The Spanish Civil War July 17 – December 31 1936

July 1936

August 1936

September 1936
October 1936
November 1936  

December 1936

General sources

August 2

The rebels in the form of the Spanish Foreign Legion begin to advance from Sevilla towards Madrid. Two days later they begin to move on Extremadura.

August 6

Josep Sunyol, an ERC (Catalan left) deputy, founder of La Rambla newspaper and president of FC Barcelona inadvertedly crosses is caught in an ambush in the Sierra de Guadarrama and is killed by pro-Franco troops.

Josep Sunyol

Josep Sunyol’s brilliant career was cut short in tragic fashion on August 6, 1936, when as part of his political activities, the Barça president visited Republican troops near to Madrid. Without noticing, his car entered a zone controlled by Frano’s troops in Sierra de Guadarrama. Sunyol was identified and arrested, and without trial, he and his colleagues were shot dead on the spot. News of his death did not reach Barcelona until a week later, where it would cause a major commotion on all levels of society.

August 8

The pressure continues on the Republic.  France closes its border with Spain, stopping further sales of arms and ammunition. This signalled the beginning of the Non-Intervention Policy.

A Republican expedition from Barcelona retakes in early August Menorca, Ibiza, Cabrera and Formentera, but they fail disasterously to take Mallorca later in the month

Battle of Majorca

Plans for a seaborne attack on the Balearic Islands seem to have surfaced independently in various Republican militia groups in the days following the joining of Ibiza, Formentera, and Majorca to Franco’s Nationalist military rebellion. Already, on July 23, bomber squadrons struck Palma and Cabrera, and on August 1, a Republican expeditionary force from Minorca landed at Cabrera and resisted all efforts to dislodge it.

August 10

The Nationalists under General Juan Yagüe capture Mérida on their way to Madrid cutting off the Republicans in Badajoz. Republican militia failed in their counterattacks on two occassions. Battle of Mérida

August 11

The Nationalist gunboat Eduardo Dato is sunk at Algerciras by the Republican battleship Jaime I.

August 14

Yagúe’s troops attack and take Badajoz, bringing together the two parts of Nationalist territory.

Around 4,000 people die during and after the attack in Badajoz. In the local bullring, thousands of people machine-gunned by the Nationalists. Yagüe commentated to American journalist John T. Whitaker “Of course we shot them -he said to me- What do you expect? Was I supposed to take 4,000 reds with me as my column advanced, racing against time? Was I expected to turn them loose in my rear and let them make Badajoz red again?

August 16

The Republican Army land on the Mallorcan coast, under heavy bombardment by Italian planes.

Battle of Majorca

The Battle of Majorca, also known as the Majorca Landings, was an amphibious landing early in the Spanish Civil War aimed at driving the Nationalists from Majorca and reclaiming the island for the Republic. After some initial tactical success, the expedition, commanded by Captain Alberto Bayo, ended in failure when the Nationalists counterattacked with ground troops and massively superior air power and drove the Republicans into the sea. So confident were the Republicans in their prediction of victory they optimistically called the operation “la reconquista de Mallorca” – “the reconquest of Majorca”

August 19

Poet Federico García Lorca, among others, is murdered in Granada by members of a fascist death squad. Later, the official excuse for the brutal assassination of García Lorca was that he was homosexual

Federico García Lorca

García Lorca left Madrid for his family home in Granada only three days before the Spanish Civil War broke out. García Lorca knew that he would be suspect to the rising right wing for his outspoken liberal views. On 18 August, his brother-in-law, Manuel Fernández-Montesinos, the leftist mayor of Granada, was shot. Lorca was arrested that same afternoon.

It is thought that García Lorca was shot and killed by Nationalist militia on 19 August 1936.[30] The author Ian Gibson in his book The Assassination of García Lorca alleges that he was shot with three others (Joaquin Arcollas Cabezas, Francisco Galadi Mergal and Dioscoro Galindo Gonzalez) at a place known as the Fuente Grande, or Great Fountain in Spanish, which is on the road between Viznar and Alfacar

The Guardian “Spanish archeologists fail to find Federico García Lorca’s grave

One of the greatest mysteries of recent Spanish history will remain unsolved for the foreseeable future, after a team of archeologists admitted they had failed to find the grave of poet and playwright Federico García Lorca.

23 August

70 prisoners from the Model Prison in Madrid were massacred by CNT-FAI activists in revenge for the execution by the Nationalists of several thousand Republicans in Badajoz. The atrocity was condemned by the anarchist director of prisoners, Melchor Rodriguez

….los trágicos sucesos de la Cárcel Modelo, prisión que desde el principio de la guerra había albergado a alrededor de 3.000 prisioneros políticos. Efectivamente el 23 de agosto, tras un conato de incendio en la prisión provocado no se sabe por quién, los milicianos de la CNT-FAI clamaron venganza por lo de Badajoz y tras sacar a unos 40 presos procedieron a fusilarlos sin juicio alguno. Al día siguiente sacaron a 30 presos más y continuaron los fusilamientos. Entre los caídos se encontraban Melquíades Alvarez, republicano conservador, José María Albiñana, jefe del Partido Nacionalista Español y los falangistas Fernando Primo de Rivera y Julio Ruiz de Alda. Estos trágicos sucesos fueron los que posibilitaron la creación de los Tribunales Populares destinados a ocupar el vacío de justicia provocado por el estallido de la guerra. Mediante estos tribunales los acusados podían al menos defenderse de las acusaciones que se les imputaban aunque normalmente eran hallados culpables en la mayoría de los casos.

August 24

Germany and Italy join the Non-Intervention agreement, which permits them to participate in the international blockade of Spain: Italian and German warships are now allowed to stay in Spanish territorial waters and prevent other ships from reaching the shores of Spain.

The new Russian Ambassador, Marcel Rosenberg, arrives in Republican Spain, accompanied by a considerable number of Soviet “advisers.  The initial Soviet entourage took up residence in the Alfonso Hotel, though it soon moved to the Palace Hotel, located at Plaza de las Cortes 7—the political centre of the Republic, until the government abandoned the capital eight weeks later.

The socialist leader Luis Araquistain summed up Rosenberg’s behaviour in Spain in this way:

More than an ambassador, Rosenberg acted like a Russian viceroy in Spain. He paid daily visits to Largo Caballero, sometimes accompanied by Russians of high rank, military or civilian. During the visits, which lasted hours on end, Rosenberg tried to give the head of the Spanish government instructions as to what he should do in order to direct the war successfully. His suggestions, which were practically orders, related mainly to army officers. Such and such generals and colonels should be dismissed and others appointed in their place. These recommendations were based, not on the competence of the officers, but on their political affiliations and on the degree of their amenability to the Communists. From Soviet Diplomacy and the Spanish Civil War

August 28

The Nationalists bomb Madrid for the first time.


September 3

The Republican forces retreat from Mallorca, after failing to take the island. Under permanent attack by enemy land and air forces, the retreat was more of a flight, leaving behind many men, weapons and valuable material.

The Nationalists captured Talavera de la Reina.

September 4

Prime Minister Francisco Largo Caballero presents new government: six Socialists, four Republicans, two Communists, one Catalan Republican, and one Basque Nationalist.

September 5

After heavy fighting, the Basque city of Irún is taken by the Nationalists. Anarchist militias, defending the city, destroy most of the government buildings with dynamite to prevent their use by the Fascists. The Fascists control now a large and contiguous portion of Spain. The Basque Country is separated from the rest of the Republic, the Basque coastline is already blocked by warships of the “Non Intervention” states, and eventually even its supply lines over the French border are cut off.

September 9

23 countries attend first official meeting of the Non-Intervention committee in London. The psychological effect on the Republican side is horrible. Instead of helping the legally elected democratic government, the democratic nations turn away, in favor of the Insurgents. “One country alone reacted without fear, and with great generosity, towards the plight of the Spanish republic. Mexico supported fully and publicly the claim of the Madrid government. Mexico refused to follow the French-British Non-Intervention proposals, recognizing immediately the great advantage they offered the Insurgents. Contrary to the United States, Mexico did not feel that neutrality between an elected government and a military junta was a proper policy.[…] Mexico’s attitude gave immense moral comfort to the Republic, especially since the major South American governments – those of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru – sympathized more or less openly with the Insurgents.” But Mexican aid meant relatively little in practical terms if the French border were closed and if the dictators remained free to supply the Insurgents with a quality and quantity of weapons far beyond the power of Mexico.
Nationalists have been under siege in the Alcázar de Toledo since July 21. Today, Lt. Colonel Vicente Rojo Lluch enters the Alcázar under a flag of truce to try to obtain its surrender, and failing that, the release of the hostages. Colonel Moscardo refuses both proposals.

September 13

The Basques surrender San Sebastián to the Nationalists rather than risk its destruction. Anarchist militias wanting to set the town ablaze are shot. The Nationalists now advance in the direction of the Basque main city, Bilbao.
The government agree to send part of the national gold reserves to the Soviet Union. The gold is sent as security for future buying of war material from the Soviet Union.

September 14

Pius XI condemns the Republican Government for their “satanic hate against God”, reacting to the news that Father Josep Samsó PP of Santa María de Mataró near Barcelona, who had been imprisoned for being a priest, was taken from jail and executed in the local cemetery on the 1 September.

September 19

The Nationalists take the island of Ibiza while the rebellion succeeds in the island of Fernando Poo (Spanish Guinea).

September 24

Against the recommendation of his German advisors, Franco postpones the advance on Madrid in order to aid the insurgents in the Alcázar of Toledo. The siege has taken on immense symbolic importance for both sides.

September 26

The new Catalan government (Generalitat de Catalunya) includes now the groups who gained power resisting the military rebellion. The Trotskyist POUM and the Anarchist CNT/FAI send ministers.

September 27

Toledo falls to the Nationalists. Some hundred militia man try to stop the Nationalist advance into the city and were all killed by Foreign Legion and Moroccan mercenaries, the “Moros”. Around 40 anarchists, running out of ammunition, set fire to the building they were defending and are burned alive rather the be taken as prisoners. The Nationalists murder the doctor and the nurses in the hospital of Toledo; unarmed, wounded militiamen are killed in their beds. It transpires that the hostages taken by Nationalist Colonel Moscardo were killed in the beginning of the siege, which explains why Moscardo refused to handle them over on September 9.

September 27

The Non-Intervention committee refuses to hear charges against Portugal for its open support of the insurgents and the clear defiance of the blockade.

September 29

The Fascist junta in Burgos declare Franco Generalísimo. A Nationalist naval squadron breaks the Republic’s hold over the Strait of Gibraltar at the Battle of Cape Espartel; a Republican destroyer is sunk and another one is damaged.
Comintern approves the creation of the International Brigades.

Ilya Ehrenburg, letter sent to Marcel Rosenberg (30th September, 1936)

The question of possibly merging the Socialists and the Communists into one party (as in Catalonia) does not have, according to my preliminary impression, any immediate, current significance since the Socialist party, as such, at least in the central region, does not make itself much felt and since the Socialists and Communists act in concert within the framework of a union organization – the General Workers’ Union – headed by Caballero (abbreviated UGT), the activity and influence of which far exceed the limits of a union.

What are our channels for action in this situation? We support close contact with the majority of the members of the government, chiefly with Caballero and Prieto. Both of them, through their personal and public authority, stand incomparably higher than the other members of the government and play a leading role for them. Both of them very attentively listen to everything that we say. Prieto at this particular time is trying at all costs to avoid conflict with Caballero and therefore is trying not to focus on the issues.

I think it unnecessary to dwell at this time on the problem of how an aggravation in class contradictions might take shape during a protracted civil war and the difficulties with the economy that might result (supplying the army, the workers, and so on), especially as I think it futile to explore a more distant prospect while the situation at the front still places all the issues of the revolution under a question mark.


October 1

Franco declares himself head of state and Generalísimo.
The Republican government concedes autonomy to the Basque Country (in practice, Biscay and Guipúzcoa) as Euzkadi, with José Antonio Aguirre as its president.

October 3

In order to legitimise the fascist rebellion inside and outside Spain, Franco establishes a civil government for the “National Zone”. This Civil Junta has practically no say in any matter, because at the beginning of their uprising the insurgent generals declared a State of War covering all of Spain.

October 6

The Soviet Union declares it will be no more bound by Non-Intervention than are Portugal, Italy, and Germany. The Spanish Republic will now, three months into the uprising, be able to buy armaments and ammunition. Unlike the “National Zone”, which is supplied openly over the Portuguese border, the Republic still suffers under the closed French border and the “Non-Intervention” blockade at sea.

October 7

The first International Brigades are founded in Albacete. The Italian Communist chief Palmiro Togliatti and the French Communist Andre Marty are the effective organizational heads.

October 9

Foundation of the “Popular Army” in the Spanish Republic. The plan is to organize the loyal portion of the former army, along with the militias, under a modern and efficient officers corps with a central command.

André Marty, letter sent to the General Consul of the Soviet Union in Barcelona (11th October, 1936) The Madrid government and general staff have shown a startling incapacity for the elementary organization of defense. So far they have not achieved agreement between the parties. So far they have not created an appropriate relationship for the government and War Ministry to take control. Caballero, having arrived at the need to establish the institution of political commissars, so far has not been able to realize this, because of the extraordinary bureaucratic sluggishness of the syndicalists, whom he greatly criticizes and yet without whom he considers it impossible to undertake anything. The general staff is steeped in the traditions of the old army and does not believe in the possibility of building an army without experienced, barracks-trained old cadres. Meanwhile, the capable military leaders who have been fighting at the front for two months in various detachments, and who might have been the basis for the development of significant military units, have been detailed all over the place. Up to four thousand officers, three-fourths of the current corps, are retained in Madrid and are completely idle. In Madrid up to ten thousand officers are in prison under the supervision of several thousand armed men. In Madrid no serious purge of suspect elements is in evidence. No political work and no preparation of the population for the difficulty of a possible siege or assault is noticeable. There are no fewer than fifty thousand armed men in Madrid, but they are not trained, and there are no measures being taken to disarm unreliable units. There are no staffs for fortified areas. They have put together a good plan for the defense of Madrid, but almost nothing has been done to put this plan into practice. Several days ago they began fortification work around the city. Up to fifteen thousand men are now occupied with that, mostly members of unions. There has been no mobilization of the population for that work. Even the basics are extraordinarily poorly taken care of, so the airport near the city is almost without any protection. Intelligence is completely unorganized. There is no communication with the population behind the enemy’s rear lines. Meanwhile, White spies in the city are extraordinarily strong. Not long ago, a small shell factory was
blown up by the Whites; an aerodrome with nine planes was destroyed because the aerodrome was lit up the entire night; a train carrying 350 motor-cycles was destroyed by enemy bombs.


Caballero attentively listens to our advice, after a while agrees to all our suggestions, but when putting them into action meets an exceptional amount of difficulty. I think that the main difficulty is Caballero’s basic demand, now in place, to carry out all measures on a broad democratic basis through syndicalist organizations. Sufficient weapons, in particular machine guns, are now flowing to the city to raise the morale of the populace somewhat. Masses of peasants and workers are thronging to the city – volunteers. They end up for the most part in the Fifth Regiment, where they go through a very short training course, as they receive their weapons only about two days before going to the front.

October 12

Miguel de Unamuno opposes Nationalist General Millán Astray. During a celebration in the University of Salamanca (National Zone), with guests including Franco’s wife, world famous philosopher and chairman of the university, Miguel de Unamuno, speaks out against General Millán Astray, first commander of the Foreign Legion. Until now a supporter of the Nationalist Rebellion, he says that listening to the official speech of Millán Astray he has come to realize the inhuman and ignoble nature of the uprising. Meanwhile, supporters of the General are shouting “Long Live Death”. Unamuno says in a loud voice to the general that they have not only to win (vencer), but to convince (convencer), that he doesn’t think they were fit for the latter task, and that the general himself, a cripple who lost an eye and an arm in a former war, is also a cripple in his mind, and therefore his hatred wants to cripple all others. The choleric General becomes so furious that he wants to strike Unamuno, shouting “Death to Intelligence”. Only the intervention of Franco’s wife prevents this. Unamuno is removed as rector of the university. Because of his international fame and the trouble after the assassination of poet García Lorca, Franco refuses his own and Millán Astray’s wish to execute Unamuno. Instead, he is confined to his house and is not allowed to express himself in public. He will die of chagrin in December. The day he dies, his two sons enlist themselves in the Republican Militias.

October 14

Rebel troops from the Canary Islands disembark at Bata and take control of the continental part of Spanish Guinea.

October 24

First shipment of the Spanish Gold Reserves to the Soviet Union, which insists on having a security for selling armament and ammunition. Spain will ultimately send more than half its gold reserve to the USSR; at $35 per troy ounce the shipment was worth US$578,000,000.

October 27

The first Russian tanks arrive in Madrid. The heavily armored T-26 tanks, which weigh more than 10 tons apiece, drive from the central train station directly into battle. The defenders of Madrid, who until now had to use Molotov cocktails (glass bottles filled with gasoline and burning cloth) against the German and Italian tanks on the Nationalist side, gain the ability to slow the Nationalist advance.

October 27

16 people dead and 60 wounded in fascist air raid against Madrid. Six bombs detonate in the Plaza de Colón, in the middle of the City. One bomb falls into a queue of women waiting for milk for their children. This is the first bombing in modern history without any military purpose, other than to spread terror among the civilian population. The air raid was made by German pilots in Junkers Ju-52. Madrid has no air defenses to prevent enemy aircraft from flying over the city.

Millán Astray, speech in Salamanca (12th October 1936)

Catalonia and the Basque Country are two cancers in the body of the nation! Fascism, Spain’s remedy, comes to exterminate them, slicing healthy, living flesh like a scalpel.

October-November Siege of Madrid begins

Siege of Madrid

Francisco Franco, statement (26th November, 1937)

I will impose my will by victory and will not enter into discussion. We open our arms to all Spaniards and offer them the opportunity of helping to form the Spain of tomorrow which will be a land of justice, mercy, and fraternity. The war is already won on the battlefields as in the economic, commercial, industrial, and even social spheres. I will only agree to end it militarily. My troops will advance. The choice for the enemy is fight or unconditional surrender, nothing else.

In Barcelona. Meeting with Durruti and the taking of Sietamo – Pierre van Paassen

Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre van Paassen recounts his visit of liberated Barcelona, his meeting with libertarian fighter Buenaventura Durruti, and the taking of the town of Sietamo by anarchist forces. This is an extract from van Paassen’s book Days of our Years, which documents his experiences in Europe, Africa and the Middle East before the outbreak of World War II.

Three months later when I visited Barcelona again, there remained not a trace of disorder. The old regime was making way for a new order of things. Theaters had reopened. The transportation system, including the taxicabs and the underground railway, was functioning normally, and food was plentiful. But the false Montmartre atmosphere in the Paralelo neighbourhood had completely evaporated. You could walk through the quarter known as the Chinese City without an army of pimps and harlots and dope peddlers on to your coattails. The brothels, night clubs, gambling casinos, peep shows, honky-tonks and obscene movies had been closed. That was the work of the working-class committees. On the other hand, the churches and convents which had escaped the fury of the masses in July had been turned into kindergartens, cultural centres, hospitals, lecture halls and popular universities. Scores of small bookshops had made their appearance. People apparently were turning to reading in a country where letters and learning were for ages, if not proscribed, then at least the privilege of a minority of monsignori and bourgeois lawyers. The famous monastery of Montserrat, located on the mountain overlooking the city, had been transformed into a sanatorium for tubercular children, but nobody could tell me where the monks had gone, nor did anyone seem to care a great deal.

Joseph Stalin agreed and in September 1936 the Comintern began organising the formation of International Brigades. An internatinal recruiting centre was set up in Paris and a training base at Albacete in Spain.

November- December

November 1

The Nationalist army arrive in Madrid. An army of roughly 25,000 men arrive the suburbs of Madrid. Italian planes drop leaflets demanding the citizens to help them to take the city, “otherwise the National aviation will wipe Madrid off the earth”.

November 2

The first Russian aircraft over Madrid surprise the Nationalist bombers. The Republican aviation had till now only a handful of obsolete machines, but today the people of Madrid can see the first Russian “Chatos” defending the city. Citizens stand in the streets and watch the sky, ignoring the alarms and the calls for shelter. Several attacking aircraft are shot down; some Russian aircraft are also shot down by Italian Fiats guarding the bombers. One Russian pilot suffers a horrible death: After his machine is destroyed by an Italian Fiat he saves himself with a jump out of his burning plane, his parachute brings him safely to the city, but he is lynched by a mob of furious citizens, who think he is a German Fascist from the Condor Legion.

November 4

Four Anarchist ministers join the Republican government: Federica Montseny – portofolio of education, Juan Garcia Oliver – law, Juan Lopez[disambiguation needed], and Joan Peiró. By this means, Largo Caballero brings figures from what is by far Spain’s largest mass movement into the government.
The Nationalists take the Madrid suburb Getafe. After a heavy attack by Moorish cavalry, tanks, and aircraft, the defenders are completely defeated. The wounded are walking disorientated over the battlefield, the organization of the defense in this area breaks down. Fascist General Varela tells foreign journalists in a press conference: “You can tell the world, Madrid will fall within one week.” General Mola plans the attack route: over the Casa de Campo and the practically unpopulated university quarter, to avoid heavy losses in the fierce street fight he would anticipate if he had to enter through the south suburbs, traditionally strong districts of the working class. Nationalist casualties are mounting but still tolerable: 115 men today.

November 5

For the first time, the Republican air force forces attacking bombers and their escort to break up the attack on Madrid before they even reach the city.

November 6

After heavy fighting which causes his forces 426 casualties, Yague occupies the suburb Carabanchel and the strategically important hill Cerro de los Angeles. With that, the Nationalists are standing on the door to Madrid, whose defense is organized under the newly created Junta de Defensa directed by General Jose Miaja.
The Republican government moves to Valencia.

The government including Caballero expected Madrid to fall and so made a pre-planned move from Madrid on 6 November to Valencia. General Miaja and the political leaders who remained formed the Junta de Defensa de Madrid (Committee for the Defence of Madrid) to organise the republican defenders.

November 7

The attack on Madrid. Nationalists gain important bridges on the way to the inner city. General Varela’s troops enter Casa de Campo and the University Quarter in fierce man-to-man and house-to-house combat. Both sides suffer heavily. Yague loses today 313 men, mostly Legionnaires and Moors; he is seriously worried by the mounting casualties to his Africa veterans. Franco declares that he will be listening the very next day the holy measures in the cathedral of Madrid.

November 8-9

All-out assault on Madrid. The International Brigades arrive. The defenders are running out of ammunition; on several points the front is close to breaking; in the university quarter the enemy pushes through the Republican lines. This is the moment when the first “Internationals” arrive in Madrid. The shocked citizens think in the first moment that the Nationalists are in the inner city when they see 3,000 uniformed and disciplined soldiers marching in. The members, mostly German, Polish, and Italian veterans of World War I and of German concentration camps, start to sing revolutionary songs and the “Internationale”. The citizens rush out of their houses and sing and shout for joy. The “Brigadistas” march immediately to the front, and throw themselves unflinchingly into battle. 2,000 of them die or are wounded within 48 hours. In the War Ministry of Madrid, telegramms are arriving congratulating General Franco on his victorious entry, but only Republican officers are there to read them. When the Moroccan mercenaries of Franco break through the Republican lines in direction of the Model Prison, General Miaja himself drives to the threatened sector, takes his pistol in one hand and shouts at the retreating soldiers: “Cowards! Die in your trenches. Die with your General.” This encourages his men, the gap is closed. All over the city, citizens, women as well as the men, are reinforcing the trenches, taking the rifles from dead or wounded soldiers. The Nationalist Ejército de África loses a further 282 veterans in these two days.
Around 1,000 mostly political prisoners are massacred by their Republican Militia guards today in Paracuellos del Jarama. The prisoners, most of them accused Nationalists, were to be evacuated from Madrid to prevent their liberation by Nationalist troops. Their Guards decide to join the defense of Madrid, kill all of the prisoners and return to Madrid.

Mola attacked on 8 November with 20,000 troops, mostly Moroccan regulares, supported by Italian light armour and German Panzer I tanks under German officer Wilhelm Von Thoma. The German Condor Legion also provided air support which took a heavy toll on the buildings of the quarter.The Republicans had deployed 12,000 troops in Carabanchel and 30,000 more to meet the main assault at the Casa de Campo. Despite their superiority in numbers, they were very badly equipped, mostly having only small arms, with reputedly only ten rounds for each rifle. In addition, most of them had never been trained in the use of weapons, let alone experienced combat before. Nevertheless, they held off the Nationalist onslaught at Casa de Campo. Some regulares eventually broke through and made an initial crossing over the Manzanares towards the Model Prison, the target of the offensive, but the attack stalled at the western fringe of the city.[3][4] The Republican General Miaja himself reputedly raced to the ruined buildings where the Republican troops were starting to rout, and, pistol in hand, called upon the retreating troops to rally to him and die in the trenches with him rather than flee as cowards

Throughout the day, the city radio called upon the city’s citizens to mobilise and support the front, with the rally cry, “No Pasarán!” (‘They shall not pass!’).[3]Late on 8 November, the first International Brigade, the XI of 1900 men, arrived at the front, marching through the Gran Via in the city centre in to the front good order. Although numerically small and with their training unfinished, having been hurried to the front as a relief force, their arrival was a major morale boost for the defenders of Madrid. The foreign troops, while actually a mixture of Germans, French and various other nations, but were greeted with cries of vivan los rusos (“long live the Russians”) by madrilenos – being mistaken for Soviet infantry

vOn 9 November, the Nationalists switched the focus of their offensive to the Carabanchel suburb, but this heavily built up urban area proved a very difficult obstacle. The colonial Moroccan troops were pinned down in house to house fighting (in which they had little previous experience, their greatest strength being in open-country warfare) and took heavy casualties at the hands of militiamen who knew the urban terrain very well.In the evening of 9 November, General Kléber launched an assault of the XI International Brigade on the Nationalist positions in the Casa de Campo, which lasted for the whole night and part of the next morning. At the end of the fight, the Nationalist troops had been forced to retreat, abandoning all hopes of a direct assault on Madrid through the Casa de Campo, while the XIth Brigade had lost a third of its men. Meanwhile, Republican troops counter attacked all along the front in Madrid, on the 9th, 10th and 17 November, driving the Nationalists back at some places, but taking heavy casualties in the process.


On the 10th, 4000 more Republican reinforcements arrived from the Aragon front – anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) militiamen under Buenaventura Durruti.

On 11 November, an infamous massacre occurred on the Republican side, when 1,029 [6] Nationalist prisoners held in the Model Prison were taken out and killed in the Jarama valley by the Republican 5th regiment as potential “Fifth Columnists”. It has been alleged that the killings were ordered by communist leader Santiago Carrillo but this has never been proved. According to Anthony Beevor, the order for the massacre came from either Jose Cazorla, Carrillo’s deputy, or from the Soviet advisor, Koltsov.[6] The atrocity was condemned by the anarchist director of prisoners, Melchor Rodriguez.

On the 12th, the newly arrived XII International Brigade, under General Mate “Lukacs” Zalka (German, Scandinavian, French, Belgian and Italian troops), launched an attack on Nationalist positions on the Cerro de los Ángeles hill, south of the city, to prevent the cutting off of the Valencia road. The attack collapsed due to language and communication problems and insufficient artillery support. However the road to Valencia remained open.

November 10

Front line established in Madrid, the university quarter back under Republican control. Nationalist casualties are 155. The famous Anarchist Buenaventura Durruti arrives today with the 3,000-man “Durruti Column”. They left the Saragossa Front to help defend Madrid.

November 18

Italy and Germany recognize the Franco government. Everybody expects the fall of Madrid within hours. Franco throws everything he has into the battle, German aircraft are fighting over Madrid, and both countries expect this diplomatic step to strengthen the position of Franco and weaken the stand and the morale of the Republic. The Durruti Column has been fighting in the University City without rest since the 15th, only 400 of the 3,000 survive, and those are completely exhausted. Durruti will launch an attack at the University hospital the next day. Between the 11th and the 18th, the Nationalist attackers have suffered 1,290 casualties; they have forced a wedge inside the Ciudad Universitaria but failed to control it or to advance into the capital.

November 19

Anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti is gravely wounded during the fighting in Madrid. The Durruti Column launches their attack on the University hospital, held by the Nationalists. Around 2 p.m., Durruti is hit by a bullet on the right side of his breast, which passes through his chest and lungs. It is suspected that he may have shot from behind by one of his men, either by accident or possibly in an intentional effort to stop the suicidal attack. What actually happened remains controversial. Nationalist casualties today are 262 with no terrain won at all; the offensive has stalled and turned into what Mola and Yague most feared, a close-quarters fight in urban environment.

(5) The Manchester Guardian (19th November 1936)







Tremendous damage is being done to Madrid by Franco’s airmen and gunners. Streets are in ruins, palaces damaged, and there are great numbers of killed and wounded. As the results of Tuesday’s bombing and shelling it is semi-officially estimated that 200 people were killed and 500 wounded. Yesterday the rebel airmen set buildings on fire with incendiary bombs.

This bring the civilian casualties in Madrid in the last week up to about 500 killed and 1,200 wounded, the majority being women and children. The attacks on Tuesday night were preceded by the dropping of pamphlets telling the people that the worst air raids they had experienced were to come.

November 20

Buenaventura Durruti dies at 6 a.m. The Nationalists suffer a further 294 casualties while repulsing furious counter-attacks against Carabanchel and Vertice Basurero. José Antonio Primo de Rivera, son of dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera and founder of the Falange, is executed in a jail in Alicante, where he has been a prisoner since before the insurgency. The execution is carried out by the new Communist civil governor of Alicante, without awaiting the confirmation of sentence by the government. This breaking of the law and insubordination angered Largo Caballero, but the Republic is already dependent on Soviet supplies and the Spanish Communist Party. This Party starts to act as a state within the state.

November 23

Battle of Madrid ends; with both sides exhausted, a front stabilizes. After 2 weeks, Franco has to give up his plans of taking the city. He now begins preparing himself and his allies for a long and expensive war.

6 November. Spanish government abandons Madrid

As reported by Mikhail Koltzov, the Soviet journalist:

I made my way to the War Ministry, to the Commissariat of War. Hardly anyone was there. I went to the offices of the Prime Minister. The building was locked. I went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was deserted. In the Foreign Press Censorship an official told me that the government, two hours earlier, had recognized that the situation of Madrid was hopeless and had already left. Largo Caballero had forbidden the publication of any news about the evacuation “in order to avoid panic”. I went to the Ministry of the Interior. The building was nearly empty. I went to the central committee of the Communist Party. A plenary meeting of the Politburo was being held. They told me that this very day Largo Caballero had suddenly decided to evacuate. His decision had been approved by the majority of the cabinet. The Communist ministers wanted to remain, but it was made clear to them that such a step would discredit the government and that they were obliged to leave like all the others. Not even the most prominent leaders of the various organizations, nor the departments and agencies of the state, had been informed of the government’s departure. Only at the last moment had the Minister told the Chief of the Central General Staff that the government was leaving. The Minister of the Interior, Galarza, and his aide, the Director of Security Munoz, had left the capital before anyone else. The staff of General Pozas, the commander of the central front, had scurried off. Once again I went to the War Ministry. I climbed the stairs to the lobby. Not a soul! On the landing two old employees are seated like wax figures wearing livery and neatly shaven waiting to be called by the Minister at the sound of his bell! It would be just the same if the Minister were the previous one or a new one. Rows of offices! All the doors are wide open. I enter the War Minister’s office. Not a soul! Further down, a row of offices – the Central General Staff, with its sections; the General Staff with its sections; the General Staff of the Central Front, with its sections; the Quartermaster Corps with its sections; the Personnel Department, with its sections. All the doors are wide open. The ceiling lamps shine brightly. On the desks there are abandoned maps, documents communiqués, pencils, pads filled with notes. Not a soul! Spartacus

21st November

The Anarchist Revolution in Spain – New Statesman

Account by Cyril Connolly in the New Statesman or 21st November 1936 of the anarchist revolution during the Spanish Civil War

“It is in Barcelona that the full force of the anarchist revolution becomes apparent. Their initials, CNT and FAI, are everywhere. They have taken over all the hotels, restaurants, cafes, trains, taxis, and means of communication, as well as all theatres, cinemas, and places of amusement. Their first act was to abolish the tip as being incompatible with the dignity of those who receive it, and to attempt to give one is the only act, short of making the Fascist salute, that a foreigner can be disliked for.

December 11

Alvarez del Vayo complains today before the League of the Nations in Geneva about the support of Portugal, Italy and Germany for the Rebels and the political and economic isolation of the Spanish Republic by the Democratic Nations and the Non-Intervention Committee.

December 17

New government constituted in Aragon. The new Consejo de Aragon has a clear majority of Anarchists. The front-line in Aragon is basically formed by Anarchist and Socialist militia. Some areas and villages in Aragon start immediately with the “revolution”, what means the reorganization of public life under Anarchist ideals, foundation of communes and self-organization of factories and farms. Some of the villages replace money with coupons handed out by the local authorities. In Aragon, the world can see the most radical reformation of public life and a true people’s revolution.

December 22

Thousands of Nationalist Italian volunteers land in Cadiz, the Nationalist port.

December 24

Thousands have to spend the Christmas days in the trenches on the front. Many refugees have nowhere to go and have to stay at subway stations and refugee camps.

December 30

George Orwell enlists himself in a Republican P.O.U.M. Militia to fight against fascism.

December 31

Miguel de Unamuno dies in his House in Salamanca. As soon as they got notice of the death of their father, his two sons enlist themselves in the Antifascist Militias.

17th December 1936 by ‘Pravda:’ “As for Catalonia, the purging of Trotskyist and anarcho-syndicalist elements has begun; this work will be carried out with the same energy with which it was done in the USSR. Here


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