navy, but still owned by the Regia Marina. Unfortunately for the Italians, in the following hours, Iride emerged, and was clearly identified as an Italian vessel by the englishmen.
The following date, Septermber 1st. 1937, off Columbretes Islands, the oiler Woodford (a rather big steam oiler, previusly greek owned, but at the date, under british flag but owned by a Spanish government company) was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine Diaspro.
This submarine was not a Legionary one, so did not had a fake spanish commander and was under direct command of the Italian Navy.
In September 3rd 1937, the submarine Settembrini launched a torpedo attack to the soviet freigther Blagoev. As the torpedo failed, the submarine emerged and shelled the steamer until she was abandoned. Then, Settembrini fired a pair of torpedoes that sunk the soviet vessel.
This open and piratical attacks made an urgent accord of paramount importance. In a swiftly made conference at Nyon, the main maritime european powers accorded to attack and sunk any "ghost" / "pirate" submarine in any region of the Mediterranean Sea. The Nyon Conference, which ended in September 14th 1937 bring the second Italian submarine campaign to a definitive halt. The soviet supplies were forced to arrive to french harbours, making more difficult suppling the republican armies. The republican offensives at Brunete and Belchite achieved little tactical success, and strategically were defeats, as the francoists armies continued the offensive at the Bay of Biscay.
Credits: Of course, Colombamike helped me with almost impossible to find pictures and very useful comments about the placement of some structural details in several of my previous drawings. Lots of thanks. I also used the magnificent drawings of Lazer One and Weisman, and was unable to resist the temptation to use Shepster Heinkel 59 (with my appologies for putting here a FD scale drawing). Thanks to all of them!
1. Michael Alpert. La guerra civil española en el mar.
2. José Cervera. La guerra naval española 1936-1939.
3. Bagnasco, Erminio. Submarines of World War II.
4. Juan García Durán. Como se inició la intervención marítima ítalo-alemana. https://studylib.es/doc/6781090/c%C3%B3
PS1. A note about the italian submarine campaign.
The italian submarines during the SCW can be placed in 3 different categories:
1. The submarines Archimede and Torricelli, sold to the Spanish Armada (Mola and Sanjurjo), which were owned by the Spanish navy, manned by a spanish crew (but with some italian specialists NCO), and under spanish flag and command. Although being sold during the war was a clear violation of the Non Intervention accords, it was not against any naval law.
2. The "legionary" submarines. Under spanish flag and command. In theory, all the italian crew were members of the Spanish Foreign Legion hence the name legionary, with a fake spanish commanding officer. Ferraris, Galileo, Iride and Onice (the former of the Archimede class, the later of the Perla class) with the transitory names of Mola II, Sanjurjo II, Gonzalez Lopez and Aguilar Tablada. This were in the thin line between legality and illegality.
3. At least 25 other submarines, acting under italian command, with italian officers and sailors, and under italian flag. 36 missions during the first campaign and 59 during the second. All of them against the naval laws, and piratical in nature, and some real "casus belli"... but only if the governments of the attacked ships had the will to go to war.
PS2: I bought Bagnasco's book some years ago (second hand but in fair condition). The ilustrations and line drawings were of superb quality, until we obtain the much superior USN WWII submarines by Ian. Now Bagnasco's line drawings are just acceptable
. This series of submarines will be improved as soon I got better blueprints!