Portugal and the Spanish Civil War at Sea, 1936–1939

By Augusto Salgado, published March 2021


At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, Portugal was already monitoring the political situation in Spain very closely since left-leaning Republican governments were seen to pose a major threat to the regime of António Oliveira Salazar (1889–1970), the dictatorial ruler of Portugal. The ensuing conflict, which would set the standard for Salazar’s political position with regard to other European states up to the end of the Second World War, saw Portugal and its navy play an active role in supporting the Nationalist (rebel) faction. Portugal not only permitted military contraband to be unloaded in Lisbon but the Portuguese navy was deployed in several foreign ports, including Tangier, carrying out various supporting and humanitarian operations. Using unpublished Portuguese naval sources, including Lisbon’s port books, this article seeks to understand the importance of Lisbon as a logistical hub to the Spanish Nationalists and the significance of humanitarian operations carried out largely in 1936 by the Portuguese navy.

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Filed under: Atlantic | Interwar
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Navies | Strategy & Diplomacy

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