Battle of Jarama Part 1

Franco was slow in appreciating how the war had changed, and that his best troops could no longer put the Republicans to flight as they had done the previous year. It was no longer a war of rapid maneuver, but of head on slogging, and as a result the advantage of his troops fieldcraft and tactical skill was reduced. Also the Republican air force with the Russian Rata monoplanes made the Heinkel 51 biplane obsolete, and the Messerschmitt 109 had not yet arrived on the scene.

Immediately after the failed Corunna Road offensive Franco began to plan another operation against Madrid. A new offensive was planned, thrusting across the River Jarama to cut the Valencia road. General Mola was in supreme command, General Orgaz the commander of the front and once again General Varela was the field commander. The Nationalists had 25,000 men, backed by two German machinegun battalions, von Thoma's tanks, six batteries of 155mm artillery and the 88mm guns of the Condor Legion which were to be battle tested for the first time.

The offensive began on 6th February. La Maranosa, a hill 700m high was defended to the last by two Republican battalions. Asensio's brigade thrust east from Valdemoro and overran San Martin de la Bega, while other Nationalist forces captured San Martin de la Vega and Ciempozuelos after heavy fighting. By the 8th the Nationalists were up to the west bank of the Jarama. The Nationalist offensive was then held up for two days due to heavy rain which made the river unfordable, but the Republican general staff were slow to capitalise on this due to jealousies between the Republican General Miaja in Madrid and General Pozas commanding the Army of the Centre.

On the 11th February at first light, Morrocan troops from Barron's brigade swam across the river and knifed the French sentries of the XIV International who were guarding the Pindoque bridge. The bridge had been prepared for detonation but the charges failed to destroy the bridge when the Republicans set them off. Barron's brigade crossed rapidly but were then held up by heavy fire from the brigaders. Later in the day 25 T-26s counterattacked twice but were driven off by the Nationalist's 155mm guns each time. General Pozas hurried to Madrid to desperately request reinforcements, but matters were not helped by his squabble with Miaja. Miaja refused to send reinforcements unless he was given command of the front. He had his way, but by then the Nationalists were across the river in force, with the Republican air force unable to hold them up and taking heavy losses from the 88mm guns set up around the bridge.

XI International, the newly formed XV International and 17 Brigade rushed south from Madrid to check the Nationalist tide and prevent them from reaching the Madrid-Valencia road.

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