Half A Coup

The coup was not completely successful. Many cities resisted, and over the next few days, Spain began to be carved up into two distinct zones.

In Seville, General Quiepo de Llano, commander of the carabinero border guards, marched into the office of the commander of the military region, General Villa-Abrille, and demanded to know if he was with the rising or against it. Villa-Abrille dithered, and Quiepo arrested him. He then went to the infantry barracks where he found the 6th Regiment drawn up on parade. He went straight to the colonel to congratulate him on joining the rising - when the colonel dithered, he was arrested too. With the infantry on side he went to the barracks of the asaltos, the urban police, who promptly surrendered. Despite surrendering he then had them all shot, and Seville fell to the Nationalists.

In Malaga the workers were strong but had no weapons. Their leaders maintained close contact with the asaltos, the only force they felt they could trust. When news of the rising arrived a rash young army officer led his company out to the centre of town, where they were ambushed by the waiting asaltos. The workers together with the asaltos then went to the barracks where the pro-rising commander was dithering, and set fire to the buildings, upon which the garrison surrendered.

In Almeria the governer refused to arm the workers, saying he had no weapons to give. But on the 21st the arrival of the Republican destroyer Lepanto with a loyal captain secured the port for the Republicans when its guns were trained on the headquarters of the civil guard.

The governor in Jaen took a more proactive approach. He called in the civil guard and persuaded them to lay down their weapons, despite their assurances that they were loyal to the Republic. He then gave their weapons to the CNT and UGT and the town was secured.

In Madrid, the government had to order General Miaja point blank to distribute weapons to the workers. 60,000 rifles were then delivered to the CNT and UGT headquarters, where the grease was cleaned off them with party newspapers. Only 5000 of them had bolts however, the remainder being in the Montana Barracks where Colonel Serra, who was a conspirator, refused to hand them over. Late in the afternoon the rebel General Fanjul led his troops out of the barracks but found themselves surrounded by a mob who had been directed there by the CNT and UGT, and the troops surrendered.

In Old Castile Burgos, city of soldiers and priests, was secured for the rising without opposition, but that did nothing to lessen the mass executions once names and addresses had been obtained from police headquarters.

All over Spain similar stories were told as in the confused first days of the civil war small groups of soldiers clashed with the workers, neither side really knowing what was going on. The end result, when the dust had settled, was half a coup - large tracts of Spain had fallen to the rebels in the south and north west, but the south and east - Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque country, remained loyalist and Republican.

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