Creator: Andres, Erich
Repository: Centro Documental de Memoria Histórica, Salamanca, Spain
Fond or Collection
Archivo fotográfico de Erich Andres
Repository and Location
Centro Documental de Memoria Histórica, Salamanca, Spain
Date Created: 1936
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Illescas, Spain
In 1936, Spain’s colonial army in Morocco had 32,000 men. More than half were Europeans who served in the Spanish Legion and the artillery, engineering, machine gun, and light infantry units. The rest were Moroccans, most of whom were in the Regulares and Mehelas. Taken together, they were the best, most experienced troops in the Spanish army, and they all came under the control of the military rebels led by Colonels Luis Soláns (Melilla), Eduardo Sáez de Buruaga (Tetuán), and Juan Yagüe (Ceuta). They arrested, deposed and executed General Manuel Romerales (Melilla). The commander in chief in Morocco, General Agustín Gómez Morato, had his life spared although he was imprisoned. They also arrested and executed the top civil authority in Morocco, the High Commissioner, Arturo Álvarez-Buylla. As Mola had predicted, Franco took control of the Army of Africa on July 19.
The colonial troops, and above all the Legion and the indigenous units, had a well earned reputation for being fierce fighters, and they soon had a chance to live up to it. Almost immediately after the rebellion began, they were sent to southern Spain, first to support Queipo de Llano in Sevilla and secure the ports of Algeciras and Cádiz, and then to make up the columns that would march on Madrid through Extremadura.
On July 18, 220 men were transported to Cádiz on the destroyer Churruca and the motor vessel Ciudad de Cádiz; the next day the gunboat Dato and the freighter Cabo Espartel carried another 170 to Algeciras. However, rebel plans to continue transporting their troops by sea were obstructed when the crews of most Spanish naval vessels rebelled against their officers, the vast majority of whom had tried to join the uprising. The Churruca was one of those vessels, and after the mutiny it returned to the Republican side. During the next couple of days the rebels were able to send only 150 men on two sailboats, and this was possible only because of heavy fog in the Straits of Gibraltar. The navy, supported by the weak Republican air force, managed to keep the Straits almost totally blockaded.
From July 19 to 28, the rebels were also able to send groups of 10 to 15 men in small airplanes but two factors then changed this situation radically. One was the arrival of 20 large Ju-52/3 transport planes and 6 escort planes from Nazi Germany on July 28 and, a few days later, nine Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM 81 bombers that had ben converted into transport planes. The other was the positioning of a powerful German naval squadron near the Strait that intimidated the Republican fleet from continuing its blockade. Thanks to this crucial external support, the Army of Africa was free to cross the Straits to Spain.