Monday, 18 July 2011

Spanish Civil War - 75th Anniversary

Today is the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Or yesterday was, depending on where you count from. Like everything to do with this conflict it isn’t clear and straight forward. In this case you have two choices, - the rising in Morocco that took place on the 17th, or the rising on the mainland that took place on the 18th.

Franco's Mausoleum.
Large & tasteless.
Like Franco, if he wasn't a midget
The BBC’s Today programme this morning went for the latter and put up a piece about Franco’s mausoleum and what should be done with it. I don’t know what the answer is, but I suspect a good start would be for the Roman Catholic Church to stop celebrating mass every day in the Basilica he had built next to it, no doubt intended to speed his soul out of Purgatory. It’s unlikely, I know, seeing as the church was probably biggest beneficiary of Franco’s rule.

Those of a more right wing persuasion would probably put the outbreak earlier when the people of Spain had the temerity to elect a government opposed to the status quo of absentee landlords and an oppressive church that absorbed most of the national income. However, 75 years it is according to the BBC, and that’s good enough for me.

I’m obviously not attuned to these things, as despite spending the last 10 months or more reading about the war I hadn’t twigged that 2011 minus 1936 was 75. I suppose in some ways my view is that anniversaries don’t change a thing and their only importance is to draw the attention of those who don’t have an interest in a subject to something important. It can also mean that an effort is made to produce tie-in information so stuff becomes more available. For example see this link to a selection of pictures from the Getty Library Some of these are well known, but I like the one of the militiamen on the improvised armoured vehicle.

We get in to the habit of 5/10 year anniversaries for significant events in the First & Second World Wars. In 3 years time it’ll be the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War but whilst that may provoke some new material these fields have been ploughed fairly thoroughly in the last 20 years.

The last anniversary that really made a difference to what we have access to was 1988 and the outpouring of material on the Spanish Armada. I gorged myself that year, and have a good stretch of bookshelf with the results, including that really good Osprey book by John Tincey. It wasn’t so much that I was interested in the Armada as Elizabeth’s army of the time (although the best book on that is still Charles Cruickshank’s.)

When I was at university I recall one of my medievalist lecturers referring to 1966 as “the year of plenty” for Anglo Norman scholars. I suspect in that year, 900 years on from the Conquest, in many history departments the World Cup was completely overlooked.

However no evidence of an outpouring in this country on this particular anniversary, even though there are some rare books that could do with a republishing. If it has any effect all it’ll do is push up the price of the second hand copies that are floating around. Luckily for me I’ve picked up some choice volumes at reasonable prices recently, about which more in a subsequent blog.


  1. Pleased to say I managed to walk over Franco's grave , much to the alarm of the attendent when I visited the above edifice some years ago ! . Think they call it 'The Valley of the Fallen' now (!?) Disneyland in VERY bad taste !.

  2. Yes, - Valley of the Fallen it is. The BBC report is good, - only 4 minutes of it so it doesn't waste much time.

    Congratulations on walking over the old devil. I understand that committed Republicans urinate up the side of the building if they get the chance.

  3. Are there any good Spanish Civil War wargames you would care to comment on?

  4. If you mean boardgames, then no, as I don't own any and don't tend to play board wargames.

    For figure games at a low level - company & 15mm - then there's RFCM's BAIT which will give you an exciting and challenging game. The same could be said for Crossfire, which is for WW2 but can be used with some tweaking. A good site for SCW wagaming is

    As you'll see from flicking through back pages I've been working on my own rules "Send Not To Know", which will be available as a free download at some point.

    Others play in 28mm and there are a few of those type of games knocking around of which I have no knowledge.