Battle of Cape Machichaco
|Battle of Cape Machichaco|
|Part of the Spanish Civil War|
| Spanish Republic
Basque provisional government
|Commanders and leaders|
|Enrique Moreno Plaza †||Salvador Moreno Fernández|
|4 armed trawlers||1 heavy cruiser|
|Casualties and losses|
|1 armed trawler sunk
2 armed trawlers damaged
1 transport ship captured
|1 heavy cruiser lightly damaged
|4 civilians killed aboard the transport ship|
The Battle of Cape Machichaco was a naval battle which took place on 5 March, 1937 off Bermeo, during the Spanish Civil War, between the Spanish Nationalist heavy cruiser Canarias and four Republican Basque armed trawlers escorting a convoy. The trawlers were protecting the transport ship Galdames, which was sailing to Bilbao with 173 passengers. They were confronted by the rebel cruiser Canarias off Cape Machichaco.
On 4 March four armed trawlers of the Basque Auxiliary Navy section of the Spanish Republican Navy, Bizcaia, Gipuzkoa, Donostia and Nabarra departed from Bayonne, France. Their intention was to defend Galdames´s mail, passengers, machinery, weapons, supplies and 500 tons of nickel coins property of the Basque government. The Canarias sailed off from Ferrol with Salvador Moreno as the captain, with orders to stop the transport ship. The Galdames, which was steaming up with the lights and the radio switched off, was outrunned by Bizcaya and Gipuzkoa. Next morning while all the trawlers were looking for the Canarias the Galdames rejoined them. Bizcaya´s captain was Alejo Bilbao, Nabarra's Enrique Moreno Plaza from Murcia, and Gipuzkoa's Manuel Galdós. The trawlers had the intention of luring Canarias close to the Biscay coast to have the assistance of the coastal batteries.
The first trawler to spot the Canarias was the Gipuzkoa, 20 miles north of Bilbao. The Basque trawler was hit on the bridge and the forward gun. Return fire from Gipuzkoa killed one Canarias seaman and wounded another. The armed trawler, with five fatalities and 20 injured aboard, managed to approach the coast, where the shore batteries forced the Canarias to sail away. Nabarra and Donostia tried to prevent the Canarias from finding the Galdames and engaged the cruiser. Donostia withdrew from the battle after being fired on by the Canarias, but Nabarra faced the enemy for almost two hours. She was eventually hit on the boiler and came to a stop; 20 men abandoned the sinking trawler, while other 29 were lost with the ship, including her captain, Enrique Moreno Plaza.
The transport Galdames, which was hit by a salvo from Canarias and lost four passengers was eventually captured by the Nationalist cruiser. Gipuzkoa arrived at Portugalete seriously damaged and Bizcaia headed for Bermeo, where she assisted the Estonian merchantman Yorbrook, previously captured by the Canarias and released. Donostia sought shelter in a French port.
The 20 survivors from Nabarra were rescued by the Nationalists and taken aboard Canarias. Instead of the expected hostility and mistreatment, they were given medical assistance, and both the cruiser commander, future Francoist Admiral Salvador Moreno and Captain Manuel Calderón interceded with Franco when the Basque seamen were sentenced to death in retaliation for the shooting of two crewmembers of the armed trawler Virgen del Carmen, captured by Republican sympathizers and diverted to Bilbao in December 1936. The survivors were eventually acquitted and released in 1938. On the contrary, one of the passengers of the Galdames, prominent Christian Democrat politician Manuel Carrasco Formiguera, from Catalonia, was imprisoned and executed on 9 April 1938.