Spanish Navy WW1

Situation of the Armada Española after 1898

Of the rank of a powerful navy, although second-rate in 1898, and still possessing an empire, Spain emerged from the “splendid little war” with the private America of the Philippines and Cuba, and amputated a much of his fleet. The latter was already aging, and lack of new construction, made up of ships obsolete in 1906. With the lost honor of the armada, the pride of the Spanish for their fleet no longer existed. In November 1907, however, the Cortes (parliament) voted a new naval plan. This law of January 7, 1908 detailed the major projects on three points: The first was the strengthening of the industrial capacity of the Spanish shipyards. The Naval Ship Sociedad Espanola (SECN) was founded for this purpose. British shipyards were ordered to enter the capital of this company at 40%, including the great WG Armstrong, an international reference, but also Withworth Ltd., John Brown and Co., and Vickers Ltd.

Reina Regente

Six shipyards were thus reinforced and worked on for the future needs of the armada: Ferrol, Cartagena, Cadiz, Bilbao, and Santander. Engineers and even English shipyard managers were hired in these companies to supervise the staff. Thus equipped, these shipyards were to make the “new armada” a fleet of buildings at the forefront, which at the time embodied the Royal Navy, the old historical adversary. The second part of the plan stipulated that the SECN consortium also set up foundries for armor, sheet metal and artillery. The third part ordered the construction of 3 battleships, 3 destroyers, 24 torpedo boats and 4 gunboats. Just as the Armstrong shipyards greatly influenced the production of the cannons and turrets of the new battleships, the Frenchman Normand was contacted for the torpedo boats, for which his reputation was worldwide established.

Isaac peral
The experimental Isaac Peral, first electrical submarine (1888) by famed engineer of the same name, Isaac Peral y Caballero (+ Berlin 1895). He has been fed up with the incury of Spanish naval staff

And by chance, this plan came to an end in 1914. In fact, by that date, the Armada had to be totally modernized. In 1913, when the first came to its conclusion, a second plan was set up for the construction of three other battleships of 21,000 tons, 2 light cruisers, 9 destroyers and 3 submersibles. Two naval bases were to be developed to ensure the reception of this second squadron in the Mediterranean with Ceuta (Morocco) and Port Mahon in Menorca in the Canaries for the Atlantic. However, the upgrading of the shipyards and the industrialization of the SECN took time, so that in 1914 the ships planned for the 1907 plan were not yet fully completed. As a result, the Armada’s workforce was further strengthened by many older units awaiting retirement. So this gave: 2 Battleships, 11 Cruisers, 11 Destroyers and 26 misc. ships.

Reina regente, the most modern Spanish cruiser in WW1, here in 1912.

Strenght of the Armada Española in 1914

2 Dreadnought Battleships: Dreadnoughts: 1, class Espana. (1912, Alfonso XIII and Jaime I in completion or construction). Older: Pelayo (1887).
11 Cruisers: Reina Regente (1906), Estramadura (1900), Rio de la Plata (1898), 2 class Cataluna (1896), Emperador Carlos V (1895), Lepanto (1892), Alfonso XIII (1887), 3 class Infanta Isabel (1885-88).
11 Destroyers: Recent: 3 Bustamante class (1913). Older ones: 4 class Audaz (1897).
9 Torpedo Boats: Type No. 1 Vickers-Normand (1912), 7 operational units in 1914, 15 more under construction. Older; 2 class Hazor (1887).
17 Miscellaneous: 4 gunboats of the Recalde class (1910-12), 8 torpedo gunboats: 5 Temerario class (1888-91, including 2 in the process of withdrawal of service), 3 Dona Maria de Molina class (1897). 3 Cortes class (1895), Large sea going gunboats Cartagena (1908) and Perla (1887).

The old Numancia (1863) survived retirements post-1898 until 1920.

The Vitora (1865) was the last ironclad of her generation, also discarded before ww1, in 1910. Other Spanish broadside ironclads has been the Tetuan (1863), Arapiles (1864), Zaragoza (1867), Sagunto (1869) and the central battery ship Mendez Nuñez (1869).

Emperador carlos V
The Armoured crusier Emperador carlos V suvived the war of 1898. In 1914 she was present at the United States occupation of Veracruz.

The French-built 1880s barbette ship Pelayo was one of these ill-fated jeune ecole designs. in 1914 she was in reserve due to their age and much more capable dreadnoughts that needed manpower.

With the war, Spain was neutral, like most countries, and for the additional reason that in case of conflict its fleet was not ready, then in the midst of modernization. The construction of his three dreadnoughts had been delayed, and if Alfons XIII and Jaime I had been launched in 1913 and 1914, the priest was not finished until August 1915 and the second had to wait until December 1921. Moreover, the other three battleships planned for the 1913 plan were not even started. Three light cruisers were started at Ferrol in 1915 and 1917, the Reina Victoria Eugenia and the two Mendez Nunez, but the first was completed in 1923 and the other two in 1924-25. The destroyers of the Alsedo class were not started until 1920. The reason for these delays was due to the fact that the English shipyards were mobilized for the benefit of the Royal Navy alone, and that the parts and competent engineers had returned to work now in metropolis , while the supply of English material did not arrive any more.

Although neutral, Spain was politically divided on the question of what side to choose. Its conservative, Catholic and aristocratic majority favored central empires, while part of the political class (republicans and liberals) and the majority of the people were rather favorable to the allies. The latter begged the Spaniards to carry out a stricter control on the entry and exit of ships of people coming from Germany in its waters, especially in the Canary Islands, where the German presence was very important, but also in the Mediterranean where German privateers found refuge. With the development of submarine warfare, many U-Bootes were interned, especially as a result of the systematic attack on the fruit trade for the allies, and all were given to the allies after the armistice. But an agreement that compensated for the loss of 260,000 tons of ships sunk with Germany by the granting of 7 ships was not recognized after the war and Spain never recovered the tonnage lost, if not by many new constructions. In 1914, its commercial fleet comprised 479 steamers and 80 piers for a total of 443,000 tons.

After the Great War, Spain was occupied by the Rif war in Morocco, and its fleet was reinforced again in the 1920s. Ships delivered in 1914-18: Battleship Alfonso XIII in 1915, Submersible Isaac Peral, and 3 Class A and 11 torpedo boats.

Blas de Lzeo, one of the three postwar British-built “town” class cruisers in 1923-25, which saw the civil war and undergone massive refits.

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