This Week in Spanish Civil War History – Week 49/50: 19 June – 3 July 1937

June 21

Andreu Nin, the leader of the POUM is assassinated. After being held for four days in a secret Communist prison in Alcála de Henares and tortured, Soviet KNVD members kill Nin. Nin never gave the Soviets the information they interrogated him and his fellow members for, or never had the information.  The exact details of Nin’s killing will never be fully established. Nin had been the leader of the POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) for two years, and stood against fascism and Stalinism, and in favour of workers and peasants’ rights. Nin’s death by Soviet agents marked the demise of both the POUM and its revolutionary movement. Hundreds more are killed or imprisoned after Nin’s death. While Communists and anti-Stalinists are technically both anti-fascist and against Franco’s Nationalists, the constant fighting between leftist factions is a huge contributor to the Republicans being by Franco’s men.

June 24

Bilbao is now fully in the hands of the Nationalists and hundreds of thousands have fled either over the border into France or west towards Santander and the Galician coast. The total toll of the Bilbao battle is not established, but the defeated Republican/Basque fighters had started with 50,000 troops, the winning  Nationalists with 75,000 (including 15,000 Italians, which only around 105 killed). Nationalists give out food to some of the remaining women in the Basque region, those who were unable to flee the city. The strategic production factories of the Basque country are now in Nationalist hands.

June 27

The high point of Soviet intervention in the SCW is coming to a close. The Soviet Union has been sending regular shipments of military equipment to Spain to help the Republicans, in return for Spain sending its gold to the Soviets, who get the better end of the deal, grossly overcharging the Spanish government. At this stage, there are over 1000 Soviet tank crews on the ground in Spain and the bulk of trained pilots fighting for the Republicans are Soviet. The communist faction of the Republican clause is now strongest than ever and the diplomatic relations between the Spanish and Soviets remains strong in an effort to defeat fascism in Spain. But now shipments will become sparse and Soviet men will be withdrawn from Spain as the Nationalists continue to win and the Republicans suffer massive casualties and lose ground.

June 30

The front line around the Aragon region is a huge 450 kilometres stretch from the Pyrenees down to the city of Teruel. The Republicans have far more troops in the region and the Nationalists have not made the area a priority. The Republicans have already attacked Huesca and failed, and are yet to attack Teruel. As a large Brunete battle is being mounted west of Madrid, the Republicans decide to start planning an offensive of the historical village of Albarracín, 35 kilometres west of Teruel. That way, the Nationalists will be forced to keep troops in the Aragon region instead of attacking Brunete. The front lines on the east side of Madrid around Jarama and Guadalajara still have not moved since their offensives early in the year. The Albarracín offensive is prepared for early July.

XV International Brigades outside Brunete

July 2

The preparation for the battle of Brunete is almost complete. Brunete is 30 kilometres west of Madrid, and is chosen as it is on the Extremadura Road. The Nationalists hold the region of Extremadura and use the roads to supply troops circling Madrid. By cutting off supplies, the Republicans aim to save the city of Madrid from the Nationalists. Once Brunete is taken, then the Republicans plan to march 100 kilometres southwest to Talavera de la Reina, which has been held by the Nationalists for the whole war, nearing on one year. This will cut off Nationalist troops from the southern strongholds. Republican troops at Carabanchel, the southern suburbs of Madrid, will be launched at the same time to tie up Madrid-based Nationalists.

The Communists within the Spanish government have been pressing to take Brunete for months, and are pulling Soviet aid back at the same time, as Republican ports have been taken by Nationalists. Spanish Prime Minister Juan Negrín wants France to open its borders to allow arms shipments through, but first they must prove to the French they are capable of military action. The offensive has been well planned and with large-scale reorganisation of the Republican men and equipment. Experienced commanders are put in place and will operate a surprise attack, despite being planned for three months. Upwards of 85,000 men are placed ready to take the hilly terrain with new Soviet tanks, attacking the Nationalists who have 20,000 fewer troops in the region. The attack is planned for July 6.

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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 44/45/46: 15 May – 5 June 1937

Sorry the delays over the Shakespeare season. Weekly posts will now return.
May 15

Prime Minister Largo Caballero resigns from his post, now having no alliance with either Anarchists, Socialists or Communists. A member of the centre-left PSOE, Juan Negrín, is appointment Prime Minister, and selects a group of ministers from all groups, Republicans, Communists, Socialists and Basque men to form the government. The CNT however are now cut out entirely from Spain’s government, despite having huge support around the country. The Anarchists are quickly losing strength and the POUM is about to be outlawed completely in Barcelona and around Spain.

May 20

The Nationalist offensive on the Basque Country is destroying the Republicans, who come up with a plan to divert Nationalist troops away from the north. Republican troops in Aragon start plans to take Huesca, and troops in Madrid decide to launch an offensive on Segovia, both to take place by the beginning of June. Bilbao in the north has not yet been taken by Nationalists, but the Republicans/Basque fighters have no reinforcements nor supplies getting into port, and need the Nationalists distracted.

May 27

The La Batalla newspaper, run by the Soviet anti-Stalin POUM ( Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) is banned in Spain by the new centre-left Negrín parliament. Other communist factions are destroying the POUM.

May 28

The temporary capital city of Valencia is bombed from the air by Nationalist planes, killing 200 people and destroying 50 buildings while attempting to bomb ships in Valencia’s large port. The bombing is done while the city is sleeping, and the Red Cross hospital is targeted during the attack.

NB: A separate post on the attack of Valencia will also be posted.

May 29

Madrid is still surrounded by Nationalist troops since the siege on the city in November 1936. Daily air raids continue to hammer the innocents civilians of the city, and Republican troops devise a plan to break out of the city and push back Nationalist front lines. Republican men, led by a Polish communist leader, use armoured vehicles to try to push back the Nationalists, but the plan is quickly beaten by strong Nationalist troops. The city has been surrounded by large battles in Jarama and Guadalajara, and now the Republicans begin plans to take Brunete, a town 25 kilometres west of the city, and Segovia 90 kilometres north, to push back front lines and relieve Madrid. In the meanwhile, the daily air raids continue from German Condor Legion planes, and Spanish men are taken to Russia to be trained in Russian planes to aid the Republicans against this onslaught.

Two Soviet bombers, on behalf of the Republican forces, bomb air bases at Ibiza, off the coast of Nationalist-held Mallorca. The planes, sent from Cartagena, bomb the German cruiser Deutschland, mistaking it for the Nationalist cruiser Canarias. The Deutschland was off the coast of Ibiza as part of the Non-Intervention Committee’s patrol. Both pilots misidentify the ship and drop bombs, killing 31 and wounding another 74.

May 31

Due to the bombing of the Deutschland, both Germany and Italy decide to leave the Non-Intervention Committee. (Pointless as both had defied the Committee from the very beginning and had been killing Spaniards throughout the entire war.) German forces fight back by attacking the port city of Almería, relatively safe during the war until now. The cruiser Admiral Scheer fires off 200 rounds, killing 19 and wounding another 55. Around 150 buildings are destroyed. All the German and Italian ships on the Mediterranean are all backing the Nationalists, not neutral at all.

Spanish prime Minister Juan Negrin defies calls to attack Germany for these killings, as he does not want open war with Germany. The League of Nations calls the attack on Almería justified for the accidental attack on the Deutschland, reminding Spain that Europe and the world do not care about their pain.

The Republican army have three divisions in the Sierra de Guadarrama, the mountains on the north side of Madrid. The 34th, 35th and 69th divisions are brought together under Colonel Domingo Moriones, and given artillery and T-26 tanks. The Guadarrama is held by Nationalist troops and the Republicans attack, and break through the front line at San Ildefonso, around 80 kilometres north of Madrid. the 69th division also take nearby Cruz de la Gallega. The XIV International Brigade head towards La Granja, which brings them close to the strategic Segovia Road and advance towards Cabeza Grande, but only through suffering serious casualties.

June 1

The Republican forces reach La Granja north of Madrid on their way to Segovia, but  the Nationalists begin to fight back with air raids on advancing Republicans on the ground. The Republicans lose the town of Cabeza Grande and casualties begin to mount.

June 3

High ranking Nationalist General Emilio Mola y Vida is killed when his Airspeed Envoy twin-engined aircraft crashes in bad weather on route to Vitoria. Mola is head of the northern Nationalist army, which has been successfully attacking the Basque Country, while Franco is able to focus on Madrid and the south. The war began with Franco, Mola and Sanjurjo all in equal power, but Sanjurjo died in a light plane crash in July 1936. Now with Mola also dead in a light plane crash, Franco is able to assume total control and no one is capable of standing up to him. Rumours that Franco had the men killed swirled, but nothing to suggest more than accidents almost a year apart was ever found. In 1948, Mola will would posthumously named a Grandee of Spain and made a Duke, the title given to his son.

Fidel Dávila is named head of the Nationalist troops in the north to continue the assault on Bilbao.

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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 16: 1 – 7 November 1936

Week 16 sees the starts of the Siege of Madrid, which will last until the end of the war in 1939. Also, the Republican government leaves Madrid for Valencia

November 1

The Nationalist army, which has been marching north from Seville since the outbreak of war, has now reached the outskirts of Madrid. Around 90% of Republican fighters in Madrid are civilian militia, and the government has little control, as they have been set up by the trade unions and communist groups. All the small towns surrounding Madrid have now been taken by Nationalists and the Republicans are now backed into the city. Nationalist numbers are at now 25,000 but the Republicans have double the men. But the Nationalists are highly trained and battle ready, while the Republicans are not soldiers or have proper weapons and supplies. Propaganda leaflets are dropped over Madrid city by Italian planes, warning the public that Madrid will be wiped off the earth if they do not rise up and take the city for Nationalists.

The government has no faith in their side and expect General Mola and his Nationalist men to take the city, and plan to evacuate, including the Prime Minister. General Mola states to the English media that his four columns of regulares soldiers and Moroccan fighters will take the city, despite the difficulty of surrounding Madrid, and his fifth column, of powerful Spanish right-wingers, already in the city, will take inner Madrid. This strikes paranoia in the inhabitants, and starts killings between civilians as ‘traitors’ need to be found and executed.

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Troops in the city’s north of Ciudad Universitaria

November 2

The Republicans finally get air defense over Madrid. Russian Chatos planes have arrived just in time and start air strikes over surprised Nationalist ground troops. The public are unsure of the air strike and do not take cover. Several Russian planes are shot down by Italian retaliation for the Nationalists. The Madrid public fear German planes, and when a Russian pilot parachutes to safety after a strike, he is killed by a mob when he is mistaken for a German Condor Legion pilot.

The town of Brunete, only 15 miles west of central Madrid, is the scene for a battle between opposing sides. The Republicans lose the stronghold, giving the Nationalists a chance to get even closer to the city from the west.

The Republicans have one advantage. The Manzanares River runs through the city, providing a barrier, keeping the Nationalists from walking directly into the west and south of the city. The Casa del Campo, an open park area on the west of the city centre, is chosen as the main strike area, with forces crossing the Puente de los Franceses (Bridge of the Frenchmen). Republicans are already defending their bridge. The northern Ciudad Universitaria (University City) area of Madrid is also prepared for an attack, likewise Carabanchel in Madrid’s southwest, which has only a  small river defense.

Nationalist troops retreat with their wounded

November 4

The anarchists now join the Republican government, with four ministers involved. As the anarchists are the largest group of civilian militia fighting for the Republicans country-wide, they need their voices in government. The Republicans must reply of all factions coming together to save their country.

The south Madrid suburb of Getafe is occupied by the Nationalists. It is at the basin of the Manzanares River, giving easier access to troops. The Moroccan troops attack, with tanks and overhead air strikes, crushing the Republican protectors. Vicious General Verela, a man leading so many massacres, is proud to tell the media that he shall have destroyed Madrid within the week.

Only 115 Nationalists are killed in the Getafe battle, but southern suburbs are working class and heavily populated, meaning it is not a good place to engage in street battles. Verela instead plans to attack Ciudad Universitaria in the north, where the population have fled for the safety of the inner city.

Republican militia defend their barricades in the south

November 5

The Republican reinforcements of Russian planes and pilots have some success when they bomb surrounding Nationalist troops, and an impeding northern assault of the city is beaten back.

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The Republicans defend the outskirts of the city

November 6

The Nationalist troops continue their southern assault under cruel Colonel Yague, and conquer Carabanchel and take the Cerro de los Angeles hill, the geographical centre of Spain, and prime lookout area over the plains around southern Madrid. The Nationalists are now all-but in the inner city of Madrid, with Republicans ever squeezed into the capital. The new Junta de Defensa de Madrid (military government team) is set up under General Miaja and is ready to take Madrid.

Propaganda is rife

The Republican government flees to Valencia, 350kms to the east on the coast. While this means men in ‘power’ are safe, as well as the government itself, the civilians and fighters of Madrid are left to face the Nationalists, with their German and Italian fascist back-up, on their own.

A simplified map of the Madrid suburbs

November 7

The attack on Madrid begins. All major bridges are attacked by Nationalist troops, most taken easily on the first day of fighting. General Verela attacks from the north, and troops pour into the Casa del Campo and through Ciudad Universitaria. Nationalist troops fight Republican militia in man-to-man combat, and killing occurs one building at a time as Nationalists swarm the city. The death count rockets on both sides. Despite their soldiers’ training and weapons, Colonel Yague sees over 300 of his Legionnaires Moroccan troops killed on day one. Franco expects the Nationalists will have won within a day, unaware the International Brigade troops are one day from arriving from east, along with the Durruti Column anarchists from Barcelona, in time to back up huge number of Spanish militia and hold back the conquering of Madrid.

The attack begins

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This is not a detailed analysis, just a highlight (lowlight?) of the week’s events. Feel free to suggest an addition/clarification/correction below. All photos are linked to source for credit