The battleship Jaime I shells the coast of Morocco, 1921.
History and fiction. The first time about how a warship explodes, I read in the story "Dagger". There it was concluded that the explosion of the battleship “Empress Maria” was a sabotage, moreover, one of the officers of the ship knew about it. Whether it was true or not, it was not possible to find out, but this assumption went on a walk around the world, yes, in fact, why not?
Many years later, when I was already writing books myself, an interesting thought came to my mind that after all, in this way you can describe a lot of things, including explosions and sabotage on other ships. Moreover, combining the entertaining plot with its information content, which is not inferior to Wikipedia. And so it turned out that in a recent article I promised to talk about the explosion of the battleship Jaime I, and having promised, I remembered that I could do this in a somewhat unusual way. The fact is that this event is described in my novel “Pareto Law”, which was published in Germany, but so far ... has not yet been released in Russia. And in the second book, called “Volunteers of Freedom,” this event is discussed. All facts are accurate. Taken from the memoirs of Admiral Kuznetsov and related literature. But the adventures of the heroes, of course, are fictional, but as close as possible to reality.
Battleships "Alfonso XIII" and "Jaime I" on the roads of Barcelona, 1929
The event itself takes place during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. The participants in the event, Vladimir Zaslavsky and Boris Ostroumov, are fictional characters, but it is known that many former White Guards came to Spain then and fought on the side of Franco. Both are officially US journalists, but in fact are secret opponents of the Republicans. They are assisted by Leoncia, who serves as secretary and typist. But she is a member of the Franco underground, the “fifth column”, about which Hemingway wrote so well in due time. So in front of you, dear readers of VO, is nothing but history and fiction at the same time, connected in such a way that it is more interesting to read.
And again on the raid of Barcelona ...
“You see, there’s the battleship Jaime I, who came here in May from Almeria, at the pier,” said Vladimir Zaslavsky, pointing with his hand to the large four-tower ship standing near the pier.
Its construction was completed in 1921, although it began back in 1912. And after all such as many as three ships were built, although, in my opinion, such ships of Spain are not needed at all. Waste of money! But ... ambition! Where without them! And we, they say, a great sea power, we all can’t live without dreadnoughts. What is the result? Money, time, so much effort and labor have been spent, and now he stands now and is repairing at the pier. The latter, by the way, is from the whole three. That is, this ship is nothing more than stupidity embodied in metal, and smart people have always used stupidity of someone at all times to their advantage.
That's how it was built for nine years!
“I heard,” said Boris, “that on this ship the anarchists rule everything, and that they have completely no discipline there.” They had one soldier from Russia, and even that one was sent back, but a new one has not yet been sent. Because of this, they say, repair work is being carried out somehow, that there is a great risk of sabotage, because there are constantly on board workers from the coast, and no one even checks who they are from and where.
“Well, of course, we are unlikely to marry the workers here,” Volodya said with a grin. “But to visit him as foreign correspondents ... with all the ensuing consequences, why not!”
- What do you mean? - Boris asked suspiciously. “What can we there him ... that, huh?”
- What do you think? - Volodya grinned again. “After all, if they don’t have any discipline there, it means that they will lead us all over the ship, if only we would write well about them.” And there everything will depend only on us!
- That's right! - suddenly noticed Leoncia. “This is manly, especially since this ship has already been tried several times to sink, but to no avail.” And this time, the pilots hit him with two bombs, but he still remained afloat and, in general, fit for battle. What if our next offensive will be in the Almeria region? After all, they will then drive him back there, and this will again lead to casualties on our part. So if there is an opportunity to destroy it, then I would very much ask you to do it!
“At the request of such a beautiful senorita,” said Volodya, “it is simply impossible to refuse.” So let's think it over carefully and ... for the sake of our charming secretary and irreplaceable assistant "Miss Smith", who is so passionately worried about the political independence of proud Spain, let's go and blow it ... to the devil! I hope that they will never build such an unnecessary and ridiculous ship again!
They spent more than an hour discussing the upcoming operation, and on the way to the Cartagena Hotel Volodya told them why he had such a low opinion of this battleship.
“No, it’s nothing worse when poor people try to be like the rich in everything,” he said, starting the car. “For this reason, the Spaniards themselves in this series came out small and their speed is low, and so does the armor, so if these are battleships, they are very, very moderate in all respects, and much worse than even our battleships of the type“ Petropavlovsk ". Not to mention the English, French and Italian ships. There are four gun turrets of the main caliber on them, but they are staggered, because of which only six can normally shoot on one side, and only theoretically all eight. True, as many as 20 102-mm guns were installed on these ships, and even with a barrel bore after each shot. But although this is impressive, but, one wonders, why? Moreover, anti-aircraft guns on them are now extremely scarce. In addition, the new English guns of the main caliber with longer barrels than before were unsuccessful, since they vibrate strongly after each shot, which, of course, affects their accuracy. And the ship itself came out so tight that even lifeboats and longboats were first installed on the roofs of two middle towers, because otherwise there was simply nowhere to store them!
Small but beautiful!
“Well, and the worst,” added Volodya. - This is the presence of a cartose loading of his tower guns. This is partly convenient, but the experience of the Battle of Jutland and the Dogger Bank battle clearly showed that the saber charges in a combat situation are already too flammable. But is it necessary to say what this can lead to? So the Germans, with their shell loading, proved to be much more far-sighted than the conservative British, although I respect them very much.
“You just need acid to make an acid fuse, but Boris always has it with him, and it’s not a problem to get Bertolet’s salt and sugar.” In extreme cases, we use the heads of matches, because they also have Bertolet's salt.
Leoncia only shook her head in response. She had long been thinking that the two people with whom she so casually connected her life were very outstanding people, and now here is one more confirmation of this. They are sitting quite calmly in a car and discussing the upcoming operation to blow up an entire battleship, as if it were an ordinary longboat. After all, the most important thing is that she knew that there was nothing wrong with that, that this is how it will actually be, and all this self-confidence comes from life experience, but even more, perhaps not from him , but from the knowledge that they possess. Life set a task for him, the brain quickly analyzed it and immediately gave out information that somewhere once something like this already existed, and if so, then it was only necessary to repeat this in relation to new circumstances. Although this “only” just cost their work the most!
When they reached the hotel, they immediately retired to Volodya’s room and there they began to craft three warheads at once in order to destroy the battleship for sure. Based on the strength of the acid they had, Volodya and Boris calculated that the fuse would last about twelve hours, so Boris suggested that they leave the ship at about noon, so that the explosion would occur late at night, which would make it difficult to save the ship.
They decided to ask for a visit to Commissioner Gabriel Pradal, who was appointed here only in May. As a newcomer, according to Volodya, he had to take great care of his authority among the team, and therefore, be glad for foreign journalists. To enhance the impact on the sailors, Leonsia was dressed in a bright red silk suit, a wide-brimmed white hat made of straws, and Volodya and Boris dressed in light trousers, white shirts and colorful bow ties.
“Wait, beauty,” the piropo met her intricately * the first sailor who came to the Curro Mall, “even to the bottom, even to the devil to hell, but only to be with you!”
And then it went and went in the same vein, while those who were ill with words and imagination simply deafeningly whistled after her. The commissar met the guests near the gangway, apologized for the scruffy appearance of the ship deck, littered with all sorts of rubbish due to the fact that the ship was undergoing repairs, and he personally led them to the commander’s cabin. The commander of the ship, Captain 2nd rank Francisco García de la Vega, received them in the most cordial manner, treated them with coffee and oranges and promised to answer any questions not directly related to “military secrets”. Volodya answered that they would not encroach on any secrets, that they simply would like to tell truthfully about the everyday life of the republican sailors fleet. And not even so much the fleet, but just their ship, which so successfully operated against the rebel bases in Ceuta and Algeciras. Garcia de la Vega did not participate in those actions of the battleship, but, of course, immediately accepted them at his own expense and began to answer in detail the questions asked to him. And when he found out that this Volodya was the same “Mr. Snow” that publishes his articles about the fleet in the Naval magazine, he was imbued with such respect that he simply did not take his eyes off him. However, he could say little to him that Volodya would not know! For example, he knew from somewhere that the booking of each of the barbetas of the main gunner’s towers on Jaime was purely individual - a thing from the point of view of common sense is difficult to explain!
“Well, since you know even such details,” said Garcia de la Vega, grinning, “I have nothing to add here.” You can safely invite me to the battleship as an assistant.
“So, in fact, I'm just a“ cabinet specialist, ”Volodya remarked, dropping his eyes, supposedly from modesty. “Well, yes, I know all this, but ... I would hardly have managed to command such a ship in battle.” Do you know the task above my strength and capabilities. But that's why I came to you today and it would be very interesting for me, and my comrades, to see with your own eyes the real battle battleship, which had just been in battle with the enemy and still bearing traces of damage from bombs and shells .
Again, no shells in Jaime I have landed at all lately, and he was repairing it in Cartagena after two bombs from francist planes hit him. However, the ship's commander and commissar really liked the way he said this, well, completely in Spanish, and they joyfully nodded their heads.
“Probably all of you have a lot to do here,” - as it were, incidentally, remarked Leoncia, who played the role of an ignorant, but interested in everyone, “so maybe we would be better off talking to your sailors?” And most importantly, let us at least walk a little along your ship, feel its power, strength, and most importantly, the heroism of the people who are fighting for the republic on it.
There was no shortage of people who wanted to lead them along the ship! Boris and Volodya specifically began to climb it here and there, however, as they did not try, they were unable to lay their charges in any of the powder cellars of all three towers. Of course, no one suspected them of anything, they simply did not take their eyes off them for a second, so no matter how hard they tried, they removed the matchboxes with a flammable composition prepared by them from their pockets and put them somewhere between charges and failed. In vain did one of them divert the attention of the sailors walking with them, so that the other could fulfill his plan. Where the charges lay, it was the very work that was going on, and here they were offered to pass without stopping! And where they were not there, they could stand and talk as much as they like, but there was no sense from this !!!
What to do in this situation, Volodya could not even imagine, and Boris was clearly angry, but also could not do anything. Then Leoncia finally came up to them and, smiling sweetly, said that she personally had already looked here and that they could leave! Not believing their ears, Volodya and Boris grabbed her by the arms and immediately left the battleship, promising the commander and commissar to bring their material to the reading room before sending it to print. After that, they quickly got into the car and drove to the hotel, and Leoncia kept silent all the way and only smiled mysteriously.
Scheme of reservation and installation of weapons. 1923 chart
- Well, how is Leoncia? - Boris could not stand it. - How about you? After all, we were not able to put the charges, and we did not know what to do, as you suddenly called us. Well, at least did you manage?
- But I succeeded! She exclaimed in a contented voice. - I pretended that I need to tint my lips, well, the sailors who drove me on the ship, everyone began to look together everywhere, but not at me. These seconds were quite enough for me!
“Where did you put the charge, Leoncia?” - asked her Volodya, who still could not force himself to go with her to “you”. “I hope that he lies where they will not find him?”
- I stuck it, as you said, between the capes from the 102-mm guns. She specifically asked what kind of rollers these were, and they began to explain to me in the most detailed way, well, and then ... I already told you what I did there and how!
- Well, you and well done! - Having listened to her to the end, Boris said with enthusiasm. - We didn’t succeed, but you did - that's great! Now all that remains is to wait for the results, and even better, get the hell out of here as soon as possible so that the security service doesn't delay us.
“On the contrary, we won’t leave anywhere before the explosion,” Volodya said. “And then, after the explosion, we will also stay here for some time, so that after that no one would even think of suspecting us!” They are undergoing repair work, sailors are completely free to walk along the corridors with cigarettes in their teeth, so is it far to sin? It will be enough for you, Boris, to throw away all your pyrotechnics and that's it - no one will ever suspect us of anything. But if we take and leave now, then the head waiter will immediately tell where he should be about our hasty, and, therefore, suspicious departure, from which it may be suspected of us. Besides, there they are, look, sailors from the battleship are wandering around the streets and, in principle, they can be bribed or intimidated by any of them, so we have no reason to leave here, we have not yet examined all of the local attractions!
Barcelona, October 1928 Alfonso VIII and Jaime I
The rest of the day they rested! Once again we visited the Roman amphitheater and the ancient ruins located literally a stone's throw from the hotel. Then they examined the Moroccan castle, the Santa Lucia military prison and the medieval basilica De la Caridad, after which they again went to the cape to bathe before going to bed, and only after that they got into Volodya’s room to wait for the results of the diversion.
An hour passed, another, it was midnight, and there was still no explosion. The result was that they fell asleep, unable to control sleep, and the mined ship at the pier still stood.
This battleship looked like in 1937 ...
In the morning Boris began to rush about the room, like a tiger put into a cage.
“You definitely put a charge between the caps?”
“Well, yes, exactly,” Leoncia answered again.
“Or maybe it was not the charges, but the shells, and you put it between them?”
Well, no, is she really such a fool that she cannot distinguish between a charge and a shell? No, what he gave her, she put it there.
- And what kind of bomb was that, do not you remember? He continued to question. - I did make several of them at once ...
- The one that was from a brass sleeve, because you yourself said that it was more convenient for me.
- Well, yes, that's right. But just why then doesn’t it explode?
- How do I know? - Leonsia shrugged. “We cannot go now and check what happened there.” We'll have to wait ...
- You can only envy your peace!
“But I don’t understand why you, Ossi, are so nervous, in fact, because of a trifle.” Well, we didn’t blow it today, we will blow it tomorrow! After all, the ship is not leaving the port anywhere ...
They had breakfast without any appetite, then, taking a camera with them, again went up to the Moroccan castle. The view of the harbor from here was simply magnificent, and the battleship near the pier was very visible. It was exactly noon when Volodya finally ordered:
- Let's go from here, failed, apparently, our idea!
And then on the battleship quite unexpectedly there was a deafening explosion!
From the hill on which they stood, a bright flash was clearly visible in the area of the third tower of the main caliber, and the flame shot high up, and debris flew from the chimney in all directions.
- Hooray! - Boris cried out loudly, and Volodya followed him, and Leoncia picked up after them: - Hooray, hooray!
Model battleship "Jaime I" at the Naval Museum of Cartagena
Fortunately, no one here saw them, and after the explosion, nobody would have looked at where they were standing now. Meanwhile, a huge column of completely black smoke rose above the battleship high in the sky, illuminated from below by the yellow-red flame escaping from the hull. It was clearly visible how the port tugs and fire boats pulled to the scene of the incident and that they were trying to flood the burning ship with them, only they obviously could not cope with the fire. Jaime I still continued to burn, and soon there were new explosions that followed one after another. Then he slowly tipped to the starboard side, his deck was completely submerged, and thus his fighting career ended!
- Something you did not calculate! Volodya remarked to Boris as they went down to the car. - Apparently, either the acid turned out to be too weak or, on the contrary, the liner walls are too thick, but you see for yourself: it should have exploded at night, and now it is exactly noon. The delay is almost a day, that's how.
“But now no one will think about us,” Leoncia said in a conciliatory tone. “Well, and from what did this happen?” Well, who can say this now? The result is important here, but we have it!
Republican sailors play music. Almeria, Spain, February, 1937
And the three of them rushed to the telegraph in order to transmit to the newspapers and radio as soon as possible information about the explosion of the republican battleship Jaime I in the harbor of Cartagena.
Interestingly, the commission of inquiry, which dealt with the circumstances of his death, considered the main reason for the negligence of the ship's personnel. The explosion of cellars of 102-mm shells on the starboard side of the vessel, in her opinion, came from gas cutters used in the repair of one of the bulkheads damaged by a bomb from an Italian bomber, which was used in the immediate vicinity of these cellars. From it came the detonation of the cellars of the main caliber tower No. 3, and after that, shells for anti-aircraft guns detonated on the upper deck exploded from the fire that had begun.
However, Franco propaganda literally immediately started talking about the “fifth column” in the republican rear, which, of course, was good for her, but for the Soviet military advisers the notorious “column” was just an excuse: well, they say, here we can Do something if there are spies everywhere.
* Piropo is a purely Spanish bright and flowery appeal to a woman on the street. An insult is not considered!