Captain Charles William Henry "Cecil" Bebb (27 September 1905 – 2002) was a commercial pilot and later airline executive, notable for flying General Francisco Franco from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco in 1936, a journey which was to trigger the onset of the Spanish Civil War.
Events of July 1936
The flight log records that the aircraft was bound for the Canary Islands. The purpose of Bebb's flight was to collect General Franco from the Canaries and fly him to Tetuán in Spanish Morocco, at that time a Spanish colony, where the Spanish African Army was garrisoned.
Franco was recognized by the government in Madrid as a danger to the Second Spanish Republic and had been sent to the Canaries in order to keep him away from political intrigue. Had a Spanish plane flown to the islands, the authorities would likely have been alerted, but the British aircraft attracted little or no attention. Bebb and Franco arrived in Tetuán on 19 July and the general quickly set about organising Moroccan troops to participate in the coming coup.
It is possible that British security services may have been complicit in Bebb's flight. Certainly his companion Pollard had previously been an intelligence agent. The flight itself was planned over lunch at Simpson's in the Strand, where Douglas Francis Jerrold, the conservative Roman Catholic editor of the English Review, met with the journalist Luis Bolín, London correspondent of the ABC Newspaper and later Franco's senior press advisor. Jerrold then persuaded Pollard to join the enterprise, and Pollard in turn recruited Bebb as pilot, with daughter Diana Pollard and a friend as passengers to pose as tourists.
Bebb himself was decorated by Franco in recognition of his services. In 1939, as the Spanish Civil War ended, Bebb was awarded the Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of the Yoke and arrows. Many years later, in 1970, Franco conferred on him the Order of Civil Merit and the White Cross for Military Merit, in a ceremony in Madrid.
The aircraft that carried Franco to Tetuán in Morocco, a dH89 Dragon Rapide (G-ACYR), was presented to Franco as a gift, after the end of World War II, and is now displayed in the Museo del Aire near Madrid.
In a 1983 interview for the Granada television documentary The Spanish Civil War, Bebb stated that he had been approached by "a gentleman from Spain, who asked me if I was prepared to go to the Canary islands to get a Rif leader to start an insurrection in Spanish Morocco. I thought 'what a delightful idea, what a great adventure'".
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