FREE BOOKS THIS WEEK!

I think we can all agree it has been a tough week (month… year…), so how about some free books?

For three days, all of my titles will be free across all Amazon sites worldwide in Kindle form. The whole Canna Medici mystery series, the whole Secrets of Spain series about the Spanish Civil War (including the mammoth three-in-one if you want to grab it as a set) and my most recent release, set in 19th century Valencia.

Never purchased a Kindle/e-book? You are late to the party, but I know there are still some of you out there. No need to have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app on any device for free and the book(s) will also be yours for free.

There is a limit of 1,000 copies of each up for grabs, so if you want Night Wants to Forget, I suggest you get in quick because that particular title always sells out first.

The sale starts at 00:01 Wednesday June 7 and ends at 00:01 Saturday June 10. These times are PST, so check the time zone for your area. (It’s 7pm June 7 in New Zealand, 9am June 7 in Madrid, 3am June 7 in New York, as a reference)

Quick links (all other amazon sites are also eligible) –

The Pop-up Globe Reviews – Part 2: As You Like It

I am almost ashamed to admit to how many times I have worked/watched As You Like It at the Pop-up Globe – 33. According to my diary, I will reach 40 shows by the season’s end, which seems nuts. I did 30 Romeo and Juliet’s last season, and 37 Twelfth Night’s, but such was last season that I spent a lot of that time taking care of 101 different tasks. This time around, I have been in the playhouse all the time, and have the benefit of hundreds of hours of Shakespeare.

But again, the disclaimer – I tend not to review books/shows/articles/anything done by friends unless specifically requested. This is an exception; I was not asked to review, I chose to, and while I do have friends at the PuG, I have done all I can to be impartial. Also, no whining about spoilers; Shakespeare wrote it in 1599. The PuG season is 90% done.  Let’s not go down the spoiler road again.

As You Like it, written about 1599, can be seen in different ways – either a light and easy musical comedy, or a romantic comedy with multiple layers and themes running throughout. Either way, you are guaranteed a good night out, and from what I hear in the groundlings night after night, that is precisely how people feel. As You Like It at PuG has a huge number of people who visit over and over, not for the story, but for the men who play the roles, such is their likeability and charisma on stage. The sheer volume of squealing teenage girls lining up to get in each night is testament to the pull of the King’s Company at PuG have on the under 20’s of Auckland.

As You Like It is not one of Shakespeare’s best known plays, despite having the infamous ‘all the world’s a stage’ speech neatly slipped in among the revelry. The beauty of As You Like It is the simplicity of the play, while Duke Senior and Duke Frederick are an older brother being usurped by the younger, Oliver and Orlando de Boys are an older brother denying the younger his inheritance from the deceased father. The story swirls about love, the love between Rosalind and Celia, two cousins together no matter what, and the love they find in the de Boys brothers, which comes together for forgiveness and healing in the stock-standard happy ending.

At the heart of it, As You Like It is goofball comedy. Touchstone (a role totally owned by Michael Mahony) is the fool of the court who runs away to the forest with Rosalind and Celia when they flee Duke Frederick in favour of the now-destitute Duke Senior. Touchstone is endlessly optimist and the cross-dressing done by Rosalind as she morphs into Ganymede gives an audience hours of homoerotic comedy that has many a parent covering children’s eyes while always laughing hysterically (I don’t bother; my 10 and 11yo boys don’t get it; my 12 and 13yo boys cringe through orgasms. Though, they are boys so will never miss a penis joke, regardless of age)

Men playing women playing men isn’t new to PuG; everyone’s darling, the talented  Aaron Richardson, did so as Viola/Cesario last season (who I saw in another As You Like It performance not two months ago). This year Jonathon Tynan-Moss takes PuG gender-bending one step further; playing Rosalind, who pretends to be Ganymede, who also impersonates Rosalind. Phew. To me, there is no PuG without the voice and excitement of Jonathon Tynan-Moss, and not just because I have watched well in excess of 100 shows (I want to guess about 130?) performed by him. There is no mystery involved as to how Tynan-Moss was brought back for a second season; if there was ever a man who could take on Rosalind in the 21st century, he is it. Despite the King’s Company being roundly advertised as an all-male cast, I have still stumbled upon probably 100 people genuinely surprised when they realised Rosalind is played by a man.

In a cast bursting with big personalities all vying for your love, As You Like It belongs to Tynan-Moss. From first appearing as a tearful young woman shaken by ill-treatment, to a girl who falls in love at first sight with the sweet Orlando, Tynan-Moss is as tender and opportunistic as any young girl in love. Then comes Ganymede, where Rosalind has to suddenly turn from court-softened girl to country-hardened man – ‘I could find in my heart to disgrace my man’s apparel and to cry like a woman, but I must comfort the weaker vessel, as doublet and hose ought to show itself courageous to petticoat’. Tynan-Moss brings the audience to constant laughter as Rosalind finds herself in Ganymede, something of a English chav in a doublet and hose (which I feel Shakespeare would have enjoyed). There is a ridiculous amount of comedy in how Rosalind grossly overcompensates in her attempts to seem manly, and how quickly those manly expressions collapse when Orlando appears, despite her best efforts. It takes a huge amount of physical presence to keep up with the male actor-playing vulnerable woman-desperate to be a man-who melts at the sight of her love, and I honestly wondered how that would all fly when PuG first announced the whole arrangement. How could a man understand a woman’s need to hide under the guise of a man for safety? Isn’t that whole aspect of the story lost by casting a man to play the role? The answer is yes, it is lost, and it doesn’t matter, even to this ardent feminist. It becomes irrelevant in a story of a gentle girl who goes out to seek her father in the forest and finds herself instead, all done beautifully in the hands of Jonathon Tynan-Moss.

The cast of As You Like It is filled to the brim with big characters, each worthy of a review on their own. Stanley Andrew Jackson is the cousin/sister we all wish we had, as Celia/Aliena, the voice of reason against Rosalind’s whimsy, and young and sassy enough to win everyone’s hearts. Pink-clad Chris Huntly-Turner steal every scene he enters as Le Beau, Duke Frederick’s French lover. You could put on a show called ‘The Life and Times of Le Beau’ and crowds would be forming around the block. Duke Frederick, played by Stephen Butterworth, is the villain of the story yet impossible to dislike. Joe Dekkers-Reihana, who plays shepherd Silvius, threatens to be the biggest love story of the play, in love with cold Phoebus (usually a woman in the play, but PuG went full gay romance to maximum effect).

This review is already getting too long, so time for the bullet points of what you need to come and see before it disappears forever (in no particular order)-

  • The enduringly sweet Adrian Hooke as Orlando as he composes songs to hang on the trees in the Forest of Arden and sings as Rosalind finds the messages of love. Any time Hooke looks at his Rosalind, and falls for Ganymede/Rosalind too, is just too precious to describe.
  • Stephen Butterworth playing the Duke Frederick, joining his courtiers as they cheerlead their wrestler in a match. I know I can’t do a high-kick like that!
  • Antonio Te Maioha playing both Charles the wrestler and Audrey the poor virgin shepherdess. Has a script ever had two such opposite roles in one play?
  • Any moment when John Bayne sings. Since As You Like It is the most musical of all Shakespeare plays, we are all in luck. Then he dangles from a roof and sorts out the mess which is a huge homoerotic love fest.
  • The pure physical comedy of Joel Herbert as Oliver, the less loveable of the de Boys brothers who ends up still being loveable.
  • Edward Newborn as Corin and Michael Mahony as Touchstone trying to seriously discuss the differences between the country and the court while sheep get drunk on stage and start judging humans.
  • The serious Stephen Papps as Jacques and Rawiri Paratene as regal Duke Senior as the only two adults on stage while everyone else is ridiculous.
  • The singing of Jonathon Martin as Phoebus outlines his love for Ganymede. Hands down the best moment of the show.
  • Joe Dekkers-Reihana describing what it is to be in love – ‘It is to be all made of fantasy, all made of passion and all made of wishes, all adoration, duty, and observance, all humbleness, all patience and impatience, all purity, all trial, all observance, and so am I for Phoebus’
  • Barry de Lore as Martext vomiting on the audience and high-fiving the Duke, who has leaves stuck in his hair. If de Lore’s vomits misses you, instead you may get hit with a flying tooth
  • A Titanic-themed montage between two male shepherds, a duke and his courtier and two male sheep
  • Oscar West as the most innocent sheep you could imagine, who then goes on to play a set of bagpipes

You don’t come to As You Like It in an attempt to get all cultured up (well, you could, I suppose). You come for the fun, and it is delivered night after night. The show is on constantly for 12 weeks, and keeping up the lols could be a real challenge, and yet the cast are laughing and smiling among each other at the end every night. I gave up working this show a while back and just enjoy the frivolity of the show with friends or by myself (hopefully no one has noticed how often I am there. One actor has, and I told him why I come so much, and he was lovely about it).

Gender at PuG – UGH

I looked up cast-lists of all-male As You Like It‘s in the 20th century. There were plenty, but are far outnumbered by mixed gender casts. Honestly all-male casts and the issue that raises reared its ugly head last season as well. I did my best to ignore the issue (despite being a card-carrying feminist) because I had too many other battles to fight. Shakespeare doesn’t have great female characters full stop. How men write women is still largely a misogynistic mess in 2017. All-male casts can hide behind the guise of being authentic to the work. As You Like It at PuG can’t do so, they sing One direction and Celine Dion. The actors create comedic overblown characters. There is nothing authentic in the production, and never claimed to be. The King’s Company is not all male to claim authenticity. Being all male makes the show unique as it celebrates single sex love in a way that mixed gendered shows could not. Whether that was intentional, I can’t be entirely sure. Making men play women adds layers  throughout the silliness of the play, in a way gender-mixed shows could not claim. The overall vibe would be totally different; not bad, just different. The PuG went with an all male cast because it worked last year.

The trouble is, an all-female cast would never be considered. It is still seen as risky or unpopular in 2017. There is the sexism that needs to be knocked on the head. A mixed gender cast would not be seen as a risk (it’s fair, assuming it’s an even split). Putting women in Shakespeare will not ruin Shakespeare. Emancipation of women didn’t destroy the world. Women fighting to vote didn’t destroy democracy, developing birth control didn’t destroy the family unit. Subsidising sanitary items will not be unfair to men (come on, society). Women on stage won’t hurt Shakespeare. Less alarm, more inclusiveness. Bringing in women instead of having all male casts will change the overall direction of the show, but that is not negative. It will show the young women in the audience (and there are plenty with PuG running show matinees) that there is a place for them on the stage, and in the world. You can’t be what you can’t see.

I would not dare want to hold a single actor accountable for the all-male cast decision. Not one of them is in the wrong. The perception that women on stage would be less successful is void; Much Ado About Nothing and Othello have women on stage (albeit not many, thank Shakespeare for that) and people pour into PuG to watch. Henry V has little for women, it’s a testosterone frenzy, written precisely to make England feel powerful over their enemies. Maybe women could play male roles. If a man can be a delightful young woman on stage, there is no reason why a woman cannot make an amazing soldier. I love every actor on the stage at PuG, male and female. I also respect all the women working backstage; without them, there would no shows to perform.

As long as male casts are seen as less of a risk, sexism is going to exist on stage. It is on audiences to part with their money for female-lead shows, not on PuG to drag slow minds into the 21st century. It’s easy to say PuG needs to make all the changes, but the naysayers are in comfy seats not taking on the audacious projects.

That’s the last time I will address this issue.

My next review is Much Ado about Nothing, plus my opinion on whether it is the shows or the building which draws the crowds.

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All opinions and photos are author’s own unless specified.

The Pop-up Globe Reviews – Part 1: Henry V

HENRY V – Come for the sword fights, but stay for the monologues

Source

First off, hello to everyone. Once again I slipped away into obscurity, and yes, it was due to working at another sports event. I am who I am. The World Masters Games have just finished in Auckland, and I have been with the organisation since last September. The main event itself was held over the last two weeks and now I am back to my desk, back to writing articles and finishing up my Thomas Cromwell Frailty of Human Affairs monster, which will be released on September 1 (pre-orders will be available soon).

As many of you know, last year I worked at Auckland’s Pop-up Globe. This year, for a variety of personal reasons (much to do with schedules), this new season of Shakespeare was to be one of watching the shows and being a volunteer. If you are still in the dark about PuG, it is a replica of Shakespeare’s second Globe in London (he burned the first one down with a cannon, because, you know, cannons). This year, PuG has two acting companies and four performances to be witnessed. I was going to review all four in one post, but you would have nodded off trying to get through it all. So here we are, first up with my personal favourite, Henry V.

Before I begin – a disclaimer. I tend not to review books/shows/articles/anything done by friends unless specifically requested. This is an exception; I was not asked to review, I chose to, and while I do have friends at the PuG, I have done all I can to be impartial. Also, no whining about spoilers; Henry V died in 1415 and Shakespeare wrote about it in 1599. The PuG season is 90% done.  Let’s not go down the spoiler road again.

The PuG first appeared in a dirty inner-Auckland carpark last year, with the classic ‘build it and they will come’ approach. And come they did. A temporary, exposed scaffold circle within the working dimensions of Shakespeare’s outdoor playhouse had a beautiful naivety about it. A world first; an idea born of passion and creativity, filled with people personally invested in its success. The public were to be personally welcomed in; my playhouse is your playhouse. Come and enjoy the spectacle. The PuG company of actors produced two shows, each so popular that by four weeks into the 12-week season, you could not get a seat. Some nights I had to get my ticket scanners to stop logging tickets and just get people through the gates because of the sheer volume of people lined up, desperate to get inside. People reappeared after Twelfth Night, still wiping tears of laughter, after Romeo and Juliet, out came hundreds of stunned faces.

For season two, the child has grown into a teenager, the same playhouse in a new spot. Now, a new location in an easy, flat (on grass, which for Auckland this rainy season has been a challenge), wide open location. No more queues at the box offices in an attempt to get in, with fingers crossed you can take someone else’s place. There are always seats and space to go around. No more queues at the gate or tackling the crowds to enter the site. Now you will be sent straight in with barely a smile, whereas last year staff chatted through endless discussions on the novelty of the project. The bar area is bigger and better this year, the wine drinkable, and you can easily find yourself making new friends before the playhouse even opens. Gone are the t-shirted volunteers, trotting back and forth, welcoming and discussing all things Shakespeare and PuG before the door opened (though they still around, still acting as ushers this year). The friendly faces at the merchandise box can answer all your queries and supply better programmes, and beautiful PuG posters (sadly the t-shirts did not make a comeback – staff only).

As I say, the child has grown up. The doors open and you are shown your seat, or to the groundlings yard, and told what you can and cannot do. The bulk of people are those who visited last year, or came this year due to the ear-chewing they got from friends for missing out. The playful innocence is dead, the novelty has worn off – now it’s down to business. And that is what you see on stage – last year saw two shows done by PuG, and another half-dozen shows by visiting companies (whose reviews ranged from ‘fun’, ‘intense’, ‘adequate’ to ‘can I get refund’). This year, PuG provides two acting companies, the Queen’s Company, a mix of ten men and four women performing Othello and Much Ado About Nothing, and the King’s Company, another all-male cast of 16 (like last year) with As You Like It and Henry V.

As I was saying – HENRY V – Come for the sword fights, but stay for the monologues

I have seen Henry V at PuG a whopping 28 times so far this season. I am a historian, okay? I had no plans to see every performance, I just somehow ended up seeing the first 20 and then decided to stick with the theme. We can wax lyrical about how Shakespeare murders history, but like it or not, much of how history is conveyed and believed is down to Shakespeare’s take on the facts (look at poor Richard III). Henry V is taken on by the King’s Company, with many of the cast of 16 taking on multiple roles to get the show done, a feat in itself. No need to be a history buff – the moment the actors appear in traditional costumes, you are right there in the mix of 1415 and 1625 (because, you know, Shakespeare). The costumes in Henry V are the jewel in PuG’s crown, and it is easy to be distracted by the desire to want to feel the fabrics, touch the crowns, flick the feathers in the hats. If they wanted to sell tickets for people just to get close the costumes, PuG could make a profit in just that alone.

Henry V is marketed as an action-packed night out, and it really is. The sword-fighting, the loud cannons, the flaming arrows have the crowd cheering and yelling with excitement. Gone is the temporary-looking scaffold behind the stage, now it sports a very permanent-looking backdrop, a brick castle facade, the heavens painted above for maximum effect. As I say, the novelty has worn off and PuG has gone pro. Fight Director Alex Holloway has been given free rein, hence the flaming arrows soaring overhead as Harfleur is tackled by the English. Shakespeare, when done well, uses little in terms of props. These fight scenes, clanging swords and all, takes this minimal prop usage and creates a spectacle that has groundlings stepping back from the stage for their own safety and then peering forward for the bloody climaxes. 10/10 for effect and enjoyment.

Shows so often have one or two performers who steal the show, and that effect goes in the right direction. Chris Huntly-Turner plays Henry with a performance which will leave you cheering for war, not exactly a sensation many want aroused within them. From the beginning, Henry comes across as both eloquent and rational, compelling and convincing. Henry was a man not born for the throne, but through battle became beloved, though Shakespeare cast him as a man who played away his youth and then became a King and a hero. Huntly-Turner shows that transformation; a young man prepared to stand alongside all who came before him, to take France by force, as his right. Henry is charming, honest, trusted and alluring in Huntly-Turner’s hands. He can swing a bloody sword and threaten rape and pillage at Harfleur, but can pray to God through tears when help is needed. He can put convincingly condemn lifelong friends to death or plead for the love of a French princess with equal poise and confidence. One school matinee gave me the opportunity to witness school boys gathered around Huntly-Turner, who sat with them, talking of the internal conflict a King has when sending men to their gruesome deaths, before giving them tips on winning the heart of a lady not half an hour later, the boys’ eyes lit with excitement the whole time. In a play which shows the realities of living during the Hundred Years’ War period, Huntly-Turner has the crowd laughing and cheering as well as in tears. It is possible to watch the entire performance through Chris Huntly-Turner’s facial expressions alone, such is the depth of the actor’s performance.

The sheer volume of passion in the voice of Michael Mahony, playing the role of Chorus (believed to have been played by Shakespeare himself), is enough to interest even the biggest Shakespeare beginner. Clad in an orange vest and pushing a cleaning trolley, Mahony sets the scenes, guides the audience, and bridges the gap between actor and audience member, regardless of the subject matter. From opening the play with a stirring pageant of words, to guiding the crowds over the sea, to the sad final moments about what came after Henry V, Mahony is a driving force in the cast, forever being in the action, and relatable to everyone in the playhouse.

Another stand-out is Joe Dekker-Reihana, who takes on the roles of both Boy and Princess Katherine. Dekker-Reihana brings a sincere and tenderfooted character to life, playing Boy, a commoner sent to fight for the King. Armed with a frying pan, Boy is subjected to much terror and pain as bit by bit, all he knows is destroyed. Dekker-Reihana then turns completely into the Princess Katherine, and in a flawless switch between French and English, adds laughter to the show when needed and stops the unwavering Henry in his tracks, a force all of her own. It is no wonder the end is so satisfying for the audience.

I could go on and on but instead, I’m going to tell you what you need to go and see (or see again). Watch out for –

  • Stephen Butterworth as Montjoy, an overconfident Frenchman who starts off telling Henry where to get off and ends up giving profound respect. Regardless of how the relationship evolves, Butterworth is engaging and believable (bonus point – Butterworth also plays Alice, Katherine’s maid, and is a real sweetheart)
  • Jonathon Tynan-Moss as Jamy, a Scottish captain who brings levity right when it is needed. You will also love him as the purple-clad Duke of Berri, a tearful prostitute, and as the Earl of Cambridge crying ‘never did faithful subject more rejoice at the discovery of most dangerous treason’
  • The epic costume changes done by Edward Newborn who plays both base-born Pistol and the King of France. Newborn plays two very different characters and pulls it off without so much as a wipe of his brow (except when the mud and blood needs to come off I assume). Newborn also holds one of the most powerful moments in the show, when he and Katherine share a silent moment after the capture of Harfleur
  • Joel Herbert as Westmoreland is uttering convincing and terrifying with a sword in his hand. Also keep an ear out for him in Act 2 Scene 4: ‘Scorn and defiance; slight regard, contempt, and any thing that may not misbecome the mighty sender, doth he prize you at. Thus says my king; an’ if your father’s highness do not, in grant of all demands at large, sweeten the bitter mock you sent his majesty, he’ll call you to so hot an answer of it, that caves and womby vaultages of France shall chide your trespass and return your mock in second accent of his ordnance!’
  • The moment Antonio Te Maioha appears as the Constable of France, ready for the final showdown with Henry

Much has been made of the use of all-male casts at PuG, but I will save my opinion on that for my As You Like It post. Henry V only has four female characters anyway (thanks, Shakespeare), and in this, three are played by men, one omitted completely. Hey, Shakespeare – #ifshecanseeitshecanbeit

Henry V still has five shows left. I will be there for all of them and you should be too. I recommend standing: I always do. I have a great ability to be invisible, so my constant presence has probably gone unnoticed, though my blanket in the colours of the flag of St George might make me stand out more on these last few cold nights, so come and say hi.

The dates are (pop ‘groundlings’ into the promo box for a $1 ticket) –

I shall be back tomorrow with my As You Like It review.

~~

All opinions and photos are author’s own unless specified.

This Week in Spanish Civil War History – Week 35/36/37: 12 March – 2 April 1937

March 12

The Republicans are finally in a position to launch an offensive. A midday offensive sees 100 Soviet Rata and Chato fighter planes launched along with two squadrons of larger Katiuska bombers, which have arrived from Albacete. The Italian Nationalists have had their planes grounded due to the fog and sleet water-logging their aircraft. Albacete is 260 kilometres south and has not suffered weather troubles.

As the planes bomb the Nationalists, the Republican divisions are able to attack on the ground with light tanks. Nationalist tankettes get jammed in the mud and are destroyed, easy targets. The Republicans fight back all through the day and forced the Nationalists back to Trijueque, seven kilometres north of Torija. The Nationalists will never regain this ground, and most of the Nationalist XI Gruppo de Banderas are killed, including their commander.

Franco had promised to start a western offensive from Jarama, launching Spanish Nationalists to support the Italians, but this offensive has not appeared. This is allowing the Republicans to have a little breathing space as they fight. The stalemate and killing at Jarama is one possible reason for the lack of support, but another is Franco’s lack of enthusiasm. It is critical in how to battle will play out. Propaganda is also beginning, with the Spanish not pleased that the Italians are launching attacks in Spain, and the Republicans, calling the International Brigades all Jews and Communists (that’s a quote from Germans in Spain, not my opinion), could beat Italians. There is still another 11 days of this battle to play out, but both military and propaganda moves are being created and setting precedents, and numbers are swelling, with the Nationalists about to swell to 50,000 men and the Republicans at 20,000.

March 13

The fog and rain which has plagued both sides abates, allowing the Italian Penne Nere division to retreat from Trijueque. The Republicans attack the towns of Trijueque and Casa del Cabo, one of the first ground successes in the battle. Lister’s 11th column ride tanks along the Zaragoza road while the 14th column under Mera manage to cross the Tajuña River and attack the town of Brihuega. The local CNT militia help Mera to cross the river with a pontoon bridge, which sends the Italians into retreat.

March 14

The Republicans are able to rest after their initial success and their airstrikes continue against the Italians. They are now 20,000 strong, protected by 70 planes and 60 tanks. The Nationalists are reinforced to a huge group of 45,000 men, 50 planes and 80 tanks. Yet, despite this imbalance, the battle is stable and mostly even through the Guadalajara region.

The Republicans capture the strategic and famous Palacio de Ibarra from the Italians at Brihuega. The XI International Brigade and the Garibaldi Battalion take it, and it becomes a symbol of propaganda. Ernest Hemingway writes of the fight and how they took control of the access road through Brihuega and the Guadalajara region. The battle again sees Italians fighting Italians in the Spanish Civil War.

Palacio de Ibarra after the battle

March 16

Fighting continues in the Brihuega region for days and the Republicans slowly make process in pushing back the Nationalist front. The tide has finally turned in the Republicans’ favour. Franco does not deploy any more troops to the campaign and many are upset the Italians are fighting their own pursuits in a Spanish war.

March 18

The weather has again been hampering efforts on both sides. The Republican 14th column still have control of their pontoon bridge on the Tajuña River. Sleet abates about midday and the Republicans are able to get their planes in the air. Through early afternoon Lister and the 14th column fight back the Italians and the Republicans have Brihuega surrounded. The strong Italian Littorio division fighting for the Nationalists are forced to retreat and the XI International Brigade beat back the last of the Nationalists and Italians from the region. While the Italians have a tactical retreat and many are saved from death, they have been roundly defeated. There are so many Nationalists in the area it takes until the following morning to either kill or capture them, or they manage to escape the slew of Republican tanks coming at them.

 Cars bombed from the air on the Zaragoza road

March 19

The Guadalajara battle is over. The Republicans have taken huge amounts of the Nationalist artillery and equipment, along with critical documents about the Italian plans in Spain once the Nationalist bases are raided. Around 650 Italians are dead, 500 captured and another 2,000 injured. Thanks to the writings of Ernest Hemingway in the area, the US media sway in the Republicans direction, and Hemingway raises $40,000US to buy ambulances for the Republicans. The US opinion has turned in the Republicans’ favour, but due to communist input in Spain, the US will not openly support the Republicans.

The Spanish government have the documents detailing the Italian involvement in the war, all details of Italy’s violation of the Non-Intervention Committee. Spain submits the papers in London, but the useless Committee refuse the papers and Spain seeks to present them before the League of Nations in Geneva. The constant attacks by Germany and Italy are having a devastating impact as they seek to spread fascism.

March 23

The Republicans at Guadalajara now have Gajenejos and Villaciviosa de Tajuña. All remaining Nationalist men are on the front lines between Ledanca and Hontanares, but the Republicans have enough of a hold on Guadalajara that these men are trapped and must leave the region for safety. These front lines will not move again.

March 31

The War of the North begins

The cruel General Mola decides to launch another offensive in northern Spain with a whopping 50,000 soldiers. Because the Nationalists cannot gain Madrid, instead they seek to take hold of the Basque Country. A new tactic is employed; the Condor Legion launch terror attacks on non-military targets, set to wipe out complete northern villages. Durango (30 kilometres southeast of Bilbao) is the first village targeted as bombs are dropped from German Ju-52 and Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 planes on churches during morning Mass. As people flee the bombing, Heinkel He 51 machine-gunners fly low and fire on the public. Around 300 people are killed, and another 2,500 are injured, all civilians. Nationalists attack a cloister, killing all 14 nuns. The nearby city of Bilbao sends men, police protection and ambulances to help the town, but another air strike blocks their aid.

tiny Durango being bombed by the German planes

Durango is the first place in Europe to be bombed in such a manner, a test run for what shall lay ahead in Spain and then WWII. The tiny village of Elorrio ten kilometres southeast is also bombed the same day, also for no reason whatsoever. The Nationalists deny all claims of killing civilians, blaming Republican uprisings for the church attacks. The war has taken a new turn, using civilian Spaniards as target practice.

The Nationalist wish to wipe out the north, and it is now only twenty days away from the infamous bombing of Guernica.

A more detailed article on the bombing of Durango will be posted in a special This Week in Spanish Civil War History: Extra

April 1

Six German JU-52 bombers attack the city of Jaen, desite the fact they have no military targets. Approximately 159 people are killed and hundreds more injured, another practice raid ahead of Guernica.

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This is not a detailed analysis, just a highlight (lowlight?) of the week’s events. Things get lost in translation – Feel free to suggest an addition/clarification/correction below. The more the world remembers, the better. All photos and captions are auto-linked to source for credit, and to provide further information.

This Week in Spanish Civil War History – Week 34: 5 – 12 March 1937

March 5

014guadalajara

The Nationalists, fuelled with Spanish, Moorish and Italian soldiers, are preparing to attack Guadalajara, 60 kilometres north-east of Madrid. After all the failed attempts to take Madrid, and the collapse of battle at nearby Jarama, the Nationalists are keen to engage again. The Italians, fresh from taking Málaga, are ready to fight. The Nationalists have gathered 35,000 men, hundreds of artillery supplies over 100 tankettes, 32 armoured cars, 3,600 vehicles and 60 planes. Much of the tank, car and plane equipment comes from the Italians, as Mussolini strongly supports the offensive.

The Republicans are the 12th division of the Republican army with only 10,000 men, but only 5,900 rifles, 85 machine guns and 15 artillery pieces. They do have a few light tanks on their side. Guadalajara, until now has been peaceful, so no trenches, road blocks or defensive have been set up, but the Republicans know (assume), a Nationalist attack from the south is imminent. Meanwhile, the Nationalists are preparing to attack the 25 kilometre stretch of the Guadalajara-Alcalá de Henares road, south of Guadalajara, which will cut off the main road, and five other roads which stem from the area.

March 8

The Nationalists attack the front lines at Guadalajara at 7am with both air raids from 70 planes and artillery fire. They break the front lines within half an hour. The 50th Republican Brigade are broken by a barrage of 250 tankettes, extensive artillery, machine guns and trucks and heavy fire. The Italians take the towns of Alaminos, Catejon and Mirabueno on the first day. They capture 12 kilometres of ground, only slowed by heavy late winter fog, not yet at their planned locations of Brihuega and Guadalajara. They have taken the hills, and have a straight downhill roll towards Madrid, and the Republicans are overwhelmed and call for extra men and tanks.

Nationalist machine-gunners in Guadalajara

March 9

Italian tankettes with flame throwers continue the advance to Guadalajara, but the fog has not lifted, making visibility almost zero. The weather allows the surviving 5oth Republican Brigade members to escape the advancing Italians. By midday, the XI International Brigades arrives at the front – the Thaelamnn, André and Commune de Paris Brigades, all German, French and Balkans volunteers. But the Nationalists are using the Blitzkrieg technique of bombarding the enemy with short, sharp attacks on multiple fronts, which means the enemy slowly becomes surrounded. The Republicans have neither the manpower or firepower to fight this technique. By nightfall, the Nationalists have captured another 18 kilometres and the towns of Almadrones, Masegoso and Cogollor. The Nationalists are now outside the town of strategic Brihuega.
More Republican reinforcements start to arrive, with the arrivals of the Republican 49th and 12th Divisions. Between them and the XI International Brigades, they have 1850 men, 1600 rifles, five tanks and 34 machine guns. War hero General Lister arrives with the Republican 11th division at Torija, on the Madrid-Zaragoza road between the front and Guadalajara. He also places the 12th division to the west and 14th to the east of this main road to take on the Nationalists the next day.
 

March 10

The Republican forces have grown – 4350 men and 26 tanks when the XII International Brigades arrive – the Italian Garibaldi and the Polish Dabrowski battalions. The Nationalists start the day by bombarding the XI International Brigades on the ground and by air. They have no luck breaking the IB’s, despite having 26,000 men on the ground, 900 machine guns and 130 tankettes. They do capture the towns of Brihuega and Miralrio without any trouble.

Both the XI and XII International Brigades are bombarded by the Nationalists all day. The Italian Garibaldi battalion come up against Italian Nationalists at Torija, and the IB’s try to get their countrymen to defect away from the fascists. The fight stops for the day as both sides dig in, three kilometres north of  Torija, and defend themselves as leaflet drops and loudspeakers try to convince Italians not to kill one another.

Republican General Lacalle of the 12th division is forced to resign and Nino Nanetti of the Italian Communists takes over. He cites health (possibly injury) reasons, but he has been clashing with General Jurado, which has been weakening the already overwhelmed Republican strength.

March 11

The Italian Nationalists attack the XI and XII International Brigades again outside Torija and break through, taking the town and main road as the IB’s have to retreat to survive. The Spanish Soria division break through and take both the towns of Hita and Torre del Burgo to the west. Italian planes are halted due to the bad weather, the sleet and fog jamming their planes in soaking airports.

Republican T26 tank

March 12

The Republicans are finally in a position to launch an offensive. A midday offensive sees 100 Soviet Rata and Chato fighter planes launched along with two squadrons of larger Katiuska bombers, which have arrived from Albacete. The Italian Nationalists have had their planes grounded due to the fog and sleet water-logging their aircraft. Albacete is 260 kilometres south and has not suffered weather troubles.

As the planes bomb the Nationalists, the Republican divisions are able to attack on the ground with light tanks. Nationalist tankettes get jammed in the mud and are destroyed, easy targets. The Republicans fight back all through the day and forced the Nationalists back to Trijueque, seven kilometres north of Torija. The Nationalists will never regain this ground, and most of the Nationalist XI Gruppo de Banderas are killed, including their commander.

Franco had promised to start a western offensive from Jarama, launching Spanish Nationalists to support the Italians, but this offensive has not appeared. This is allowing the Republicans to have a little breathing space as they fight. The stalemate and killing at Jarama is one possible reason for the lack of support, but another is Franco’s lack of enthusiasm. It is critical in how to battle will play out. Propaganda is also beginning, with the Spanish not pleased that the Italians are launching attacks in Spain, and the Republicans, calling the International Brigades all Jews and Communists (that’s a quote from Germans in Spain, not my opinion), could beat Italians. There is still another 11 days of this battle to play out, but both military and propaganda moves are being created and setting precedents, and numbers are swelling, with the Nationalists about to peak at 50,000 men and the Republicans at 20,000.

Republicans with a captured tankette

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This is not a detailed analysis, just a highlight (lowlight?) of the week’s events. Things get lost in translation – Feel free to suggest an addition/clarification/correction below. The more the world remembers, the better. All photos and captions are auto-linked to source for credit, and to provide further information.