About The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War is not one of the most spoken about wars of the twentieth century but it is one of the most interesting in terms of the whys and wherefores plus strangely enough it was fought during the same time period as the Second World War.  This war began on July 17th 1936 and ended on 1st April 1939. The Republicans whole held allegiance to the republic fought against a Nationalist group who were led by General Francisco Franco. So, who was victorious and how?

The Beginning

In 1902 Alphonso XIII of Spain came to the throne. He was far from popular with the people being seen as dictatorial and overbearing plus was against reforms supported by the population. Alphonso was very unpopular with politicians of the day also being seen as anti-democratic. A military coup followed led by Miguel Primo de Rivera in 1923. He assured people that he would be a fair leader, only temporary and would eliminate corruption. His methods however were even more unpopular as he introduced censorship, martial law and suspended the constitution. Primo de Rivera held power until 1930 when he was forced to resign.


In 1931 democratic elections were to be held for the first time in sixty years with the people voting for a republic. Alphonso XIII had to go into exile on 14th April 1931. This heralded the birth of the second republic. Many elections ensued, while many different political parties battled against each other over the coming years. In January 1936 “The Popular Front” as it became known was formed. This was the joining together of the parties of the left. In February 1936 they won the election and formed a government.

The Popular Front started as they meant to go on and released all left-wing political prisoners as soon as they came into power which upset the right wing immensely. Other measures they introduced were

  1. Introduced reforms to penalize the land aristocracy
  2. Outlawed the Falange Espanola
  3. Granted Catalonia total autonomy
  4. Transferred General Franco to posts outside Spain

The policies of this government meant that the wealthy proceeded to take their money out of Spain resulting in the devaluation of the peseta and a terrible economic crisis. Tourism and trade was damaged with strikes springing up all over Spain due to there being many dissatisfied workers.

General Franco

At the end of September 1936 the military uprising was well underway, while at this point Franco became leader of the Nationalist Army and Chief of State. Franco embarked on a campaign to remove all opposition to him and achieved this with great success. Many battles were fought on all fronts and by December 1936 Benito Mussolini of Italy began to supply the Nationalists with men and equipment.

Franco was under great pressure by this time not only from Mussolini but also from Hitler to claim victory and end the civil war. In April 1937 the Falange Espanola and the Carlists were forced to unite by Franco who then declared himself leader of this new combined organisation. He had huge pictures of himself and the deceased Jose Antonio displayed all over Spain. Written beside the posters were the words “One State, One Country, One Chief, Franco! Franco! Franco!

Further Battles of the War

  1. 3rd May 1937 the Civil Guard and The Assault Guard ordered to take over the telephone exchange
  2. 6th May 1937 death squads assassinate anarchists in their homes
  3. 7th May 6000 assault guards take control of Barcelona, 400 killed in May Riots
  4. The Asturias Campaign September 1937 introduced carpet bombing which was a new innovation in terms of the use of bombs
  5. April 1938 Franco’s army reached the sea and moved towards Valencia en-route to Madrid
  6. 25th July 80,000 Republican troops began crossing the river in boats
  7. 26th July Republicans failed to capture Hill 481 retreating after six days and suffering heavy casualties.
  8. 24th September head of Republican government announces withdrawal of International Brigades from Spain
  9.  Middle November Republicans forced to retreat
  10.  26th January 1939 Barcelona fell to the Nationalists
  11.  27th February the British Government acknowledges the Nationalist Government headed by General Franco
  12. The end of The Spanish Civil war was announced on 1st April 1939
  13. 500,000 deaths during the war
  14. 200,000 deaths in combat
  15. 110,00 Republican deaths
  16. 90,000 Nationalist deaths
  17. Nationalist army executed approximately 75,000 people
  18. Republican army executed 55,000 people
  19. 5,300 foreign fighters died on the Nationalist side
  20. 4,900 foreign fighters died on the Republican side
  21. Approximately 10,000 Spaniards died in bombing raids
  22. Around 25,000 people died of starvation
  23. 7.5% of the Spanish population were injured during the war
  24. Following the war 100,000 Republican prisoners were executed by order of Franco
  25. 35,000 Republican prisoners died in concentration camps

War Stats

When the War Ended

When the Spanish Civil War ended General Franco established a fascist dictatorship. Many Spaniards who had supported the left fled Spain for southern France becoming refugees. Franco remained in office until 20th November 1975, some forty years. He was succeeded by King Juan Carlos I of Spain.

Franco was able to stay in power so long because the army who followed a brutal regime supported him. They enforced censorship and imprisoned anyone with opposing views or attitudes. The death penalty was frequently used as were concentration camps and stiff sentences to silence any opposition. Franco supported the Catholic Church and was a conservative with a small c. In 1969 he named his successor as Prince Juan Carlos and subsequently died in 1975 aged 82. His legacy is very controversial with some supporting his role while others condemn it profusely. His wife Carmen Polo lived until 1988. 

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