Spanish Civil War in Barcelona

Articles in ‘Spanish Civil War in Barcelona’

Bomb shelter booklet

September 7th, 2011

Barcelona bombing

Bomb shelter booklet published by Barcelona City Council circa 1938, with the cathedral and Santa María del Pi in background.

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.

Nehru in Barcelona

July 3rd, 2011

Another quote – Nehru, future first Prime Minister of India, visited Barcelona in 1938:

It was the Europe of 1938 with Mr. Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement in full swing and marching over the bodies of nations, betrayed and crushed, to the final scene that was staged at Munich. There I entered into this Europe of conflict by flying straight to Barcelona. There I remained for five days and watched the bombs fall nightly from the air. There I saw much else that impressed me powerfully; and there, in the midst of want and destruction and ever-impending disaster, I felt more at peace with myself than anywhere else in Europe. There was light there, the light of courage and determination and of doing something worthwhile. From here

The original report in The Guardian on the military coup in Barcelona

July 3rd, 2011

This is how The Guardian reported the attempted coup in 1936. “News from Spain is heavily censored, but it is evident from the messages that were being allowed to come through last night that the threat to the Republic has been-and may still be-very grave.” Read all here

Edward Heath in Barcelona

July 3rd, 2011

Here’s a weird one Edward Heath, who formed part of the tiny Tories for the Republic, radio broadcast from Barcelona (17th July, 1938)

I did not quite know what I was going to find, as this was our first experience of actual warfare. I imagined we might come to a wrecked city and find a terror-stricken people, haggard and worn… with rioting and looting and feelings running high… What we did find surprised us all… Everything is perfectly normal, life is going on almost as usual… people thronging the streets, sitting in cafes, laughing and talking with far from long faces… the liberty of the individual has impressed me greatly… There are no secret courts here. During the raids the same calmness and normal behaviour continues . . . people go quietly to a shelter, there is no sign of panic. But they realise what it all means, as people who have never seen them never can realise the destruction of defenceless men, women, and children, bombed in unprotected villages, is most ghastly. I have seen the planes 200 feet above my head, heard the bombs, and the village I had passed through five minutes before was in ruins. Yet still the morale of the people is untouched. From here

Passeig de Gracia, 1939

June 3rd, 2011


Photo taken by Robert Capa in Passeig de Gracia, 1939, Barcelona, on 16 January 1939, one day before the city fell to Franco’s troops.

Italian bombing of Barcelona in court

May 31st, 2011

A legal case is to be heard against 21 Italian aviators of the Aviazione Legionara who bombed Barcelona 1937-39. In the case that none are still alive, the case will be made against the Italian government. The case is being brought by Asociación Altra Italia on behalf of two victims. As they occurred before the WW” they are not covered by the Armistice between Italy and the Allies. El Público


  • El Pais has an article on the bombing of Barcelona marking the anniversary of attack by Italian aviation on the city 16 March 1938 which left hundreds dead. here
  • There is also this good website in Spanish, Catalan and interestingly Italian. The Catalan version is so far more complete. If you go into the Agenda section there are a series of interesting events.

How to visit the Barcelona’s bomb shelter

  • You can only go on a guided visit. It is strongly advisable to book first.
  • Phone: BCN history museum (932562122)
  • Visit are on Saturday and Sunday mornings in both Spanish and Catalan depending on the time
  • Address of shelter: C/ Nou de la Rambla, 169 (metro Nou de la Rambla)

Anarchism exhibition in Barcelona

January 20th, 2011

'Almanaque de Tierra y Libertad año'

There’s a small but interesting exhibition on the history of anarcho-syndicalism in Barcelona at the Catalan History Musuem. Until Feb 14th. Above image: Almanaque de Tierra y Libertad año 1912, coberta F. Sacristá, Tierra y Libertad, [1911]

Langston Hughes on Barcelona

May 26th, 2010

The Afro-American poet Langston Hughes visited Barcelona in 1937 as a  newspaper correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American. He saw the terrible destruction in the city caused by the bombing.

I came down from Paris by train. We reached Barcelona at night. The day before had been a terrific air raid in the city, killing about a hundred and wounding a great deal more. We read about it in the papers at the border. Last night, I thought. Well tonight, I’ll be there. Here (October 23, 1937)

He was inspired to write the poem Air raid: Barcelona (from here). The imagery is stark. East is back to Mallorca where Mussolini’s squadrons were based.

The death birds wheel East
To their lairs again
Leaving iron eggs
In the streets of Spain.

Air raid: Barcelona by Langston Hughes

Black smoke of sound
Curls against the midnight sky. Read the rest of this entry

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