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Guided tour will visit the locations of air defence bunkers that protected Jávea airfield

Thursday 12th December 2013

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The Xàbia Viva heritage association has arranged a very special guided tour for Sunday 15th December through which it hopes to discover more about the role of Jávea during the civil war of the 1930s. Led by municipal archaeologist Ximo Bolufer, the tour will exploring the sites of the bunkers and anti-aircraft defense positions that protected an airfield that once ran across the flat plain just inland from the Arenal. The tour will begin at 9.00am next to the fish market in the port and finish in Portitxol where it will be possible to access the remains of a bunker that lies in private property.

The Spanish Civil War was fought between 1936 and 1939 with the forces of the established Spanish Republic (Republicans) on one side and the rebel Nationalists led by General Francisco Franco on the other. Jávea, then just a small fishing village on the Mediterranean coast, was in Republican territory and an airfield with two runways was built close to Camí Cabanes, an obvious target for Nationalist forces aided by the Italian Aviazione Legionaria and the feared 'Condor Legion', a unit composed of volunteers from Germany's Luftwaffe who developed the tactic of "terror bombing" to destroy civilian morale, of which the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica became the most infamous example.

To try and counter the air attacks, often launched from airfields in the Balearic Islands, as well as provide protection for Republican ships navigating along the coast, a network of air-defence installations was created along the coast. Beginning in the north, there was a bunker located on the western harbour wall at the northern end of the La Grava beach whilst another bunker was built on the Benissero beach, the gravel close to Bar La Siesta, both of which have long been destroyed, although photographs show that they were still visible in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Two further bunkers were located along the coast above the old tosca quarries of the Muntanyar I and in front of the El Cisne apartment block and the Clot de la Reina near the Parador hotel. They were still there in the late 1990s before being demolished and only clumps of vegetation seem to suggest their locations. There were a number of coastal observation points along the bay of the Arenal and at Portitxol there was a large thick-walled artillery battery some 90m above sea level which protected the bay of Jávea.

The airfield, bounded by the roads of Cabo de la Nao and Camí de Cabanes, had two runways of 1,000 metres and 920 metres long, running almost perpendicular to each other. The airfield accommodated a number of Soviet-built Polikarpov I-15 biplane fighters - known as 'Chatos' because of their snub-nosed design - and it is thought to have been protected by machine guns positions on the heights of Rebaldí.

On July 23rd 1938, Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM-79 Sparviero bombers based the Balearic Islands attacked the port facilities at Dénia and the airfield at Jávea where bombs fell in several places: those from the lead plane landed close to the channel of Fontana and the Arenal beach whilst those from the second killed a mule and injured a farm owner and his son close to the junction where the Jávea Tennis Club is located today. A third plane dropped its payload into the orange groves and vineyards on the very edge of the airfield. In total, some 36 bombs were dropped on Jávea, causing just two injuries and a dead mule.

Through Xàbia Viva, it is hoped that those interested will be able to discover more about Jávea and its role in the Spanish Civil War. Ximo Bolufer will be explaining the significance of the bunkers and the tour will try and uncover what remains to be seen of this defensive system. It will be divided into two parts: the first will uncover evidence in the port before a transfer by car to Cala Blanca from where there will be a short uphill walk to the anti-aircraft batteries in Portitxol. Participants are asked to bring a snack and comfortable shoes.

For more information about XÀBIA VIVA, click here to read their blog.

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