Monday 3 May 2021

Air attacks on Alicante during the SCW


                                       Air attacks on Alicante during the SCW

Map showing the fall of bombs (red) and the Air raid shelter (green) in Alicante 

 Following the Aragon Offensive Franco wanted to break Republican morale by eliminating marine commerce, he therefore authorised The Legionary Air Force (Italian: Aviazione Legionaria, Spanish: Aviación Legionaria) and Condor Legion to undertake indiscriminate bombings of the Republican cities: Valencia, Barcelona, Alicante, Granollers and other Spanish town and cities were bombed. Alicante suffered around 70 attacks, somewhere between 500 and 750 citizens were killed.

A complete list of bombing attacks against the Alicante Communidad by town and date.

 The worst attack by far occurred on May 25th 1938, when between seven and nine Italian SM.79 and SM.81 bombers of the Aviazione Legionaria bombed Alicante. The anti-aircraft artillery of the city was obsolete (a common theme during the SCW) and the air-alarm system of the city failed to give warning - possibly due to the Italians attack coming from the inland rather than seaward taking the city defences by surprise!

The bombers dropped ninety bombs and many of them fell in the central market of the city. There were between 275 and 393 civilian deaths (100 men, 56 women, 10 children and more than 100 unidentified bodies), and 1000 wounded. This death toll is on a scale of that of the notorious raid on Guernica a year earlier! 

An amazing photo of a burning SM-81 over the mercado!


 The square behind the central market was renamed Plaza de 25 Mayo

 At the market, aside from a memorial of the tragic event, there is in display the clock which stopped at the time of the bombing and the anti-aircraft alarm that did not go off that day. 

 Savoia-Marchetti SM81

 Excerpt from an article published in The Singleton Argus on Monday May 30th 1938

"In a note to Great Britain, the Spanish Government points out although, in conformity with the request of great Britain and France, Spanish Government "planes had not bombed open towns, the bombardment of Alicante last week by rebel aircraft had not elicited a single public word of condemnation.

"The Spanish Government," adds the note - "is therefore obliged to request from Great Britain a concrete statement on the negotiations which Great Britain and France initiated in February to prevent air bombings of open cities and also whether Great Britain intends to initiate measures to prevent a repetition of such cities"

A similar note has been delivered to France."

A brief piece from The Times

As well as the town the port itself and shipping was targeted by the Fascist planes

The British owned and registered SS Franham took a direct hit to her bridge on June 27th 1938 and sunk at her moorings in the harbour!
She was raised later by the Nationalists and confiscated, and renamed Castello Montiel





  1. Well done Richard, a very interesting and well illustrated report on a little known but as you note, destructive and deadly air raid. Thanks for posting link on Sotcw Forum. CarlL

    1. Cheers Carl

      Not technically a wargaming piece, which is why I only posted the link.

  2. Great post- fascinating bit of history.



    1. Very brutal, I`ve searched and searched but can find little evidence the Republican airforce fought back.

  3. Back here for second time. Where wargaming starts or ends, the history behind those past real wars is both "a warning from history" and a story of real lives and suffering (as in Ukraine today and for last nine years) - thankfully our games cannot hurt anyone but bring us to ask questions about ours or others history as you are doing. Very important work of the historian. Something that would probably have got you shot in Franco's 1940s or 1950s asking questions....
    Re-reading your piece reminds me that I must visit the Alicante region again when I overcome my reluctance to travel in our covid world. All best Carl

  4. They (the Spanish Government) have recently introduced a new law making it illegal to praise Franco and his time. Honestly I`m not quite sure if I agree with that, banning things tends to make those people go underground and festers hate and resentment, better to bring it out into the light and talk about it. I recently read about the body of a Spanish General (a commander during the Civil War) whos body has been removed from its crypt (in a prominent place in his local cathedral) and moved to the family plot, to remove him from the public eye. The authorities did this at 3am not to cause a fuss, but still his supporters (fascist buggers) stood around and waved falangist flags and sang nationalist songs. Somethings never change. If you do ever come to Alicante, let me know and we`ll have
    some drinks and you can meet Debbie.