Captain Charles William Henry "Cecil" Bebb (27 September 1905[1] – 2002[2]) was a British commercial pilot and later airline executive, notable for flying 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]

Charles William Henry Cecil Bebb
Cecil Bebb.jpg
Cecil Bebb
Birth nameCharles William Henry Cecil Bebb
Born(1905-09-27)27 September 1905
Allegiance United Kingdom
AwardsGrand Cross of the Imperial Order of the Yoke and arrows

Events of July 1936Edit

At 07:15 on the morning of 11 July 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 19 July 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 Simpson's 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, with daughter Diana Pollard and a friend as passengers to pose as tourists.


During WW2 Bebb became chief test pilot at Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Ltd, a British aircraft manufacturer, primarily a repair and overhaul shop, whose work included the Supermarine Seafire. In 1946 Bebb returned to Olley Air Service Ltd.[5]

Later careerEdit

Cecil Bebb continued his work in commercial aviation into the 1960s. As an airline executive he achieved the position of Operations Manager for British United Airways.[6]


Bebb himself was decorated by Franco in recognition of his services. In 1939, as the Spanish Civil War ended, Bebb was awarded the Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of the Yoke and arrows. Many years later, in 1970, Franco conferred on him the Order of Civil Merit and the White Cross for Military Merit, in a ceremony in Madrid.

The aircraft that carried Franco to Tetuán in Morocco, a dH89 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 Granada 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]



  1. ^ "Those fabulous flying years: joy-riding and flying circuses between the wars", Colin Cruddas, pg. 107
  2. ^ England & Wales, Death Index: 1916-2006
  3. ^ *Article by David Mathieson at, Tuesday 18 July 2006 Retrieved March 6, 2010
  4. ^ Alpert, Michael, p.18, A New International History of the Spanish Civil War Retrieved January 2012
  5. ^ Those fabulous flying years: joy-riding and flying circuses between the wars by Colin Cruddas Retrieved 16 October 2019
  6. ^ Jones, David The Time Shrinkers : The Development of Civil Aviation between Britain and Africa London 1971 p.250 ISBN 0853410208
  7. ^ The Spanish Civil War, Granada Television Retrieved 16 October 2019

External linksEdit