Extracts from the Northern Whig,
The Northern Whig was a daily paper published
in Belfast throughout the period.
Various large pieces reporting on the war.
Report of infighting at the Non-Intervention Committee between the Soviet and Italian representatives.
Further report that "Madrid will fall tomorrow".
An editorial [insert]
Report of the capture of Boyd and McMahon includes photo of Boyd.
BELFAST MEN CAPTURED BY INSURGENTS
SPANISH EFFORTS TO ENSURE SAFETY
OF AMBULANCE VOLUNTEERS
The two Belfast men who left with the Scottish medical unit for Spain about two months ago have been captured by the insurgents near Madrid.
The capture has been confirmed by Reuter’s correspondent on the Madrid front.
They are Frederick A. McMahon (25), 30, Ravenhill Street, and Joseph Boyd (29), 94, Ulsterville Gardens, both of whom are single.
Telegrams have been despatched by Alderman Harry Midgley, MP, on behalf of the Northern Ireland Socialist Party, to Mr. Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, and prominent Labour politicians requesting them to ensure the safety of the two men.
According to a "Times " Telegram from Madrid there are large gaps and open places, wide stretches of no man’s land. Through one of these, near Carabanchel Military Hospital, one of the Scottish ambulances was lost. It was motoring along a road at speed and failed to see signs made by an outpost. Militiamen saw it stop as an insurgent detachment showed them-selves some distance ahead. Then, it is believed, in response to signs from the insurgents, it went on, but appears to have been fired on. It stopped, and one of the two men in it, whose names were F. McMahon and J. Boyd, were seen running across a field.
No Official News
Up to the moment no official intimation tans been received from the Scottish medical unit as to capture of the two men. Alderman Midgley in a telephonic communication with Sir Daniel Stevenson, who was prominently connected with the organising work prior to the departure of the unit, received confirmation of the report which had reached Belfast.
The unit was being looked after by the British Charge d’Affaires, Mr. Ogilvie Forbes. A message to that effect was received two days ago and since then there has been no word from the unit or the British Embassy in Spain.
As the remainder of the unit is reported to be safe mystery surrounds the capture of the two Belfastmen. The theory is that they had gone out to aid the wounded and had been taken by surprise by the insurgents, who, during their march on Madrid, had cut them off along with Government troops.
The mothers of both men are widows, one of whom, Mrs. McMahon, has not yet been informed of the capture of her son.
Postcard to mother
The news that Boyd had been captured was the first received of him by his mother and brother since November 2, when a postcard, marked "Censurada," arrived from Paris. It was dated October 23 and began with the words: ‘‘We are all well and eating good, and safe."
Boyd added that he knew very little of what was happening in the war, except what was going on in his own small sector. He complained that he had at received no letters from home for some time.
Mrs. Boyd told a "Northern Whig" reporter who had interviewed her at her home at 94, Ulsterville Gardens last night, that she and her other son, had been writing regularly to Joseph twice a week.
With no news coming from Spain since November 2, Mrs Boyd had been growing more anxious concerning her son's safety every day. Last night a load seemed to have been lifted off the minds of both her and her son, who were hopeful that Joseph, as a British subject, would be safe in the hands of the insurgents.
Mrs. Boyd recalled that in a newspaper report published on October 31 her son’s name had been given as a source of an interview concerning an air raid at Gestafe. That was the last indication they had received as to his whereabouts.
TEXT OF TELEGRAMS
To Foreign Secretary and Labour Party Leaders
In addition to sending a message to the Foreign Office in London Alderman Midgley last night sent telegrams to Major Attlee, leader of the Labour Party in the British House of Commons; Dr. Christopher Addison, MP, one of the organisers of the London medical unit acting in Spain; and Sir Walter Citrine, general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress.
The text of the message was: "Two Belfastmen, Fred McMahon and Joe Boyd, serving with the Scottish medical unit in Spain, have been captured by Franco’s troops in the region of Madrid. Request you use influence and make every effort to ensure their personal safety."
Earlier in the evening Alderman Midgley was in touch with the industrial side of line T. U.C. at Transport House, London asking for their intercession on behalf of the two Belfastmen.
McMahon and Boyd in response to an appeal by the Irish Committee volunteered for service with the Scottish unit.
A censored letter received from one of the men by a friend in Belfast last week stated that they had reached Paris and would be stopping there for the night. The letter added that they were working very hard owing to at big offensive, and in two days had treated about 300 cases.
No undue alarm
Sir Daniel Stevenson's Statement
Sir Daniel Stevenson, Chancellor of Glasgow University stated in Glasgow last night that no undue alarm was felt at the capture by insurgents at Carabanchel of the two men. "No one will do them any harm," said Sir Daniel. "They will be quite as safe on that side as on the other. I have as yet received no communication about them."
McMahon is one of four members of time unit who had lucky escapes when it was heavily bombarded on the Parla front at the end of October, an ambulance being destroyed and another badly damaged. The unit with a personnel of nineteen, including at woman, left Glasgow for Madrid in September.
More on Boyd and McMahon
Refugees and Hostages: Sidelights on the Spanish War.
It is to be regretted that when many other nations, irrespective of political outlook, have united in praise of the work done by the British Navy in evacuating refugees from Spain, it should be suggested from the Opposition benches in the House of Commons that partiality has been shown in this humanitarian work. There is no justification for such a slur, even though it be implied in a Parliamentary question. The Foreign Secretary assured the House yesterday that the Government is anxious to do whatever is possible to help both sides, whether it be in the matter of refugees or hostages. The services rendered by the Navy — at considerable cost to the taxpayer — in evacuating British and other nationals from Spain are much more extensive than has been commonly supposed. Figures quoted by Lord Stanley, Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, show that for the purpose of evacuating refugees His Majesty’s ships made no fewer than 220 voyages, covering an aggregate distance of 75,000 miles, and that the number of persons who were thus enabled to leave Spain was more than eleven thousand. This is a record of which not only the Navy but all Britons may well be proud.
More recently, as the civil war has approached its apparent climax, the British Government has been active in another commendable effort to prevent indiscriminate slaughter and needless suffering. Neither the Government of Senor Caballero nor the insurgent authorities at Burgos have seen fit to agree to the British proposal
s for an exchange of hostages and their removal to a place of safety. In view of the reports of the shooting of hostages — some of them circumstantial, though admittedly difficult to check — Britain set a praiseworthy example to the rest of the world for its initiative and perseverance. The plea has been put forward that the hostages are really enemies whom it would be dangerous to release. There may be ground for this contention in some cases, but there is sufficient evidence to show that it is by no means of general application. There seems to be little likelihood of the British gesture producing the desired result. Nevertheless it will remain as a witness to the fact that Britain, though maintaining neutrality, has served the cause of humanity in a manner befitting on en-lightened leader of the nations
5 line report on Patrick Belton arriving in Lisbon on the 14th [A leader of the Irish Christian Front] before heading for Spain.
P7. [Insert. Large piece inc. more on McMahon and Boyd]
Northern Whig editorial
Belfast, Thursday, November 19, 1936.
"RECOGNISING" THE FRANCO GOVERNMENT.
After the repeated evidences of German and Italian sympathy with the insurgent forces in Spain, the news that Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini have announced their recognition at General Franco’s regime will cause no surprise. Throughout the Spanish crisis Germany and Italy have obviously acted in concert, constituting themselves godparents of the Franco Government almost before it was born. The reason is not far to seek. The European dictators are waging war on Communism, both inside and outside their borders. And not on Communism only. They despise democracies and are doing their best to set up the strongest possible barrier against the further spread of democratic ideas and institutions. They are anxious to secure themselves and the systems they represent against the challenge of a resurgent Left Wing or even liberal movement, and one of the ways in which, they believe, they can do this is by encouraging Fascist tendencies in other States. Latterly there have been reports of a dramatic development of this policy in Russia where, it is alleged, Fascist intrigue and agitation have been rife. It this be true it is a significant example of carrying the war into the enemy’s camp. There is nothing inherently improbable in the suggestion that the Fascist Powers would like to undermine the Soviet systems in its chief stronghold. Certainly they welcome the insurgent onslaught on the Spanish Government, which, whatever its faults, owed its existence to popular election. The rival Administration set up in Burgos derives its power not from a mandate of the people but from the force of arms. The Madrid Government, under the menace of insurgent aircraft and artillery, was compelled to leave the capital, where the opposing armies are now fighting furiously. The resistance of Madrid has been more stubborn than General Franco expected, and the siege has gone on far beyond his original timetable. The insurgents are slowly getting nearer the heart of the city, and though the capture of Madrid may be further delayed its fall must be regarded as certain. The Government forces may make a stand in other parts of the country, but it can hardly affect the ultimate issue at the civil war.
It may be assumed that the British Government will not act precipitately in the matter of recognising the Burgos Government or its successor in Madrid. The considerations that prompted haste on the part of Germany and Italy do not apply to Britain, and therefore the proper course would be to await the organisation of an Administration that can speak in the name of the Spanish people as a whole. Sooner or later - and the sooner the better for Spain and for Europe - the work of reconstructing the political and economic life of Spain will have to be undertaken. When ordered conditions have been restored the question of diplomatic relations will almost settle itself. Some anxiety has been expressed in Britain regarding the future at Gibraltar if a Fascist Government should be permanently established in Spain. The question has not escaped the notice of the Cabinet in its general survey of Mediterranean policy, and new steps will almost certainly have to be taken to safeguard vital British interests. The old idea that "the Rock" is impregnable belongs to an era in which aerial warfare was unknown, and in which military strategy was much less complex than it is to-day. It is extremely unlikely that even a Fascist Government in Madrid would attempt to get Britain out of Gibraltar unless it had the powerful backing of other States in the form of a military alliance or understanding. Nevertheless the present position of the Spanish war and the outlook for the near future illustrate the truth that a struggle in which Britain has no direct concern may become of the first importance to its Imperial interests. For the defence of those interests, if they should ever be menaced, Britain must be prepared. There is much to be said for Sir Robert Horne’s view that the aggressive and contemptuous attitude of certain foreign spokesmen - towards Britain is due to their belief that British defences are weak, and that the nation has not the spirit to assert and enforce its rights. It is for the British Government and people to show that while they stand for world peace and have no desire for aggression against any other nation, British security is for them a matter of paramount concern. Weakness and insecurity go together. Britain therefore must be strong enough to command the respect of other Powers and to uphold its prestige against wanton challenge from any quarter.
P7. Piece on 7 more Cork people going out to O'Duffy, includes Michael Cagney, from a leading Blueshirt family, whose brother was at an Italian military school.
More on McMahon and Boyd
Ulstermen Escape death
Mistaken for Russians in Madrid war Zone
Prompt treatment of a Wounded Man saves their lives
Fighting less severe.
Prince executed: another killed in air crash.
How the lives of two Belfast men, Mr. Frederick McMahon and Mr. Joseph A. Boyd, were saved by a Spanish insurgent who could speak English was revealed in dramatic fashion by Mr. McMahon when he and his colleague reached Lisbon yesterday.
Messrs. McMahon and Boyd, who were serving with the Scottish Ambulance Unit, were taken prisoners on November 8 when collecting wounded in "no man’s land" during the fierce fighting before Madrid. A man who was bleeding to death and whom Boyd promptly bandaged told the guards that McMahon and Boyd were not Russians but English Red Cross men.
They were released six days later following intervention by Mr. Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, and they are now waiting to hear whether they will be permitted to rejoin their unit or will have to return home.
Rain causes a lull.
There was little activity in the fight for Madrid yesterday. The Government forces are still holding the insurgents at bay. The lull is attributed to heavy rain. In Thursday’s bombardment 150 people were buried alive.
It was revealed yesterday that Prince Alonso of Orleans-Bourbon, 24-year-old son of the Infante Allonso, first cousin of ex-King Alfonso, was killed when fighting in the air force for the insurgents, and that Prince Alfonso of Bourbon, Marquis of Squilache, has been executed in the Model Prison in Madrid.
Senor Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, Spanish Fascist leader, and son of the late dictator of Spain, was executed at Alicante for complicity in the insurrection.
The full story of the capture and experiences in the hands of the insurgents of the two Belfast men was told by Mr. McMahon when the two men arrived here today.
"Our unit, composed of nine men and one woman, arrived at Madrid on October 1. We had worked all sections of the front from Toledo, and had attended 1,400 wounded, 1,000 of these being combatants and the remainder women and children.
"We were arrested when driving an ambulance in No Man’s land to collect wounded after a fierce engagement. We went too near the insurgent lines and they fired on us, puncturing our tyres.
We were unarmed, but were immediately surrounded and marched with our hands up to the insurgent lines. There was tremendous excitement, and we were convinced that our lives were about to end."
A Courteous Colonel
"Our escort roughly pushed us to the rear of the lines and ordered us to stand against a wall. We believed we were about to be executed. Our captors evidently mistook us for Russians, and as we could not speak Spanish and they did not understand English, it was impossible to make ourselves understood.
"Just at that moment a number of wounded men were brought in on stretchers. One man was bleeding to death, and Boyd promptly opened his kit and rapidly bandaged up the wound. The deed saved our lives. The wounded man spoke English well, and told our guards that we were not Russians but were English Red Cross men.
"After being thoroughly searched we were taken further behind the lines, where we were questioned by a courteous colonel through two interpreters. He asked us why we had gone to Madrid instead of Seville, and wanted us to give him information about the positions and strength of the government forces. This we refused to give."
Placed in Cell
Kindly treated by Fierce-looking Moors
"After the interrogation we were escorted to Toledo in the evening, hungry and tired. but were put into an underground cell without food, and left there until the next morning when we were taken to an hotel and again questioned.
"On coming out of the commander's room closely guarded we saw a man who looked English. We attempted to speak to him, but were pushed forward with bayonets touching our backs. Boyd shouted our names over his shoulder with the words, 'Please tell the consul to see us.'
" Our first meal since our capture was on the following morning (Tuesday), when some kind-hearted soldiers gave us some coffee through the bars of our prison. When later an escort of Moors came to fetch us we again thought we were going to be stood against a wall. Much to our relief, however, we were put in a car and driven to Salamanca."
Allowed to cable
"There we were asked whether we would be willing to work for the insurgents. We agreed on condition that we should be allowed to speak to the British Consul and to cable our chairman, Sir Daniel Stevenson. Our request to see the Consul was refused, but we were allowed to cable. We were kept in prison at Salamanca until the Friday, but were excellently treated. On Friday night we were given the option of leaving Spain either through Portugal or France, and we choose Portugal as the nearest way. We are now awaiting instructions here."
Mr. McMahon added that they had been kindly assisted by the British Consul.
P8. Brief mention that 40 men had gone to join O'Duffy from Liverpool. They are quoted as saying "We will be back before Christmas." [echoes of WW1]
P6. Editorial on ban of arms exports to Spain [insert]. It includes the line, "For Britain non-intervention is the right policy."
P7. A 16-line report that the 40 members of the O'Duffy group had arrived in Lisbon.
P7. Brief mention of the differences among the Blueshirts in that Cronin was attempting to organise a rival brigade, creating "a possibility that there will be two distinct Irish 'brigades' fighting for the Spanish insurgents."
P8 Reports on the Dail debates over recognition and of 80 more, led by Col. Michael Coughlin of Cork, going out to join O'Duffy.
P7 "General Franco, leader of the insurgents, has sent a message of thanks to the ICF". It further reports that Belton criticised the sending off troops to Spain.
There was a substantial piece supportive of non-intervention, supported by this editorial.
Shipment of Arms to Spain
Logic and sentiment came into sharp conflict in the Westminster debate on the Bill prohibiting the carriage of munitions to Spain in British ships. Mr Runciman, who moved the second reading, and Mr Eden, the Foreign Secretary, who replied to the critics, made out a case which, in its essentials, was evaded by the Opposition. Most of those who hurled their maledictions at the bill confessed or betrayed strong sympathy with the Spanish Government forces. One of them frankly said: "I want them to win." Another alleged that the aim of the Bill was to prevent munitions from Russia from reaching Spain for use against the insurgents. Such considerations are besides the mark. The Bill arises out of Britain's declared policy of non-intervention in the Spanish civil war.
That policy was adopted not out of sympathy for one side or the other, but as a means of localising the struggle. If the conflict had extended beyond the borders of Spain most of the nations of Europe - particularly Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia - might now have been at war. Mr Eden put the matter in a nutshell when he said: "This is the first
time in recent history that a civil war in Europe has become a definite danger of becoming a European war. That being the justification of our non-intervention policy, it is also the justification for this Bill." What is the basis for this proposition?
Belfast Ambulance men back
Story of Capture and Imprisonment
Frederick McMahon, Ravenhill Street, and Joseph Boyd, Ulsterville Gardens, the two Belfast members of the Scottish ambulance unit who were captured by General Franco's troops at Carabanchel, near Madrid, arrived home yesterday from Lisbon.
In an interview they explained how when out to aid two men they were captured and added: "There was a temporary truce during our capture, for the loyalist troops ceased firing in case we would be hit."
They made no complaints regarding their Moorish guards and told of numerous occasions on which they were interrogated before reaching Toledo, where they were informed that they were to be released by order of General Franco. During the three days they were prisoners all they had to eat were scraps given to them by Franco's troops.
When in Spain they treated 1,400 wounded, 400 of them women and children. The ambulance also helped hundreds of refugees out of the danger zone.
It is McMahon's intention to return to Spain if possible.
P7 "General declines pay" a 15-line report that O'Duffy had been made "a major-general in the Spanish insurgent army - without pay". The decision to take no pay was O'Duffy's. This piece also mentions Sean Cunningham of Belfast serving as a company officer for the Franco forces.
IRA extinct in Dublin
80 men of the Irish Republican Congress left Dublin last night to join some of their colleagues in the Spanish Government forces, and so may be opposed in battle to their countrymen, who are in the Blue Shirt forces fighting for General Franco.
The decision to send a force to Spain has caused a split among Republicans, and it can be said that for the first time since 1913 Dublin is without a secret military force opposed to the Government.
With the departure of the.... comes the information that the IRA has become extinct in Dublin since the capture of Maurice Towmey.
The men of the IRA have become incorporated in the Irish Citizen Army, which is a trade union organisation.
George Gilmore, a colleague of Frank Ryan, one of the founders of the republican Congress Party, has decided to withdraw from leadership and has condemned the sending of volunteers to fight with the Spanish Government. Ryan is at present in Spain. Michael Price, one of the founders of the Republican Congress, is stated to have carried with him a large body of men from the IRA and the Congress into the Irish Citizen Army.
There is also another small report on 170 O'Duffy supporters leaving Lisbon for Spain
This edition carries a large piece entitled, "O'Duffy Column leaves for front lines" and it mentions that the squad is called "Catholic Moors" by the Government militia.
There is a large piece on the war including the propaganda that the "celebration of Christmas has been banned throughout the territory controlled by the Spanish Government" while the insurgent troops are supplied with "huge quantities of food and drink" arriving at Avila on a "huge fleet of lorries". These details came from insurgent radio broadcasts.
Short piece reporting that Cronin had returned to Cork, having been blocked from entering Spain by O'Duffy.
Substantial reports on a clash between Germany and the Spanish Government following the seizure of a German boat. The reports also alleged that 5,000 priests had been killed by the Government.
15th January 1937
Lord Londonderry, in his speech at Newtownards on Tuesday, said: "I am quite sure that the presence of German and Italian soldiers in Spain is for the purpose of standing up against that flow of Communism which has swept over Europe and which is now endeavouring to make a Communistic outpost in Spain."
I, for one, entirely disagree with this statement. His Lordship thinks that if the German and Italian soldiers can prevent Spain from becoming a Communistic outpost they will have "rendered good service to Spain and the world."
Is his Lordship sure that the German and Italian soldiers are fighting to overthrow Communism in Spain? Many are convinced that they are being used to re-establish the Roman Catholic Church in Spain.
At the last election on February 16th the issues at stake were put clearly and distinctly before the Spanish people. What was the real issue at that election? Let us hear the evidence of a Spaniard born and brought up in Spain and thoroughly aquatinted with the Spanish people and Spanish history. Dr. Juan Orts Gonzales, who was in Spain during the last election, wrote the following words before the revolution broke out: - "In the national election held on February 16th, 1936, there were several issues of great importance, such as amnesty for those imprisoned for participation in the revolution of October 1933, replacement of workers dismissed because of connection or sympathy with the revolution; and so on. But the main and the real issue of the election was whether Spain wanted the laicism of the Constitution of the Republic, with all its implications, or the restoration of the Roman Catholic Church, with the consequent curtailment of freedom to all other religious confessions."
Roman Catholic Appeals
"During the campaign Gil Robles (RC) frequently appealed to his voters in these words: ‘Give me a majority in Congress and I will restore the political life of Spain to what it was before the establishment of the laicism of the Republic."
"The meaning of the pastorals of the cardinals, archbishops, and bishops was: 'Vote for those who wish to re-establish the Roman Catholic Church with her traditional privileges, and vote for those candidates who will support the teaching of the nuns and friars in schools and colleges.'
"On the other side (for the Spanish Government), the Left-hand Republicans made this declaration; 'If you wish to have restored the Republic of the last two years, with absolute religious freedom and supreme control by the civil Government in public education, vote for us.'
"Now then, such being plainly the issue in the recent election, are we not justified in stating that by repudiating the Right Hand (RC) parties and giving such an overwhelming and significant majority to the Left hand, Spain has committed herself to absolute religious freedom?
"The verdict is not that of a mere group of Marxists, Socialists, and Communists, but of the majority and better informed Spaniards.
"And if such us clearly the verdict of the people the present Government has no other honest way out except to carry through the mandate of the nation." - Christian Irishman, October 1936.
These words from a born Spaniard should be read carefully. If German and Italian soldiers had stayed in their own countries the Spanish war would scarcely ever had arisen. The Spanish people were tired of Roman Catholicism and wanted freedom from Romish tyranny. I do not say the young Spanish Government was perfect in any way, but it is the legal and constitutional Government elected by and for the people, and at least should be given a chance.
Lord Londonderry stated that "there was no civil war in Spain. A so-called Government of Spain was not the Government set up by the united suffrage of the people. It represented only the minority of the people." Will Lord Londonderry give us the figures at the last election in Spain on February 16th?
Lady Londonderry, at the same meeting, made a strong plea for an educated democracy and for people to think in a reasoned way for themselves. This is exactly what the Spanish people have been trying to do - think for themselves. Having done so, they want freedom from an autocratic priesthood that has enslaved them for centuries.
Mr Campbell overlooks entirely the clear issue put before the people of Spain at the General Election in February 1936. He omits to take notice of the Roman Catholic appeal, what it was and what it meant. Dr Juan Orts Gonzales speaks with profound knowledge of the whole situation, and when he says that the Spanish Government was returned by an overwhelming majority he knows fully the facts of the case.
We all know that atrocities have been committed on both sides, and Mr. Campbell's outburst does not alter the fact that Spain has been almost ruined, and this ruin has taken place when the Roman Catholic Church was established by law and was in supreme control. A theological professor in Belfast visited Spain twice in 1934. He heard much about the burning of churches and was told that six convents and seven conventual buildings had been burnt to the ground. Here is what he says: - 'I took a day and went round these churches and conventual buildings. Several of them had indeed been looted, the furniture smashed, and the altars broken down and indecently or profanely treated. But only one of them showed any signs of fire.'
This is first hand evidence. In view of this direct evidence, Mr. Campbell's statement is left almost useless. The main thing for Mr. Campbell to realise is that Spain is ruined and that in this civil war Roman Catholics are killing Roman Catholics. Is this all that the Roman Church can do when she gets a free hand in any country - bring it almost to ruin? Further, the professor referred to came home just a fortnight afterwards. He received two letters from Spain. Here is the professor's own account:-
What Protestant Pastors Said.
"One is from Pastor X, a Protestant pastor in a town occupied by the insurgents: 'On a certain date in September a lieutenant of the insurgent army, with soldiers and lorries, came to the church, demanded the keys, carried out some of the furnishings of the church and put them on the lorries. They smashed up what they did not take away. Hey arrested me and told me that they would shot me in the morning if I did not flee. They have shot the Protestant pastor of Z. So my wife and I fled that night with not a single thing but the clothes we had on our back.
"The other letter is from a Protestant pastor in a town occupied by the Government forces. The writer says: - 'The Protestant services are being carried on here as usual.' (The Missionary Herald, November, 1936.)
This also is strong evidence to show that the Spanish Government is pledged to allow religious liberty for all."
An eminent writer says: 'According to many observers the February election was the fairest ever held in Spain. Even Count Romances, the well-known monarchist, declared that the Government was perfectly legitimate and had the right to look for support to the masses. Viscount Churchill has also stated publicly the same thing.' (Christian Irishman, January 1937.)
When the bloody Inquisition in Spain was set up it was the Roman Church that massacred and killed the Protestants. In this present struggle it is the Pope's own family that are destroying each other. The Spanish Government and the rebels were all brought up in the Roman Church. Mr. Campbell should carefully examine this aspect of the question.
Another fact also deserves attention, and that is of the 24,000,000 inhabitants of Spain it is stated that more of half of them could neither read nor write. Is it any wonder an oppressed people longed for deliverance?
Archbishop Temple's Words
The Archbishop of York, writing in the York Diocesan Leaflet said: "Efforts have been made to persuade us that the military rebels in Spain represent Christianity in its conflict with atheism. Of course, that is ridiculous. There was a constitutional Government in Spain, rather weak and ineffective, but legally established. The patriotic course would have been to rally to it and increase its authority, and especially to strengthen its control over its own turbulent extremists. Instead of this the military chiefs initiated an armed rebellion, thereby throwing the Government into the hands of the extreme factions. No result was from that time forward either possible or conceivable which is not purely disastrous. Either a Socialist faction, in which as a result of this rebellion anti-Christian forces are dominant, will impose a regime which multitudes will detest, or else the army will set up a dictatorship b alliance with a Church that has on the whole steadily resisted the development of popular education and will therefore owe its position of influence to the lawless exercise of armed force."
These are weighty words and Mr. Campbell should examine them carefully.
What Mr. Campbell must realise is that Spain was one of the most Roman Catholic countries in the world, and here is the result of Romanism. Romanism is Romanism, and Christianity is Christianity. The tow systems are as opposite as the poles. Romanism is largely a man-made religion and Christianity is the teaching of the new Testament. Spain has had three centuries of Romanism. England has had three centuries of Christianity. Which one would Mr. Campbell prefer?
What Spain wants and what she is entitled to is liberty to think for herself.
Spain has been for centuries brought up and fed on Romanism. Who will now be responsible for the massacred and slain in Spain? This is a vital question. Let Mr. Campbell go to the root of the matter and ask himself who is responsible for bringing Spain to such a sad and deplorable state. If he says the Communists, etc, well they were all brought up in Rome. If he says the rebels, well they say they are fighting for the Mother Church. That may be, but to fight for Christianity is a very different thing.
Mr. Campbell should be very careful and examine the facts before he bolsters up a system that has brought such ruin and desolation to the Spanish peninsula. Spain is the greatest object lesson in the world today of the complete failure of Romanism.
A Reader, Co. Down.
SPANISH INDEPENDENCE AT STAKE
However grave may have been the defects of the Spanish Government, which is now at death grips with its enemies, internal and external, it is impossible to escape the logic of much of President Azana's broadcast speech at Valencia. It is likewise impossible to view with anything but the deepest concern the transformation of the Spanish civil war into on international contest, waged ostensibly between the forces of Bolshevism and Fascism. The situation in Spain today is as ugly as it could possibly be, suggesting as it does the likelihood of its repetition in other countries whenever it suits the purpose of strong nations to fight their battles on the territory at the weak. The first fact to be noted is President Azana's declaration at war policy is that the present struggle is to be carried on, without compromise, to the bitter end. "The only way to stop the war," he said, " is to conquer the rebellion." The revolt against the Government, as he pointed out, started in Morocco, and there is probably good ground for his argument that it would never have broken out if the insurgents had not received assurances of foreign support. Whether there had been any prior understanding between the Spanish Government and Soviet Russia, or any promise of Russian support with men or munitions in the event of an upheaval is a point on which the President was silent. He did, however, deny that the Government had "concluded a political compromise with anyone." The precise meaning of this is not clear. It may have been intended as a rebuttal of allegations of a secret pact with Russia, or merely as a general assurance that the Government has not bartered away at Spain's political independence. That Spanish sovereignty has been compromised by General Franco is hardly us matter of controversy. In his campaign he is receiving help on a considerable scale from Germany and Italy - not from detachments of volunteers in the true sense of the term, but from the two Governments, who have pledged themselves to prevent the continuance in Spain of any Government tainted with Bolshevism. It in this official intervention on the part of the Fascist Powers that in the core of the Spanish war situation. President Azana puts the matter thus: ''We are confronted with a foreign invasion of Spain. What is at stake is not only a political regime but the independence of our country….Revolt against a Government is natural. What is unnatural is to facilitate the invasion of our country and to allow foreign armies to enter Spain." This is what the President means when he speaks of "the danger of the undeclared war " and the "rupture of the balance of the Western European system."
To admit the substantial truth of these comments does not imply condonation of much that the Spanish Government has done since it came into office. For whatever may be the strictly legal position created by the presence of foreign troops in Spain, it is incontrovertible that "respect for international law has been scandalously violated on Spanish territory." Britain, in collaboration with France, is continuing its efforts to undo, as far as possible, the mischief wrought by the flagrant breaches of the non-intervention pact. Many obstacles are being placed in the way of the British proposals for a six-Power ban on volunteers. The Powers that most eagerly desire to continue intervention are prolific in devices for wrecking the plan, and hopes for its success are already receding. While Britain has no desire to influence the people of Spain in their choice of Government, the maintenance of Spain's political independence and territorial integrity is a fundamental element in British policy. If, when the fighting has ceased, the Spanish Government should be the mere tool of any other Power, the sense of insecurity in Western Europe would be immensely increased. The chances of pacification on the Continent depend to no small extent on the establishment in Spain of a Government free from foreign influence and willing to play its part, as an independent entity, in any collective security system that the future may produce. President Azana declares that the Government of Spain, now functioning in Valencia, is fighting for "the rights of the Spanish people freely to dispose of their destiny." It is those rights which the presence of alien troops on Spanish soil assails. For that reason alone foreign intervention in the Spanish conflict is indefensible.
NON-INTERVENTION: THE NEXT STEP
How many more Notes must be exchanged between Government and Government, how much more diplomatic manoeuvring must take place, before the flow of "volunteers" into Spain is stopped? Months hove gone by since this subtle form of foreign intervention began. The first small batches of real volunteers - individuals acting an their own initiative and responsibility, fired by partisan zeal or in quest of adventure - made little difference to the military situation and created no serious international problem. But their numbers were soon supplemented by trained troops, poured into Spain in thousands at the instance of Governments sympathetic to the insurgents. Simultaneously supplies of war material from foreign countries reached both belligerents. This situation continues, modified (or complicated) by naval activities around the Spanish coasts, with British, French, German and Italian warships maintaining a ceaseless watch on every development And the war drags on. General Franco's forces are still held up in their attack on Madrid, fighting is going on in the north and south, and the Valencia Government proclaims its determination to crush the revolt or perish in the attempt.
What now stands in the way of a general ban on volunteers by the six Powers concerned? The British proposal to five continental Governments that each should adopt prohibitory measures from a date to be agreed upon has produced a series of replies more or less sympathetic to this principle. But certain other points have been raised by Germany and Italy. They have proposed that the non-Spanish participants in the civil war, including political agitators, should be removed from Spain. This raises a problem far more complex than the placing of a ban on further volunteers; indeed, it is difficult to see how such a scheme, even if agreed to in principle, could be carried out. It is not clear whether the German and Italian Governments will insist on the withdrawal of foreign fighters and agitators as a condition precedent to the imposition of a ban on further enlistment for service in Spain. If such an attitude were adopted it would destroy the whole plan that Britain has tried with such persistence to bring into effect. In a Note to the five Continental Powers the British Government expresses appreciation of the "measure of agreement" so far achieved, and agrees that the question of removing non-Spanish participants in the civil war from the country should be considered by the Non-Intervention Committee. The first task of the Committee at its next meeting will be to fix a date for the operation of the six-Power ban on volunteers. It is to be hoped that this will be treated as a separate and self-contained issue, and that when the date is determined the pact will be scrupulously observed all round. The way will then be cleared for the examination of other points affecting intervention - among them the supply of munitions, aeroplanes and other war material. One scheme for "controlling" Spanish coasts and frontiers and preventing acts of foreign intervention is that Britain, France, Germany and Italy should collaborate in patrol work in Spanish waters. This, again, is a matter that has to be considered by the Non-Intervention Committee. A sub-committee is at present engaged on details of these and other plans, and specific proposals may be laid before the full Committee at an early date.
When Herr Hitler addresses the Reichstag tomorrow he will probably include the Spanish situation in his review of international problems. Those who profess to have their ears "close to the ground" in Berlin are convinced that there is no real change in German or Italian policy - General Goering's talks with Signor Mussolini are believed to have assured this. In that event it is suggested, some way will have found of delaying for a further period the application of a ban on volunteers for Spain. On the other hand, Herr Hitler may devote himself primarily to a reiteration of his anti-Bolshevist policy, though he will preserve a discreet silence with reference to the alleged, German intrigues that have figured in the evidence given at the mass trial just concluded in Moscow. Herr Hitler's most effective card just now is the Bolshevist menace. It is a card that can be played with considerable effect in connection with the situation in Spain, and for this reason Herr Hitler will probably find the temptation irresistible.
THE TRAGIC FIASCO OF " NON-INTERVENTION."
Notwithstanding the absence of official endorsement, there is no reason to question the accuracy of the report that a thousand troops have been landed at Malaga from an Italian battleship, and that the men are to be used to help General Franco’s forces in the contemplated attack an Almeria. This blatant form of intervention in the Spanish civil war is quite in keeping with the activities of foreign warships - believed to be Italian - which assisted the insurgents in their capture of Malaga after a combined attack by sea, land and air forces. The non-appearance of the Spanish warships dispatched to Malaga to engage the bombarding vessels was something of a mystery at the time. It is not to be supposed that they deliberately shirked an engagement. It is far more likely that as a Government statement suggested, they were cleverly manoeuvred away in another direction by Italian vessels acting as a cover for the attacking ships. However that may be, the use of Italian warships and troops in collaboration with General Franco is established beyond reasonable doubt. The assertion in Rome that Italian intervention is confined to the presence in Spain of ‘‘unofficial volunteers", impelled by an ‘‘ardent and adventurous" spirit, places too great a strain on the credulity of other peoples. The facts are too patent to be explained away in this airy fashion. There is sufficient evidence to establish the fact that German troops have also been sent to Spain in considerable numbers, not as "unofficial volunteers" but as trained soldiers placed officially at their disposal of the insurgents. On the other hand, there has been no denial of the insurgent allegation that in the fighting of the last few days some of the guns captured from the Government forces were of Russian origin.
All this serves to drive home the lesson that no real attempt is being made to support the British and French Governments in their efforts to secure the application of a non-intervention agreement, with an effective system of control. The pro-Franco Powers are playing fast and loose with the Non-Intervention Committee. Their policy is to keep the Committee talking, or adjourning, or setting up new sub-committees for the purpose of wasting time, in the hope that action will be delayed until an insurgent victory in Spain is fully assured. It is now the turn of Portugal to play the procrastination card in this gigantic game of bluff. The Non-Intervention Committee finds itself unable to make any further progress with the formulation of a system of supervision because the necessary instructions have not been received by the Portuguese representatives from his Government. There is something pathetically heroic in the perseverance of British representative on the Non-Intervention Committee. It is no fault of theirs that Spain has become an international cockpit or that some of the Powers represented on the Committee are employing "double crossing" tactics. A genuine effort to secure international co-operation can always be thwarted by the duplicity of even two or three Powers. For this reason it becomes more and more unlikely every day that the Non-Intervention Committee can now achieve the object for which it was brought into bring. The scales are weighed too heavily against neutrality to make its realisation possible. The latest illustration of the fact is that the German Charge d'Affaires accredited to the insurgent Administration has just been appointed Ambassador. Thus has Herr Hitler re-emphasised Germany's recognition of General Franco.
The insurgent leader's immediate plan of campaign appears to be to capture Valencia, which as already been shelled from a warship, and to isolate Madrid in order to starve the city into surrender. The claim that the insurgent forces had actually cut the Madrid-Valencia road was premature. The attack on this vital line of communication, the loss of which would probably seal Madrid's fate, will be renewed and stubbornly resisted. It is here that the most sanguinary fighting is imminent. No quarter is being given or will be given on either side. Meanwhile intensified efforts are being made in Madrid to strengthen the defence of the city. The failure of the insurgents to capture Madrid by assault is one of the big surprises of the war, but if General Franco could definitely cut Madrid's "lifeline" and retain possession of the Valencia road the days of the capital's defenders would be numbered.
YMCA DEBATING SOCIETY.
Alderman Midgley on the Spanish War.
There was a large attendance at the City Y.M C.A. Literary and Debating Society’s meeting last night to hear Alderman Harry Midgley, MP, on the history of the Spanish rebellion. Mr. J. Herbert Ireland presided.
Alderman Midgley dealt with the history of the Government of Spain from 1931, and speaking of the Civil War said that 250,000 people had lost their lives. It was a war deliberately conducted to break the morale of the Spanish working people. The present Civil War was the bloodiest war of all time, and Franco was backed by grafters, bankers, and millionaires with vested interests. Hitler and Mussolini had carried the war on, and at the present time little children and women were being butchered - yet they claimed they were fighting for righteousness and Christianity.
Alderman Midgley claimed that when the Civil War broke out according to international law all the civilised Governments in the world who believed in collective security should have allowed the legitimate Government of Spain to purchase arms and equipment necessary to uphold their authority. But the democratic Governments refused this. Just as Britain failed four and a half-year’s ago in China and just as they betrayed the Abyssinians so now were they betraying the Spaniards. The present expenditure on arms was perhaps ultimately to be directed against Fascism, and yet they were allowing the Fascists to go ahead in Spain.
If Franco wins in Spain then Germany will receive the necessary raw materials, without which Germany cannot wage war," said Alderman Midgley. "Germany requires materials to wage war and she will have them if Franco wins." Germany, too, would get territory on which she would make naval bases on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
In conclusion Alderman Midgley said that people with vested interests would rather "put up" with Franco than risk an advanced Left Wing Government established in Spain.
P7 "Toledo occupied: Dramatic News for Madrid"
This was a 2-column piece detailing the occupation of Toledo by Franco's troops.
p7. A large piece on plans to enforce non-intervention.
A 2-column piece on the sinking of a Spanish steamboat.
There is also the report of the ban on O'Donnell speaking, see other piece.
2 column, banner headline
P9 2 column, banner headline, with this quote in there:
"This government will never be a Soviet. It is, and will remain, a democratic republic." So declared Senor del Vayo, the Spanish Foreign Minister, in an interview received by Reuters in London.
p10 2 column story, headline "Land and Sea Watch on the Frontiers of Spain", an account of debates over implementing non-intervention.
25th A substantial report on a defeat inflicted on the Italians, see attached editorial. Sizeable reports continued over this battle for 2 days.
2 column, banner headline
At the bottom of these reports there is a small piece: "Irish Ambulances. Lisbon, Tuesday [30/3/37] Two fully equipped ambulances, with the inscription offered by Ireland to the Spanish nationalists painted on their bodies left Lisbon for Spain today." Reuter
An editorial on control of the sea passages.
A 2-column story on p7, with a banner headline "Fierce Spanish Fighting", which continued onto p8.
P7. "Scuffles at Dublin Meeting"
This piece reports that 10,000 attended an ICF meeting, called for the repression of communism in Ireland and for recognition of the Franco government. It also expressed dissatisfaction with the economic and social policies of de Valera.
There was a 2-minute silence for the dead of the Irish Brigade.
"There were frequent scuffles, though none of a particularly serious nature." "There were repeated interruptions from apparently organised bodies of young men, some of whom were moved by the police from the neighbourhood of the platform."
2-column story, banner headline.
14th through to the 24th
Substantial reports on the blockade of Bilbao. On the 18th this included details about the ILP plan to send a food ship to Bilbao. This would cost £40,000.
"CONTROLLING" THE COASTS OF SPAIN.
Now that the international scheme for the control of the Spanish ports has come into force it should be impossible - in theory - for any more war material to enter the country. It is necessary to say "in theory" because the history of the last few years is so thickly strewn with the debris of broken pacts that public faith in the permanence of new agreements has been severely shaken. Britain will keep watch on the north coast of Spain and on the south coast on either side of Gibraltar; France will be responsible for the northwest coast of Spain and for Spanish Morocco; Germany and Italy will keep observation on the eastern side of the peninsula. Under the control scheme ships about to enter Spanish parts will be required to pick up observers, whose duty it will be to ascertain whether arms or other forbidden material are being carried. The observers will have power to examine the cargo and to watch its unloading. But they will not have the right to prevent or forbid the landing of the cargo: their duty will be to report any breach of the Non-Intervention Agreement to the Control Committee in London. This is a circuitous arrangement which may involve long delays before it is possible to stop up any loophole that may be discovered. Such a weakness in the scheme may prove to be its undoing. This is the more likely seeing that the Control Committee, on receiving a report from an observer, will not be able to initiate any direct action against the offending vessel, its captain or its owners. The agreed procedure is that in such circumstances the observer’s report shall be sent to the Government of the nation to which the ship belongs, and it will be for that Government to take appropriate measures to stop the contraband traffic. The control plan would have held out much greater promise of success if it had provided machinery for preventing the landing of war material, either by authorising observers to call upon the services of a warship of one of the participating Powers or by some alternative method equally effective. That efforts will be made to circumvent the observers there is little doubt. Control evasion will have its attractions (if not its victories) no less tempting than blockade running. Much will depend upon the spirit in which the Governments taking part in the control scheme carry out their respective tasks. If there is no duplicity the value of the plan will be apparent in a month or two. Both sides are in need of all the war material they can get, and the stoppage of supplies from abroad will be an important factor in shortening the war.
In regard to food supplies, of which so much has been heard in connection with the blockade of Bilbao, it does not appear that they come "within the meaning of" the term "war material." The British Government’s attitude towards the situation at Bilbao is based on the assertion that the approaches to the harbour have been mined by both sets of belligerents. Merchant shipping proceeding to that port will therefore do so at its own risk, seeing that naval protection will not be given inside Spanish territorial waters. Leaders of the Independent Labour Party, who are trying to raise £40,000 to purchase a ship for conveying food and medical supplies to Bilbao, declare that according to their information "the blockade is bluff."
This contention evidently lay behind some of the questions put to Ministers in the British House of Commons yesterday. From the replies of the Foreign Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade these facts emerged - that an intimation has been received from the Spanish insurgents that mining has been intensified in territorial waters in "certain parts of the bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean," and that four British vessels left Bilbao during the past week (presumably without damage). The insurgents may, of course, be bluffing, but it would be dangerous to rely upon such an assumption. Moreover the fact that four of our merchant ships left Bilbao is not conclusive evidence of the absence of mines in the vicinity. If the British government has decided to intervene in the Spanish war - a course which has not yet been advocated on Opposition benches - the question of the presence or absence of mines in Spanish territorial waters would soon be answered by sending a fleet of minesweepers to ensure a safe passage for our cargo vessels. But as long as the policy of non-intervention remains in force the Government is not legally entitled to carry on naval operations or to convoy merchant ships within the three miles territorial limit.
An English legal authority has publicly stated his view of the situation. No warship, he says, has the right in international law to carry out police measures within the territorial waters of another country. It follows, therefore, that "British, ships of war have no right to use force to protect their national shipping within territorial waters from any measures which may be taken by the Government, whether de facto or de jure, to whom the territorial waters belong.’ Applying this doctrine to the Spanish situation, it is clear that "H.M.S. Hood has no right to exercise force within the three-mile limit; but if any British ship should be injured the British Government can demand redress from the person who does the injurious act, and, if such redress be not made, can, if it be thought as a matter of policy wise, declare war upon the aggressor." All the talk about running up the white flag, and all the insinuations that the British Government is afraid of General Franco, are nonsense. There are only two courses open to the British Government - to maintain non-intervention and observe international law, or to abandon non-intervention and become the ally of one of the parties to the conflict. It is time that the British Government’s critics in Parliament ceased to sit on the fence. Sooner or later they must come down on one side or the other.
2-column story, "Massacre from the air. German planes shower bombs on Guernica."
"For over three hours high explosives and incendiary bombs were dropped on the town, many hundreds of people being killed and wounded. Churches were destroyed…"
BOMBING OF CIVILIAN POPULATIONS.
From the guarded nature of the replies given by Mr. Anthony Eden to Parliamentary questions on the Guernica massacre it would be foolish and unjust to infer that the British Government views with less abhorrence than every humane citizen the bombing of civilian communities in war areas. The circumstantial and well authenticated reports of the ruthless aerial attack on the ancient capital oh the Basque country leave no room for doubt that the motive behind it was indiscriminate slaughter and a savage determination to strike terror into the hearts of the entire population. The air raid, carried out by a large number of German machines forming part of the force commanded by General Franco, achieved no military objective. It was sheer barbarism. Incidentally, it revealed the lengths to which the insurgent commander is prepared to go, with German and Italian aid, in order to achieve a victory which is already many months overdue. An observation made at Westminster by the Foreign Secretary suggested that the bombing of open towns has been carried out by Spanish Government forces as well as by the insurgents. This gives added significance to his observation that "the Government deplores the bombardment of civilian populations, wherever it may occur and whoever may be responsible." If it be a fact that both sets of combatants have been guilty of this reprehensible practice, something more than a collective protest to General Franco and Herr Hitler - a course suggested by Mr. Attlee - is needed. Strong representations should be made to both sides by Britain and other Powers, acting together, in order to secure assurances that these "methods of frightfulness." shall cease. Only by international action can such a result be achieved. If the rival commanders are soldiers and not monsters it ought to be possible to exert such pressure of world opinion that the horrors of Guernica will not be repeated, however long the war may last. Some encouragement can be derived from the fact that at an earlier stage of the conflict an undertaking was secured from the leaders of the Government and insurgent forces that they would not resort to the use of gas. That pledge, so far, has been kept. Unless, by combined action, the rival commanders can be induced to abandon the policy of bombarding open towns and slaying helpless men, women, and children without compunction and without pity, Spain may yet witness a dreadful competition in cold-blooded massacre that will arouse the indignation and resentment of the whole world.
Apart from the Guernica atrocity, for which there was even less cause than for the hideous affair in Addis Ababa, the plight of the Basque Government forces becomes increasingly desperate. The loss of Durango and Eibar, which have been captured by the insurgents was a severe blow, and General Franco’s troops will utilise their victory as the basis of a crucial attack on Bilbao. It is now evident that the attempt to starve out Bilbao by a naval blockade has failed. Unless the insurgents can make their plan effective by further mining or by a concentration of war-ships, they will have to acknowledge that a few mercantile captains with sufficient courage and resource to runt the blockade have made them look ridiculous. The efforts that are being made to convict the British Navy of a breach of neutrality in the operations off the northern coast of Spain iron tire puerile. The captains of the British war vessels engaged in protecting merchant shipping have acted throughout in conformity with international law, and they have refused to be bluffed by insurgent commanders into conceding a six miles territorial limit. In Britain’s adherence to a policy of strict non-intervention there has been no "wobbling." The principle itself is clear-cut, and its application has been consistent from the beginning. When the time comes to view the Spanish war in retrospect it will be seen that British policy has been honourable and firm, and that it has saved Europe from an ordeal far more terrible than that through which Spain is now passing.
Evacuating Spanish Refugees.
Bilbao’s hour of crisis is evidently at hand. The Basque forces on the Bilbao front are all but defenceless against such intensive air bombardment as was carried out by Germans at Guernica, though the sinking of the battleship Espana disproves the report that the Government is altogether without aircraft in the north. The insurgents are pressing steadily on towards Bilbao, and, in view of General Mola’s threat to raze the town to the ground failing its surrender, a reproduction of the Guernica massacre is riot unlikely. A large-scale air raid on Bilbao as a preparation for the entry of the rebel forces would probably mean the almost immediate fall of the town and the collapse of the Basque resistance. Plans are already being made for evacuating non-combatants - women children and old people - and the assistance of the British Navy is being sought by the Basque Government. The statement made a day or two ago that the Navy was ready to co-operate in this task may have been slightly in advance of the event, but it is now learned that the British Government is prepared to give naval protection outside territorial waters to ships carrying refugees. In England a voluntary committee is making arrangements to receive a limited number of Basque children from Bilbao and to maintain them out of privately subscribed funds until conditions in Spain are sufficiently settled to permit of their repatriation. Subject to these conditions Sir John Simon, the Home Secretary, has given his sanction to the plan, which will have its counter part in France and Belgium. Amid the horrors and brutalities of war humanitarian work of this kind stands out in bold and noble relief, It is a reminder that while war may turn men into wild beasts - the atrocities of the Spanish war being witness - it can also evoke acts of heroism, mercy and self-sacrifice. These cannot obliterate the evil consequences of war, most of which are irremediable, but they can at least mitigate suffering and give a measure of protection to the innocent and helpless.
Separately from the editorial there was other reports carried of a rebel ship getting sunk.
BRITAIN, FRANCO AND WAR REFUGEES.
Public opinion will be solidly behind the British Government in its intention to co-operate in. evacuating non-combatants from Bilbao in spite of the hostile altitude taken up by General Franco. There was a time when even war was carried on (except by the most savage and barbaric tribes) with some regard for humanitarian conventions. To fire on the Red Cross, to launch murderous at tacks on defenceless populations, amid to obstruct the withdrawal of non-combatants from battle areas were looked upon as criminal acts of which no civilised commander would be guilty. Nowadays all these things are done in a pursuance of a policy of terrorism, and in accordance with the vicious principle that "war knows no law." This is the mentality of General Franco, as revealed in the reply of the insurgent authorities to the Note communicating the British Government’s intentions regarding the evacuation of civilians from Bilbao. While the reply recognises Britain’s humanitarian and impartial attitude, General Franco puts forward the fantastic objection that the evacuation plan is "a ruse of the Russians commanding in Bilbao," who wish to get rid of the non-combatant population so that they can "destroy national wealth" in that and other towns. The allegation apparently is that the defenders of Bilbao wish to have a freer hand to destroy the city rather than abandon it to the insurgents. Curiously enough, that very threat has been used by an insurgent commander as a means of hastening the town’s surrender. The British Government is neither impressed by General Franco’s plea nor deterred try his assertion that ‘‘the safety of operations in the port cannot be guaranteed, in view of the necessity of taking air action against traffic there and the military objectives." Not withstanding this warning - if it be not a veiled threat of aerial attack on ships carrying refugees-—the arrangements for evacuation are going forward, and the British Government stands by its decision to give naval protection on the high seas to ships co-operating in the work. The women, children and old people who are about to leave Bilbao under friendly protection are not likely to prefer General Franco’s alternative offer of a place of refuge in territory occupied by the insurgents. Mr. Eden’s statement on the matter in the House of Commons confirms previous assurances that the evacuation scheme will apply to persons of all political creeds. The British Consul in Bilbao will keep in close touch with the arrangements, and will thus be able to see that impartiality, is "strictly observed in the spirit and the letter." General Franco’s attempt to deflect the British Government from its decision, which is in strict accord with its attitude of neutrality towards the Spanish conflict, has failed. A piece of bluff of the weakest kind has been promptly called.
Recent activity on the Basque front has largely overshadowed the operations near Madrid, which, according to the insurgents’ original timetable, ought to have fallen months ago. If Bilbao should be captured and the Basque resistance crushed, General Franco will have rid himself of an extremely troublesome "war within a war." From the Government point of view the situation is grave, if not desperate. Much may depend on the extent to which the insurgents resort to intensive air bombardment such as that which destroyed Guernica and massacred so many of its inhabitants. The concentration of British and French warships off the north coast of Spain suggests that the fall of Bilbao is expected at any time. If the amount of merchant shipping in the port is sufficient to cope with the exodus of refugees, their temporary transfer to Britain, France and Belgium will present little difficulty. But it is feared that the number of vessels in time harbour is far from sufficient. If this should be so, the women, children and aged people who are about to flee from their homes will inevitably be subjected to much hardship and suffering. Some of them may even share the fate of their unhappy compatriots who perished at Guernica. The fate of Bilbao may be sealed within the next few days. What ever may lie the course of events there, the British people will have the satisfaction of knowing that their Government has done everything possible to mitigate the worst horrors of a ruthless war and to give protection to some of its helpless victims.
5th - 7th
Headline on the 5th. "Anarchist ‘coup’ in Barcelona" A report on the developments in Barcelona. This story was also mentioned in the next few days. On the 7th the NW said that Britain was demanding an enquiry into the bombing of Guernica.
Return to the start of the newspapers section