Spanish Civil War

17 July 1936


6 August 1938




Decisive Nationalist victory


Nationalist Falange Monarchists CEDA Ponaticon

Republicans Popular Front Socialist powers


José Sanjurjo † Emilio Mola † Francisco Franco Juan Yagüe

Manuel Azaña Julián Besteiro Francisco Largo Caballero


600,000 men at height

400,000 men at height

Casualties and Losses



The Spanish Civil War as violent coup and resulting civil war between several parties on both sides vying for domination of a Spain in the 20th Century.

The buildup to the war started more than hundred years ago with intense struggle between the monarchy and the people. This growing unrest led to the deposing of the monarchy and a number of military coups. In 1936 when the Spanish Civil War starts there is a Republic led by a democratic government.


In the 1930's the right wing groups had been growing steadily through elections backed by funding from the French and British. They had formed up to be the CEDA and were growing as a force in parliament but were still behind the opposition. The left wing parties were all socialist and had formed their own coalition to temper the rise of the nationalists. As the politicians failed to achieve much Spain continued to worsen.

As the price of food rose, unhappiness with the government's relation to the church and royalists stirring up trouble a cadre of military officers committed to launch a coup against the government in Madrid and establishing a military dictatorship.


The coup was to be led by 4 men with José Sanjurio to be the figurehead of the operation while Emillo Mola was the true planner and mastermind. Franco and Yague were both prominent generals and would play parts in the uprising. The government had feared a coup for a while and so they sacked and moved a number of suspect generals but mistakenly moved Mola from his position in Africa to Spain itself where he could coordinate the coup.

The coup was started on the 17th July 1936 and lasted for 2 days and while the army won some battles they overall had failed to take much ground other than area in the north and Seville.


While the British and French governments prepared to invade Spain and seize Barcelona the Germans threatened to invade France the Axis governments were forced to pull back from their attack yet they still wanted to provide assistance in any way possible while the socialist government of Germany failed to pass a bill allowing them to support the socialists in Spain as there was already existing troubles with the economy.

The French and British air forces started an airlift to move Franco's army to Seville where he could join up with the army in the north. While tanks and aircraft were sent into Spain to support the Falange. Franco in the south pushes to take Cadiz and does with the help of Axis air and armor units.

They attempted to push to Madrid and reached it in November. on the 8th November the nationalists launched their attack on Madrid and while outnumbered had vastly superior armour units and had air supremacy. A diversionary attack was launched to the south of the city pulling in a large number of Republican troops. A small number of Republican units attempted to hold back an attack on the Casa de Campo but heavy French armour led the spearhead and almost nothing in the Republican army could take them out allowing the Nationalist forces to take the railway viaduct within hours of the attack being launched and with large Republican casualties though the Republican units diverted to the south of the city move back as the Nationalists push towards the city centre.

They started to endure casualties as house to house fighting broke out with the Axis lacking the troops to win a battle of attrition so eventually they were forced to just be happy with their bridgehead on the 10th November although on the 11th November the Republicans launched a major counter-attack which was stemmed by a fierce defence the Republicans failed to take any ground but lost troops at a 4 to 1 ratio. The Nationalist launched their own offensive which slowly took the University city but due to the high casualties further attacks were called off and an unsuccessful bombing offensive was carried out which failed to break the will of the defenders.

They then attempted to cut the city off and a nationalist force backed up by Axis tanks and aircraft cut the Corunna road in a small attack in early December as the Republicans simply lacked the armour to repel the enemy advance. They were now cut off from the west flank.

Throughout the rest of the December the nationalist forces cut of much of the cities supply lines.


The Nationalist forces under Franco decides that he wants to try and minimize the casualties of his own professional troops and his disadvantage in numbers meaning he struggled in city battles. So instead he decided to finish the encirclement of Madrid and continued to push around the northern flank and by late February they had encircled the whole city completely and it was in a state of total siege.

With Madrid under siege Franco simply waited for the inevitable counter attack by the Republicans and on 16th March the Republicans led by International Brigades launched a relief attempt on Madrid which failed to succeed and was defeated with large Republican casualties after they were broken by air support and then hit hard by heavy fire.

In the north the Nationalist launched offensives in the Biscay territory which had been surrounded by the Nationalist and they attempted to crush it. While the Republicans launched their own offensive into the Nationalist held ground but were repulsed by the nationalist forces. Inside Madrid in September desperate to end the growing supply crisis they tried to break out but were destroyed in the open by Axis air cover.

The siege of Madrid lasted for 8 months until in October the defenders inside Madrid were starving and thirsty and Franco's men attacked the city once again this time though the Republican defenders with less troops and civilians starving the nationalist launched a feint over their bridgehead they had created the year before and then actually drove into the south of the city and the Republican defenders collapsed and the Carabanchel fell to the Nationalist on the first day. By the 28th October the whole of Madrid had fell to the Nationalist.

Franco then seeing his victory around Madrid decided to start his own offensive in the south of Spain. While by October the Republican forces had improved and they defended better by the end of 1937 they had been driven out of Málaga and Almería which also caused as well as taking ground also caused a loss of troops and morale in the Republican forces.


By now most people saw the Nationalist as likely to win with their enclave in the north gone and Franco fighting in the south. Most of January was occupied by Franco taking Murcia but progress was slow due to poor weather. As weather improves in February the Nationalist start to make a breakthrough in the center of Spain when Franco launches an offensive to link Murcia with Teruel

While the quality of the Republican militias improves with each battle due to their loses in 1937 and dwindling industrial areas they begin to struggle to keep as an effective fighting force. Much of February and March as well as early April is spent in central Spain but by the end of the offensive the Republicans are now left only in western Spain and although both sides are beginning to wear down in troops as the weather improves Franco decides to do an almost all armored flying column to Valencia to finish the war by the end of summer.

Most of April and May spent with limited skirmishing in the south and in the north a small offensive which was driven off against Llerida. The Republicans launched their own offensive in the south against Albacete but they were alike driven away. The Republicans were aware of the Nationalist plan to drive on Valencia and prepared accordingly. On the 6th June a mass air and artillery bombing campaign was carried out by the Axis forces against the Republican lines at Albacete and a mass of infantry went forwards to attack this pulled in much of the Republican reserves. 2 days later at Albacete the nationalist halted their slow attacks while in the north at Alarcón on the 8th almost all of the Axis armor and mechanized forces attacked with support from ground attack aircraft.

This flying column surged forwards avoiding any fixed defenses and as they neared the Rio Cabriel a battalion of paratroopers landed and took the bridge over the river. This flying column had stormed all the way to Valencia in a 17 hour drive.

They were almost out of fuel which they had brought with them and had airdropped in but the defenders of Valencia were totally shell shocked that an enemy force could move so fast and reportedly the Republican forces simply downed their weapons and fled as the nationalists drove through the streets unopposed.

The government of the Republic had only fled hours before and they were resupplied by sea after they arrived. This decisive victory for the Nationalist led to them at first pulling all of their troops south of Valencia but it turned into a rout which was pursued until Franco's forces were only 20 miles away from Barcelona.

Surrender of Tarragona

Seeing that they were defeated the Republican leaders surrendered to Juan Yague on the condition that the highest ranking members of the Republic were only exiled to another country or they were not allowed to bring anything more than personal possessions. This brought the end of the war on the 6th August it also started the mass repressions against the former Spanish Republic who had not been allowed to leave.

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