This Week in Spanish Civil War History – Week 17: 7 – 14 November 1936

Week 17: 7 – 14 November 1936

(see Week 16: 1 -7 November 1936 for the Madrid lead-up and maps)

Republicans orange, Nationalists blue

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 Varela attacks from the north, and troops pour into the Casa de 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 start of the massacres in Paracuellos del Jarama, a small area in the north of Madrid. Political prisoners, most soldiers and priests arrested at the outbreak of war, are taken out of the city to be executed. Between November 7 until December 4, the 5,000 prisoners are moved, as the Republicans don’t want hostile Nationalist prisoners inside the city. Some are moved away from the front, but Paracuellos del Jarama is the site of multiple executions. Over the first few days, 1,000 prisoners, all Nationalist sympathisers, will be shot. The death toll will be unknown; many say 2,000-3,000, some up to 12,000.

International Brigades in Casa de Campo

November 8

The major launch on Madrid begins. General Mola attacks with 20,000 soldiers, mostly the Moroccan troops. The Condor Legion from Germany launches air strikes on the city. German officer Wilhelm Von Thoma leads German tanks alongside light amour support from Italy.

The Republicans have more men, and send 12,000 to Carabanchel, but the larger force of 30,000 heads to Casa de Campo. The problem lies in the detail; the Republican men have had little or no training at all, and have only ten rounds per rifle. Only sheer numbers hold off the Nationalists. Small groups of Moroccan regulares soldiers manage to get over the Manzanares River to Model Prison, which is the set target for the onslaught. One of the Republican leaders, General Miaja, took his scared men forward himself to try to force the soldiers back. Radios all over Madrid repeatedly called the classic ‘­­¡No pasarán!’ (they shall not pass!) slogan, calling everyone to help in the fight against the siege.

By evening, the first International Brigade arrives, the XIth battalion, from Albacete in the east. There were small in numbers, but they provided morale and back-up for the fighting Madrileños. The men had not finished their basic training. They were greeted on Gran Via as a Soviet Union battalion, though they were a mix of German, Polish, Italian French and small numbers of other countries.

Telegrams are sent to the War Ministry in Madrid, congratulating Franco on his victory; no Nationalists are in Madrid, and neither side has won anything.

Nationalist soldiers at the front

November 9

The Nationalists focus on taking the southern Carabanchel suburb. The Moroccan soldiers are trained in open-country fighting and not the urban battle they need to fight. Republicans, who work and live in the area, have the home ground advantage, and there are many Nationalist casualties as the Republicans again hold the enemy back.

The XI International brigade, 1,900 men, start their fighting in Casa de Campo alongside Republicans in the evening. Heavy fighting sees 2/3 of the Internationals killed, though the Nationalists do not advance into Madrid. Fighting will last for several days, with both sides suffering losses. The Nationalist no longer see Casa de Campo as a way into Madrid, though this is not just due to international fighting, but their presence is good for propaganda.

The San Fernando bridge, which flanks the left of the Nationalist-held area over the Manzanares River, is retaken by the Republicans.

Air strike damage

November 10

Ciudad Universitaria in the city’s north is under Republican control, though the Nationalists are prepping the take the area. Around 150 Nationalists are killed on the front line around the north of the city, a total of 2,369 casualties since the start of the siege.

The Durruti Column, a group of 3,000 anarchists from Barcelona, arrive in Madrid, ready to help defend Casa de Campo. They had been marching to Zaragoza to recover the city from the Nationalists, but had no success and carried on to Madrid to help. They are led by famous anarchist Buenaventura Durruti.

University City area held by Republicans

November 11

Another 1,000 Nationalist prisoners are killed in the Paracuellos del Jarama reportedly by the Fifth Column, a communist led group of Spanish militiamen, who are well-organised and well-trained, unlike most in the area. The prisoners, all taken from the Model Prison in inner Madrid, are shot and bodies are dumped, in retaliation for the Nationalists attacking the city. The killings are one of the Republicans’ sides most vicious single-acts against civilians.

The arrival of the Durruti column causes some discontent as the placement of the men is up for debate, as the anarchists and Madrid-based militia try to work together. Regardless of any tensions within Madrid, the Nationalists are still held outside Madrid for another day.

Refuge from bombing in the Madrid subway

November 12

The XII International Brigade arrives in Madrid and launches an attack on Cerro de los Ángeles hill, south of Madrid, only just taken by the Nationalists. This is to ensure the Nationalists cannot advance east of Madrid and claim the road to Valencia. The attack fails, but the road to Valencia is still secure. The brigade of Spanish, French, German and Austrian fighters are suffering from lack of training and supplies, and communication trouble, but the 1,500 strong brigade returns to the safety of Madrid, with minimal losses.

The children of Madrid

November 13-14

The battle continues in Carabanchel, and man-to-man fighting continues right in the military hospital, with the Republicans losing many men but still holding the area.

Fighting along the south and west of the city continues, with air strikes on the city combined with close combat fighting. The Nationalists are preparing to take Madrid via the northern Ciudad Universitaria area, as Casa de Campo and Carabanchel manage to hold safely. The International Brigades are basing themselves in the north now to hold the Nationalists back.

Republicans at the front

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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

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