Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Coup Begins 17th - 18th July

General Franco was flown from the Canaries to Ceuta, arriving there on 19th July 1936.
The conspirators had worked out a detailed plan of action for the coup, which first involved a revolt in the Moroccan colonies on the night of 17th/18th July, to be followed by the main coup d'etat in the Peninsular in the early hours of the 19th. To preserve security, each participant was only privy to their part of the operation, which was to take place in relative isolation to the activities of the other conspirators. Only the senior commanders were privy to the whole of the operational details for the coup.

It was anticipated that if things went to plan, the army would have seized control of both Spain's key cities and the respective heads of government of the Popular Front would be in custody by the evening of the 19th. In the event things did not go to plan and in Melilla news of the planned insurrection became known on the evening of the 16th, forcing the conspirators there to act in advance of schedule, or lose the element of surprise.

Morocco 17th - 18th July


Rushing to prevent the authorities from acting to prevent the revolt, the conspirators moved quickly, arresting those officers not part of the operation until their loyalties could be determined. Troops seized public buildings and the offices of left-wing parties and trade unions. Troops were also sent to seize the working class districts in the city, which caught by surprise were unable to put up much resistance, particularly as they had few personal firearms in any case. The local Falangists were also mobilised and armed from army arsenals.

Ceuta and Tetuán

Informed of events in Melilla and the early start to the coup, the commanders of the rebels in Ceuta and Tetuán also decided to act immediately, rather than adhere to the schedule. Following the same pattern as the rebels in Melilla, they seized all of their objectives and pacified the local workers. The only hitch to the plan was that hearing of the revolt, the commander of Tetuán air base, ironically a cousin of General Franco, had all of the aircraft stationed there destroyed, denying to the rebels some badly needed transport aircraft and a whole squadron of Breguet XIX light bombers.

By the evening of the 18th July, all resistance to the Coup had ceased and all objectives were in rebel hands. As had been agreed once this had been achieved, General Franco was notified of the successful operation and flew from his post in the Canary Islands to take charge of the Army of Africa, arriving to a tumultuous welcome on the 19th July.

Madrid 18th July

Rumours of a revolt in Morocco began to circulate within the Government in the early hours of the 18th July. President Azaña, Prime Minister Quiroga and others were desperately trying to obtain information on events, as well as trying to determine if anything had happened yet on the Peninsula, and if so, who was involved, and who they could rely on.

On the morning of the 18th the Government announced that there had been an attempted coup in Morocco, but declared that there had been no such rising in the Peninsular whatsoever. Quiroga rebuffed offers from the CNT and UGT to form armed militias to defend the Republic, stating that the army would be sufficient force to deal with the attempted coup. Shortly after these announcements had been made, news of further revolts in Andalucia started to arrive.

News of the rebellion had also began to reach the ears of those involved in the plot, but whose part in it were scheduled for the 18th & 19th. Clearly something had gone wrong and radio reports for Madrid seemed to indicated that things were going badly. Being only aware of their own roles, doubt and uncertainty plagued them; should they stick to their schedule or act immediately? Had the Coup failed and to act would only prove their involvement and guilt?

The confusion caused was to result in only a partial rebellion, as the more faint-hearted of the plotters refused to act until they were better informed, which in some cases allowed local loyalists to pre-empt their actions and arrest them. The ultimate failure of the coup was that Spain was plunged into a bitter civil war for the next three years.

Pamplona 18th July

The first of the Requetés to arrive in Pamplona are paraded after receiving uniforms, but before being issued with weapons from the 23rd Regiment's armoury.
Navarre was the centre of the Traditionalist and Carlist movements within Spain, and other than Andalucia, was the only area where action in advance of the planned coup date of the 19th was evident. In terms of action, events in Pamplona occurred somewhat in advance to those in the South. As news of the revolt spread, various right-wing supporters took to the streets of Pamplona and the civil governor, accompanied by a number of the somewhat outnumbered trade unionists, occupied the old town.

The men of the Guardia Civil arrested their commander and shot him, making him potentially the first casualty of the coup on the mainland. Right-wing prisoners were released from the town's prison and messengers sent out to outlying villages to summon the members of the Requetés and Falangist militias, who had been training in secret for months before the coup.

Seville 18th July

Seville was the headquarters of the 2° Division, under the command of General José Fernandez de Villa-Abrille. While detachments of the division were spread out across all of Andalucia, within Seville itself there were several thousand troops. The Government were certain of Villa-Abrille's loyalty and confident that he could handle any revolt within his command. Also in Seville was the regional Headquarters of the Carabineros, who were led by General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Sierra, who had a history of support for the Republic and it was felt that between the two Generals, any potential spread of the Moroccan revolt to the mainland could be locked down.

On the morning of the 18th, Quiepo travelled to Villa-Abrille's headquarters. After a brief interview with the general, Quiepo ordered the men accompanying him to arrest Villa-Abrille, along with those of his staff who refused to support the rebellion. Quiepo then travelled to the barracks of the 'Granada' Regiment and a similar process occurred. Quiepo took over command of the regiment, assisted by a Captain, who was the highest ranking officer in the regiment willing to support the rebellion.

By the afternoon of the 18th, the Artillery Park and Ordnance Depot were in Quiepo's hands. Local Falangist and other right-wing volunteers were now arriving to support the rebellion, their leaders having been notified by Quiepo of the coup. While some of these already had weapons, Quiepo ordered that the remainder were also to be armed from the arsenals that had fallen under his control.

Quiepo now moved onto the Ayuntamiento (city hall), where the Mayor and a number of Seville Police, Assault Guards, Civil Guards and a few civilians, hearing of the revolt in Moroccco and Quiepo's actions had decided to make a stand. Quiepo's forces, which now also included a number of Assault Guards and Guardia Civil who had chosen to join the rebellion, established themselves across the Plaza Nueva from the Ayuntamiento and a fire fight began.

General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Sierra tours his domain.
As news of the fighting spread across the city, the CNT and UGT mobilised their membership and attempted to gain weapons from the military and paramilitary arsenals in the city. At around the same time that they discovered that all of these were in rebel hands, fighting ceased at the Plaza Nueva after Quiepo brought up artillery to fire over open sights at the loyalists, who promptly surrendered after Quiepo agreed to spare their lives.

The men of the CNT and UGT had no option but to return to their respective neighbourhoods and to begin building barricades to defend them. After having the defenders of the Ayuntamiento shot, Quiepo seized the remaining public buildings of the city and consolidated his hold on it, while seeking news on how the coup was progressing elsewhere. Quiepo was later to boast that he had taken the city with only a few hundred men, in reality he had a few thousand at his disposal.

Cadiz 18th July

A key facet of the rebels plot was to gain a port where elements of the Army of Africa could be landed in mainland Spain. General José López-Pinto Berizo commander of Cadiz's garrison, mustered his men and after releasing Colonel José Enrique Varela Iglesias from prison, where he had been incarcerated since April 1936, after it became apparent that he was part of a planned coup - the very one now taking place.

The two officers then led their men to Cadiz's Ayuntamiento, where militiamen and the civil governor had gathered to resist the coup. As in Seville a fire fight took place, but was ended when artillery was brought up to shell the building. The docks and port were secured shortly after, ready for the arrival of the first elements of the Army of Africa, who arrived in the destroyer Churruca the following morning. Nearby Jerez de la Frontera fell to the rebels with no opposition, further securing the rebel's position in the area.

The Nationalist Manifesto and their declaration of war, is read to the garrison and people of Cadiz, in the Plaza de San Juan de Dios.
Malaga 18th July

When news of the premature revolt in Morocco arrived, Captain Huelin of the 7th Pavia Oviedo Regiment decided to act in advance of his allotted schedule. He formed up his company and began to march them into the centre of Malaga and to seize the city for the rebels. On route he encountered a patrol of Assault Guards, who opened fire on the troops. The soldiers came off worse in the exchange and were eventually forced to retire when armed workers arrived to support the Asaltos.

Huelin's commander, General Francisco Patxot Madoz, becoming aware of Huelin's actions, was forced to bring forward his own schedule, or lose control of Malaga completely. He raised the remainder of the 7th and flooded the centre of Malaga with his men. As was becoming the normal chain of events, the civil governor and those Asaltos and Civil Guard committed to the Republic, fortified the Ayuntamiento, while the men of the 7th seized all of the other civic buildings in the city.

At this point, despite the seriousness of events, matters began to take on the attributes of a farce. The commander of the Guardia Civil attempted to mobilise his men to support the coup and they promptly arrested him and returned to their barracks. The local head of the Falange, Carlos Asiego, arrived at Patxot's headquarters and offered him the support of his members, only to be told that the situation was in hand and that if he would leave his phone number and the numbers of men he had available, he would be called if they were needed.

While this was occurring, Patxot's men were stood in Malaga awaiting further orders. Crowds of CNT and UGT workers were also on the streets, along with large numbers of ordinary malagueños, who wanted to witness what was going on. While the trade unionists were chanting slogans and setting fires in the streets, others took the opportunity to break into stores and loot them. Some of the 7th's officers began rounding up men to put out the fires, while groups of soldiers, left leaderless, began to wander back towards their barracks. Even worse, other groups of soldiers were openly fraternising and mixing in with the workers.

While it was effectively over, the last event in Malaga's 'revolt' was that Patxot received a phone call from Spain's new prime minister, Diego Martínez Barrio, in Madrid, informing him that the revolt had been defeated elsewhere and that a naval squadron had been despatched to shell Malaga from the sea if he did not surrender. Patxot was assured that there would be no retribution for himself or his men should he stand down. Patxot ordered his men to return to barracks and the workers of the UGT and CNT promptly took over the city and surrounded the barracks. Shortly afterwards Patxot formally surrendered to the civil governor.

A group of Malaga's milicianos in front of the Ayuntamiento in 1936. 
Granada 18th July

As news began to filter through of the revolt in Morocco, the UGT and CNT began to take to the streets and demanded weapons to hold Granada for the Republic. The local military commander, General Miguel Campins Aura, declared himself loyal to the Republic however, which led to the civil governor refusing their request.

Franco delivers his Manifesto declaring a Nationalist Movement, appealing to the loyalty of all Spaniards. In Granada, the left requests arms to be distributed by the local military to the workers and is refused, leaving the people helpless to resist the Right-wing rebels. The General and his army fall to the conspirators and the Civil Government is overthrown by Valdés. The cheers of the crowds gathered to watch the soldiers station themselves around town turn to screams as gun fire is heard. Hundreds of middle-class men arrive at the Civil Government to declare their loyalty to the Movement.

Andalucia 18th July

The rebellion across Andalucia was somewhat less clearly defined than in its main towns and cities. The port of Algeciras, South of Malaga, surrendered to the rebels without a fight and Córdoba was gained after Colonel Ciriaco Cascajo bombarded the Ayuntamiento with the heavy guns of his command.

Elsewhere things were not looking to be going well for the rebels. Jaén had no military forces stationed within it and its Guardia Civil contingent declared themselves loyal to the Republic, removing any possibility that local Falangists could take control.

Huelva also remained loyal and the civil governor there took the unprecedented step of commandeering civilian transport and despatched the town's Guardia Civil contingent to Seville, to assist in putting down the rebellion there. On their arrival in the morning of the 19th, the Guardias promptly joined the rebel forces there however.

By the evening of the 18th July, besides the isolated pockets of Cadiz, Córdoba, Algeciras and Granada, Andalucia was still held by the Republic. Even in Seville and despite the numbers of troops in the city and the surrounding areas, the barrios of La Macarena, Triena and San Bernadino were solidly held by the workers of the UGT and CNT. Over the next few days however, the balance of power was to shift dramatically.  

Soldiers and a local Falangista vet passers-by in the centre of Seville, 18 July 1936.
Madrid The Evening of 18th July

The day's events had proved to much for Prime Minister Quiroga and he submitted his resignation to President Azaña, who then asked Barrio, the head of the Cortes to form a government. The new government was to be composed solely of centrist Republicans in an attempt to placate the rebels. Barrio was plainly aware of who was the effective leader of the coup, even if no action had been taken by him and telephoned Emilio Mola in an attempt to reach a peaceful solution. Mola rebuffed Barrio's offer, whatever that may have been.

As news of the exclusion of the left from the new government spread throughout Madrid, there were angry scenes as crowds of people descended on the Cortes and other Government buildings, believing that the Centrists had betrayed them. Having failed to end the coup by direct appeal to the head of it, Barrio himself resigned his position in the early hours of the 19th July.

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