Captain Charles William Henry "Cecil" Bebb (27 September 1905[1] – 2002[2]) was a freelance pilot who flew General Francisco Franco from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco in 1936, a journey which was to trigger the onset of the Spanish Civil War.[3]

Events of July 1936[edit | edit source]

File:Dragon rapide g-aeml flying arp.jpg

A de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft

At 07.15 on the morning of July 11, 1936, Captain Bebb took off from Croydon Airport, London, in a Dragon Rapide aircraft, with a navigator, his friend Major Hugh Pollard, and two female companions.

The flight log records that the aircraft was bound for the Canary Islands. The purpose of Bebb's flight was to collect General Franco from the Canaries and fly him to Tetuán in Spanish Morocco, at that time a Spanish colony, where the Spanish African Army was garrisoned.

Franco was recognized by the government in Madrid as a danger to the Second Spanish Republic and had been sent to the Canaries in order to keep him away from political intrigue. Had a Spanish plane flown to the islands, the authorities would likely have been alerted, but the British aircraft attracted little or no attention. Bebb and Franco arrived in Tetuán on July 19 and the general quickly set about organising Moroccan troops to participate in the coming coup.

It is possible that British security services may have been complicit in Bebb's flight. Certainly his companion Pollard had previously been an intelligence agent.[4] The flight itself was planned over lunch at Simpsons in the Strand, where Douglas Francis Jerrold, the conservative Roman Catholic editor of the English Review, met with the journalist Luis Bolín, London correspondent of the ABC Newspaper and later Franco's senior press advisor. Jerrold then persuaded Pollard to join the enterprise, and Pollard in turn recruited Bebb as pilot, plus his daughter Diana, and a friend, as "cover".[5]Template:Failed verification

It is not clear how much or to what level the British government knew about the activities of the secret services in aiding Franco. In any event Britain remained officially neutral throughout the duration of the Spanish Civil War, although volunteers from the British Isles fought for both sides.[6]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

Bebb himself was decorated by Franco in recognition of his services. In 1938, as the Spanish Civil War ended, Bebb was awarded the Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of Red Arrows. Many years later, in 1970, Franco conferred on him the Order of Merit and the White Cross, in a ceremony in Madrid.

The aircraft that carried Franco to Tetuán in Morocco, a DM89 Dragon Rapide (G-ACYR), was presented to Franco as a gift, after the end of World War II, and is now displayed in the Museo del Aire near Madrid.

In a 1983 interview for the British television documentary The Spanish Civil War, Bebb stated that he had been approached by "a gentleman from Spain, who asked me if I was prepared to go to the Canary islands to get a Rif leader to start an insurrection in Spanish Morocco. I thought 'what a delightful idea, what a great adventure'".[7]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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External links[edit | edit source]

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