Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September 30, 1936, assault on the Estrecho Quinto positions

Advanced groups of the Durruti Column prepare to attack the fascists at Loporzano and the Estrecho Quinto pass, outside of Huesca. This battle took place on September 30th, 1936, and involved thousands of militia members from the Durruti Column, as well as POUM and Barbastre Battalion. 

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Some of what awaits them:

Saturday, July 18, 2020

July 19th, 1936 - The Battle for the Telefonica Building, Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona. Diorama, July 19, 2020.


July 19th, 1936 - The Battle for the Telefonica Building, Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona. Diorama, July 19, 2020.



To commemorate the anniversary of the people's victory over the army on this date in 1936, I have finished the diorama below. The building scale is 1/144, the figures are 1/72. Follow the below links to read more about the history behind the event:

















































Long version, historical statement: July 19th, 1936 - The Battle for the Telefonica Building, Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona.

July 19th, 1936 - The Battle for the Telefonica Building, Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona.

*Longer version*

The Spanish Civil War truly began on July 17th, when fascist generals in the Army of Africa, stationed in Morocco, launched a coup against the democratically-elected, left-wing Republican government. For most of Spain, the following days were full of confusion and disinformation. The government refused the offer of help from Spain’s largest union, the anarchist CNT, who in turn called a general strike and prepared to fight the army in the streets. Seditious military leaders launched rising attempts in much of the rest of Spain on July 19th.

In the early hours of July 19, 1936, factory sirens called workers out to the streets of Barcelona. The CNT had learned from anarchist soldiers in the army about the fascist military coup. While the Republic had recently shut down all of the CNT's public centers across the country, the workers decided to oppose the generals. With the officers' plans in hand, the anarchists cooked up their own plan: to wait until the soldiers left their barracks, and then ambush them in the streets. As the sirens rang out, workers defense committees left their gathering points headed to their positions. The throngs of militants sang “A Las Barricadas,” their union’s anthem-turned self-fulfilling prophecy. At strategic intersections across the city, workers feverishly built barricades, distributed what few weapons they had, and gathered to demand more from the authorities.

One of the most important targets of the military coup in Barcelona was the Telefonica company building, standing on one end of the grand Plaça de Catalunya. With its local and long-range telephone switchboards and nearby radio transmitters, the Telefonica was the communications nerve center for the city. In the first hours of the morning, Comandante Major Lopez-Amor Jiménez ordered alcohol distributed to the 500 men under his command in the 13th Regiment of the 7th Infantry Brigade at the Pedralbes barracks. The seditious military leaders told the soldiers they were to suppress an imaginary anarchist uprising planned in conjunction with the Popular Olympics to be held that day. Marching toward Plaça de Catalunya, the soldiers exchanged shots with workers around University Plaza, left a detachment to guard the area and continued on toward the Telefonica. At 6 A.M., the soldiers from the 13th Brigade arrived in the Plaça shouting “Long Live the Republic,” confusing the groups of workers already gathering to defend the area. The soldiers also encountered Assault Guards (urban police), whom were of mixed and questionable loyalty, and for that reason followed closely by crowds of workers. First, the soldiers and assault guards fired at each other, but soon they were fraternizing and hugging. Workers in the square jumped to action, swarmed the soldiers and guards, and separated the two forces. Lopez-Amor Jiménez had his soldiers detain the civilians to check their identifications, until it became clear that almost all held CNT union cards. It would have been impossible to arrest and hold them all, so Lopez-Amor Jiménez ordered his men to clear the square and to set up heavy machine guns in 4 corners of Plaça: the roof of the Maison Dorée restaurant, the roof of the Cataluña Theater, in the Hotel Colón, and the Casino Militar. The bulk of Lopez-Amor’s forces mustered in the center of the open square, where they prepared their cannons. The army now controlled the Plaça.

Lopez-Amor marched two platoons of soldiers, and about 30 civilian supporters from the fascist blue-shirted Falange party, into the Telefonica and demanded that the power station directors to cut the lines of communication of the Catalan Regional Government, the Generalitat. Workers and assault guards under Lieutenant Perales, head of the 4th Security Company, were already barricading the floors above. Perales ordered his officers to fire warning shots and clear out the army. The soldiers retreated back into the Plaça. Lopez-Armor responded by ordering his artillery to fire on the building. The army fired three volleys from their two 75mm cannons at the Telefonica. It was now 6:30 in the morning. Waves of soldiers charged the building. The Assault Guards and workers inside resisted, but were pushed back. Soldiers captured the ground floors, but the workers and loyal officers barricaded the stairwells and held the rest of the building, protecting important telephone equipment.

The heroic resistance inside the Telefonica prevented the army from establishing communications to the rest of Spain. The CNT workers at the switchboards disconnected the lines linking the fascist generals at the Capitanía building with army barracks around the city, making coordination impossible. Stranded and confused, the dispersed military units of the coup succumbed in the streets to the swarming revolutionary workers. The people had ambushed and defeated army contingents throughout most of Barcelona, and crowds flooded into Plaça de Catalunya. Workers barricaded the side streets, including Fontanella and Puerta del Ángel on either side of the Telefonica. Workers had conquered the Ramblas first thing in the morning, using the important street as a coordination center, and keeping Lopez-Amor’s force isolated from the rebellion headquarters by the docks. At 7 A.M., a light artillery battery departed Sant Andreu barracks to support the 13th Regiment, but they could not break through the barricades and were destroyed.

Meanwhile, the tides had turned in Plaça de Catalunya. Officers and workers fired relentlessly at the soldiers from rooftops, windows, doorways, alcoves, stairwells, and from behind the barricades that were growing everywhere. They targeted the artillery crew and soldiers in the open, wounding Lieutenant Gotarredona and the leader of the yellow squad of Falangists, Joaquín Echevarría. Commander López-Amor was wounded in the leg severely enough to require medical treatment in the nearby Casino Militar.

At 8 A.M., the assault guards of the 5th Security Company that had been hanging around the Infantrymen suddenly turned on the soldiers. When Lopez-Amor came out of the Casino Militar, assault guards, supported by anarchist militants, descended on him. Lopez-Amor drew his pistol but was overwhelmed, and dragged into a car waiting to take him into custody. Next, the assault guards tried to arrest Captain Pedro Mercader Bofill, who had more time to offer a fight. Officers of the 5th Security Company gunned the captain down. By this point, machine gun bullets poured into the Plaça from all direction and from each side of the conflict. The next highest-ranking rebel in the Plaça, Captain Don Luis Oller Gil, himself badly wounded, ordered the soldiers to disperse into resistance groups. The army abandoned the open square and took refuge in the Hotel Colón, the Maison Dorée, the Casino Militar, and the lower floors of the Telefónica. The soldiers were trapped, and no reinforcements were coming.

At 11 A.M., Assault Guard units loyal to the Republic received the order from the Generalitat to support the workers in the streets. An hour later, two companies of Assault Guards entered the Jonqueres subway station and headed through the tunnels toward Plaça de Catalunya.  By 1 P.M., two companies of the 12th group of Assault Guards, led by Commander Gómez, Captains Arco, and Captain Gutiérrez, emerged from the tunnels and occupied the Grand Metro station and all of its entrances in the Plaça itself. Captain Gil pulled the remaining soldiers in the Plaça back into the Hotel Colon to join surviving infantry and Falangeists from the red squad. They defended the Hotel Colon with machine guns on the hotel’s balconies and roof, but the anti-fascists continued to advance. At 1:50 P.M., workers reached the 75mm artillery pieces the soldiers left in the Plaça and turned them on the Hotel Colón. Workers and loyal officers, charging in throngs from the subway entrances and side streets secured in earlier fighting, stormed the Casino Militar and the Maison Dorée.

In the afternoon arrived Buenaventura Durruti, true son of the people, CNT leader, and experienced guerrilla, and Enrique Obregón Blanco, Mexican-born Secretary of the Local Federation of Anarchist Groups of Barcelona, with a force of veteran CNT militants. They had spent the morning defeating the army at other points along the Ramblas. In Plaça de Catalunya they found an apocalyptic scene. Dead bodies lay everywhere, cars smoked and burned, and soldiers and the horses who transported the cannons gathered in piles toward the center of the square.

At 3:20 P.M., Colonel Escobar led a large force of the Civil Guard, of uncertain loyalty at that point and thus blanketed by vigilant union militants, from the Northwest into the Plaça. Crowds now teemed on the edges of safety, in the subway stations and entrances, alleys and stairwells, just out of reach of the machine guns. They came from all across Barcelona and the towns and villages beyond, descending upon one of the final holdouts of the military rebellion. Among them, a retired artillery soldier-turned longshoreman, Manuel Lecha, had gathered a crew of workers at the sight of the ambush on the artillery battery, to roll a captured cannon by hand. Lecha now positioned it in Plaça de Catalunya and opened fire on the fascists.

The workers decided to force the matter of the guards’ loyalty, and rushed the front doors of the Telefonica at 3:30. Durruti and Obregón led hundreds of workers in a charge from the mouth of the Ramblas, across the Plaça, through the torrent of machine gun bullets. The anarchists threw open the front doors and poured into the Telefonica building, unleashing a bloody battle for the ground floors. Many long-time CNT militants perished in the battle, Enrique Obregón included. The beleaguered soldiers on the lower floors soon surrendered, and the workers’ committee controlled the building and its strategic switchboards for the following year. Across the square, POUMistas, joined by Civil Guards, stormed the Hotel Colon. By 4 P.M., the last rebel soldiers in Plaça de Catalunya surrendered. Civil Guards arrested the army officers and some falangists, while many rank and file soldiers defected and joined in the revolutionary celebrations sweeping across the city.


Sources:
-El ejercito del 19 de julio en cataluña: tres generales  frente a frente: Goded, Llano de la Encomienda, Aranguren by Felio A Vilarrubias
-Durruti in the Spanish Revolution, by Abel Paz
-La insurrección del 19 y 29 de julio de 1936, en Barcelona, by Agustín Guillamón
-Atles de la Guerra Civil a Catalunya, by Víctor Hurtado, Antoni Segura i Mas, and Joan Villarroya Font

Historic statement: July 19th, 1936 - The Battle for the Telefonica Building, Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona. Diorama, July 19, 2020.

July 19th, 1936 - The Battle for the Telefonica Building, Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona.

In the early hours of July 19, 1936, factory sirens called workers out to the streets of Barcelona. Spain's largest union, the anarchist CNT, had learned from sympathizers in the army about a fascist military coup against the Spanish Republic. With the officers' plans in hand, the anarchists cooked up their own plan: to wait until the soldiers left their barracks, and ambush them in the streets. As the sirens rang out, workers' defense committees headed to their positions. The throngs of militants sang “A Las Barricadas,” their union’s anthem-turned self-fulfilling prophecy. At strategic intersections across the city, workers built barricades, distributed what few weapons they had, and gathered to demand more from the authorities.

The Telefonica company building in Plaça de Catalunya, with its local and long-range telephone switchboards, was Barcelona’s  communications center, and a primary target for the army’s coup. Before sunrise, Comandante Major Lopez-Amor Jiménez distributed alcohol to the 500 men under his command in the 13th Regiment of the 7th Infantry Brigade. The soldiers arrived at 6 A.M. in the Plaça shouting "Long Live the Republic,” confusing the workers already gathering to defend the area. The soldiers also encountered Assault Guards (urban police).

First, the soldiers and Assault Guards fired at each other, but soon they were fraternizing and hugging. Workers swarmed and separated the two forces. The soldiers detained the civilians to check their identifications, until it became clear that almost all held CNT union cards. Unable to arrest everyone, Lopez-Amor Jiménez had his men clear the square and place machine guns in four corners of Plaça: the roofs of the Maison Dorée restaurant, Cataluña Theater, Hotel Colón, and the Casino Militar.

Two army platoons marched into the Telefonica to cut the phone lines to the Catalan Regional Government, the Generalitat. CNT workers, and Assault Guards under Lieutenant Perales, head of the 4th Security Company, were already barricading the floors above. Perales’ officers fired warning shots. The soldiers retreated back into the Plaça, and fired three volleys from their two 75mm cannons at the Telefonica. It was now 6:30 A.M. Waves of soldiers charged the building. The Assault Guards and workers resisted, but were pushed back. Soldiers captured the ground floors, but the workers and loyal officers held the rest of the building.

The heroic resistance inside the Telefonica stopped the army from establishing communications with the rest of Spain. The CNT workers at the switchboards disconnected the lines linking the fascist generals at the Capitanía building with army barracks around the city, making coordination impossible. Stranded and confused, the dispersed military units of the coup succumbed in the streets to the swarming revolutionary workers. After defeating the army throughout most of Barcelona, crowds flooded into Plaça de Catalunya. Workers barricaded the side streets, including Fontanella and Puertal de Àngel on either side of the Telefonica. In the Plaça de Catalunya, officers and workers fired relentlessly at the soldiers from rooftops, windows, doorways, stairwells, and from behind the barricades. Lopez-Amor was hit in the leg, and sought treatment in the Casino Military.

At 8 A.M., the Assault Guards of the 5th Security Company that had been hanging around the Infantrymen suddenly turned on the soldiers. When Lopez-Amor came out of the Casino Militar, Assault Guards and anarchist militants descended on him, and dragged into a car. Next, the Assault Guards tried to arrest Captain Pedro Mercader Boil, who resisted. Officers gunned the captain down. By this point, machine gun bullets poured into the Plaça from all directions. The next highest-ranking rebel in the Plaça, Captain Don Luis Oller Gil, himself badly wounded, ordered the soldiers to disperse into resistance groups. The army took refuge in the Hotel Colón, the Maison Dorée, the Casino Militar, and the lower floors of the Telefonica. The soldiers were trapped, and no reinforcements were coming.

At 11 A.M., the Generalitat ordered Assault Guard units to support the workers in the streets. Assault Guards entered the subway tunnels toward Plaça de Catalunya.  By 1 P.M., two companies of the 12th group of Assault Guards emerged from the tunnels. They occupied the Grand Metro station and all of the subway entrances in the Plaça itself. Captain Gil pulled the remaining soldiers in the Plaça back into the Hotel Colón, defending it with machine guns. The anti-fascists continued to advance. At 1:50 P.M., workers reached the artillery pieces the soldiers left in the Plaça and fired on the Hotel Colón. Workers and loyal officers, charging from the subway entrances and side streets, stormed the Casino Militar and the Maison Dorée.

With the afternoon arrived Buenaventura Durruti, true son of the people, CNT leader, and experienced guerrilla, and Enrique Obregón Blanco, Mexican-born Secretary of the Local Federation of Anarchist Groups of Barcelona, with a force of veteran CNT militants. They had spent the morning defeating the army at other points along the Ramblas. In Plaça de Catalunya they found an apocalyptic scene. Dead bodies lay everywhere, cars smoked and burned, and soldiers and the horses who transported the cannons gathered in piles toward the center of the square.

At 3:20 P.M., Colonel Escobar led a large force of the Civil Guard (rural police), of uncertain loyalty and therefore blanketed by vigilant union militants, into the Plaça. Crowds now teemed on the edges of safety, in the subway stations and entrances, alleys and stairwells, just out of reach of the machine guns. Among them, a retired artillery soldier-turned longshoreman, Manuel Lecha, had gathered a crew of workers at the site of the ambush on an artillery battery, to roll a captured cannon by hand. Lecha now positioned it in the Plaça de Catalunya and opened fire on the fascists.

The workers stormed the Telefonica at 3:30. Durruti and Obregón led hundreds of workers in a charge from the mouth of the Ramblas, across the Plaça, and through the torrent of machine gun bullets. The anarchists threw open the front doors and poured into the building, unleashing a bloody battle for the ground floors. Many militants perished in the battle, Enrique Obregón included. The soldiers soon surrendered, and the workers’ committee controlled the building and its strategic switchboards for the following year. Across the square, POUMistas, joined by Civil Guards, stormed the Hotel Colon. By 4 P.M., the last rebel soldiers in Plaça de Catalunya surrendered. Civil Guards arrested the army officers, while many rank and file soldiers defected and joined in the revolutionary celebrations sweeping across Barcelona.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Almost Done: Telefonica Diorama

I've been working on this one for about two years, and I'm determined to finish (whatever that means) this month. Here's where it stands so far.