This Week in Spanish Civil War History – Week 27: 15 – 22 January 1937

January 15

The third battle of Corunna Road ceases. The Nationalists have convincingly won the first and second waves of battle, and now both sides are exhausted. The XII International Brigades do not have the men or supplies to take back any of the northwest Madrid areas, and the Nationalists can’t get any further with their numbers. Both sides are now exhausted and give up in their plans. The Corunna Road route is still technically open and supplies still have a chance of getting through to Madrid, though now the city will have to rely more on the roads coming from Valencia and Aragon in the east/northeast.

Routes of soldiers prior to the battle: Spanish/Moroccans blue, Italians green, Republicans resistance red

January 17

The Nationalists form a plan to take Malaga on the southern coast. The huge losses at the Battle of Corunna Road have made the Nationalists keen to redirect their offensive, and decide to focus away from Madrid. The Nationalists have had 10,000 fresh troops arrive from Italy to the port of Cádiz, and are sent towards Malaga with their light tanks and armoured cars. Columns of Moroccan troops mixed with Spanish Carlists troops, around 15,000 men,  are sent from Seville and Granada. The Nationalists have four cruisers, the  Canarias, Baleares and Velasco ready to bomb Malaga from the sea, and the German Admiral Graf Spee is brought into the area.

The troops form the new Army of the South, run by Captain Queipo de Llano, who brings in men from the west while Antonio Muñoz Jiménez brings in men from the northeast. The Republicans hold a stretch of coastline around 25 miles long, with the port city of Malaga in the centre. In the first week, the advance of the Nationalist troops is 15 miles into the Republican held area, as the Republicans are poorly armed.

As Nationalist troops march through the Malaga region, the Republicans fail to see the groups of Nationalists are all heading directly for Malaga, so the city is not notified or prepared for the huge coming attack. Malaga is run by around 12,000 anarchist CNT militia, though only 8,000 are armed. There are rumblings between the allied CNT and communist militias, and none of the men in the area have been trained for warfare, though are keen to fight for their home. The Republicans have little ammunition, have no trenches dug, no roadblocks in place and nothing to protect them from the air.

The lack of preparation from the Republicans means the large civilian population of Malaga are now under serious threat, and a massacre is imminent.

Defence at Cerro de los Angeles

January 19

General Enrique Líster based in Madrid is in control of more International Brigades, which are going in numbers and more men are becoming trained, or are now already battle-worn. The Republicans are in short supply of both men and ammunition. General Lister leads a column of International Brigades to try to recapture Cerro de los Angeles, just south Madrid. The Nationalists took the overlooking area of Madrid in November and have been using the hill as an artillery base to shell the city. Lister and his foreign volunteers claim the hill for the Republicans are a day of fighting. Madrid is in need of this respite from constant bombardment.

Republicans atop Cerro de los Angeles, once a religious site



This is not a detailed analysis, just a highlight (lowlight?) of the week’s events. Things get lost in translation – Feel free to suggest an addition/clarification/correction below. The more the world remembers, the better. All photos are linked to source for credit.

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