Puerto del Escudo and Italian Forces

Discussions on all aspects of the Spanish Civil War including the Condor Legion, the Germans fighting for Franco in the Spanish Civil War.
User avatar
Óscar G
Member
Posts: 246
Joined: 24 Jan 2003 19:54
Location: Spain

Puerto del Escudo and Italian Forces

Post by Óscar G » 28 Aug 2004 22:48

Hello everyone:

Since I visited the “Cementerio de los italianos” at the Escudo pass last week, I´m very intrigued with the role of the italian forces (CTV) in the capture of this place. I´m researching about them, and have found this thread, whose content connects perfectly with my aim.

viewtopic.php?t=29037&highlight=escudo

I´d like to share several pics and all the info I´ve compiled.
Firstly, I must emphasize – with Rodrigo – that the memorial, ex-cemetery, dedicated to the italian fallen is completely abandoned. I guess that it´s a private property, because of a sign forbiding the entrance and the barbed wire protecting the great main gate. No other sign, and no other evidence announcing it.
The place has still the look of those memorials erected by Franco ( for example, Alcocero de Mola) and Mussolini, but it´s completely uncared-for. The cows use to graze along the memorial. As far as I know, the remains of the italian soldiers were carried both to Zaragoza, to the “Sacrario Militare” (all the Italian fallen, brigadist or member of CTV, in the war remain here), or to Italy, under the decision of their families, in 1975. It seems to be that the "Sacrario" is the best cared memorial outside Italy. It means, indeed, a lot. The fact is that the Escudo Memorial is part of the spanish recient history and nobody in this country and is concerned with it.
I knew that the entrance to the Pyramid/Memorial itself was blocked off, but – to my surprise – someone had broken it making a small hole (see photo). I made up my mind to go in and could see the “dismantled” inner: a circular chamber with 360 empty niches (there were 351 official KIA)… Dust and marble debris was the only thing I could see… traces of the move done 30 years ago? or did someone strip the marble gravestones? Enclosed are some photos… As far as I could see and judging by the pieces on the floor, there was a memorial plaque inside the pyramid. Some supposed to be pieces of plaques were spred over the floor.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Óscar G
Member
Posts: 246
Joined: 24 Jan 2003 19:54
Location: Spain

Post by Óscar G » 28 Aug 2004 22:55

Well, let´s go to the point:
As far as I know, the Nationalist attack against Santander began on August 14th. I know that the Italian Forces were under the command of the General Ettore Bastico, and regrouped at that stage of the war in the “Littorio Division” (commanded by General Annibale Bergonzoli), “Fiamme Nere” (commanded by General Luigi Frusci) and the so called “Raggruppamento autonomo XXIII Marzo” (commanded by General Francisci). I´ve got every general´s biographies, apart from Francisci. It seems to be that the “raggruppamento” (this group became division in August 1937. Were they already “division” at that time?) conquered the Escudo pass… Am I right? Could the “Fiamme Nere” be involved in the operation? I think so.
To the best of my knowledge, the capture of this pass was quiet hard for the Italians. They fought fiercely against brigades from Santander and Asturias (specifically, Ladrada brigade) as well as Basque troops. There seemed to be strong resistance in the area close to Bezana and Bricia. The testimony of a Republican vet is clear: “ The machine guns placed on the top of the hills shut up. After noticing it, the Italian forces mistook the silence with the victory, so that they began to fall in, ready to parade. Then, the astounded Republicans fired and decimated them.” The Ladrada Brigade held the position. At last, the CTV took the pass the day after. The position was definetively consolidated on August 17th. According to the Nationalist reports, 6 tanks were captured in the Escudo.
As for the italian side, Carmelo Palella got the “Medaglia d´Oro” because of an spectacular combat action.

There is another curious event I´ve found out: the first tank battle of the North Campaign took place on the plateau of Corconte, close to the Escudo. There were RENAULT and TRUBIA tanks from the Republican Side, and the Fiat Ansaldo L 3/35 from “XXIII Marzo” in the Italian side. According to my sources, there was no clear winner.

Sources:
Jiménez de Aberasturi Corta, L. Mª. (2003). Crónica de la Guerra en el Norte (1936-1937). San Sebastián: Txertoa
Thomas, H. (1979). La Guerra Civil Española. Madrid: Urbión.
Bueno, J.Mª (1997), Uniformes de la Guerra Civil española. Madrid: Almena.

Here are more (difficult and complicated?) questions:

- Does anyone know the positions they started from and the units of the italian forces engaged in the Escudo pass capture?
- Besides, I´d really appreciated any help regarding the presence of Italian forces in the area Cilleruelo –Soncillo – Virtus (towns close to the Escudo pass). The Republican forces held it until the beginning of the attack.
- Is available any list of the fallen Italian soldiers at the Escudo?

Many thanks in advance and best regards.
Óscar
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
DrG
Member
Posts: 1150
Joined: 21 Oct 2003 22:23
Location: Italia

Post by DrG » 04 Sep 2004 11:24

I am sorry I cannot provide you any info. But I see your sources are all Spanish: given the not great difference between Spanish and Italian languages (for example, I can understand written Spanish without problems) I would suggest you A. Rovighi - F. Stefani, "La partecipazione italiana alla guerra civile spagnola" Vol. I (1936-1937) and Vol. II (fine '37 - 1939), USSME (see: http://www.litos.it/esercito_italiano/opere.html). You may buy it from http://www.tuttostoria.it.

User avatar
Óscar G
Member
Posts: 246
Joined: 24 Jan 2003 19:54
Location: Spain

Post by Óscar G » 05 Sep 2004 01:01

Thanks, DrG. These sources do help.
There is no problem with the Italian. Sebbene lo ho studiato qualche anni fa, Io posso leggerlo e anche mi piace molto. É la lingua della poesia... Ma com'è noto, è più facile da leggerlo che scriverlo.
Tante grazie. :wink:

User avatar
asiaticus
Member
Posts: 923
Joined: 03 Mar 2004 04:53
Location: Lake Elsinore CA USA

Map of the battle area.

Post by asiaticus » 05 Sep 2004 02:05

The plateau of Corconte, is right at the foot of the Escudo pass. Look at this map:

http://www.pueblos-espana.org/castilla+ ... de+virtus/

Was the Embalse del Ebro there at the time?

From looking at a low detail map of the campaign I have the Italians seems to have started around Soncillo had to dislodge the Republicans at Cilleruelo – Virtus and then probably confronted the tanks on the way to the pass.

User avatar
asiaticus
Member
Posts: 923
Joined: 03 Mar 2004 04:53
Location: Lake Elsinore CA USA

answers

Post by asiaticus » 05 Sep 2004 06:57

Here are more (difficult and complicated?) questions:

- Does anyone know the positions they started from and the units of the italian forces engaged in the Escudo pass capture?

Nationalist Units.

Agrupación B - General Ettore Bástico "Doria"

Composición:
- C. T. V. Mando General Bástico
+Divisione Llamas Negras
+Divisione XXIII de Marzo
+Divisione Littorio

- 2ª Media Brigada / 1ª Brigada de Castilla
Mando: TCol. Antonio Sagardía Ramos

Corps Artillery
2 100mm Groups - 6 batteries
2 105mm Goups- 6 batteries
2 149mm Groups- 6 batteries

Italian Air Legion : 70 Aircraft.

Republic
Defending 1st and 2nd Line

2ª DIVISIÓN............. 53 DIVISIÓN
Mayor Francisco Bravo Quesada

Jefe E.M. Capitán Antonio López Parapar

4ª Brigada.................. 170 BM Humberto Urzúa Cornejo

5ª Brigada.................. 171 BM Cuadra Corrales

6ª Brigada.................. 172 BM Victorino Martín

with reserve artillery, carros (Tanks), and AA artillery
-Artillery battalion of the Army Corps that had 14 tubes (8 of 75 mm, 4 of 77 mm and 2 of 105 mm).
- 1 Regimiento de Carros
- 1 Agrupación Anti Aérea


Defending Escudo Pass
- Batallón de Carabineros de Choque / Brigada de Carabineros
- One Brigade from:
DIVISIÓN DE CHOQUE. 55 DIVISIÓN TCol. Sanjuán cañete
8ª Brigada(asturiana)... 179 BM Fdez. Ladreda
all well dug in in anticpation of the attack.

---------------

- Besides, I´d really appreciated any help regarding the presence of Italian forces in the area Cilleruelo –Soncillo – Virtus (towns close to the Escudo pass). The Republican forces held it until the beginning of the attack.
Soncillo was where the Italians broke through 3km to the north past this town on the first day, the 14th of August.

Cilleruelo – Virtus where positions in the 2nd line of the Republican defense.

On the 15h the C. T. V. tried to progress in the direction of Corconte, where it found strong resistance. This would be that 2nd line .

On day 16 at the front of the Escudo Pass, the Italians advanced by the highway Corconte - La Población - Reinosa, cutting of the retirement of the Republican forces and the 171 and 172 BM lost the forward defenses of the Pass to them. (tank battle sometime this day?)


On day 17 the Italians were able to occupy Escudo Pass, where 55 División and its reinforcements had tenaciously defended.

User avatar
asiaticus
Member
Posts: 923
Joined: 03 Mar 2004 04:53
Location: Lake Elsinore CA USA

Better detail on the Nationalists

Post by asiaticus » 05 Sep 2004 07:18

Nationalist Units.
Agrupación B - General Ettore Bástico "Doria"

Composición:
- C. T. V. - General Bástico
+Divisione Llamas Negras
- 3 Infantry Regiments
- Artillery Regt. ( 3 Groups - 9 batteries)
+Divisione XXIII de Marzo
- IX de Mayo Infantry Regiment (4 bttn.)
-1 Celere Group (4 Tank Companies & 1 motorized MG Company)
- Artillery Regt. ( 2 Groups - 6 batteries)
+Divisione Littorio - Gen. Bergonzoli
- 2 Infantry Regiments
- Artillery Regt. ( 3 Groups - 9 batteries)

**
2ª BRIGADA DE CASTILLA
Mando: Coronel Faurié
- Cuartel General en Aguilar de Campoo (Palencia)
- Despliegue: Desde el Oeste de Lorilla al límite entre las provincias de Palencia y León
1º Sector
Agrupación TCol. Luis Moliner Martínez
2º Sector
Agrupación Sanz
3º Sector
Units
Agrupación Gómara
- 4º Batallón de San Marcial nº 22
- 5º Batallón de San Marcial nº 22
- 7º Batallón de San Marcial nº 22
- 7º Batallón de Bailén Nº 25
- 1ª Bandera de F.E.T. de Palencia
- 2ª Bandera de F.E.T. de Palencia
- 3ª Bandera de F.E.T. de Palencia
- 1º Batallón de Requetés de Palencia
. 1 Compañía de Arapiles
- 1º y 2º Grupos de Escuadrones de Villarrobledo, a pie
- 1 Engineer Battalion
- 17 batteries

Corps Artillery
2 100mm Groups - 6 batteries
2 105mm Goups- 6 batteries
2 149mm Groups- 6 batteries
Italian Air Legion : 70 Aircraft.

User avatar
Óscar G
Member
Posts: 246
Joined: 24 Jan 2003 19:54
Location: Spain

Post by Óscar G » 05 Sep 2004 22:15

Thanks for your splendid and exact information, Asiaticus!
As for the tanks battle, according to my sources it happened on August 15th. As you have argued, on that date the Italian forces progressed towards Corconte. Attached is a photo of the supposed to be Republican tanks. Any other fellow will be able to identify exactly these tanks or armoured trucks. My friend has told me that the place is Reinosa (by watching the typical balconies. He know well the area...), maybe immediately before the attack?
The other photo shows the area surrounding the "Puerto del Escudo". It´s taken from the pyramid looking south. The Ebro Reservoir is near the main road Burgos-Santander ( at the left). The minor road towards Reinosa, through Corconte, can be seen too. Corconte can´t be seen on the photo, but it would be in the right corner.
The "pantano" was built in the 50s, after the war.
Regards. Óscar :wink:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
DrG
Member
Posts: 1150
Joined: 21 Oct 2003 22:23
Location: Italia

Post by DrG » 05 Sep 2004 23:08

Óscar G wrote:Thanks, DrG. These sources do help.
There is no problem with the Italian. Sebbene lo ho studiato qualche anni fa, Io posso leggerlo e anche mi piace molto. É la lingua della poesia... Ma com'è noto, è più facile da leggerlo che scriverlo.
Tante grazie. :wink:

Oscar G, your Italian is almost perfect, really! :)
Yo puede leer español bien, pero hay problemas en escribirlo.
Hasta luego! :)

User avatar
asiaticus
Member
Posts: 923
Joined: 03 Mar 2004 04:53
Location: Lake Elsinore CA USA

about the photos of the tank and the pass

Post by asiaticus » 06 Sep 2004 05:35

First photo

The tank in the forgroud is a Trubia tank.

The armoured car in back is one of the Russian BA- 6's with the 45mm tank turret.

Second photo

Thanks for this it helps to make the topo maps come alive. By the way
what is the difference in elevation between the plain below and the pass summit?

User avatar
Óscar G
Member
Posts: 246
Joined: 24 Jan 2003 19:54
Location: Spain

Post by Óscar G » 06 Sep 2004 23:01

Thanks again, Asiaticus, for the information.
The difference is about 250 metres. The Escudo Pass isn´t a difficult or uneven spot. We have to bear in mind that the plateau down the Escudo (what one can see in the photo) is 850 metres above sea level. There is a difference of nearly 250 metres between these two spots: the plateau and the memorial. The latter isn´t located exactly on the summit, but 30 metres under it.
The hills surrounding the Escudo Pass have no trees, so that one can see the whole road coming from Cilleruelo (as you can check in the photo). This could be one of the points in favour of the Republicans when the offensive began.
Enclosed is a photo of the Corconte spa. Ciano, who was in charge in the burial of the fallen italians in the memorial, stayed in it. People from Virtus say that was a aerodrome near the spa (?). That´s one of the reasons why Ciano chose the place. The old women remember also how the Italians forces confined in the small town used to harass the youngest women... The young girls had to be accompanied. Lastly, they also tell that there was an italian fortified complex in "La Maza de Bezana", a 1,165 metres high mountain, from wich they bombarded Robredo and the road towards the Escudo... People, of course, was evacuated from Virtus before the offensive. The small hills surrounding Virtus are full of trenchs and craters.
All the best. Óscar
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
asiaticus
Member
Posts: 923
Joined: 03 Mar 2004 04:53
Location: Lake Elsinore CA USA

Post by asiaticus » 07 Sep 2004 00:47

Ive been looking at the maps of the area. South of Bezana is a big mountian that would be a good location for artillery to cover the whole valley below. Thanks for that and the other details.

User avatar
asiaticus
Member
Posts: 923
Joined: 03 Mar 2004 04:53
Location: Lake Elsinore CA USA

Post by asiaticus » 15 Sep 2004 07:36

I ran across an old photo of the tomb and graveyard outside.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Óscar G
Member
Posts: 246
Joined: 24 Jan 2003 19:54
Location: Spain

Post by Óscar G » 15 Sep 2004 22:18

Thanks for the photo, Asiaticus. I´ll try to get a photo belonging to my friend´s relative. It shows the pyramid 40 years ago with the marble covering the surface.
On the other hand, I´m going to the area next weekend. We have located some inhabitants who might give important clues about the Italian presence and the memorial. As soon as I have ready the information, after the interviews, I´ll post it.
Lastly, here you have a scan of the Escudo area map (1:25,000). It shows clearly the heights above the sea level. Enjoy it.
Best regards. Óscar :wink:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
asiaticus
Member
Posts: 923
Joined: 03 Mar 2004 04:53
Location: Lake Elsinore CA USA

Post by asiaticus » 16 Sep 2004 02:27

Oh thanks. I am inspired by all this to do a scenario of this for a SCW addon to computer wargame I am working on. This really helps on the pass detail. Ive been wanting something for the Italians in the battles in the north this looks like the very thing.

Id be interested in any further info you can dig up on this battle and the earlier tank battle on the plain below, or the breakthru before.

Return to “Spanish Civil War & Legion Condor”