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Canarias Class Heavy Cruiser

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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
Baleares El Ferrol 15 Aug 28 20 Apr 32 1936 lost 6 Mar 1938
Canarias El Ferrol 15 Aug 28 28 May 31 18 Sep 36 Stricken Dec 1975

Both ships were hurriedly put into service without being fully completed. Baleares was less advanced than her sister.

Displacement: 10,113 tons/10,274 tonnes (standard); 13,070 tons/13,279 tonnes (full toad)
Length: 635ft 9in/193.55m (oa); 600ft/182.9m (pp); 630ft/192.15tn (wl).
Beam: 64ft/19.5m; Draught: 17ft 4in/5.27m (mean)
Machinery: 4-shaft Parsons geared turbines; 8 Yarrow boilers
Performance: 90,000shp=33kts; Bunkerage: 2,588 tons oil fuel
Range: 8,700nm at 15kts.
Protection: 2in main belt; magazines, 4.5in sides, 3in crowns; 1 in to 1.5in deck; 1 in turrets & CT.
Guns: eight 8in (4x2); eight 4.7in AA (8x1); eight 40mm (8x1); four .5in MGs
Torpedoes: twelve 21 in
Aircraft: two, one catapult
Complement: 780.

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The Naval Programme approved on 14 July 1926 included two new cruisers which were to be of the 'Washington' type. As the intention was to build the ships in Spain, and the only yard with the expertise to build them was SECN at El Ferrol, it was inevitable that this yard would receive the contract. At the same time this ensured that the design would be of a British type, because the yard was mainly British-owned. The design was, in fact, a modification of the County class then being built for the Royal Navy, and was again the work of Sir Phillip Watts. The basic County design was not much modified, except that the external bulges were retained (the Londons dispensed with them) and the bridge was raised by a deck. In addition, the boiler uptakes were trunked into two funnels. The designed standard displacement was 10,281 tons and 13,280 tons full load, but the trial load, as the aircraft installations were never fitted.

Internally, the County design was modified, the boilers being grouped into three spaces instead of two.

The protective scheme included 4in sides and 2.5in crowns (both on .5in plating) to the fore and aft main magazines, and a 2in waterline belt between frames 62 and 216 (from the after end of the forward magazine box to the after bulkhead of the after turbine room). Horizontal protection was limited to 1 to 1.5in, while the turrets and barbettes had only lin. The total weight of armour was 683 tons, or 6.6 per cent of the standard displacement. The waterline bulge reached from 6.6ft above the waterline to 13ft below it, and was 4.3ft wide at its maximum.The machinery, as noted earlier, was basically the same as that of the British Countys. There were eight Yarrow boilers in three spaces disposed 2/4/2, aft of which were the turbine rooms. The forward turbine room housed the machinery on the wing shafts, and the after space the inboard shafts. A magazine space for the heavy AA guns separated the after boiler room from the forward turbine room. The designed power was 90,000shp, 10,000shp less than that of the Countys, for a maximum speed of 33kts. Bunkerage was reduced to 2,629 tons, as the Spanish navy did not require the endurance necessary for Royal Navy ships, since the raison d'etre of these ships was to secure communications with the islands after which they were named. On trials, Canarias reached 33.69kts with 91,299shp, but she lacked much equipment, including X and Y turrets.

As designed, the armament included eight 8m Spanish-built 1924-pattem Vickers 50cal Mk D in twin turrets, the gun being lighter than the British 8in Mk VIII. The turrets had smaller roller paths than the County's Mk II turrets, with 70° elevation. Four single 4.7in in LA mountings and a similar number in HA single mountings comprised the secondary armament. The light AA was to consist of eight 40mm and four .5in MGs. Provision was made for twelve 21in torpedo tubes in fixed triple broadside mountings just forward of X turret. A catapult and provision for two floatplanes was included in the original design. However, while the ships were under construction the LA 4.7in guns were replaced by an equal number of 1923-model guns in HA mountings to improve AA defence. Furthermore, the outbreak of the Civil War during the final stages of their construction resulted in the non-availability of the 40mm and .5in MGs (these being manufactured in Republican territory), the catapults and the main and secondary battery fire-control systems (to have been supplied by Britain and the Netherlands).

Orders were placed for the two ships on 31 March 1928, and the keels of both were laid simultaneously that summer. A third projected unit, for which the name Ferrol has been suggested, was not proceeded with because of the disillusionment with the Washington type of cruiser.


The most obvious alteration on completion was the trunking of all boiler uptakes into a single massive funnel, the reason for which is unknown. The bridge structure was also altered to a streamlined tower type in lieu of the intended platform type as in the British ships. Baleares had an enlarged command bridge, and was given a distinctive funnel cap. Delays in construction meant that both ships were well behind schedule when the Civil War broke out, Baleares being the worst affected. Canarias completed without her designed armament, except for the 8in guns, and with no fire control. As a stop-gap measure, four 4in LA guns were obtained from the elderly battleship Espana, as well as two 57mm. Her torpedo tubes were also inoperative or not installed, and neither were the catapult and aircraft. (It is not certain if the torpedo armament was ever installed.) In October 1936 the 4in guns were replaced by six of the specified 4.7in, and the last pair being fitted in February the following year. Also received in October 1936 were two twin 37mm and three 20mm from German sources, while the Vickers 40mm had also been shipped, sited at the four comers of the funnel base. The' 57mm were, however, retained. Shields were fitted to the 4.7in guns in 1940. The 37mm outfit: was increased to twelve, in six twin mountings, during WW2, four replacing the Vickers 40mm pom-poms. Her main battery director was finally fitted in 1943/44. The tubes were landed by the end of the 1940s, if they had ever been fitted (the presence of the fixed apertures being no guarantee that the actual tubes were aboard). In October 1952 she began a major over-haul which saw her return to the two-funnel design and had the light AA altered to four 40mm (4 x 1), four 37mm (2 x 2) and two 20mm.

Baleares, in consequence of her early loss, was little modified. She commissioned without Y turret and with a mixed secondary battery of four 4.7in destroyer-pattern guns in shields and four Italian-origin 3.9in AA in single mountings. Y Turret was shipped by June 1937.


Canarias served with the Nationalist Navy as flagship from completion, providing a major reinforcement of the hitherto meagre force available to the rebels; one light cruiser (Almirante Cervera) and one operational destroyer. One of her first actions was to break the Republican blockade of the Straits of Gibraltar in September 1936, when her guns sank the Republican destroyer Almirante Ferrandiz, while Cervera damaged Gravina. She then ferried troops across the straits for an assault on Madrid and operated in the Mediterranean from Cadiz, escorting convoys, raiding Republican commerce and bombarding coastal installations. She was joined by Baleares by January 1937, the two cruisers bombarding positions around Malaga in preparation for a Nationalist attack, and the city fell on 8 February. The two cruisers operated together most of the time, escorting convoys or searching for merchantmen attempting to break the Nationalist naval blockade, and capturing several. In March 1937 Canarias was deployed to the Bay of Biscay to intercept arms supplies to the Republicans, in the course of which cruise she sank or captured seven ships, including Mar Cantabrico, destined to become an auxiliary cruiser for the Nationalists. On 5/6 March 1938 the cruisers were escorting a convoy that was intercepted by a Republican force of cruisers and destroyers en route for a raid on Palma De Mallorca. In a confused night action the Republican destroyers Ante-quera, Barcaiztegui and Lepanto attacked with torpedoes, sinking Baleares. Canarias continued her mercantile warfare, taking two more prizes before intercepting the destroyer Jose Luis Diez returning from repairs in Le Havre. The destroyer was badly damaged and only managed to limp into Gibraltar with great difficulty. In March 1939 Canarias supported an abortive uprising in Carta-gena, but by now the war was virtually over, and on 1 April the ship returned to Cartagena with Franco's victorious forces. During the hostilities; she had sunk or captured 32 ships, not including; the two destroyers.

Her subsequent career was peaceful, as Spain did not become a belligerent in WW2. She sailed to assist in the search for survivors, of Bismarck in May 1941, but found none. Post-war she served until paid off on 17 December' 1975. She was offered for scrapping on 14 Sep-tember 1977, and was broken up in 1978/79.

Baleares in 1932
Baleares in 1932
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Canarias modernised postwar
Canarias modernised postwar
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