Nov 4, 2021 | Ibiza Blog | 0 comments

When The Soviets Bombed Ibiza – The Deutschland Crisis.

Ibiza Blog | 0 comments

Written by Dan Kirwan

Every now and again you come across an unusual story about Ibiza and the one that involved the Russians bombing Ibiza port and killing 31 German sailors certainly raised my eyebrows. It so infuriated Adolf Hitler that he wanted to declare war on Spain for what happened in Ibiza. I had to fact-check the story to see if it was true and I was surprised to discover it was, an incident that resulted in a deadly retaliation attack by Hitler which turned into an international crisis when it took place off the coast of Figueratas on May 29, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War.

At that time the second Spanish Republic was the legitimate Government of Spain, subduing the rising rebel army led by General Franco. The Germans, British, Italians, French and Soviets had all signed non-intervention deals with each other not to get involved in The Spanish Civil War. In 1937 The British were in bed with Adolf Hitler and permitted his Battleships and submarines safe passage through the straights of Gibraltar where they protected German interests in the Mediterranean and evacuated German civilians and Nationalist refugees. The Balearic Islands were perceived as rebel sympathisers by The Spanish Government and as the war intensified, ships were been targeted and bombed by the Republican Airforce La Gloriosa 

On May 29 1937, the German Navy’s Flagship, the pocket destroyer Deutschland sailed into Ibiza harbour to refuel and allow its crew some well deserved R&R on the party island. While the crew were dispatched to enjoy the Jazzy Beatnick Bars of La Marina and Talamanca Beach, a delegation of Ibicenco dignitaries were invited on board to tour the Battleship by its Captain Hangs Langsdoorf just after siesta around 5 pm. Little did they know that they were walking into a deathtrap as Republicans had deciphered a coded message that the German flagship was in Ibiza. They were in the middle of a covert operation shipping a convoy of weapons from Algeria aboard the Russian ship The Magallanes and The Deutschland happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. To prevent the German Flagship from engaging the covert Republican convoy, its patrol ships and SB-2 Bombers were dispatched to disable it.

At around 18.20 on May 29, two Soviet piloted SB-2 Bombers flew over San Antonio with the setting sun behind their backs and started their bombing run into Ibiza Town. The alarm sounded on The Deutschland deck when the bombers were spotted approaching the ship from the west of Dalt Vila. Each fighter plane carried two 50Lb bombs and three of them hit their target, the direct hits causing fire and explosions on board. The German destroyer was a sitting duck, its engines had been turned off and the crew were ashore and not at their gun posts. To make matters worse two Republican patrol ships escorting The Magallanes approached from Es Vedra and opened fire on The Deutschland narrowly missing the boat of Ibicenco dignitaries that were scurrying back to La Marina. After observing the damage the Soviet bombers had caused, the Republican ships returned to protect its convoy, confident that The Deutschland was dead in the water.

In one night Hitler and Mussolini dropped 54 tonnes of bombs on Tortosa in Catalonia 

In fact, 31 German sailors were dead and 80 were badly burned attempting to put out the explosions that ripped through the ship. Miraculously and not for the last time, The Deutschland was able to limp out of port to Formentera where many of the wounded were treated before sailing on to Gibraltar where the dead sailors were given a full military funeral by the British Navy. When news reached Adolf Hitler of the Ibiza attack, the world got to witness his furious temper for the first time. He wanted to declare war on Spain but British diplomats talked him out of it so instead, he targeted the Republican capital of Valencia in retaliation for the death of his countrymen. He also requested that the British Navy exhume the coffins of the dead sailors, wrap them in the swastika and return them to Germany on The Deutschland which was now back in action and ready to wreak an act of deadly revenge for the loss of its crew. On the 31st of May 1937, four German warships reigned 200 shells down on the quiet port of Almeria killing 19 civilians and wounding 55 more. The sleepy mine-free port of Almeria was seen as a softer target than Valencia, as it was less defended than its capital.

It was at that moment that the Spanish Civil war was lost to the Republic. Both Germany and Italy withdrew from the non-intervention pacts and were instrumental in changing the outcome of the Spanish Civil war as they sided with Franco and his rebels. It was the Germans that airlifted Franco and his Moroccan Army into Madrid and The Messershmiths of Hitlers Condor Legion wreaked havoc on Government troops whose airforce had been destroyed.  Britain and the Allies stood idly by as Hitler and Mussolini destroyed Spain from the air, in one night during 17 raids, they dropped 54 tonnes of bombs on Tortosa in Catalonia celebrating their victory over The Republicans. It was not until Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 before Britain decided to put a stop to his march.

Many historians have suggested that if Hitler and Mussolini were stopped in Spain, WW2 may not have happened. The Deutschland went on to serve in WW2 sinking many Allied ships and submarines and living a charmed life. It was bombed and torpedoed many times but survived to fight another day before the Russian Navy finally scuttled her after using the ship for target practice after the war.

Related Articles