The Spanish civil war begins – archive, 1936 – The Guardian

A military revolt led by General Francisco Franco against the republican government of Spain started on 17 July 1936. See how the Guardian and Observer reported events

Last modified on Wed 14 Jul 2021 14.17 BST
18 July 1936

Reuter learns early this morning that, owing to what are believed to be “serious political reasons,” Spain is cut off from telephonic communications with the rest of the world. A cryptic message has been received in Paris from Spain stating that there have been incidents at Cuenca, the number of victims is not yet known.” Cuenca is the capital of the province of Cuenca, situated about ninety miles south-east of Madrid.
The Observer, 19 July 1936
Late last night it was learned that the revolt among Spanish troops in Spanish Morocco had spread to Seville, but, according to an official announcement by the Spanish Government, the military concerned were quickly overcome by government forces. Trouble has apparently broken out in other parts of Spain, and also in the Canary Islands.
Reports from neighbouring places state that the troops in the Morocco revolt number about 20,000. They are apparently headed but the Spanish Foreign Legion, backed up by native troops and other units, and the movement is directed against the Popular Front (socialist) government.
20 July 1936
A military, monarchist, and fascist revolt on a large scale began in Spanish Morocco during the night of Friday-Saturday, and in a number of towns in Spain itself, as well as in the Canaries and the Balearic Islands.
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. The left government still rules in Madrid – though in fifteen hours it was twice reconstructed, – and from the capital’s wireless station announced last night that it holds the upper hand both in Morocco and in Spain itself.
Among the centres involved in Spain are Málaga, Seville, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Cádiz. A French air liner from north Africa which refuelled at Barcelona reported that the city had been bombed by aeroplanes.
The Seville wireless station, which is in the hands of the rebels, and has been sending out rebel propaganda of varying degrees of credibility, broadcast yesterday a report that General Franco at the head of rebel troops had landed at Cádiz from Morocco and was to march on Madrid.
The Government claims that the navy remains loyal and that a number of ships have been sent to Morocco to help in quelling the revolt, but a rebel destroyer yesterday bombarded the barracks at La Linea, near Gibraltar, where loyal troops had refused to follow fascist officers.
In a statement broadcast yesterday the new Cabinet, headed by Senor Giral, declared that it would arm the Spanish people with the object of crushing the revolutionary movement. Arms have been issued to civilians in Madrid and other centres for the defence of the Republic. There has apparently been no serious trouble in Madrid itself.
20 July 1936
A serious revolt broke out among the armed forces in the Spanish zone of Morocco and in the Canary Islands on Friday, but it did not at first have any important repercussions on the mainland outside Seville.
The revolt was presumably aimed at the overthrow of the left republican (but not socialist) government which took office after the general election in March and at the establishment of some kind of right-wing dictatorship in its place. The Spanish people seem to be singularly reluctant to accept the results of a democratic general election.
Continue reading.
From our diplomatic correspondent
25 July 1936
A pessimistic view is taken here of events in Spain. There is no indication yet whether tho Government or the insurgents are likely to prevail. Everything points to a protracted and sanguinary civil war. The insurgents have the advantage of getting outside help whereas the government is getting none. The latter has applied to the French government for permission to import arms from France, but so far at least permission has not been given. The insurgent, on the other hand, are being assisted by the Italians and German.
Weapons of Italian origin
For the insurgents the belief that they have the support of the two great “fascist powers” is an immense encouragement. But it is also more than an encouragement, for many of the weapons now in their hands are of Italian origin. This is particularly to in Morocco. The German influence is strongest in the Balearic Islands. Germany has a great interest in the victory of the insurgents. Apparently she hopes to secure concession in the Balearic Islands from them when they are in power. These islands play an important part in German plans for the future development of sea-power in the Mediterranean.
The civil war is of particular interest to Germany because the victory of the insurgents would open the prospect (closed by Anglo-French collaboration and by the existence of a pro-British, pro-French, and pro-League Spanish Republic) of action in western Europe. That is to say, a “fascist” Spain would, for Germany, be a means of “turning the French flank” and of playing a part in the Mediterranean.

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