Monday, 18 July 2016

And So It Begins




"Today Spain, Tomorrow The World".

While the Left portrayed the Civil War 
as a fight against the threat of Nazism 
and Fascism, the Right in Spain was in 
fact almost wholly dominated by social
conservatives and traditionalists, who 
wanted a return to a Spain that rested 
on the three  'pillars'; of the nobility, the 
church and the military. A middle class
'Fascist Spain' was almost as abhorrent 
a concept as a 'Red Spain'. 
Eighty years ago today, the people of Spain arose to find that the military forces, led by right-wing officers, had seized control of Spain's protectorate in Morocco overnight. Believing that the rebellion was confined to the 'Army of Africa', the government took little initial action. Fearing a more general revolt the main trade union groups, the CNT and the UGT offered their support to the government and demanded weapons to defend it. When Santiago Quiroga, Spain's Prime Minister, refused them weapons and further ordered that the issue of weapons would be an illegal act, the unions called their members to join a general strike across Spain. Effectively this could be seen as the unions mobilising their membership for action, but with few actual weapons they were mostly powerless against what was to follow.

The difficulties of organising a coup across an entire country and its satellite territories, had meant that a timetable of events had to be agreed some time before hand. While originally the garrisons in Morocco had been supposed to rise up before those on the mainland, this had been later changed to simultaneous action by all involved on the same day. In the event the plans were discovered and the rising in Morocco set into motion a day early. This led to confusion amongst the various leaders of the coup, often resulting in some hesitation before acting; in some cases too much hesitation, which led to the failure of the coup in key cities. In like measure the failure of the Government to act resolutely allowed it to succeed in others.

By the end of the day the cities of Seville, Cadiz and Algeciras in Andalucia, were in rebel hands and ready to receive the first of many drafts of troops from Morocco. A company of Regulares promptly arriving the same day, packed onto the decks of the destroyer Churruca. In the North the rebels were in the process of securing Zaragoza, Leon, Valladolid, Pamplona and Burgos and within days had almost complete control of North-West Spain. Ultimately the failure of the rebels to achieve complete control and the failure of the Government to quickly suppress the coup, led to a civil war that lasted almost three years, followed by a military dictatorship that lasted a further 36 years. Such were the effects of the coup that it still informs Spain's political life to this day. 

The Civil War and I

The three 'columns' that in essence supported the creation of the Nationalist Spanish State. The Popular Front in France feared its own civil war if it intervened in Spain, Britain's National Government passively accepted that a Nationalist Spain was much more preferable to a Revolutionary Spain and the U.S.A. was pursuing an isolationist policy with regard to Europe. In the event only the Soviet Union and Mexico committed themselves to supporting the democratically elected government of Spain.  
I would like to say that I have always had an interest in the Spanish Civil War, but truth told it was a long time coming. Like many wargamers my interests lay more in the Second World War and other 'popular' periods as my wargaming identity developed over the years. I had encountered topics like the Condor Legion in history classes and even a distantly remembered article relating to the 'Battle of Malaga' in one of the wargaming magazines that was about back then. I cannot even reliably pinpoint the moment that the bug bit me, but nevertheless it did and for the past ten years or so, the conflict has consumed a lot of my spare time. It has not been without its rewards however, as I went from having no Spanish at all, to being able to read it comfortably. My speaking and listening still leaves a lot to be desired however, as at least one Spanish blogger and wargamer can attest to. 

One thing that became apparent as I became more and more involved in the Spanish Civil War, was that how little was actually known about it within the 'wargames world'. I doubt that I have in the past been different to most wargamers, who when we read something, be it in an Osprey, or a 'wargamers guide', take it for granted that the writer has devoted a lot of time and effort to get things right. It became apparent to me that, as regards the Spanish Civil War at least, that this was not so. This will certainly not be news to many of you out there, who have come to the same realisation on other topics long before I did, however it came as a surprise to me at the time.

The Civil War is not an easy topic to research, especially if you are an Anglophone. While there are some great works on the 'big picture' and the politics of the Civil War (which are oddly typically by English authors), what detail there is on the actual nitty-gritty of the war itself tend to be by Spanish ones. Some of these hail back to the Franco Era and are sort of the 'official history' of the war, while others written in the immediate aftermath of Franco's death swing completely in the opposite direction, as a kind of 'red backlash'. Only recently have Spanish authors begun to look more objectively at the topic.

Despite perceptions that the Spanish borrowed not only weapons, tanks and planes from elsewhere, but also their tactics and organisation, there are in fact a wide number of original Spanish military manuals that survive that say otherwise. These are a relative gold mine of information on organisation and tactics, not least that the ones printed by both sides during the war itself, are in fact re-prints of the ones created before the war. Those themselves were created from the experiences of the men who fought in the Rif War (1921-27), which was another topic that began to grab my attention and which will vie for space on this blog alongside the Civil War itself.

¡A Las Armas! - The Blog

There are many 'iconic' images of the Civil War, but for me this one stands out above all. The photo is of then 17 year old Marina Ginestà, taken by Juan Guzman on the roof of the Hotel Colón in Barcelona on the 21st July 1936. There's something of an expression of pride and resolution displayed by her and set against the background of the city she recently had helped 'liberate'. Marina was a member of the JSU (Socialist Youth) at the time and survived the war. She spent her remaining years in exile and died in Paris on January 6th 2014. It was only in the final years of her life that she was made aware of how widely circulated the photo had become over the years.  

After writing on various aspects of the Spanish Civil War on my blog Arlequín's World for some time, as well as contributing to various wargaming ventures related to it, I decided that I would like a blog solely devoted to the war and all its various aspects. My immersion in the topic was getting such that my other blog was beginning to become overwhelmed by Spanish Civil War material and I was not sure how many of the people that followed it had done so out of interest in that. By devoting an entire blog to the conflict and to a lesser extent the Rif War too, I would be more certain of any potential audience's interest. It would also allow me to return to using Arlequín's World for what it was intended for.   

As time allows the Spanish Civil War content from Arlequín's World will find its way onto this blog and it will subsequently be followed by wholly new content. I am very much a 'history guy', so expect a lot of it and I apologise in advance if I cause your eyes to glaze over at times. I am also somewhat obsessive over detail, especially when it comes to organisation and equipment. I try not to guesstimate things, but I will always make it clear when I am, rather than passing something off as 'historical fact'.

For actual gaming itself, I plan to provide material for Too Fat Lardies' Chain of Command WWII rules, on top of that provided in the España supplement and to begin to expand on the Civil War content already provided for their Bag The Hun WWII air combat rules. I am also looking at producing a set of rules specifically for the Spanish Civil War, which will fill a niche that lies above the 'platoon level' of Chain of Command and the 'company level' of I Ain't Been Shot Mum. More on those another time.

In all there is a lot planned and at the time of writing no actual content on the blog. However beginning it on the 80th Anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War itself, seemed too auspicious a day to miss.  

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