Gun Batteries in Mallorca
Looking out across Palma Bay today at the ferries and yachts, it is difficult to imagine that not so long ago over a dozen gun batteries kept a watch on the calm waters. While the guns have disappeared the revetments and tunnels still lie mouldering on private property as a reminder to times when Mallorca was under threat of naval attack.
The first fortification was San Carlos Castle on the promontory south of Porto Pi and the fortification was completed around the original medieval tower in 1610. Check out the San Carlos Castle webpage to find out more about the castle and its museum. In 1691 Can Pastilla, or Torre d´en Pau, was built next to Cap des Romaní tower, four miles southeast of Palma. At the time Spain was at war with France in what would be known as the Nine Years War and the gun battery was built to stop troops landing on what is now called Arenal Beach.
By 1888 improvements in naval guns brought about a need for longer range guns to stop ships entering Palma Bay. San Carlos had two new 240mm guns installed on the castle's south wall and four in a new battery along its west side, covering the beaches west of Porto Pi. Can Pastilla was also given new 240mm guns and while four guns pointed across Palma bay, two were aiming in the opposite direction. A new battery of four 210mm guns was also installed at Bonanova.
In 1889 a new battery position was studied at Cap Enderrocat, on a headland ten miles southeast of Palma. The guns would stop troops landing on Arenal beach and cover the coast to the southeast. They could also form a cross fire with San Carlos castle's guns across the bay.
When Spain went to war with the United States over the possession of Cuba and the Philippines in 1898, temporary defensive measures had to be taken. Timber and earth revetments were immediately built at both Illettes and Can Pastilla (next to Torre d'en Pau) and armed with guns. The war was over after six months and Spain had not only lost its territories, it had also lost its fleets.
In 1903 the Corps of Artillery started work on three new batteries with 150mm and 240mm guns designed to protect the island from the new ironclad ships appearing on the high seas.
While Alfonso XIII battery was built to protect Cap Enderrocat battery, the temporary structures at Illettes and Can Pastilla were made permanent with underground barracks and ammunition stores protected by moats and walls. Not long after they were completed World War I broke out and by November 1914 it was clear that the war was going to last a long time. Both the Allies and Axis were moving ships through the Mediterranean so the decision was taken to add three more batteries armed with new long range 150mm guns.
Cala Figuera battery to the west was designed to protect Magaluf and Palmanova beaches and it could cover Illettes' flank. Cabo Regana battery to the east would cover the coast from Enderrocat to Cap Blanc . Refeubeitx battery covered the approaches to Santa Ponça and Penyes Rotges beaches. Unfortunately, the underground complexes were not finished until 1923 by which time the war had been over for a long time and the guns were out of date; new guns arrived in 1927.
In 1936 plans were made for three more batteries armed with 150mm guns on the island's southern coast. However, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War put plans on hold and work did not start until 1941, when the Mediterranean was again full of Allied and Axis ships. By 1943 Cap Blanco, Cala Carrils and Punta Llobera (or Cap Roig) all had 150mm batteries on them bringing the number of batteries covering Mallorca's southern coast to ten. There were also seven batteries on the east coast and three covering the north coast.
Most of the batteries are on private property and off limits because they are in a ruined state and dangerous. You can visit San Carlos Fort and its museum near Porto Pi to learn more about the guns which protected Palma. You can also visit Torre d'en Pau which has been turned into a playground and park.
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