Executed Spanish Republican Prisoners

Legion Condor Pzkpfw
Republican prisoners being marched in by Nationalist infantry in the Somosierra sector. The Republicans wear civilian clothing, the Nationalists gorillo caps and what appear to be khaki monos. (Keystone)

score a spectacular success, kept throwing in repeated round-the-clock assaults.

Franco was now faced by a momentous choice: should he march on Madrid abandoning the Alcázar to its fate, or should he turn aside, bowing to the dictates of humanity rather than to those of operational exigencies? Despite warnings that by so doing he might well be throwing away the chance of occupying the capital, he chose the latter course. A relief force was entrusted to the ex-bugler Varela, the most dynamic of the Nationalist commanders. He was given six days to accomplish the mission; he had routed both besiegers and nearby Republican reinforcements within three. On 27 September, the siege was over; it had lasted sixty-eight days.

In the north, Mola had been making equally solid, if less spectacular gains. One of his main N objectives was the closure of the French frontier in the Hendaye/Irun area, across which substantial aid was flowing into the Republican camp. The Nationalists occupied Irun itself but not before Anarchist militia fighting a rearguard action with

Mola's Requetés had gutted the city on 4 September. At the same time the important «entres of Oviedo and Gijón were also seized by Nationalist forces in surprise attacks. Brilliantly defended by Aranda, Oviedo held out successfully fot several months against a series of determined attempts on the part of Asturian militia to regain the city. Gijón, with a garrison ofonly 180, fell after a lout-week siege, but not till the commander, Colonel Pinilla had sent a dramatic message to the captain of the Nationalist cruiser Cervera which was at that time oil the coast, 'Fire on us. We have the enemy inside, l ire on us, I repeat.'

Thus, by the end of October, the Nationalists held all western Spain. In the south their territory included Sevilla, as well as the historic towns of Córdoba and Granada, but none of the coast east of Gibraltar. Indeed all of eastern Spain formed a solid keep, stretching from Gibraltar to Fort Bou, seeming to defy all Nationalist aspirations. In the north the Nationalists had gained territory but had failed to occupy the much prized industrial area round Bilbao. They had also failed to subdue the independent-minded Basques; the Basques' position was, however, dangerous, for though they held the vital coastal strip which included both

Bilbao and Santander, they were cut off from the test of Republican territory, the sea their only ,i< ( ess to supplies.

()n 6 October Franco, deciding that the time was ripe for the attack on Madrid, confided the i »(x-ration to Varela, fresh from his Toledo triumph. I lis force of 10,000 men was to be divided into four columns, the two main axes of their thrust to be the I nledo-Madrid and the Mérida—Madrid roads. A subsidiary force of 5,000 men under General V.ildes Cabanillas was ordered to make a diversionary attack from the west across the Sierra (íuadarrama, while Yagué, now recovered, was given command of the two columns of Varela's force operating along the Toledo road.

To begin with, progress was deceptively rapid; by the 29th all roads, except those from the east, leading to Madrid had been cut. Thinking the final stage was about to begin, Franco sent Mola to assume overall command.

By then, however, massive material aid had

Russian Tank
Rumuh BT-5 light tanks of the Republican Army captured by ihr Nationalists. They seem to be finished in standard Soviet formt-green, with white turret numbers.

reached the defenders. Reinforcements had poured in. The defence had been allowed the time to put itself on a sound military and political footing. Professional officers and raw militiamen had been welded into a cohesive fighting force known as the 5th Regiment, its political reliability guaranteed by the introduction of political commissars. For the Nationalists there was an ominous warning of the pattern of things to come when, on the 28th, Republican nine-ton Russian tanks wiped out, without loss, a squadron of Nationalist Fiat 'tankettes', whose only armament was a machine gun. The Nationalists again delayed, and it was not till 7 November that Varela's offensive got under

Some 50,000 Republicans were preparing themselves, and, in order io eliminate any possible disruption, on 6 November anyone suspected of rightist sympathies was taken from the jails into which they had been flung in July and summarily executed. Morale soared. The Spanish version 'No Pasaran' of the Verdun battle cry 'lis nepasseront pas' was resuscitated and on everyone's lips.

In the face of such determined and unexpectedly powerful resistance, Varela's vanguard was unable to cross the Manzanares river, and when later in the day a tabor of Regulares broke through the defence line, it was halted, then flung back thanks to the personal gallantry of Miaja who led the counterattack, revolver in hand. Returning to the attack the next day, Varela's leading battalion reached the University City, there to run into the withering fire of the first-formed of the International Brigades, the 'Rusos', which was a mixture of Germans and central Europeans. The battle lasted till the 18th. The Tercio overran the strongly-held Casa Velasquez, the School of Architecture and the Instituto de Higiene, but was unable to push on to the city centre, bombed during this time by Legion Condor planes. There was a critical moment for the defence when a Catalan Anarchist unit, holding the Hall of Philosophy, lost their nerve and ran, but the gap was eventually plugged by the Internationals and a Basque battalion.

Leaving his Salamanca headquarters, Franco moved up to Madrid. By the 17th he had come to the decision that the capital was too strongly held to fall to the direct assault of the comparatively small force at his disposal; he decided instead to try to starve the city into subjection. Calling off the direct attack, he ordered the main effort to be switched to the principal supply line, the Madrid-Valencia road, which was protected on its exposed flank by the Jarama river.

The weather had by then deteriorated, snow and bitter cold prevailing. Mola returned to the north and Varela, his army swollen to 20,000, again took over local command after recovering from a slight wound received on Christmas Day. The struggle to gain control of the Valencia road continued till mid-February, and ended, as the battle of Madrid

Nationalist Army Corps insignia, occasionally worn on the left sleeve of the tunic. (A) C.E. de Costilla: red shield edged yellow, yellow castle, yellow hilt, white blade. (B) C.E. de Aragon: shield halved blue (left) and white, yellow rim, yellow lion, red cross. (C) C.E. de Urgel: gold crown with silver balls, red interior, alternate red and green jewels; gold-rimmed shield striped yellow and red, outer stripes yellow each side; black and white checkers.

Nationalist Army Corps insignia, occasionally worn on the left sleeve of the tunic. (A) C.E. de Costilla: red shield edged yellow, yellow castle, yellow hilt, white blade. (B) C.E. de Aragon: shield halved blue (left) and white, yellow rim, yellow lion, red cross. (C) C.E. de Urgel: gold crown with silver balls, red interior, alternate red and green jewels; gold-rimmed shield striped yellow and red, outer stripes yellow each side; black and white checkers.

had, in a setback for the Nationalists. Despite the suffering and casualties amounting to several thousands, the Republicans were able to deny the vital communication to their enemy. Thus 1936 ended with the tide of battle turning suddenly in favour of the Republic, though, only a few months before, it had seemed to be running inexorably in the direction of the Nationalists.

1937 Having failed not only to take, but to isolate Madrid, Franco decided to maintain the threat to the capital, but with a much reduced force, and to concentrate on the northern industrial areas. Nevertheless, being much in need of the logistic aid offered by Italy, he allowed himself to be badgered by Mussolini into staging an offensive in Andalucia in order to allow the Italian Volontarie to show their combat-worth for international propaganda purposes.

Though Málaga, the major urban centre of the area, was held in great force, the local Andalucian militia had little battle experience and was considered to be poorly led. On 14 January under the not very enthusiastic overall command of Queipo de Llano, three columns led by the Duke of Sevilla, Colonel Gonzalez Espinosa, and General Roatta, whose column consisted of nine Italian Blackshirt battalions, a brigade of Falangists and a brigade of Requetes, launched a triple pronged drive towards the coast. By 5 February, the ring had closed round Málaga, which fell after sporadic resistance on the 8th.

Encouraged by this early success, the delighted Mussolini now urged that his 'victorious' Black-shirts be employed in the Madrid area.

On 7 March the Italians, now formed into two divisions supported by 250 li^ht tanks and 180 guns, their right flank covered by a mixed brigade of Regulares, Requetes and Falangists, began their advance aiming for Guadalajara to the north-east of Madrid on the main Madrid Saragossa highway. Though allotted the road as their main approach axis, the Italians made abnormally slow progress, thereby tiivin^ Miaja time to race some of his best troops, including Enrique Eister's Communist Battalion, the Mera Anarchist Battalion, and the XII International Brigade, to the threatened area.

The Republican air force gained local air superiority, and at the first encounter, Russian tanks again defeated the numerically-superior Italian armour. The advance ground to a halt. On o the 13th the Republicans counterattacked, and by the 18th, after a first show of resistance, the Italians were in a precipitate retreat that savoured of sauve qui peut; their losses were estimated at 6,000 including 2,000 dead. For Mussolini it was a humiliating defeat which was aggravated by the fact that the mixed Spanish brigade, commanded by Moscardo of Alcázar fame, had, alone, stopped the Republican pursuit; and that, almost to a man, the Nationalists hailed the Italian rout as a triumph of fellow Spaniards over the 'foreigner'.

On hearing the news, Franco is supposed to have said, 'Splendid! We can now begin the strategically important northern operation.' This was planned to take place in three phases: the capture of Bilbao, the capture of Santander, the reduction of the Asturias. It was a gruelling campaign. The Nationalists seem to have committed a grave error in not offering some form of political compromise to the Basques who, at heart, had little in common with the anti-clerical Marxist-Leninists who formed the bulk of the Republic's supporters. Their goal was autonomy, but this was anathema to Franco, obsessed by the ideal of 'Espana, Una y Grande', whereas Madrid had let it be known that a comprehensive measure of autonomy was contemplated for the Basque province, as it was for the (Catalans.

On 26 April, the Legion Condor bombed the Basque town of Guernica, providing a curtain raiser to the horrors of Rotterdam, Coventry and Dresden, and killing or maiming some 30 per cent of the town's civilian population. Though it has since been established that neither Franco nor Mola knew the attack was contemplated—the Legion Condor commander was subsequently recalled on Franco's insistence—the bombing did immense harm to the Nationalist cause throughout the world; it also stiffened, rather than softened, Basque determination to fight.

Bilbao was protected by an 'iron ring' of fortifications against which initial Nationalist attacks made little impression. There was further disarray in the Nationalist ranks when, on 3 June, Mola was killed in a plane crash, on his way to a conference with the Generalissimo in Burgos. Franco immediately took over the direction of the offensive, inaugurating a new technique; this involved throwing in his infantry only after the enemy had been subjected to a violent initial artillery bombardment, followed if possible by an aerial bombardment. Thus nibbled away, the 'iron ring' disintegrated. Unable to stand up to the weight of metal directed against them, the defenders of Bilbao surrendered on 19 July, having lost over 20,000 battle casualties; another 14,000 surrendered. For the Nationalists, it was a victory of considerable import, as they now held their first major industrial centre.

Before General Davila, to whom Franco had handed over command on the eve of the final assault on Bilbao, could regroup for the second phase, the Republicans had launched the first of

Irregulares Spanish Civil War

Moorish infantry, photographed in northern Spain early in the war. They wear the small white turban or rexa, 'lentil'-coloured cotton uniforms with brass collar badges, and brown leather equipment of the type normally worn by troops of the African Army—the Tercio was often observed wearing the same equipment in black. (Keystone)

Moorish infantry, photographed in northern Spain early in the war. They wear the small white turban or rexa, 'lentil'-coloured cotton uniforms with brass collar badges, and brown leather equipment of the type normally worn by troops of the African Army—the Tercio was often observed wearing the same equipment in black. (Keystone)

their powerful counter-offensives. Till then Republican successes had been largely of a defensive nature, but from the beginning of the year the build-up of their forces had proceeded so rapidly that both Miaja and Rojo were of the opinion that the time had arrived to seize the initiative. By 1 July, the Ejercito Popular was approaching the half million mark, its main striking force organized into four corps, the II, III, V, and XVIII. Miaja decided to employ two, the V and XVIII for a blow at the weakest part of the Nationalist lines encircling Madrid, which was that in the area of Brunete, twelve miles west of the capital.

Commanded by Juan Modesto, V Corps was made up of three divisions: the 1 ith, 46th and 35th (which included the Xlth International Brigade), under Lister, 'El Campesino', and Walter (the future Polish Defence Minister, whose real name was Karol Swierczewski). XVIII Corps under Colonel Jurado, a regular officer, also comprised three divisions: the 34th, 10th and 15th—the 15th being made up of XHIth and XVth International Brigades—under Galan, Enciso, and Gal. This hand-picked force, 65,000 strong, was to be supported by 60 tanks, a cavalry regiment, and 102 guns. In addition, Miaja constituted an army reserve of two divisions, those of Kleber and Duran, midday the vital position of Villanueva de la which contributed 20,000 men, 47 tanks, and 92 Canada was isolated and under heavy attack by the guns, and which Miaja kept under his direct British Battalion of the XVth International Brig-

control. He was also able to concentrate 150 planes ade. That evening Madrid celebrated a major to give him immediate air superiority, since the victory.

Legion Condor, grouped in the north, would take The general euphoria was not shared by either three to four days to redeploy. Miaja or Rojo. Once reports from the front had

Rojo's plan, drawn up after consultations with been sifted, it was obvious that vital objectives set the' head of the Russian Military Mission, Gregori for the first twenty-four hours had not been

Kulik, was that this powerful striking force should attained. The 7th and 8th were days of profound deliver a massive blow on a thirteen-mile front, disillusion, the Republic's weakness in trained then close in to cut the Madrid-Navalcarnero road, officers was becoming increasingly evident. Ad-

the only supply route for Yague's strung-out vancing divisions lost touch with each other, division holding the Brunete sector between the Rio collided with each other, mistook each other for the

Guadarrama in the west and the Rio Perales in the enemy, and were heavily shelled by their own east. artillery. Confusion led to loss of morale. Threat-

Before dawn on 6 July, the Republicans, ened mutiny was only quelled by summary spearheaded by Lister's 1 ith and 'El Campesino's' executions in the field. There was a crisis in XVIII

46th divisions, punched a jagged hole in Yague's Corps when Jurado collapsed. I lis place was taken thinly-held line. Lister surrounded Brunete, while by Colonel Casado who ruptured Villanueva, but

46th Division stormed the village of Quijorna. By was then halted, unable, as ordered, to exploit the initial gains made by V (¡orps. Fearing he would be

A Government gun-crew photographed during the siege of held responsible for defeat, (lasadc > reported sick, to

Huesca. They wear the distinctive Spanish steel helmet, not a be replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Fernandez very common piece of equipment among Government forces. .

The rest of their clothing is motley in the extreme. (Keystone) Heredia.

Huesca. They wear the distinctive Spanish steel helmet, not a be replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Fernandez very common piece of equipment among Government forces. .

The rest of their clothing is motley in the extreme. (Keystone) Heredia.

The Creek Being Exicuted

Meanwhile, unperturbed, Franco halted the move on Santander, switching 30,000 men under Varcla to Brunete. By 12 July the Republican advance was stopped dead, and six days later Varela launched his counterattack. By the 24th Brunete, which had fallen to Lister, had been recaptured and the Republicans pushed back almost to their starting line, having lost 24,000 men; Nationalist losses over the same period were 12,000. The Internationals had sustained particularly severe casualties; the British Battalion was reduced to 80 men, while the American 'Washington' and 'Lincoln' Battalions had to be merged, and were known from then on as 'The Lincolns'.

Varela was anxious to follow up his success and make a dash for Madrid, but Franco, refusing to be diverted, ordered the immediate resumption of the second phase in the north.

On 14 August General Davila closed in on Santander, at the same time driving a wedge between the remaining Basque formations and the Asturian militia. With a total of 106 battalions, he enjoyed a two-to-one superiority over his immediate opponent, the Basque General Ulibarri. Depressed by the fall of Bilbao and news of the setback at Brunete, Basque resistance collapsed; senior officers deserted, Ulibarri and several of his staff escaping the tightening net by embarking on a submarine. On 26 August, Davila entered Santander, and 55,000 Basques raised the white flag; contemporary reports stated that 'Enough war material to supply a whole army was captured'.

Nevertheless, two days before Santander fell, the Republicans launched a second offensive south of Saragossa, the main attack falling on Belchite, seventeen miles south of the city, with subsidiary blows directed at Fuentes de Ebro, Codo, and Zuera. Though commanded by General Pozas, chief of the Catalan army, the attacking force was composed largely of the reconstituted V Corps, whose 35th Division had been doubled by the addition of Xlth and XHIth International Brigades, and Kleber's 45th Division. The line to be assaulted ran from Saragossa in the north to Teruel in the south.

Attacking Belchite itself, the XVth International Brigade immediately ran into a determined defence which they did not overcome till 6 September. The story of this second offensive was, in fact, mostly a

"A

Uniform Legion Espana

Brigada—senior N.C.O.—of Republican artillery, in surprisingly neat and complete summer service uniform; illustration by Embleton after Bueno. The dark khaki peaked cap has a cloth-covered peak, brown strap, brass grenade branch badge, red star, and double red bars of rank each side of the branch badge. The loose trousers are of roughly the same shade of khaki; the shirt is a paler shade, with plastic buttons. A dark khaki patch on the pocket bears a red star above red rank bars. Leather is brown with brass fittings.

Brigada—senior N.C.O.—of Republican artillery, in surprisingly neat and complete summer service uniform; illustration by Embleton after Bueno. The dark khaki peaked cap has a cloth-covered peak, brown strap, brass grenade branch badge, red star, and double red bars of rank each side of the branch badge. The loose trousers are of roughly the same shade of khaki; the shirt is a paler shade, with plastic buttons. A dark khaki patch on the pocket bears a red star above red rank bars. Leather is brown with brass fittings.

repeat of the first. The capture of Belchite represented the high point of the Republican thrust and the end of the battle's first phase; after that both sides began to dig in. Republican losses again had been heavy, particularly in the northern sector where they had run into the 2nd, 5th, and 12th Banderas of the Tercio. A renewed attack on 22

September was even less successful, with negligible gains. At the end of the month the costly and unrewarding operation was called off.

In the meantime, the third phase of Franco's northern offensive was making steady progress. Opposition inspired by hard-core Communists and Anarchists was stubborn, but, as in the Santander operation, there was a sudden collapse of morale in mid-October. A number of Republican units went over to the enemy with their arms and equipment. Gijon, the last Asturian stronghold, fell on 21 October. This success so elated the usually phlegmatic Franco, that he decided to bring the war to a speedy conclusion with a second attack on what he imagined must be a thoroughly demoralized Madrid.

Pessimism did indeed reign among the capital's population, but neither Miaja nor Rojo were prepared to admit defeat, even though costly

Republican Renault FT. 17 tanks of First World War vintage photographed in the streets bordering Madrid's University City, a focal point in the fighting of November 1936. Among the most determined of the attacking units were the legionnaires of the Tercio, while the crisis of the defence was averted by the courage of the Internationals. (Keystone)

reverses in the field had been followed by bitter disputes, clashes and bloodshed between rival extremist left groups. Both senior officers were confident that their battle-tried corps and the Internationals were still full of fight, having gained by their experiences, and that given a minimum of luck they were capable of turning the tables. Above all, however, it was obvious that another quick blow must be delivered to disrupt the Nationalist offensive.

Teruel, a town perched on a rocky promontory dominating the confluence of the Guadalaviar and Alfambra rivers, was finally selected as the main objective, forming as it did a deep salient into the Republican positions. The attack was fixed for 14 December, Rojo's intelligence network having received information that the Nationalists intended to strike on the 18th. General Hernandez Sarabia, professional officer and personal friend of Rojo, was given command of the 90,000 all-Spanish force collected for the task, the Internationals being held in reserve. Striking a day late, on the 15th, two corps, the XXII into which Lister's division had

Basque Battalion 1936

been incorporated, and the XVIII, closed in behind Teruel isolating the town and its garrison of <>,000 commanded by Colonel Rey d'Harcourt.

The weather was appalling; snow lay deep with temperatures falling to eighteen degrees below zero. Taken by surprise, the Nationalists had no immediate reinforcements available. By the 18th, troops of XVIII Corps had occupied the heights of La Muela overlooking the town from the south,

There had been political as well as military-crises for the Republicans during 1937. Bitter quarrels within the hierarchy had forced 'Largo Caballero' to step down in favour of his Minister of Finance, Dr Juari Negrin who, though a favourite of the Communists was viewed with suspicion by the Basques and non-extremists. There had been trouble in the International Brigades; men were sickened by the incompetence of many of their and, four days later, they forced a way into the "^officers and by the brutal discipline (summary outskirts despite a blizzard covering the battlefield with six feet of snow. Turning every house of every street into a miniature fortress, the garrison put up a resistance comparable with that of the Alcázar, making the attackers pay heavily for every inch gained. When the news reached him, Franco disregarded the advice of his German liaison officer, Colonel Funck, and cancelled the imminent push on Madrid, dispatching two corps, those of Varela and Aranda, to relieve Teruel. These reinforcements stopped the Republican advance, but when they attempted to counterattack, they made little headway. The weather was now playing a major role; frostbite was a problem in both camps, and Nationalists and Republicans alike were engaged in a constant battle to keep lines of communication open. Thus the year ended in stalemate.

execution in the field for hesitance in the face of the enemy was commonplace). The die-hards had lost nothing of their fanaticism, but by January 1938 recruiting had practically ceased and gaps in the ranks were being filled by Spanish nationals known as Quintos.

1938 The year opened with a Republican success On 7 January, after tanks and dinamiteros had reduced the defensive perimeter to a few square yards, Colonel Rey d'Harcourt surrendered what was left of Teruel. The success was, however, shortlived; Varela was able to resume his advance, so that by the 10th the captors of Teruel found themselves besieged.

At this stage General Walter's division of four International Brigades was committed, the British Battalion of the XVth Brigade being in the van. But

Nevertheless the outlook for the Republicans was despite their noted courage and pertinacity, they black. In 1937 vast areas had fallen to the Nationalists. The capture of the industrial north had not only given Franco an industrial base, but, more importantly, had provided him with a bargaining weapon on the international scene, enabling him to adopt a more independent line with Germany and Italy, and at the same time^ initiate cautious trade negotiations with Great Britain. The numerical balance was now swinging in favour of the Right and, by New Year's Day 1938, their total force was estimated at 600,000— an infantry mass of 650 battalions, a cavalry division, 290 batteries of artillery, and 600 operational aircraft. The weakness was armour; Russian tanks were still superior to the Italian Fiat tankettes and German PzKw Is. Nationalist morale stood high and, as so often happens in civil war, the people not dedicated to either cause were beginning to throw in their lot with those who seemed likely to emerge as the eventual victors.

4, were unable to push back or halt the Nationalists. Pour encourager les autres, the battalion commander ordered two young Englishmen suffering from shock and incipient frostbite to be shot for cowardice.

On 17 January the Republicans were driven off the La Muela heights. Exhausted after a month of continuous fighting in dreadful climatic conditions, they cracked, but the gap opened by their retreat was soon plugged by Walter's Internationals.

There followed a comparative lull till 7 February, on which day General Monasterio's cavalry scored a spectacular though anachronistic local victory with a charge after the style of Murat at Eylau. That day and the next the Republicans lost 15,000 killed and wounded, 7,000 prisoners, vast quantities of material and 400 square miles of territory. A week later Yague, driving from the north, crossed the Alfambra river, while Varela and Aranda completed the investment of the largely razed Teruel.

Seeing the enemy ring about to close, Sarabia ordered 'El Campesino', whose division had stormed and held the town, to make good his escape. When the Nationalists entered the town on the 20th, they took another 14,000 prisoners and 'piously buried' a further 10,000 dead. Humiliated by the defeat, 'El Campesino' protested to Sarabia that throughout the campaign, his two great rivals, Lister and Modesto, had through jealousy been scheming to get him killed.

On 9 March the Nationalists launched a major offensive with the double objective of reaching the Mediterranean near the mouth of the Ebro river, thereby splitting Republican territory and armed forces in two, and of occupying the rest of Aragón. Once more Franco was subjected to strong outside pressure to make Madrid his primary objective. Again he refused to listen either to blandishments

Nationalist infantry in typical summer combat dress search a farmhouse. Note the mixture of puttees and granadero trousers. (Keystone)

or to veiled threats of withdrawing aid, put out by-envoys of both Hitler and Mussolini. To the German von Stohrer he said bluntly, 'I must not exterminate the enemy nor destroy the cities, the countryside, industries and production. ... If I were in a hurry I would not be a patriot, but would be behaving like a foreigner. No amount of argument will make me depart from the gradual programme. There will be less glory but more internal peace afterwards.'

The drive to the sea, on which he insisted, was typical of his carefully developed, methodically worked-out conception of how the war should be carried on, with the means now at his disposal, to its inevitable conclusion. One ofhis principal aims was to avoid further heavy losses of men. There were to be no more heroics; no more glorious victories won at the cost of mounds of dead. He counted on destroying enemy morale, sapping all will to resist, thereby hastening eventual capitulation, as Montgomery was to do later in the Western Desert and in

Nationalist infantry in typical summer combat dress search a farmhouse. Note the mixture of puttees and granadero trousers. (Keystone)

Granadero Trousers

Normandy, by concentrating the weight of artillery on the preliminary softening up and exploiting his air superiority, then assembling an immensely superior mass of men for an assault on a narrow front.

The Nationalist army had now been regrouped into six corps, each with a regional appellation: Castilla, four divisions under Varela; Galicia, five divisions under Aranda; Marroqui, three divisions composed entirely of the Tercio and Regulares under Yague; Navarra, four divisions under Solchaga; Aragon, four divisions under Moscardo; the CTV, two Italian and one I talo-Spanish division under the Italian Berti. Two further divisions were later formed into a 7th corps under General Orgaz.

The opening phase of the offensive was headed by the Marroqui, Galicia, and Navarra Corps, breaking the Republican front at several points in the first few hours. On 10 March, Belchite fell to Solchaga, while on the 13th Aranda overran Montalban. Yague then drove on to capture Alcaniz and further to the north, Caspe, temporary headquarters of the Republican Command and 100 miles beyond the starting point. The second

The dominant tank throughout the war was the Russian T-26, one of many variations on a basic Vickers design to see service around the world between the World Wars. This nine-ton vehicle with a 45mm main armament was delivered to the Republic in significant numbers; about 100 are thought to have arrived by the end of October 1936. It was capable of defeating the Italian 'tankettes' and German PzKpfw Is of the Nationalist tank companies without difficulty, when properly employed. A bounty was offered by the Nationalists for every T-26 captured, and several companies of'turned around' T-26s were in action before the end of the war. This captured tank bears the red-yellow-red Nationalist flag on the hull side. Later, for extra visibility, captured tanks had large areas of the turret walls painted in these stripes, and a black and white St Andrew's Cross painted on the turret roof.

phase, begun on 22 March, sought to exploit the initial gains by pushing north to the French frontier and east towards Lérida. No serious opposition was encountered till Yagué, having entered Catalan territory, fought a savage battle with 'El Campesino' for the possession of Lérida which fell on 3 April; on the same day the important road centre of Gandesa was captured, and a rapid advance followed to the Ebro north of Tortosa. On 8 April, Tremp, the source of Barcelona's water supply was in Nationalist hands, while their advanced elements had reached the French frontier to the west of Andorra, but for a tiny, and totally isolated pocket defended by an individual popularly known as 'El Esquinazado' (The Dodger). Phase three was marked by the arrival of the Nationalists on the Mediterranean coast south of the mouth of the Ebro. On Good Friday, 15 April, a division commanded by General Alonso Vega, boyhood friend of Franco, captured the fishing village of Vinaroz, fanned out north and south, and seized a coastal stretch of 30 miles. Meanwhile a division under one of the most brilliant of the younger commanders, General Garcia Valino, was directed back to Tortosa to the aid of the Italians, who were showing signs of cracking. Taking over, Valino led an assault on the town which was stormed on the 19th. The Italians were then, at their own request, moved 'to a quiet sector of a quiet front'.

Over the next three months the Nationalists continued to make further territorial gains including a long stretch of coast reaching almost as far south as Sagunto. This meant that between 8 March and 20 July they conquered an area the size of the Netherlands. As was pointed out, this was 'no mean feat for an army that still went on foot and whose transport and supplies were almost entirely horse-drawn'.

Though the fall of Barcelona now appeared imminent, Franco once more astonished his enemies and dismayed his supporters by his choice of the next Nationalist objective. Though what was termed the Valencia pocket, had a front of 500 miles, while the Catalan front stretched 200 miles, Franco was convinced that the south presented the softer target. The inhabitants were mainly uncommitted, though many were reported to be waiting eagerly for the moment when they could raise the Sangrey Oro standard. As Valencia itself was within thirty miles of the Nationalist front line, Franco was of the opinion that within a week—a fortnight at the most—the city would fall, and all resistance cease. For the eleven divisions earmarked for the operation, it would be what the first Napoleon had termed a promenade militaire, and the Marroqui and Navarra Corps, on whom so much of the brunt of the fighting had fallen, would enjoy a well-earned rest in the pleasant surroundings of the Ebro Valley, protected against surprise and possible commando-type attacks by the river barrier.

The Valencia offensive launched on 5 July began well, the two principal axes being down the coast from Castellón, the first objective Sagunto, and south-east across the sierras from Teruel via Mora de Rubielos. A first defence line, that of the Sierra de Toro, collapsed and for a moment it seemed the fate of Valencia was sealed. Then torrential rain started to fall as the Nationalists reached the second Republican line, that of the Sierra de Espadán, whose fortifications had been cleverly constructed to take every advantage of the tumbled terrain. The main strongpoints were sited so as to be invulnerable to tanks and aerial bombardment, and little affected by shelling. Led by the capable Menéndez, the Republicans threw back every assault. Far from being a promenade militaire, the operation proved a costly failure which Franco halted after the Castilla and Galicia Corps had suffered some 17,500 casualties.

By mid-July the position in Madrid looked perilous, but optimism reigned in both Valencia and Barcelona. Republican morale had been boosted by a massive arms flow across the French frontier (reopened on 17 March) totalling 25,000 tons in less than three months and including 300 modern aircraft, mostly I-16 Ratas mounting 4 machine guns, and 200 heavy guns. It was also obvious that a major international crisis was looming over Czecho-Slovakia, threatening a total European war, which the Republicans imagined would bring Britain and France into their camp. To prove to these potential allies that the Spanish war was far from entering into its concluding stage, General Rojo was asked by Negrin to prepare plans for a summer offensive whose success would make headlines in the world Press and induce Russia and France to step up their aid. The plan evolved by Rojo and his staff was based on the same principles as the three abortive 1937 offensives, but this time it was felt that the weight of men and material available for the blow could not fail to achieve success.

A force of 120,000 men, designated 'The Army of the Ebro' had been assembled, made up of three completely reorganized corps, but bearing the by now traditional numberings, V, XV and XVIII. Lister was to command V Corps, his 45th Division comprising Xllth and XlVth International Brigades; XV Corps was entrusted to Manuel Taguena, a brave man but dangerously lacking in military experience, having been the leader of the Communist students at Madrid University before the war. His 25th Division contained three International Brigades, the Xlth, XHIth, and XVth. .Heredia's XVIII Corps was the immediate reserve, while the 'Army of the Ebro' was put under the overall command of Modesto. Supporting the infantry were 80 field artillery batteries, a regiment of anti-aircraft guns and 120 fighters and bombers. In addition, the individual fire-power of each battalion had been considerably augmented by the inclusion of complementary mortar and machine-gun companies.

The sector selected by the Republican War Council was that of the Ebro river from Mequin-enza in the north to Amposta near the mouth, the main blow to be delivered in the great bulge formed by the river between Fayôn and Cherta, known to be held by only a single division of Yagué's Corps, supported by a powerful diversionary attack on a much shorter front from Fayôn to Mequinenza. The terrain throughout was mountainous and broken, the Republicans hoping that, should their offensive be slowed, eventual enemy logistic superiority would thereby be nullified. The principal aim was to restore land communications with thé Valencia pocket.

Again complete surprise was achieved. At 0.15 hrs on the night of 24/25 July, men who had received intensive training in river crossings were ferried over the Ebro in rubber dinghies at a series of points selected by Michael Dunbar, XVth International Brigade's chief of staff; the first unit to reach the right bank was the Hans Heimler Battalion of the Xlth, made up of Scandinavians and Catalans. Yagué's strung-out division was quite incapable of containing an attack of such magnitude. By evening, leading units of the V and XV Corps had established two bridgeheads, one of a depth of five miles from Mequinenza to Fayôn, the second, considerably more extended, between Fayôn and Cherta ; here, having wiped out one of the holding brigades, capturing the heights of Caballs and Pandolls, and pushing right up to the gates of Gandesa, Lister had achieved a penetration of 25 miles. The arrival of Yagué's reserve division only just managed to avert the fall of Gandesa itself, the most important road junction in the area.

At the southern extremity of the line, XlVth

International Brigade crossed the river in the neighbourhood of Amposta, only to run into strong opposition from General Lopez Bravo's division. They had failed to achieve surprise and could make no impression on the ad hoc but effective defence. For eighteen hours they made desperate attempts to establish a proper bridgehead, but by dawn on the 26th, after suffering over 600 dead, fell back in confusion to the left bank abandoning the bulk of their equipment.

On 1 August the XVth International Brigade endeavoured to storm a key position, Hill 481, baptized 'The Pimple', overlooking Gandesa. The British Battalion in the van again suffered heavily, among the killed being Lewis Clive, a direct descendant of Clive of India, and David Haden Guest, son of a Labour peer. Even though several assaults were led by Lister in person, they were unable to dislodge Y ague's legionaries.

By the following day, the Nationalists had managed to align seven fresh divisions. The Republicans were faced by the brutal truth that the great offensive on which such high hopes had been pinned had been brought to a halt. They were determined, however, to hang on at all costs to their gains of the past ten days. Their forward posts began to dig in, while their highly efficient engineers set to work preparing a defence network for the area of the Ebro bulge, making full use of the commanding heights which had been overrun in the initial stages.

The fanatical Lister issued an Order of the Day, 'If anyone loses an inch of ground he must retake it at the head of his men or be executed'. Sergeants were authorized to kill any officer who issued an order to retreat without permission from a higher authority. Documents captured by the Nationalists showed that these draconian decrees were often carried out.

Anxious to counteract the swing in world opinion brought about by the Army of the Ebro's deep penetration, the Nationalists threw in their first major counterattack on 6 August, its objective to clear the small bridgehead between Fayon and Mequinenza. The task was allotted to one of the freshly-arrived divisions, that of General Delgado Serrano, which after two days' hard fighting was able to report complete success. By the evening of the 8th, not a man of Taguena's force which had r \

Falange Choque

Falangista of Falange de Choque, Nationalist 22nd Division; illustration by Embleton after Bueno. Assault Companies were formed inside various Nationalist battalions, including those of the Falange, for raiding and spearheading assaults. Bueno illustrates this member of the assault company of the Falangist Bandera de Malaga in the 22nd Division. The jacket is the old Spanish Army tabarda, which passed out of general use some time before the Civil War but which was occasionally seen on both sides as old stocks were pressed into service. The black beret with the white death's-head device was typical of these units, and the usual red Falangist breast badge is worn. The white chevron on the left sleeve indicates a combatant (see description of colour plate B2); below it is the yellow shield with black edge and '22a' of the divisional insignia. The jacket, trousers and puttees are khaki, the ankle-socks white, the sweater blue, and the leather equipment—including pouches for Lafitte grenades—brown with brass fittings.

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