Vj

crossed the river fourteen days previously remained on the right bank, apart from 900 dead and 3,000 prisoners. In their retreat the Republicans had also abandoned 200 machine guns and 1,600 rifles.

Four days later, General Alonso Vega began to nibble at the strong defences thrown up along the Sierra de Pandolls, while on the 19th Y ague's legionaries overran a number of Republican positions on the wooded slopes of Mount Gaeta.

Still greater strain was put on the Republican line when, on 3 September, two corps—those of Yague and Garcia Valino—the latter freshly promoted with four divisions under command, mounted an attack to relieve the pressure on Gandesa. In spite of their determined opposition, the Republicans were obliged to give ground relinquishing their stranglehold on the town. The village of Corbera, almost due east of Gandesa and temporary headquarters of Lister, was stormed by Mohammed El Mizzian, commanding one of Galino's divisions, the only Moroccan to reach general's rank in the Spanish army.

Franco himself had not shared the general dismay on hearing of the Republican offensive. Like Field Marshal Slim after him, he believed that the destruction of the enemy's armed forces was of far greater importance than the loss or gain of territory. On studying the map, he remarked, 'I am inclined to let the enemy penetrate as deeply as possible then draw tight the bag and give battle within it so as to wear out the Red army and finish it once and for all.' It was the plan Slim put into action with such total success at Imphal in 1944, but was too revolutionary for Franco's staff. Instead of drawing the enemy into his net, he found himself obliged to continue the set-piece counterattacks in weather which was causing men to drop—many to die—of heat stroke. Progress in this war of attrition was, inevitably, slow. The Republicans hung on desperately to every trench, either through conviction or fear of execution, while Franco, equally determined not to be profligate with the lives of his soldiers, persisted with his policy of saturation bombardments prior to the least advance, despite forebodings that if he did not speed up operations, he risked eventual collapse of his authority.

It was not till 30 October that Franco ordered a final massive offensive to eliminate what remained of the bridgehead to the south of the Ebro bulge.

This was launched by seven divisions; the attack was preceded by the heaviest bombardment of the war from 500 guns of 87 field, medium and heavy batteries, and 100 aircraft, directed on the Sierra de Caballs. The heights were occupied on the night of 1 ¡2 November by El Mizzian's division, and on the morning of the 2nd General Galera's Navarrese stormed the principal positions of the Pandolls range. By then the defenders were dropping with exhaustion, their failing morale shattered by the relentless bombardments.

Nationalist forces now moved forward steadily as the first winter snows began to fall. Resistance was little more than token. In spite of threats of execution, a number of positions were abandoned without a shot being fired. Ribarroya, the last village to be held by the Republicans, was stormed by Yagué on 18 November, and its capture marked the end of the greatest and bloodiest battle of the war.

Losses had been exceptionally severe: the Republicans, whose effective army had largely ceased to exist, admitted to 70,000, including 30,000 dead, whilst Nationalist casualties, checked by post-war sources, are put at 41,400.

The Ebro battle was also the swan song of the International Brigades; a bare 25 per cent of those who had crossed the Ebro in July returned in November to the left bank. International agreement was reached which aimed at ending 'foreign' intervention in Spain; accordingly, some 10,000 Italians (who were no loss to the Nationalists) returned home. An estimated 6,000 Internationals adopted Spanish nationality in order to fight on — and lose their lives, for the most part, before the war ended five months later.

After the dramatic variations of fortune experienced by both sides, there could now be no doubt that the end, after so many false alarms, was in sight. Nevertheless Franco still refused to be hurried. The offensive to liquidate Red Barcelona and the Catalán pocket was not ordered till 10 December, and then it was postponed till the 23rd because of terrible weather conditions.

The force deployed for this ultimate drive was overwhelming. Twenty divisions were aligned from the Segre river and, from there, down the length of the Ebro to the sea. Sixteen were all Spanish, another three were made up of 80 per

Condor Legion
A Republican soldier—a senior N.C.O. or junior officer, judging by his peaked cap—throwing a grenade. Branch badges, apparently of the infantry, are pinned to the greatcoat collar. The leather equipment includes pouches for both rifle ammunition and grenades. (Keystone)

cent Spanish and 20 per cent Italian personnel (Mussolini had not withdrawn all his 'volunteers'), and one division was entirely Italian. This army of 300,000 men was supported by armour and a mass of artillery of all calibres. Though it was calculated that the Republic still had 200,000 men under arms, the series ofdisastrous defeats had taken their toll. With the exception of a few units commanded by such men as the indomitable Lister, few had any stomach left for the fight. Furthermore since the French frontier had been closed once more, equipment was wearing out and ammunition stocks were low.

1939 By New Year's Day, the Nationalists were moving forward along three main axes, much to the surprise of the Republican command which had lulled itself into a sense of false security by believing that after the gruelling Ebro battle at least two months would be needed before a fresh operation could be mounted. Except for the front held by Lister's battered V Corps to the east of Lérida, defences crumbled before the Nationalist steam roller. Lister hung on for six days, then, on 3 January, the Navarrese attacked the key position of Borjas Blancas which fell on the 4th. With V Corps routed the Republicans could offer no further effective resistance. Their retreat showed every sign of degenerating into a sauve qui peut.

Yagué, having crossed the Ebro, moved direct on Tarragona, second largest city of Catalonia, which fell on 14 January. From then on, the advance on Barcelona was limited only by the distance the marching infantry could cover in a day. With the Catalán capital crowded with refugees, and therefore a prey to anarchy, the Republican Government fled to Gerona.

On 24 January the legionaries of the Moroccan Corps stormed the imposing rock citadel of Montjuich overlooking Barcelona, freeing 1,200 political prisoners who had miraculously escaped execution. The following day two columns closed in on the city which they occupied on the 27th without firing a shot.

The fall of Barcelona was the signal for the Government officials to abandon Gerona and set up office, for the last time, in Figueras, near the French frontier, but not before ordering the execution of all Nationalists held in the jail, among them the Bishop of Teruel and Colonel Rey d'Harcourt, the town's gallant defender of twelve months ago. They did not remain long. With the Nationalists hard on their heels, the leaders, Negnn, Azana, and Luis Companys, flew to France to claim political asylum on 6 February.

Two days later the Navarrese entered Figueras, and on the 9th men of both Solchaga and Moscardo's Corps reached the French frontier. Only Madrid and the Valencia pocket now remained under the Republican flag.

Later in February, Negrin flew from France to the capital to urge further resistance, but by then even so dedicated a Republican as Miaja was convinced that a continuation of the blood-letting could serve no further purpose. There were violent disputes, and on 23 February, Colonel Casado, the temporary and unsuccessful XVIII Corps commander at Brúñete, staged an uprising against Communist power and formed a Council of National Defence, hoping that Franco would be prepared to discuss terms with a fellow officer and avowed moderate. This resulted in a civil war within the civil war, with over 1,000 deaths on 13 March, before the Casado faction gained the upper hand.

Delegates of the Council of National Defence were invited to Franco's headquarters at Burgos, only to be told that 'though no retribution would be exacted against those who, obeying the dictates of their conscience, had served with the Republican forces, the only condition offered was unconditional surrender'. Casado had no choice but to accept. On 28 March Nationalist troops entered Madrid.

The south also capitulated without further fighting. The Republican fleet at Cartagena sailed to French North Africa to be voluntarily interned at Bizerta. In Alicante, pro-Nationalist elements refused to obey Negrin's representatives urging a continuation of the struggle. The main Republican garrisons laid down their arms and waited for the take-over as two Nationalist columns began an unopposed advance.

By an irony of fate, Franco was unable to enter Madrid at the head of his troops, being laid low by a violent attack of influenza, after having enjoyed perfect health throughout the campaign. Nevertheless on 1 April, he was able to dictate the last communique of the war • 'On today's date, the Red Army having been captured and disarmed, the National troops reached their last objective.'

Legion Condor Ranks

Legion Condor rank insignia. These were worn on the left breast and cap front. N.C.O.s' ranking (such as that of Unteroffizier, 'A') took the form of gold bars on branch-colour backing, worn vertically on the front of the sidecap and horizontally on the breast. Junior officers wore six-point silver stars on branch-colour backing in the same positions; 'B' illustrates the rank of Oberleutnant, with local Spanish rank of captain. Field officers wore gold stars with eight points; 'C' shows the insignia of Major, with local Spanish rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Legion Condor rank insignia. These were worn on the left breast and cap front. N.C.O.s' ranking (such as that of Unteroffizier, 'A') took the form of gold bars on branch-colour backing, worn vertically on the front of the sidecap and horizontally on the breast. Junior officers wore six-point silver stars on branch-colour backing in the same positions; 'B' illustrates the rank of Oberleutnant, with local Spanish rank of captain. Field officers wore gold stars with eight points; 'C' shows the insignia of Major, with local Spanish rank of lieutenant-colonel.

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