A diary of the Spanish Civil War

Articles in ‘A diary of the Spanish Civil War’

Spanish Civil War diary – July 20 1936

August 1st, 2011

Dispatch 1

A large number of churches have been burning in the city since yesterday, including Santa Maria del Mar, (photo) but not the Cathedral which is being protected by assault guards. There have also been widespread and rather grotesque desecrations. An attempt to destroy the mystical power of the Church perhaps? Unfortunately a number of priests have been murdered…it is difficult to convey and understand the depth of hatred towards the church, fueled by its instant support for the coup and its support for the semi-feudal society across much of Spain.



Dispatch 2 (rolling Twitter news)

I’m at the bottom of the Rambles. The military are all but defeated, and are holed up in Drassanas barracks and a couple of other sites. The CNT have surrounded the barracks, and have trained artillery on the walls. An hour ago, a falangist, perched at the top of Colon monument with a machine gun (there’s a lift), and was pining down everybody in Les Rambles, but somebody managed to pick him off. from a building facing. Ascaso and Durruti are about to lead the charge…

Someone has had the idea of using a truck on which the German anarchist group have set up a machine-gun. They’ve protected it with mattresses, they’re going to drive the vehicle towards barracks with the militants running behind, protected by mattresses.

I’m sorry to say CNT leader Ascaso has just been shot, a bullet ripped through his forehead, as he ran behind the truck…the workers are now storming the barracks

Events unfolding rapidly, white flag over barracks

 Lots of smoke, gunfire is continuing, can’t see what’s happening

My reception is going down. Will get back ASAP. Things may have ugly at the barracks…

Facebook comments

Carlos: I saw an interview to an old woman that painted with chalk every week the name of Joaquin Ascaso in his own grave. Fascists wanted his burial to be anonymous and took off the letters that identified it. This woman risked her life, weekly to maintain Ascaso memory alive. VIVA LA LIBERTAD!!!

Me: My father-in-law told me a similar story. When he was a kid he lived next to Montjuic cemetery, and used to play there. In the 1940s they put a guard during the day around Durruti and Ascaso’s graves (bones were removed in 1939) to stop people paying homage, but every morning fresh flowers appeared.

Spanish Civil War diary – July 19 1936

July 29th, 2011


Dispatch 1

It’s 600am. A cool morning after a hot night. Troops woken 1 hour ago by their officers, given a double ration of rum and told they are to crush an anarchist revolt in centre. As troops leave, spies get word to CNT which call a general strike (Sunday today) and set off all factory and ship sirens. Military have lost element of surprise. Workers begin to attack military columns.

Update 7.20:  Shooting everywhere in the streets. Much confusion. Military risings in other cities in Spain it seems.

Dispatch 2

Pitched battles in Barcelona’s streets. Hospital report at least 100 (hundred) dead. Military stopped by barricades in Parallel. Situtation is confusing but combined forces of workers’ militia (mainly CNT) and loyal assault guards may be gaining upper hand. STOP PRESS. Reports that Guardia Civil may have come out on Republic’s side. More soon.

Dispatch 3

The workers and the Republican police forces are definitely defeating the military who have been driven into a few strongholds. Rebels driven from Telefónica and Plaça Catalunya which saw bloody battle earlier today. Dead everywhere. Corpses piled up in Catalunya metro station stairs. Moans of wounded horses. Hospitals +200 dead, 1000+ wounded. Unlikely and truly remarkable scenes of Guardia Civil fraternizing with CNT and other workers. First photos being released.

Dispatch 4

Bad news coming in from Sevilla – city has fallen to Queipo de Llano’s troops – broadcast on Sevilla radio. “Red soldiers, lower you arms. The Caudillo forgives and redeems. Follow the example of those comrades before you who have joined our ranks. Only like that will you achieve victory. Happiness in your homes and peace in your souls.”

Dispatch 5


It seems a group of CNT/FAI militants has stormed the Pedrables barracks which was left poorly defended and got hold of a large number of weapons (photo). They are proceeding to distribute the arms around working class quarters. Many soldiers and guards are in the street shouting with workers, Viva el CNT!, Viva la FAI! You have the feeling anything could happen. The energy of the people really is to experienced.

I’ve just heard more barracks have fallen to the workers, If true this is stunning news. It means the working class are suddenly “armed to the teeth”. They are: Alcántara barracks at 5:30 pm; Lepanto at 6:00 pm; the Montesa barracks at 8:00 pm; the Docks shortly before midnight, just 5o minutes ago, and the Sant Andreu Central Artillery Barracks just now. The mechanics at the naval base have also taken over and arrested the officers there. The soldiers in the Montjuich fortress have deposed their officers. Worker and Soldier Committees have already been formed. We may on the verge of a revolution, something which the CNT  had predicted in the event of an attempted coup.

Spanish Civil War diary – July 18 1936

July 18th, 2011

Dispatch 1

Despite mindless govt censor (are they mad?) news is coming through of coup attempts in several cities in Spain including Zaragoza and Sevilla. The CNT managed to get hold of a load of arms from a boat last night in harbour. Armed confrontation with police early in morning diffused when they agree to give back half. CNT members being arrested for carrying arms. Which side is the government on?

Dispatch 2

Just been up to Olympic Stadium. Amazing atmosphere. Opening ceremony test run of Popular Olympiad. Thousands of young people from many nationalities fraternally intermingling in pigin French and smattering of English. Atmosphere of euphoria marred by increasing worry about possible military coup in city. Tonight 1000s of athletes to sleep in stadium.

Dispatch 3

Very hot evening. The Catalan government is refusing to give the CNT arms and indeed is still arresting (armed) activists. To its credit it is also keeping a tight rein on police forces. Durruti and others meet in La Tranquilad bar in El Parallel. Working class areas preparing to build barricades. Arms shops raided. CNT spies around barracks on stand-by. Not surprising the governemnt doesn’t want to give CNT arms as they are revolutionaries

Stuart Christie on 18th July in Barcelona

Barcelona police chief Federico Escofet for example was perfectly happy to arm the mainly reformist UGT union members, but as he explained:

‘To arm the CNT represented an immediate or later danger for the Republican regime in Catalonia of EQUAL danger for its existence as the military rebellion. Companys and I agreed on the necessity of NOT distributing the arms, because the CNT–FAI was the dominant force. These armed elements, who undoubtedly would provide invaluable assistance in the struggle against the rebels, could also endanger the existence of the Republic and the government of the Generalitat.

And further down

Escofet did everything in his power to prevent the militants getting their hands on the weapons in the San Andrés arsenal. He knew that once the people had those arms the monopoly of coercion, which gave the state its authority, would be broken and state power would collapse.

To this end he sent a company of loyal Civil Guard to defend the place, but they arrived too late. By that time the barracks had already been invaded and ransacked by workers.

This was probably the first pivotal event that transformed what the military hoped would be a straightforward military pronunciamento into a rebellion, and then into a social revolution.

It was the moment when political power shifted, albeit briefy, from the Generalitat Palace to the union branches and to the local revolutionary committees.

Spanish Civil War diary – July 17 1936

July 17th, 2011

This diary of an imagined foreign correspondent based in Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War has developed by accident from an experiment on my Facebook page. Whenever possible I post “dispatches” on what I witness of the incredible revolution engulfing the city and the latest news on the war.

Dispatch 1

Stories are reaching Barcelona of a military rising in Spanish Morocco. Rumours are rife. CNT has now posted spies around barracks in Barcelona, and also has contacts within the recruits. The Catalan government is using its contacts among Republican officers to ascertain the loyalty of the troops. If the military rise, the CNT plans a general strike + armed insurrection.

Dispatch 2

Reports confirm that fascist forces have indeed taken Melilla in North Africa. Here in Barcelona, Catalan police have arrested prominent fascists and closed down party offices. A number of weapons have been seized. The authorities stress there is no call for alarm.

Lluis Companys, Catalan president has apologised for the press censor operating these days. claiming that the censors like the press are also subject to excessive nervousness .

Dispatch 3

Police are searching and disarming workers. The CNT are planning to raid a boat laden with arms in the harbour at 3.00 am. All quiet in the barracks.

According to Abel Paz

“On July 17, censors blacked out a statement that the CNT and FAI had published in Solidaridad Obrera to orient the working class. The text was extremely important, so they printed it illegally and distributed it by hand. That night there were rumors that troops in Morocco had risen up against the Republic. The rumors were true. The evening of the event, although they did print a note from the government claiming that it “had the situation under control.”