One of the last acts of the Spanish Civil War was the evacuation from the port of Alicante of 2,683 republicans on board the British coal-ship, the Stanbrook. This was the last ship to leave Spain before the end of the Spanish Civil War, and was captained by a Welshman Archibald Dickson. Dickson was the only captain of the numerous ships in the harbour to brave the Nazi blockade. Thousands more people trying desperately to escape were left stranded. awaiting their fate at the hands of Franco’s army. The ship was dreadfully overcrowded and survivors remember the fear of the u-boats during the crossing to Oran, Algeria. When they arrived, the French authorities refused Dickson permission to moor, but had to relent when he threatened to crash into the harborside. The refugees had to wait three months before they were allowed to disembark, from where they were taken to a concentration camp (in the pre-Nazi sense of the word) where many would die. Dickson died several months after the evacuation when the Stanbrook was hit by a torpedo from a u-boat.
La Cucaracha has this graphic contemporary account of the situation in Alicante, though there is no mention of the Stanbrook.
Around 50.000 refugees, Republican soldiers and officials, leftist intellectuals, writers, artists, often with their families, are arriving in Valencia and Alicante. Rumors are that French ships, or even the Republican fleet, will take the refugees to safety.
Casado and his family are taken aboard the British battle cruiser Galeata, but most refugees are stuck in the ports.
15.000 refugees are on the pier of the port in Alicante. The pier is so crowded, that in some parts there is no place to sit down, the people standing for hours, not able to move back or forth. Italian troops occupy the city, except the port . Many refugees have lost all hope and commit suicide, some army officers point their guns to themselves and shoot, other using knifes or razor blades to open their pulse veins. One soldier cuts his own throat in the midst of the crowd.
Then a battle ship is entering the port, bringing movement into the masses on the port. The promised ships? But it is a Fascist battle ship, ordering over loudspeakers to clear the port in 30 Minutes and surrender to the waiting troops at the port entrance. Everybody still carrying weapons will be shot dead on the spot. Nobody moves. After 30 minutes the machine guns of the ship fire warning shots over the heads of the refugees. Now they move, dropping their weapons and often also their belongings into the sea. These people know they are standing on the black lists of the Fascists, that they will be most certainly killed. A second wave of suicides take place, some people jump into the water and drown. Leftist journalist Eduardo de Guzman describes later a scene he witnessed: Mariano Vinuales, commissar of the 28th Division, and Maximo Franco, commander of the 12th brigade, each others left hand in a firm grip, shoot themselves in the head. They fall slowly to the ground, still holding their hands. Somebody next to Guzman says: “Soon we will envy the dead!”.
The Fascists at the port entrance divide the refugees into three groups: men, women and children. Around 200 men are killed, the other men are brought to the concentration camp at Albatera, where torturing and more killing takes place.