Spanish Civil War – August 1936

August 1

After heavy pressure from Britain, France, governed by the Popular Front of Leon Blum, reverses its policy of aiding Republican Spain, and together both nations establish the Non-Intervention Committee.

Meanwhile on the Rebel side, conversly, after pleas by the Marqués de Viana and the exiled ex-king of Spain, Alfonso XIII, Mussolini begins to send aircraft, paid  for by Catalan billionaire and tobacco smuggler Juan March. And as Franco has no air personnel or pilots, Italy dispatched the aircraft with Italian pilots. This flagrant breach of non-interventiom comes to light, when two of the planes crash in French Morocco.

Aviazione Legionaria

On July 27 Mussolini ordered the under-secretary for the Regia Aeronautica, general Giuseppe Valle, to send 12 three-engined Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 bombers with crews and the relevant specialists. These would form the first unit, initially known at first as Aviación del Tercio and set out at dawn on 30 July from Cagliari-Elmas on Sardinia, where they had picked up three officials from the Scuola di Navigazione di Altura at Orbetello, the ‘gerarca’ Ettore Muti and the tenente-colonnello Ruggero Bonomi. The aircraft crews and the specialists were all volunteers from 7th, 10th and 13th Stormo and were provided with civilian clothes and fake documents. All the Italian symbols on the planes had been blotted out to prevent an international incident with pro-Republican European governments. Fake documents stated that the planes were being sold to the Spanish journalist Luis Bolin.

The trip to Franco’s forces was arduous and not all of the planes reached Morocco – the plane commanded by Angelini crashed in the Mediterranean, that under Mattalia crashed near Saïda (in a French-controlled part of Morocco), and that commanded by Lo Forte had to make an emergency landing near Berkane (also in French Morocco) and was seized by the local authorities. The nine survivors of the Moroccan crashes were provided with nationalist papers and transferred to the airport at Tetuan, from which they helped over the following days to escort the transport ships AraujoCiudad de Alicante and Ciudad de Ceuta, which together carried 4,000 men, 4 artillery batteries, 2 million cartridges and 12 tons of other munitions to mainland Spain.

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.

Remaining rebel barracks in Valencia surrender.

Spanish government (Giral decree) seizes companies associated with the rebels.

August 3

Aerial bombing of Zaragoza cathedral, home to the chapel of Our Lady of the Pillar, patroness of Spain, associated with the Reconquista. None of the boms exploded, which was used to prove a “miracle” had saved the cathedral. Two of the bombs are still shown in the Basilica.

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.

Franco lands in Seville from Morocoo.

August 7

‘Execution’ of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Cerro de los Ángeles by republican militia. This was perhaps the most famous of the widespread desecration of images and Churches. The photograph was published throughout the world. The photograph was taken by a Paramount newsreel representative and originally published in the London Daily Mail with a caption calling it part of the “Spanish Reds’ war on religion. King Alfonso XII had consecrated the nation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at this same spot on May 30, 1919. Wikipedia

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

The Republican government decrees the closure of all religious institutions.

August 11

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

August 12

Coup leaders generals Goded and Fernández Burriel are shot by firing squad after a court-marshal in Barcelona.

August 13

Report of the Roman Catholic primate, Cardinal Isidro Goma´, to the Holy See which essentially justifies the war as a religious crusade.

Su intervención fue decisiva para el reconocimiento por la Santa Sede del gobierno de la dictadura militar presidido por el general Franco y también en 1937 redactó, conociendo los asesinatos de obispos y sacerdotes en la zona republicana, la “Carta colectiva de los obispos españoles a los obispos de todo el mundo con motivo de la guerra en España”, defendiendo el movimiento nacional. También justificó teológicamente la guerra civil y dio su aprobación a la designación de “cruzada” a la guerra civil.

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?

Paul Preston on the massacre and context

In  the  case  of  Badajoz,  where  the  resistance  was  fierce,  nearly  4000 people were killed in one week.   Two thousand of them were shot in the local bull-ring in a twenty-four hour period.  Piles of corpses were soaked in petrol and burned in the local cemetery, thereby rendering it impossible for there to be an accurate account of those killed.

August 16

A Republican force of 10,000 men 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.

The Popular Courts are created to process those accused of collaborating with the rebellion against the elected government.

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 25

Soviet consol Antonov Ovseenko arrives in Barcelona. His specific assignment was to bring the Catalan anarchists into the main war effort:

Moscow is of the opinion that rapprochement between Catalonia and Madrid is in Spain’s interest. I must attempt to bring the anarchists to their senses, and bring them aboard the defensive struggle. They have, after all, a damned violent influence….

Once in the Catalan capital, Antonov-Ovseenko set about his task with a competence and sensitivity that largely eluded the ambassador in Madrid. Much unlike Rosenberg, who never bothered to learn Castilian, Antonov-Ovseenko proved a quick study with the thornier Catalan. He immediately established good relations with Companys, and a propaganda newsreel (video here) shot by the Catalans shows the two men smiling at an overflowing Barcelona crowd at celebrations marking the nineteenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. From Soviet Diplomacy and the Spanish Civil War

August 27

Red-and-gold national Spanish flag is restored in the nationalist zone. The Republican flag had been initially used also by the insurgents.

August 28

The Nationalists bomb Madrid for the first time.

August 30

The Junta de Defensa Nacional annuls the dispositions of the republican agrarian reform.

August 31

Málaga 1937 The Manchester Guardian

Life in Malaga goes on calmly enough on the surface. There are, of course, the burned houses and the flags, and one sees fewer well-dressed people than in ordinary times.

Only foreigners wear a tie, for ties are now the sign that one is a “senorito.” The letters U.G.T., C.N.T., U.H.P., F.A.I., and a good many more denoting the various parties are painted on walls, on cars and lorries, on trees, on any surface that will take them. One cannot buy a melon in the market-place that has not got some initials scratched on it. There are also a good many militia about, dressed in their new uniforms of blue cotton overalls with red armlets.

The Committee system which come into existence in Spain when popular feeling, impatient of corrupt and incompetent bureaucratic methods, demands some outlet in action. But there is one committee new to Spain – the Committee of Public Health and Safety, – which came into existence on the day on which the Governor left the city, the 12th of this month. It is the Spanish equivalent of the Russian Cheka.

Here is a brief description of the workings of the committees in general. At the head is the Comité de Enlace, or Union, which decides the general policy. It is composed of twenty members, one of whom is the Governor, who seems otherwise to have only nominal powers, and it supervises all the other committees, those of Supply, of Labour, or Transport, of War, of Public Health and Safety, and so on. All the various parties of the Left, from Republicans to Anarchists, sit on these committees, and my impression of their work is that they are remarkably efficient. The ordinary machinery of Spanish local government could never have done half as much.

The Committee of Public Health and Safety investigates charges of hostility to the regime, provides safe conducts, organises search parties for wanted people, and shoots them. In five days it shot well over a hundred people in Malaga alone. To begin with it shot some thirty prisoners who were kept on a ship in the harbour. Some of these were senior police officers who refused to join the Government; others were prominent people of the Right; one was a marquesa caught using a private transmitting set. They were taken to a cemetery and shot. Then came the people who were dragged out of their houses at night, put in cars, driven off to some quiet road, and killed there. Their only crime as a rule was affiliation to the Ceda, the Right Catholic party, or their having offended some workman or other. Some of these people have been killed with shocking violence. One I saw had his head bashed in; another who had not died at the first volley had had his throat cut; others had their fingers, ears, or noses sliced off, after death, of course; they are cut off to be taken away as trophies.

The men who do this belong to the F.A.I., the anarchist organisation which is so extended in Barcelona and Saragossa and also provides the shock troops and gunmen for the Fascist party, Falange Espanola. They buy them by giving them work at good wages, with extra payment for assassinations, and as the membership of the Falange is secret they often remain at the same time both Fascists and anarchists.

But there has been a great change in the last few days. The anarchist bands who were dragging harmless people out of their houses after midnight and shooting them have been put down. Some have been shot, and militia patrol the streets and have orders to fire on any cars with armed men in them whom they see about after midnight. No one can be arrested and no house searched without a warrant signed by the Governor. The Committee of Public Safety have advisory powers only.

Another change is that red flags have been forbidden, and, except in some of the poorer quarters, the only colours now to be seen are the Republican. The explanation of this is that there has been a tightening up of the “Popular Front” in Madrid. The Governor of Malaga, who had just returned from a conference there, told me that an agreement had been arrived at between the Republican parties and the Socialist and Communist parties, with all their affiliated bodies, by which any form of Communism or dictatorship of the proletariat was entirely ruled out.

As soon as the war was over a Government would be formed of the Republican and Socialist parties, a Government much of the Left, of course, but not unfavourable to the middle classes, who are to a considerable extent supporting the Government. It is thought that the Syndicalists (especially the more conservative C.N.T.) would not oppose such an arrangement, and the conversations I have had with Syndicalist leaders in Malaga would seem to bear this out. What they would fight would be any increased form of centralisation or any dictatorship.

It seems hardly worth while, in the shambles that Spain is becoming, to deny any stories of atrocities. Yet I would like to say that reports published in the English papers of nuns led about naked in the streets of Malaga are the purest invention; on the contrary, they were taken either to the Town Hall for safety or to their own houses and were treated with perfect respect throughout. Sisters of Charity still go about the streets in their uniforms. Those killed are killed brutally but quickly; the truth by itself, without ornaments, is bad enough.


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