Sunday, 6 May 2012

An(other) Englishman for Franco

I wrote a while back about Peter Kemp's autobiography “Thorns of Memory” which describes his time serving in Franco's forces, starting with his time with the Carlists.

I have also written of contemporary “histories” that I've obtained and read. So far they have been of the Republican persuasion. It has to be said that they are stolid and immensely worthy books, full of scientific historical analysis. They are heavy on the politics and the historical background. My goodness they're heavy going.

I have finally got round to reading “March of a Nation” written by Harold Cardozo, the Daily Mail special correspondent in Spain who covered the war. Written in 1937 after the fall of Bilboa it is unashamedly pro-Franco and anti-Republican. In fact he can hardly bear to use the word “Republican” and refers to all Republican forces as Reds, even Basque Nationalists. Given the perspective we now have the book is laugh out loud funny in places, - I will quote some choice pieces in a lter blog for your entertainment.

Having said that if you understand the subject and can filter out the prejudices it's quite a useful book. It is written in a refreshingly direct and journalistic style, and Cardozo was as close as you could be then to being embedded with Franco's forces. He was an honorary Carlist and wore his Red beret with pride. Having said that his descriptions of what he saw and how actions were fought have the feeling of verisimilitude. There's lots of colour in his stories and I may need to review my views in some areas as his comments support some things I've read elsewhere and wasn't sure about.

The book isn't for the unwary, of course. Pretty much all of the Republican forces are non-Spanish, and most of them are Russians. They are both heavily armed and woefully under-equipped, of poor morale and motivation whilst putting up a stiff fight. Franco's forces are Spain's finest, and the few Italians involved are members of the Spanish Foreign Legion. The Germans rate about one sentence, and the bombing of Guernica was a unimportant and the damage was mostly caused by the “Reds” setting fire to the buildings themselves.

As I said it's a real laugh out loud roller coaster ride. I can't find out anything else about Mr C, although he went on to be a war correspondent in WW2. I have no idea if he regretted anything he wrote and ended his love affair with Fascism (although he did correctly predict that post SCW Franco would avoid backing Hitler and Mussolini. He didn't realise, however, that Franco had gifted most of Spain's iron and coal resources to the Nazis).

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