The War in Spain: a weekly summary. No. 4
|Previous||1 of 4||Next|
small (250x250 max)
medium (500x500 max)
large ( > 500x500)
Loading content ...
THE WAR IN SPAIN A WEEKLY SUMMARY EDITED BY CHARLES DUFF UNITED EDITORIAL LTD. No. 4 LONDON, 12th FEBRUARY, 1938 PRICE 1d. THE BOMBERS AND THE PIRATES IT is curious how the practice of war degenerates steadily with the march of science and the progress of civilization. Those of us who were soldiers in the World War thought that we had experienced the worst of which human nature is capable. But, with the advent of Fascism, the ethics of fighting have gone into another scale of values altogether — as this last month of the war in Spain has shown. Defeated at Teruel, distracted from an offensive planned over some months and, not knowing where to expect attack from an enemy that is growing stronger in morale and material, the rebel general Franco has fallen back upon what can be regarded only as the tactics of desperation. His attempted "Blockade" of the coast of Government Spain was proving so futile that Lloyd's lowered their War Risks Insurance rates by about one-half. His mixed assortment of Condottiere, Moors, Foreign Legionaries and what not, were fought to a standstill or kept under severe pressure. In one arm he had some superiority — aviation. Hence, one course was left: to use his aviation against the civil population in the Government area, in the hope that he might succeed in demoralising it and cause it to bring pressure upon the Government to surrender. There is nothing quite new about this, for Mr. George Bernard Shaw, commenting upon the Washington Conference of 1921, wrote in the Nation of November 26th of that year, under the title THE LIMITATION OF CHRIST, as follows:— "The next war, then, will not be an effort to defeat the opposing army, and thereby compel the defenceless civilians behind it to accept whatever terms may be imposed on them. It will be an effort to compel the civilian population to choose between direct destruction and the same acceptance, even though its army may be intact, well supplied, and covered with military glory." Our italics. The words of Shaw apply to the present position of Franco, with just this difference —that he has tried to defeat the Government army and failed, and is now trying to wear down the loyalist civil population. Those acquainted with the history of Spain, the powers of resistance of her people and that strange, almost mystical stoicism which pervades their character, could answer off-hand that such tactics must inevitably fail. But we have actual evidence to take the place of all such conjectures. Every newspaper correspondent in loyalist territory has told more or less the same story in regard to the dreadful bombardments of helpless civilians during this last month or so. Mr. Andrew Rice, Special Correspondent of the Yorkshire Post, wrote on January 31st: "One finds among the civilian population a curiously fatalistic attitude towards air-raids. Heavy bombs are liable to go straight through a house and, owing to a delay-action fuse, burst in the basement. There is, then, no assured safety wherever one may take shelter. Even the elaborate 'refugios' are not invariably immune from direct impact. So, in an hotel, I have had the curious experience of hearing the syrens screaming outside, and simultaneously watching the waiters in the dining-room going deftly about their business, while not a diner stirred from his seat. Only a bomb in their midst would have started a panic . . ." and he comments: " What useful purpose, then, do the raids serve ? Twenty civilians are killed, fifty are maimed, a thousand are terrified for a few moments—but the great bulk of the population remains unmoved. So what's the point ? " Franco's air raids have had one effect, at least, apart from stiffening the resistance of the loyalists. They are leaving his supporters abroad so ashamed of his stupidity and brutality that even the most impudent among them are finding it difficult to say much in his favour. Those air raids are having an effect directly the opposite of what the rebels expected of them. It is impossible to justify them on any count whatsoever — legal, moral or military. They have, perhaps, one favourable aspect, and it is that they have stirred the French Prime Minister and our own Foreign Secretary into an attempt to persuade both sides in the Spanish struggle to put an end altogether to the massacres of old men, women and children behind the line. The Spanish Government had already appealed to the rebels for a mutual cessation of the bombing of non-military objectives— but without success. Then the Ministry of Defence at Barcelona, on its own initiative on February 3rd, decided to abstain from all air raids of a general character and stopped the elaborate preparations that were being made to bomb Franco territory. One cannot but admire the dignity and self-restraint of such a decision in a moment of extreme provocation. Furthermore, it is a gesture which shows the Government's strength and confidence —just as Franco's refusal shows his weakness and desperation. The other interesting feature of recent days is the return of the submarine pirates to the Mediterranean. The most interesting aspects of this piracy are the following unchallengeable facts: (1) Not one submarine remained in the possession of the Spanish rebels and (2) the Italian Government has given to the rebels recently four destroyers, and "assigned" two submarines to the rebel naval base at Soller in Majorca. These two submarines are now flying rebel flags ! Could any act of intervention be more blatant than this ? One of the first activities to be recorded after the transfer of these naval Italian units to the rebels was the torpedoing on February 1st in broad daylight of the British merchantman Endymion, while flying both the British and the Non-Intervention flags and with a neutral (Swedish) Non-Intervention officer on board. On February 4th, an even greater outrage was perpetrated, when the British ship Alcira, also flying our flag and that of the Non-Intervention Control, was bombed by two Italian sea-planes from the base which the Italians have established for the rebels at Palma, Majorca. In the first, 10 out of the crew of 14 lost their lives; in the second, the whole British crew were rescued by a Government sloop and a fishing boat and brought to Barcelona. "Without warning," one of the rescued men of the Alcira reported, "two aeroplanes approached, and immediately dropped three bombs from a height of only 100 feet, all of which hit the ship. Two sailors were burnt by explosions, and four others jumped into the sea to be picked up by lifeboats. The ship sank in five minutes." Twenty-one British ships were bombed or attacked up to October 21st, 1937, two others were sunk and one bombed and machine-gunned. Then came the Nyon Control, after which the pirates vanished. But, apparently, the French and British navies relaxed their vigilance— and back we were again where we started. Other ships have suffered— the Dutch vessel Hannah, torpedoed on January 11th, and the British ship Lake of Geneva, attacked by a submarine. The French response to these activities was immediate. Instructions were issued to the French Navy to sink all submerged submarines west of Bec l'Aigle (near Marseilles). How did Italy react to this and Britain's decision to increase vigilance ? By saying that the Endymion incident was a fake ! It will be remembered that, when the German and Italian bombers wiped out Guernica, the first reaction of Salamanca was to declare that no rebel planes had gone into the air that day !
|Archive collection||Publications from the archive of Henry Sara and Frank Maitland|
|Archive folder||Journal of the Friends of the Spanish Republic : Journal : The War in Spain: a weekly summary|
|Document title||The War in Spain: a weekly summary. No. 4|
|Document date||12 February 1938|
|Publisher||London : United Editorial|