Little notes about the SCW.

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tigre
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Little notes about the SCW.

Postby tigre » 25 Oct 2014 14:36

Hello to all :D; a brief account and two query......................

The SCW's outbreak and first actions...................

In April 1931, the monarchical government, which had existed for over nine hundred years, was overthrown, the king was banished, and a Republic was proclaimed. For over five turbulent years, Spain had been ruled, at various times, by Cabinets composed of republicans, socialists, communists and anarchits.

The Spanish Civil War began with spontaneous outbreaks in Morocco and in several Spanish cities on 18 July 1936. The Madrid Government, caught by surprise, was unable to quell these uprisings.

In the early stages of the war, it looked as if General Franco, with the bulk of the Regular Army behind him, was quickly overcoming opposition and inflicting a crushing defeat on the Government forces. In an incredible short time, he captured the most important arsenals of Western Spain, sweeping the disorganized Red masses to the gates of Madrid, Spain's beautiful capital. Russian aid reached the Government forces in time to check the insurgent offensive early in November 1936 and Franco is still hammering at the gates of the Spanish capital; however, the Insurgents have been victorious elsewhere.

Source: The Spanish Civil War. Military Review. Dec 1937.

It was in that way: the Republican government never saw the punch coming? Why Franco gained ground so fast? TIA. Cheers. Raúl M 8-).
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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby Ironmachine » 26 Oct 2014 06:49

There was sufficient evidence to believe that they would be a coup, but given the precedents the government had no reasons to be overly concerned. They were probably surprised by the size and success of the uprising when it finally happened.
The basic reason for the initial success of the rebel offensive in the south was that no serious military effort was made against it. Using inexperienced and badly organized militias, often in the open and in piecemeal fashion, against the most professional troops of the Army was a sure recipe for disaster.

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby tigre » 26 Oct 2014 13:25

Thanks for shedding light on it pal :wink:. Cheers. Raúl M 8-).

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby durb » 26 Oct 2014 19:30

Inefficient use of available resources makes to wonder the Republican chain of command. The much maligned Republican Navy was actually more effective than its postwar reputation. It did stop and limit smooth Nationalist troops transfers, but it was stationed in multinationally governed Tangér instead of using Spanish Naval bases. And Republican governement even called the Navy off from Gibraltar Straits to put it operate in Cantabric Sea - after that there not deterrent limiting the transfer of Nationalist troops from Spanish Marocco to Spanish continent.

Also it is peculiar that Republicans did not use their fighter force to stop the Nationalist airlift between Africa and Europe functioning - Republican Navy would have needed air support. Instead Republican Air Force used their old Nieuport 52 fighters in inefficient patrols of two or three planes scattered here and there without clear operational plan. Even a threat of Republican fighters located in southern Spain would have slowed down considerably Nationalist troop transfers by air. But such threat there was not.

Also the Republican attack on Mallorca was actually good idea and it was leading to succes, but the troops conquering Mallorca were called off as it was thought they were more needed in continent. As a consequence Mallorca remained firmly in Nationalist hands and served as very important air- and navybase for Franco´s Italian allies (who could from Baleares bomb efficiently Barcelona and Republican Mediterranean ports).

Nationalists won the Civil War not only because they were superior military force but even more because of repeated Republican mistakes, indecision and scattered efforts. Also Nationalists made mistakes but they were less and had less fatal consequences. Initiative remained in Nationalist hands almost during the whole war while Republican success was good mainly on defensive operations. I think that the biggest Republican victory was to halt Nationalist attack toward Madrid on late 1936 - that was decisive in a way that it led to a prolonged war.

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby Ironmachine » 27 Oct 2014 07:56

Inefficient use of available resources makes to wonder the Republican chain of command.

Ah, but was there really a Republican chain of command in the initial stages of the war? :)

I think that the biggest Republican victory was to halt Nationalist attack toward Madrid on late 1936 -

However, considering the circumstances a Republican success was the most likely outcome. Anyway, this and the other examples you posted clearly show the main problem of the Republicans during the war: in a way they were not trying to win the war, they were just really trying not to lose it. When your main slogans are of the kind of "Resistir es vencer" or "No pasarán", you clearly had a problem. The Republicans never had a winning strategy, and all the initiative was left to the Nationals.

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby durb » 30 Oct 2014 22:33

Taking above in consideration, one might ask if the Ebro Offensive in 1938 was really completely wrong? It is said that it was the final breakdown of Republicans and a great mistake, but what other options did Republican military command have at that point? Just staying in defense and wait Franco to launch a decisive attack?

I´m not saying that Ebro Offensive was a great idea, but the Republicans just had to try something active at that point. Stayind on defensive and wait the Nationalist to attack was equally sure recipe of defeat. Ebro Offensive was perhaps a great blunder but at least it was a try to reverse difficult military situation by active means. Afterwards it is perhaps too easy to say that the passive defence was all that was left for Republicans. If the passive defence was all that was left, then the whole situation was practically lost well before Ebro Offensive. One could thus say that Ebro was not the decisive battle, but that there had been already more important battles before that.

Loss of North meant practically that the war could be not be won anymore - at best a stalemate was possible, but Nationalists controlled already more Spain. Losses of Teruel Battle exhausted Republican forces and after that they could not resist the Aragon Offensive and Catalonia (+whole Republic) was doomed. There was not just one battle that decided SCW but a combination of various battles each leading to Republican defeat.

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby Ironmachine » 31 Oct 2014 08:21

The whole situation was not good before the Ebro offensive, and the Republicans knew that their perspectives were not good. The only way out was to wait for a change in the international situation (ie, pray for a world war) and that meant surviving for as long as possible. In that way, defence was the only option. In fact, the Republicans had been in a "passive defence" mood for practically all the war, in the sense that they had left all the initiative to the Nationals while playing a "reactive" war to the National offensives. They did not go for winning the war, they just played for not losing it, so to say.
Regarding the Ebro offensive, it should be remembered that it was not a war-winning offensive. Its goal was simply to save Valencia by diverting the National forces attacking there to stop the Ebro offensive. In that, it was a big success, because the Nationals suspended the operations against Valencia (whether they really needed to do that is arguably, but that's another story).
But the big mistake came when the offensive's objective had been achieved. The Republican troops should have been withdrawn to their initial positions. There was nothing of value in the conquered area and the troops had nothing to win there. With a big river at their back and a very vulnerable line of supply, they were due to be annihilated for no good reasons, and so they were. They earned some time before the Nationals launced their offensive against Cataluña, but once this offensive was set in motion there was nothing to stop them. The troops that should have fought against them had been destroyed at the Ebro. They should have been retreated and used to defend Cataluña.
So no, the Ebro Offensive was not a great mistake; it was in fact a big success. What was a great mistake was fighting the National counteroffensive beyond the Ebro.

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby durb » 07 Nov 2014 15:59

By the way it could be interesting to discuss the longtime sieges of Spanish Civil War. As far as I know the sieges of Alcázar and Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la la Cabeza (Andújar) were the very first cases when encircled troops/strongholds were supplied by air (or the first times when supplies were delivered by air drops to the beleaguared).

Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza has been overshadowed by Alcázar case, although it was maybe more heroic tale as the siege of Alcázar - they were very few and still they managed to hold nine months withouth real chances of being liberated from the siege. I guess that as the siege of Santuario ended ultimately to capitulation it did not get so much attention in Nationalist propaganda and afterwar history writing, although it was of course remembered to some extent. For foreign historians it has been just a sidestory with little interest and the official name of the place is also damn long :( - not so easy to write and remember as Alcázar :)

There are of course other great siege stories like Oviedo to be considered. For some reason I know only the Nationalist tales of being under long lasting sieges. I guess that Republicans had also some similar stories, but perhaps they have been forgotten? When it comes to Madrid, I do not consider it having been under complete siege as it was never completely cut off of the rest of Republic.

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby Ironmachine » 07 Nov 2014 21:02

durb wrote:As far as I know the sieges of Alcázar and Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la la Cabeza (Andújar) were the very first cases when encircled troops/strongholds were supplied by air (or the first times when supplies were delivered by air drops to the beleaguared).

No. The British had already done that with their besieged troops at Kut (Mesopotamia) in April 1916.

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby tigre » 08 Nov 2014 05:40

Hello to all :D; very interesting your comments gentlemen, a little more......................

The SCW's outbreak and first actions...................

The important seaport of Malaga fell before General Llano's army in comparatively easy fashion on February 9th; in the North, Bilbao has been captured, while Santander fell before the three Italian divisions, Black Arrows, Black Flame and 20th of March, and a contingent of Moors and Royalist troops. On 21 October 1937, Gijon, the last Leftist stronghold in the Bay of Biscay, surrendered. On 31 October, the Government Capitol was moved from Valencia to Barcelona and the Nationalists, today, control over two-thirds of Spain. The successful outcome of operations in the North, has. enabled Franco to transfer thousands of men and, with them, the mass of artillery and tanks, and the large fleet of airplanes that the Insurgents had been using in the Asturian campaign for an offensive on the Aragon front. Madrid's trench network would necessitate a costly direct assault, while a successful offensive on the comparatively open Aragon front, which juts down to within forty to fifty miles of the Mediterranean and runs parallel to the cost for about sixty miles, would split Valencia from autonomous Catalonia and, very probably, cause the collapse of the Leftist Government. As a precaution, the Leftists moved the seat of Government from Valencia to Barcelona on 31 October 1937.

On 4 November, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told the House of Commons that the British Government and the Spanish Insurgents were negotiating for appointment of commercial agents. This favorable attitude is interpreted by British newspapers as an indication that the Government believes that General Franco will be in full control of the whole of Spain by the New Year. Rebel headquarters at Salamanca are most optimistic and many military observers are inclined to agree with Franco that, unless something unforeseen occurs, the "war is won."

Source: The Spanish Civil War. Military Review. Dec 1937.

Cheers. Raúl M 8-)
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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby Ironmachine » 11 Nov 2014 14:36

while Santander fell before the three Italian divisions, Black Arrows, Black Flame and 20th of March, and a contingent of Moors and Royalist troops.

In general, these short summaries from the Military Review are very funny (and quite inaccurate; probably they are so funny because of that), but this statement wins hands down on both counts. :lol:

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby durb » 11 Nov 2014 16:32

A map of the gradual development of Northern front would be interesting to see. Northern front of Republicans/Basques did exist quite long (more than year) - it was not a simple walkover operation for Nationalists as terrain was not suitable for blitzkrieg operations. Perhaps the fall of Northern front was the turning point of SCW. Republicans lost too much to win the war after North´s fall. At the same time Nationalist got hold of important resources like mines and steel industry.

And again one more siege story of SCW - besides Oviedo case there was almost one month siege of small Nationalist stronghold in Gijón (July-August 1936). I see some pattern here - isolated Nationalist pockets holding against Republicans again and again during SCW. These sieges did tie up considerable amounts of Republican troops which were away from the main theaters of war.

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby Ironmachine » 11 Nov 2014 18:39

durb wrote:there was almost one month siege of small Nationalist stronghold in Gijón (July-August 1936)

Actually, there was not a small National stronghold in Gijón, but two very small ones, as they were just a pair of military barracks: the "Cuartel del Simancas" and the "Cuartel de Zapadores del Coto". Simancas resisted little more than a month (until 21 August); Zapadores had been abandoned a few days before, the survivors going into the Simancas barracks.

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby durb » 23 Nov 2014 21:32

The more that I have read about SCW is makes to me think that the fundamental question is not anymore why Republicans lost - there are so many logical reasons that led to defeat and they have been outlined several times - so maybe the real question is to ask how Republicans could hold so long despite repeated defeats? Why did Republic not collapse earlier than in March 1939?

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Re: Little notes about the SCW.

Postby tigre » 06 Dec 2014 11:31

Hello to all :D; a brief account as it was told at that time by the Military Review.................

THE BATTLE OF TERUEL.

The city of Teruel, capital of the Province of the same name, with a population of 9,600, had been in Franco's possession since the beginning of the war. It is situated at the junction of two river valleYR, by the confluence of the rivers Guadalaviar and Alfambra.* The terrain is very mountainous (Figure 2) and is so strong that the Insurgents considered it secure from frontal attacks, protected as it is by Muleton Hill and Mount Celadas in the north and the now famous Muela de Teruel (Teruel's Tooth) in the south; therefore, leaving only a weak garrison in this sector, the High Command proceeded to concentrate elsewhere for another offensive, either on the Guadalajara Front or along the valley of the Ebro. Apparently, the Government received information concerning these conditions, probably through spies, and secretly reinforced the "Levante Army" (Army of the East) with a number of International Brigades, which have rendered such gallant service in this war, particularly in hours of crises.

At dawn, 15 December 1937, the Government offensive was launched, the infantry heavily supported by artillery, airplanes and tanks; the attacks were directed from the north, south and southwest, to pinch out the salient. Rapid progress was made on the first day; by the 16th, the Government had captured Concud (Figure 3) about three miles west of the city, thus gaining control of the only available route that could be used to reinforce the defenders. By the 18th, the city had been encircled and on the 21st, Government troops entered the town and isolated the weak Insurgent garrison, which, occupying a few buildings, offered resistance for a few days, but was finally forced to surrender a few days later.

Sharply stung, the Insurgent High Command made preparations at once to wipe out this defeat. A powerful army was concentrated without delay on 30 December and a vigorous counterattack was launched on that date, supported ,by artillery, tanks and over one hundred airplanes. Extremely adverse weather prevailed, freezing temperatures, high winds and snow impeded the advance of the infantry, artillery and motor vehicles. This resulted in a deadlock lasting practically the entire month of January 1938, with attacks and counterattacks following each other in quick sucession. On 6 February, General Fidel Davila, the conqueror of Bilbao, assumed personal command of the operations. On 18 February, the Insurgents launched a vigorous counteroffensive directed by General Franco himself. The operations started with a feint near Montalban, about thirty-eight miles to the north. The Government massed its forces in the Montalban sector to meet this threat. With lightning speed, Franco struck between the Montalban forces and Teruel across the Alfambra River, east of Peralejos (Figure 3). Capturing Peralejos, the Insurgents seized the bridge over the Alfambra in vicinity of Villalba Baja and then swung sharply to the south along the Alfambra valley. (Figure 3.) Government defenses along this mountain valley crumbled under the fierce attack from the northeast. The village of Valdecebro and the dominating heights overlooking the city were captured in a desperate hand to hand combat and, finally, on 23 February, after fighting their way through into the city streets, overcoming machine guns, storming trenches and barricaded buildings, the Insurgents regained possession of Teruel. The situation was now the opposite to that which had taken place exactly two months before, when the Government troops, by a surprise offensive, hammered the Insurgent garrison into submission, Teruel has been converted into a mass of shell-torn ruins and the two-month seige and the various battles have left little in the city worth fighting for. It possesses, nevertheless, great strategic importance as the pivot point of the extreme southernmost tip of the Aragon front.

*The Alfambra flows into the Guadalaviar at Teruel; the latter turns sharply to the south and southeast, where it becomes known as the Guadalaviar or Turia and empties into the Mediterranean in the vicinity of Valencia.

Source: Military News Around the World. Military Review March 1938.

Cheers. Raúl M 8-).
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