The Segovia and Huesca Offensives
Repository: Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, Spain
Creator: Badosa, Josep 1893-1937
Date Created: 1936 to 1939 (year uncertain)
Type: Graphic Material
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Huesca, Spain
The Republic could provide very little direct support to its forces on the northern front. When Mola launched his offensive against Vizcaya at the end of March 1937, the Largo Caballero government could only hope that the isolated forces there could hold out long enough to allow the Popular Army to undertake its own offensives elsewhere that would change the strategic face of the war. The northern front did hold out for seven months, but the long-awaited operations that might have altered its fate were failures. Two of the most important were the Segovia and Huesca offensives in May and June 1937.
The goal of the Segovia offensive was to break the Francoist lines north of Madrid which had been static since the summer of 1936. The Republican attack began on May 30 and lasted until June 4. The objective was to take the Granja de San Ildefonso and, from there, advance on Segovia to open a breach that would threaten Valladolid. The Republicans did not have the element of surprise, their units were poorly co-ordinated, and their air force, which was already starting to lose its superiority, played only a minor role. On the other side, Francoist forces under the command of General José Enrique Varela put up a tenacious defence until reinforcements arrived.
The Huesca offensive, between June 12 and 19, followed a similar pattern, although the Republican forces, composed mostly by recently militarized anarchist and POUM militias, were even more disorganized than at Segovia. The events that had taken place in Barcelona in May 1937 meant that there was little trust between the former militia fighters and their new officers, who were often Communists. Even though the Republican air force played a major role, the numerically inferior Huesca garrison defended itself effectively.
Both battles demonstrated that, for all the efforts of Defence Minister Indalecio Prieto and Prime Minister Juan Negrín, the Popular Army was far from being an effective offensive force. In addition, after more than six months of being used as shock troops, the International Brigades were beginning to show signs of exhaustion and be less effective on the battlefield. Finally, as the fascist powers increased the supplies they were sending to Franco, the Republic was again losing its material advantage.
The failure of these two offensives raised Francoist morale and undermined that of the Republicans, who saw they could do nothing to avoid defeat on the northern front. Bilbao fell the same day that the attack on Huesca ended. On top of everything else, a fortuitous accident raised Franco’s military prestigious and political power. On June 3, as he was travelling from the Segovia front, Mola was killed in an airplane accident. The war would continue for another 21 months, but even after its victories at Jarama and Guadalajara, it was clear that the Republic was losing.