February 27, 2021

The Battle of Brunete, 82 years later

The traveler who has traveled on the A-6 motorway in a northwest direction, should know that, on his left, between the towns of Las Rozas and Torrelodones, one of the most important places of the Spanish Civil War extends: the battlefield of Brunete. If you are an observer, you will have seen, when you climb the long slope that serves as a gateway to the northwest mountains of Madrid, two large houses that frame the highway. To the right, on a hill of rocks, rises the so-called "Casa de Franco", the palace of the Count of Las Almenas, which was recently news because, once again, part of the roof had been set on fire. In this place, today very deteriorated, the People's Army of the Republic had its headquarters during the battle to which we referred. On the other side, on a crest that collapses towards the Guadarrama river, is "Casa Panarras", which was also a general headquarters, during the same offensive, of the XVIII Republican Army Corps.

It was 10 pm on July 5, 1937 when, in the south of Valdemorillo, the men of the V Republican Army Corps started up. It began one of the most important infiltration maneuvers in history. In the lead was the 46th Division commanded by Valentín González, el Campesino, followed by the 11th, under the command of Enrique Líster, like the previous one, a famous militia leader. His men were going to spend the night walking south. Those of the Peasant to take Quijorna and the crest that extended to the north of this town, crowned by the vertex the Plains; those of Lister, to conquer Brunete.

It had not dawned when the brigades of the division of Lister arrived and the maneuver began. The 9ª, in head, went towards the east immediately, following the highway that, today between urbanizations, takes until Boadilla of Monte; The 100th, who followed her, surrounded the town on the west, crossed the Quijorna highway and placed herself south of the town center before attacking it and quickly defeating the garrison. Then he marched south, along the road to Sevilla la Nueva, to the gates of that town. There remains one brigade, the 1st, who arrived last and who was soon to have to help other units.

Although at the dawn of July 6, today just 82 years ago, Brunete was already in the hands of the Republic, to Lister his companions had failed him. To his right, the Peasant had his dawn on him, he had to improvise his attack on the march and he had failed.

Quijorna and Los Llanos, defended by a battalion of Tiradores de Ifni and by the 5th Flag of Falange de Castilla, resisted. To his left, the XVIII Army Corps had not had the expected success either, because, despite having launched a classic attack, he was unable to capture Villanueva de la Cañada.

End the resistance

The problem was not trivial, all the logistics of Lister had to go through that town and the fighters of the 2nd Flag of Falange of Seville who defended the place were willing to avoid it. To end the resistance, it was necessary to send the 1st Lister Brigade, which consequently could not support the other units of its division, so that, without reinforcements, the men who had gone to Boadilla del Monte and Sevilla la Nueva they were forced to turn around. Even so, the battle would last until July 26. Many places became places of death. Next to the M-506, where the curve leaves when leaving Villanueva del Pardillo, is the Fortified Hill; to the south, El Olivar, coincides to a large extent with the urbanization that today is called El Olivar de Mirabal; and also the vertex Romanillos, or the Mosquito, the Loma Quemada and the Artillera, some buried by the urbanizations, while others continue to sleep under the oaks, burned by the July sun.

The republican failure

The battle of Brunete was a crucial moment of the Spanish Civil War. Until that summer of 1937, the Republic had limited itself to reacting, to dancing to the sound of the Francoists. The march on Madrid and the assault on the capital, the conquest of Malaga, the battles of Jarama and Guadalajara, the offensive of Vizcaya and the conquest of Bilbao, all were offensive operations of the Francoists who had forced the Republic to defend themselves . This defense had been fierce, on some of these occasions, effective, although a war could not be won by backing step by step, the Republican Government was aware that it had to go on the attack. But the difficult thing was to find the moment, because the rebels did not stop and, now, after having desisted to conquer Madrid, they tried to devour the Cantabrian cornice, where, separated from the rest of Spain, it resisted the republican force. For this, several options were proposed, and finally Brunete was chosen, an offensive with a double idea: on the one hand, encircling, also attacking from Usera, the Francoist forces that, embedded in the University City and deployed by the Casa de Campo, they besieged Madrid; on the other, to force the enemy to stop their operations in the north to return to the center of the peninsula. Although the Republican Army was prepared, none of the objectives were met. Delayed by the failures of the first day, the Republicans could not surround the troops, and although Franco ordered many of the north to move to the new battlefield, a month and a half later everything was over and he could resume the offensive. The Republic had failed.

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