Friday, July 10, 2009

The Auxiliary Navy of the Basque Country

In my naivety I thought I read almost everything there is to read on the Spanish Civil War, until I came upon some information on the Auxiliary Navy of the Basque Country. Intrigued, I started searching for more information and found this web site. It makes fascinating reading…

The Auxiliary Navy was one of the most unusual and least known military units that took part in the Civil War. Unusual as well in the sense that it exclusively answered to the Basque Government.

The Basque Navy was established in October 1936 to assist the Republican Navy to protect maritime traffic and fishing in Basque waters and keep access to Basque ports free from mines.

Many fishing boats were converted to warships, staffed by volunteers with backgrounds of masters, pilots, engineers and stokers… By June 1937 the Basque Navy counted some 700 members.

And of course, they all wore the Basque beret. Dressed in the blue overalls like the workers' militias in Republican Spain, they did not use insignia or braids to identify the different ranks. A street uniform was issued as well, consisting of a jacket and trousers (ranging in colour from greenish grey to dark blue), together with fisherman's boots and a dark beret.

A most interesting book on the Basque Navy can be downloaded for free here. A number of videos on the Basque Navy can be watched here.

Portraits (top - down):
Cdt. Asolo G. Bilbao de los Araba
Ricardo Achicallende Tellechea
Cdt. Santiago Asolo Landea
Jose I. Murelaga in the Maritime Police uniform

1 comment:

  1. Nice Blog. Sorry I'm late in discovering it.
    My facination with the Beret started with a "three-quarter" bed I purchased in 1986...while passing-thru Paris, Texas. The Seller, a gypsy-looking woman from Flagstaff, Arizona, told me it belonged to a Basque Sheepherder in Southern Utah (and was used in his wagon). I paid her 100.00 and have been sleeping in it ever since.
    The frame is 20" high, with a 32" width. It was made between 1898-1915.
    Anyway, (it) led to my facination with Berets, Basques, and your Blog. Many Thanks.