1936 Naval Revolt

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1936 Portuguese naval revolt
1936 Naval Revolt Soldiers Portugal.jpg
Mutineers are arrested by government police forces.
Date8 September 1936

Decisive Estado Novo victory

  • Revolt crushed
Portugal Estado Novo Organização Revolucionária da Armada
Commanders and leaders
Portugal António de Oliveira Salazar Manuel Guedes 
Shore defences
1 submarine
1 aviso
1 destroyer
Casualties and losses
Unknown Both ships beached
12 sailors killed
20 sailors wounded
238 sailors arrested

The 1936 naval revolt (Portuguese: Revolta dos Marinheiros de 1936) or Mutiny on the Tagus ships (Motim dos Barcos do Tejo) was a mutiny in Portugal that occurred on 8 September 1936 aboard the aviso Afonso de Albuquerque and destroyer Dão. It was organized by the Revolutionary Organization of the Fleet (Organização Revolucionária da Armada, ORA), a left-wing group with links to the Portuguese Communist Party.

Communist Sailors in the Portuguese navy's two newest warships, the NRP Afonso de Albuquerque and the Dão, mutinied while in Lisbon harbor ; their purpose was to take part in the Spanish Civil war taking sides with the Republicans. The plan was to leave Lisbon and sail to Republican port in the Mediterranean. Salazar ordered the ships to be destroyed by gunfire. The convicted sailors from the 1936 naval revolt were the first to be sent to the Tarrafal prison camp established by Salazar in the Cape Verde Islands to house political prisoners.[1]


The Portuguese fleet lay at anchor in the estuary of the Tagus River on 8 September 1936.[2] The rebels planned to seize control of both the ships and the coastal forts. At 03:00 their ships were to begin their departure, following each other out at 15-minute intervals.[3] No word was received from the fort garrisons, so the rebels' plan would only work if they could embark before shore batteries came into action. However, a wireless operator tipped off the Portuguese Admiralty to the plan at around 01:00. A boat was immediately dispatched to survey the situation of the fleet.[3]

The aviso NRP Afonso de Albuquerque, pictured in 1935

Upon seeing the Admiralty launch, most of the Portuguese sailors realized their plot had been discovered and chose not to revolt. By then the crews of the Afonso de Albuquerque and Dão had already mutinied, forcing their officers below deck at gunpoint. The sailors on the Afonso attempted to lure the Admiralty officers aboard, but the launch fled and the crew opened fire with machine guns. It took almost an hour before the alarm was raised ashore. When the forts were finally alerted, they could not target the mutineers' ships due to a heavy mist. The rebels were hesitant to leave without further orders from their leaders, and did not attempt a breakout until daylight.[3] The Portuguese naval minister ordered coastal artillery to fire on any vessel attempting to leave the harbour.[4]

At 07:30 the Afonso and Dão raised steam and proceeded down the river at about 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph). By then the mist had cleared and the shore batteries opened fire. The Afonso responded but was soon struck. A loyal submarine opened fire on her with a machine gun.[4] Her bridge was destroyed in the engagement and her engines were crippled. The Dão, caught in the cross-fire between two forts, was also hit and both ships ran aground. The crews raised white flags to signal their surrender.[5] Government forces boarded the Afonso and arrested its crew. In an attempt to conceal their actions, several sailors stripped off their uniforms and attempted to swim ashore. Loyal Portuguese troops raked them with machine gun fire. The rebels were rounded up near Belém Tower and taken prisoner.[3] The leader of the revolt, a sailor from the Dão, committed suicide.[4]


The Portuguese Ministry of Maritime Affairs reported that 12 sailors were killed and 20 wounded.[4] 238 were arrested and deported to a penal colony on Santiago, Portuguese Cape Verde.[6] The Ministry dismissed both crews in their entirety, reinstating sailors only if they were able to prove they resisted the mutiny. An investigation was also opened into discipline aboard the aviso Bartolomeu Dias.

According to historian Glyn Stone, the revolt was "easily suppressed and remained an isolated incident" and did not pose a threat to António de Oliveira Salazar.[7] The government framed the mutiny as a Communist plot to surrender the Portuguese ships to the Spanish Republican Navy.[3][5] On 10 September, Salazar introduced a law forcing all public servants to swear allegiance to the principles of the regime and an anti-communist paramilitary force, the Legião Portuguesa, was formed a week later. The mutiny also strengthened Portuguese support for Francisco Franco's side in the Spanish Civil War.[8]

The revolt was the last military challenge to Portugal's Estado Novo until 1974.[citation needed]

The mutiny forms of the backdrop for the 1984 novel The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by José Saramago.[6]


  1. ^ Meneses, Filipe (2009). Salazar: A Political Biography. Enigma Books; 1 edition. p. 200. ISBN 978-1929631902.
  2. ^ "Morreu o último homem da Revolta dos Marinheiros de 1936" [The Last Man of the 1936 Sailor Uprising Has Died]. Jornal Expresso (in Portuguese). Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 2 October 1936, p. 17
  4. ^ a b c d "Portuguese Naval Revolt". The Advertiser. Adelaide, South Australia. Associated Press. 10 September 1936. p. 24. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b Ferreira & Marshall 2010, p. 24.
  6. ^ a b Sapega 2008, p. 74.
  7. ^ Stone 1994, p. 13.
  8. ^ Stone 1994, pp. 13–14.


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