Monday, May 20, 2019

"The Battle for Spain".. a review..

This was a Kindle bargain a while ago and having had an interest in this particular war since my youth (when I first read Homage to Catalonia, For Whom the Bell Tolls, As I Walked Out One Summer Morning etc.) it was a "must buy". In much the same way as the English Civil War has always sat in the back of my mind as a potential wargames project this has also done the same...  I am fascinated by the possibilities of those inter war armoured vehicles, planes, Moroccan's, and most of all the International Brigades. I still may very well do this one day (also either Wellington in India or Bonaparte in Egypt). This is the expanded version of the book that first came out a number of years ago, and is huge - but just over half the book is notes and bibliography.

Covering from the very beginning of the war to well after the fighting ceased in mainland Spain, this is a huge old read - took me two weeks - it's also not an easy read...

The Republican's (and it's not always made clear, but they were the elcted government at the time hoistilities broke out) seemed doomed to fail from the very beginning - every shade of red (politically), yet none trusted the other and their ability to cooperate doomed them to failure from the beginning. What won the war for the Nationalists/Franco was
  • a singularity of purpose anyoe who disagreed with Franco was either transferred or executed, 
  • the support of the western world who distrusted "Bolsheviks" almost as much as they wanted to appease Hitler/Mussolini (and thereby also stopped all means of waging war reaching the Republican armies except from Russia), 
  • the support of Hitler who used the war as a test bed and provided the Condor Legion (which was not just airforce, but tanks/artilery/infantry as well),
  • the support of Mussolini (who almost bankrupted Italy with the cost of the support provided)
  • the support of the Roman Catholic church - which among many other things influenced the US not to provide weapons to the Republicans as a result of lobbying by Roman Catholic pressure groups within the US
Points of interest for me - how much Russia and Germany gained from the war - the Spanish Republican government transferred their gold reserves to the Russians as a way and means of continuing to get the arms and ammunition they needed to continue the war but the Russian accounting method was very "interesting" indeed in their favour.

The Germans on the other hand got (if I remember rightly) 15% of the Spanish output of iron and steel as payment - which set back the Spanish economy by years. In a practical way the Germans learnt how effective the 88 was in a ground attack role, how good the Stuka was (ditto), how they needed to urgently replace the Pz I as it came up against heavier Russian tanks, how to make fast/effective attacks with all arms..  the list goes on, and then there was Guernica.

Stunning book - well worth reading - and that project will come to fruition one day! 9 out of 10..

13 comments:

  1. I am nearly finished the book having started while on a short holiday in Madrid. The standout "i did not that" was the ruthlessness of the Nationalists killing any body who might not be for their cause. I had assumed both sides to be equal in brutality but Beevor estimates a 10:1 ratio. Chilling.
    We visited Franco's grave while there. It stands in a huge park land. The tomb/cathedral is dug into the side of a mountain. Giant hooded statues and heavy outsized architecture guard 2 graves, that of Franco and Jose Antonio the founder of the Falange movement. It gave me pleasure that mother nature is taking her revenge as numerous buckets scattered the floor collecting the dripping water. Note to future dictators, do not build your tomb underground. Water will seep in, no mater how powerful you think you are.

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    1. Thanks Kevin... you get the impression from the book that the Nationalists were like some giant machine.. nothing got in the way, it was used, discarded, or executed.. the one thing I didn't really get from the book was a better view of what Franco was really like.. he was clearly clever, he manipulated and schemed with the best of them, but there was no insight into the 'man'.. glad to hear his tomb is leaking, poetic justice I think.. :o)

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  3. I found the book an engaging read. Confusing at times but still excellent. His Crete book is first rate too.

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    1. Jonathan - the Crete book is indeed good value, read it a few years back.. it's a Kindle bargain at the moment (or was) and I bought it a week or so ago ready for a holiday to Greece later this summer

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    1. Svjek - wow... so they are! Old wounds still run deep it seems... :o(

      https://www.thelocal.es/20190315/franco-to-be-exhumed-on-june-15th-despite-family-opposition

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  5. I really liked his Stalingrad book, very readable,I'd also like to "do" the Spanish Civil War at some point, for much the same reason as you, although with the additional layer of having been taught in North London how we won the Spanish Civil War by our history teacher! ( who happened to be a priest,RC school)
    Best Iain

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    1. Iain - history is written (and taught?) by the victors... apparently... ;o))

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  6. There was an excellent Assaye game at Partizan on Sunday - lots of photos elsewhere on the wargaming blogs - it was enough to get anyone interested in Wellesley's campaigns in India?

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    1. Hi Jeremy - yeah saw those in some of the pictures on Henry's blog feed... love the idea, and have had it ever since the excellent Wellington series presented by Richard Holmes... one day.... but i'd need Hermione's time shifter to pull it off currently... :o)

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  7. Almost forgot - there was also a pretty good game set in the French Egyptian campaign!

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    1. .. yeah.... I think I have an affinity to "sand"... :o)

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