Battle of Cape Espartel

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For the 1782 American Revolutionary War naval battle, see Battle of Cape Spartel.
Battle of Cape Espartel
Part of the Spanish Civil War
Date September 29, 1936
Location Strait of Gibraltar, near Tangier, present-day Morocco
Result Decisive Nationalist victory
Spain Spanish Republic Francoist Spain Nationalist Spain
Commanders and leaders
Fernando Navarro Capdevila Francisco Moreno Fernández
2 destroyers 1 heavy cruiser
1 light cruiser
Casualties and losses
1 destroyer sunk
1 destroyer damaged

The Battle of Cape Espartel was a naval battle of the Spanish Civil War that broke the Republican blockade of the Strait of Gibraltar, securing the naval supply route to Spanish Morocco for the Nationalists early in the war. The action occurred on September 29, 1936 between two Nationalist cruisers and two Republican destroyers.


The rebel conspirators at Ferrol had been able to seize the city's naval base in July, but at a large cost: over 30 mutinous officers had been shot by hundreds of sailors loyal to the Republic.

Their prize included the old battleship España (formerly Alfonso XIII), the cruisers Almirante Cervera and the unfinished Canarias, two light cruisers, one destroyer, and a number of torpedo boats and sloops. In September, a small squadron, including Almirante Cervera and Canarias, steamed from Ferrol to engage the Republican navy.

At the start of the war, the Spanish Republican Navy had the battleship Jaime I, three light cruisers, 14 destroyers, plus five submarines. In addition to España, the two cruisers and one destroyer taken by the Nationalists, by the following year they had completed Almirante Cervera and Canarias. They also had purchased four destroyers and two submarines from Fascist Italy. The Nationalists established a blockade of the Republican-held coastline for the entire duration of the war, but their paucity of ships limited the blockade's effectiveness.

The battle[edit]

The Nationalists engaged a squadron of Republican destroyers stationed on the western end of the Straits. The destroyer Gravina was deployed near Cape Espartel, while her sister ship Almirante Ferrándiz was patrolling off Ceuta.[1] A fierce exchange of fire followed, during which the destroyer Almirante Ferrándiz was chased and sunk by Canarias in the Alboran Sea, while Gravina was pursued and hit twice by Cervera along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. The main guns of Canarias found their mark at a range of 11 miles (18 km) with their second salvo, while those of Cervera performed poorly. The surviving Republican destroyer retreated toward Casablanca. This action was decisive to open the Straits to the insurgents' shipping.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas (1979), p. 184
  2. ^ Cortada, page 18
  3. ^ "The Turning point at sea, 29 November 1936". From "Canarias, Adiós", by Willard C. Frank, Jr.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°14′47″N 4°38′30″W / 36.24639°N 4.64167°W / 36.24639; -4.64167