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Principe Alfonso Class Light Cruiser

Miguel de Cervantes in 1932
Miguel de Cervantes in 1932
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
Galicia (ex Libertad, ex Principe Alfonso) El Ferrol 1 Feb 17 27 Jul 22 30 Aug 25 Stricken 2 Feb 1970
Almirante Cervera El Ferrol 25 Nov 22 16 0ct 25 May 27 Stricken 1966
Miguelae Cervantes El Ferrol 27 Aug 26 17 May 29 10 Feb 30 Stricken 1964

Displacement: 7,475 tons/7,594 tonnes (standard); 9,237 tons/9,384 tonnes (full load).
Length: 579ft 6in/176.63m (oa); 545ft/166.12m (pp). Beam: 54ft/16.46m;
Draught: 16ft 6in/5.05m (mean).
Machinery: 4-shaft Parsons geared turbines; 8 Yarrow boilers.
Performance: 80,000shp=33kts; Bunkerage: 1,680 tons oil fuel.
Range: 5,000nm at 15kts.
Protection: main belt 3in (machinery spaces), 2in (forward), 1.5in (aft), 1-2in deck; 6in CT
Guns: eight 6in (2x1, 3x2); four 4in (4x1); two 47mm (2x1).
Torpedoes: twelve 21 in (4x3).
Aircraft: nil.
Complement: 564.

Almirante Cervera in the 1930s
Almirante Cervera in the 1930s
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Design

The influence of the British connection with the El Ferrol shipyard was again manifest in the design of this class of cruisers, its basis being the Royal Navy's 'E' class. Again designed by Sir Phillip Watts, the ships were similar in dimensions to the British prototype, but differed internally and externally in a number of ways. The protective scheme was about the same as that of the E class, while the machinery developed the same power but was rearranged to group all the boilers together. This allowed the number of funnels to be reduced to two and produced a more pleasing appearance. The main armament was the 6in/50 Vickers-Carraca BL gun in three twin and two single shielded mountings with 35° elevation. The single mountings were in A and Y positions, while the twins were in B, Q and X positions. Four single 4in AA were carried, two abreast the forward funnel and the second pair abreast the mainmast. Two 47mm (3pdr) Hotchkiss and MGs completed the light AA. Four banks of triple 21 tubes were shipped on the upper deck. There was no provision for aircraft.

Three ships were authorised under the Navy Law of 17 February 1915, but all construction was badly delayed by the continuing hostilities in Europe, with the result that the leading ship was not laid down until early 1917, and the others not until some considerable time after the end of the First World War, in 1922 and 1926.

Modifications

In the 1940s Almirante Cervera had her 4in and 3pdr guns replaced by German 4.1in (10.5cm) and 37mm AA. The former were still carried in single mountings at shelter deck level, but the 37mm were in four twin mountings. It appears that the original plan was to ship the 4.1in guns in twin mountings of German type on the main deck, but this was never carried through.

Four 20mm were added, and all twelve tubes were retained. The tripod mainmast was replaced by a pole mast, and the after control position was remodeled, but the conning tower was retained. In the mid 1950s the 4.1in guns were replaced by twin 37mm. This ship was not fitted to operate aircraft.

Her two sisters had their main armament rearranged, Q gun being suppressed and replaced by a catapult and crane. They operated a single He 114 floatplane, supplied by Germany either during the Civil War or in the course of WW2. A and B guns were replaced by twin mountings. The shelterdeck amidships was reduced in width and four twin 3.9in shipped on the main deck. These were either never fitted or soon replaced by twin 37mm. The light AA was augmented by the addition of five quadruple 20mm, one forward of the bridge, two between the funnels and another pair aft for a total of sixteen 37mm (8 x 2) and twenty 20mm (5 x 4). The bridge structure was rebuilt, the conning tower was removed and, like Almirante Cervera, the tripod mainmast was replaced by a pole. The forward banks of tubes were landed.

Service

Principe Alfonso conveyed King Alfonso XIII on several foreign tours; for example, to Goteborg and Kiel in 1928 and in 1930 to French and Italian ports as well as Malta. In 1931, following the declaration of the Republic, the ship took the King from Cartagena to exile in Italy. In consequence of the Republic, she was renamed Libertad in 1931. During the Civil War Libertad served with the Red or Republican fleet, based mainly at Cartagena. She was a part of the force sailed in March 1938 to attack the Nationalist Fleet, resulting in the loss of Baleares. However, on 18 April 1938 she was hit by bombs during a Nationalist air raid on Cartagena, and was under repair for the next three months. After the defeat of the Republican forces she sailed for Bizerte, where she was interned until returned to Franco's control and renamed Galicia in 1939. She served with the Spanish Navy until put up for disposal in March 1972 and later scrapped.

Miguel de Cervantes was also a unit of the Republican Fleet, and was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Toricelli, masquerading as the Nationalist General Mola, while lying at anchor off Cartagena on 22 November 1936. She was out of action for the most of the remainder of the Civil War, being under repair at Cartagena until she sailed for internment at Bizerte in 1939. By late 1942 she was non-operational at El Ferrol, where, in May 1943, the ship was badly damaged by a large fire and was later given a major modernisation. In June 1953 she represented Spain at the Spithead Review on the occasion of the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II. She was paid off in 1958 and sold for breaking up in April 1964.

Almirante Cervera, named after the Spanish Commander-in-Chief at the time of the Spanish-American war, made a cruise to Havana in 1929. On the outbreak of the Civil War in Spain the ship resisted attempts to take her over for the red cause and escaped to El Ferrol, where she became flagship of Admiral Moreno and joined the Nationalist cause. At this time, however, she was badly in need of a boiler overhaul and capable of only about 23kts, although she was considered capable of escorting troop convoys if necessary. She was active throughout the war, often in company with Canarias, and was present at all of the major actions. In an engagement in the Straits of Gibraltar on 29 November 1936 she damaged the Republican destroyer Gravina, which managed to reach safety in Casablanca. Op the night of 25/26 March 1938 she was attacked by the Republican submarine Cl, but the torpedoes missed. Almirante Cervera was not refitted to the same extent as her sisters, but served into the 1960s, being stricken in 1966 and offered for scrapping in March 1970.

Miguel de Cervantes in June 1953
Miguel de Cervantes in June 1953
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