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There is a part of the Civil War that is not buried, but submerged. Everyone talks about the battle of the Ebro but almost no one about the battle of Cabo de Palos , as if the historical memory of the Spaniards was dryland.
The Balearic cruiser was a supervillain of 10,000 tons and 194 meters in length. He sailed very little, but gave him time to do almost everything. How to star in the bloodiest episode of the Civil War against the Republican side, and shortly after becoming an immense armored sarcophagus of rebels. It is not even known today if it was 786 or 788 that sank in waters east of Cartagena and south of Formentera. Franco took so much love that the mythical blasphemy of "not even God could sink it" that condemned the Titanic, the Balearic Islands could say that neither the Law of Historical Memory. He even commissioned a film, The Balearic Cruiser , but so bad or, according to censorship, so little at the height of the "epic", that all copies were destroyed by order of the army, which can also be added that neither the Cinema could sink it.
The Balearic Islands had to be thrown into the water in December 1936 when it was still in the works, due to the detail that the War had broken out. The Republican side retained its entire fleet: destroyers, light cruisers, submarines, a battleship. While the rebels jumped into the fight with two ships, one the Balearic Islands, which led Franco to take the war away from the water . Hence, all naval clashes, according to historians, will not affect the result too much.
The first thing the Balearic Islands did was a massacre, known as La Desbandá , bombing civilians fleeing through the only exit from the siege of the city of Malaga in February 1937. The road, attached to the sea, became a wall for its sixteen cannons and twelve launcher tubes, to which the Canary and Almirante Cervera cruises joined; but also German and Italian planes, causing between 3,000 and 5,000 civilian victims. Although it was a massacre worse than that of Guernica , historians agree to point out the interest of forgetting it, both for the rebels, for the cruelty of their action, and for the Republicans, who left the city to their fate.
In his next and last year of life, the most interesting thing the Balearic Islands did was sink . On the night of March 5 to 6, 1938, he had to escort at night, and again accompanied by the Canary Islands and Admiral Cervera, a convoy from Italy. The ships left Mallorca for the south of the Peninsula and, at 0.36, met the Republican fleet 75 nautical miles from Cabo de Palos. Both fleets carried a tremendous scare. Republican destroyer Sánchez Barcáiztegui shot first, but as he failed he decided to let them go, hoping to hunt them at dawn. However, other ships of the Republic, went out to chase them, and for a couple of hours some torpedoes are launched mutually, but so badly that nobody was right, in a kind of boxing match of the blind .
Soon three other Republican destroyers arrived. When they were three kilometers away, they launched twelve torpedoes. At 2.20, one of them, Lepanto, was right, and not once, but twice, and precisely against the Balearic Islands. More than a mortal wound that seemed a demolition with dynamite, since the two torpedoes hit just between the two turrets, where the ship's ammunition depot was located, causing an explosion so strong that, it is said, was heard throughout Levante. That made the deck and bow jump through the air, where the ship began to sink. The survivors began to take refuge aft, until at 5 in the morning the ship sank. Two English destroyers, HMS Boreas and HMS Kempenfelt , came to pick up the survivors. Both were part of the so-called neutrality patrol, created as a result of the Non-Intervention Pact promoted by France and the United Kingdom, to prevent the internationalization of the Civil War, and which were not respected by Nazi Germany or fascist Italy.
Survivors swam with severe burns in a sea of burning fuel . And on top of Republican planes bombarded the rescue, not recognizing the English ships. Even so, 469 men survived.
Franco turned that tragedy into his biggest propaganda symbol, to the point that part of his memory is still standing . His name was given to a street in Fuerteventura. Monuments were made in Badajoz, Madrid, San Sebastián, Algeciras and Ondarroa, from where half a hundred crew members came from. There they built two monuments, one over the harbor, destroyed this year, and another in the cemetery.
Although his toughest battle continues to be played in Mallorca , where Franco inaugurated a monolith in the park of sa Feixina, in the center of Palma. Among the victims, in addition to five musicians and a chaplain, there were nine Mallorcan Naval Arrows. A group included in the youth of the Falange, and which consisted of young people between 14 and 17, whose training consisted basically of knowing how to use a compass, make eight sailor knots, sing the anthem, run a kilometer in less than ten minutes and prepare a stew
Although the monument was devoid of Franco's symbology in 2010, and a plaque was placed in homage to all the victims of the war, one part of the local authorities tries to tear it down, while another tries to protect it for its heritage interest, which made the Balearic Islands continue to navigate in memory, especially in the last elections .
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