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Cervera, Pascual Cervera Y Topete

CERVERA, PASCUAL CERVERA Y TOPETE (1839-1909), Spanish admiral, was born at Medina Sidonia on the 18th of February 1839. He showed an early inclination for the sea, and his family sent him to the naval cadet school at the age of twelve. As a sub-lieutenant he took part in the naval operations on the coast of Morocco during the campaign of 1859-60. Then he was for some time engaged in operations in the Sulu Islands and the Philippines. Afterwards he was on the West Indian station during the early part of the first Cuban War (1868-78), returning to Spain in 1873 to serve on the Basque coast against the Carlists. He distinguished himself in defending the Carraca arsenal near Cadiz against the Federals in 1873. He won each step in his promotion up to flag-rank through his steadiness and brilliant conduct in action, and was awarded the crosses of the Orders of Military and Naval Merit, Isabella the Catholic, and St Hermengilde, besides several medals. Cervera had a great reputation for decision, unbending temper and honesty, before he was placed at the head of the Bilbao building-yards. This post he resigned after a few months in order to become minister of marine in 1892, in a cabinet presided over by Sagasta. He withdrew from the cabinet when he found that his colleagues, from political motives, declined to support him in making reforms and, on the other hand, unwisely cut down the naval estimates. When in 1898 the Spanish-American War (q.v.) broke out, he was chosen to command a squadron composed of four first-class cruisers, the "Maria Theresa," his flagship, "Oquendo," "Vizcaya," and "Columbus," and several destroyers. This ill-fated squadron only started upon its reckless cruise across the ocean after its gallant commander had repeatedly warned both the minister of marine and the prime minister, Sagasta, in despatches from Cadiz and from the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, that the ships were insufficiently provided with coal and ammunition. Some of them, indeed, even lacked proper guns. In compliance with the instructions of the government, Admiral Cervera made for the landlocked harbour of Santiago de Cuba, where he co-operated in the defence, landing some guns and a naval brigade. In spite of his energetic representations, Cervera received an order from Madrid, dictated by political considerations, to sally forth. It meant certain destruction. The gallant squadron met forces trebly superior to it, and was totally destroyed. The admiral, three of his captains, and 1800 sailors and marines were taken by the victors to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S.A. After the war, Cervera and his captains were tried before the supreme naval and military court of the realm, which honourably acquitted them all. In 1901 he became vice-admiral, in 1902 was appointed chief of staff of the Spanish navy, and in 1903 was made life senator. He died at Puerto Real on the 3rd of April 1909.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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