Commerce Warfare in the East Central Atlantic during the First World War: German Submarines Around the Canary Islands, 1916–1918

By Javier Ponce, published August 2014


This article examines German U-boat operations in and near the neutral territorial waters of the Canary Islands as well as British and Spanish responses to these operations. The strategic importance of the area around the Canaries, where trade routes from South America to Europe converged with those from West Africa and the Cape, would determine its inclusion in the area of operations of German submarines against commercial shipping from late 1916 onwards. Besides, lack of Spanish defensive capabilities prevented its effective control of the islands’ territorial waters. Primary and secondary German, British and Spanish sources shed light on the diplomatic dimension of the subject and the Allied countermeasures and clandestine actions that limited the effectiveness of the German U-boat campaign.

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Filed under: Atlantic | WW1
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Merchant Marines | Strategy & Diplomacy | Submarines

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