When the church bells ring in Malaga that means the Italian and German aeroplanes are coming over. While I was there they came twice and three times a day. The horror of the civilian bombing is even worse in Malaga than in Madrid. The place is so small and so terribly exposed.
When the bells begin ringing and you see people who have been working in the harbour or in the market place, or elsewhere in the open, run in crowds, you know that they are literally running a race against death.
But the houses in Malaga are mostly low and rather flimsy, and without cellars. Where the cliffs come down to the edge of the town, the people make for the rocks and caves in which those who can reach them take refuge. Others rush bounding up the hillside above the town.
Those in the town, with an air of infinite weariness, wait behind the piles of sandbags which have been set up in front of the doorways of the apartment blocks. Though they are not safe from bombs falling on the houses, they are relatively protected from an explosion in the street and from the bullets of the machine-guns.
Sometimes you can see the aeroplane machine-gunner working the gun as the plane swoops along above the street.
If you were to imagine, however, that this terribly hammered town is in a state of panic you would be wrong. Nothing I have seen in this war has impressed me more than the power of the Spanish people's resistance to attack than the attitude of the people as seen in Malaga.
Malaga fell into the hands of the rebels yesterday after Government troops had fought desperately against an attack by land, sea and air in which the rebels, with their superior numbers and equipment, overwhelmed them.
There was fierce fighting in the streets, but according to claims made by the Government the Republican troops have retired in good order and have taken up positions outside the town.
The rebels approached the town in four columns from different directions.
The rebel ships afterwards began to shell the coast farther east, and it is believed that an advance in that direction will begin shortly.
On the Madrid front the weather brought the fighting almost to a standstill yesterday. The Government admits that the attackers advanced for several kilometres during their weekend offensive, but claims that non vital centre was captured and that the Valencia road is not cut.
The following Reuter telegram was received from Almeria (still under Government control), east of Malaga, last night:-
Malaga was today evacuated by the Government troops, who, it is stated, retired in good order to new positions. They took with them quantities of war material and have already been joined by reinforcements and re-equipped with a view to barring any further rebel advance.
The special correspondent of the Spanish Press Agency, who arrived at Almeria after remaining in Malaga up to the last moment, states that in the last few days the Government troops fought with the greatest heroism against great odds both as regards numbers and equipment.
Italians and Germans
The rebel attack was maintained without ceasing. It is declared that 20,000 Italian troops, several thousand German troops, and thousands of Moorish soldiers were used by the anti-Government command. In the final phase of the advance over a hundred Italian tanks swept forward against the defending forces, according to the Spanish correspondent quoted. He adds:
The bombardment was under the direction of a German naval staff on board the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee. Enormous losses were suffered by the rebel forces, who had to be reinforced by Italian contingents sent up from Cadiz immediately after their disembarkation there. [It has been reported that about 15,000 Italians landed at Cadiz in the last week.
En la foto, tres Messerschmit Bf-109-G6 de la 7./JG27 volando sobre el Mediterraneo en 1943. Aviones similares a estos bombardearon y ametrallaron a los que huian por la carretera Málaga - Almería.
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.
Ejército del Sur: Continuando la brillante operación sobre Málaga, a las 7 horas y 30 minutos del día de hoy atravesaron nuestras tropas el Guadalmedina, entrando en el corazón de Málaga y derrotando al enemigo, que intentaba defender la entrada de la población. Se le cogieron más de doscientos muertos.
Por el norte, en arrollador empuje, las columnas procedentes de Antequera y de Loja dominaban el barrio alto de la capital, venciendo la resistencia que el enemigo todavía ofrecía en algunos sectores (...). A las dos de la tarde, extinguidos todos los focos de resistencia, desfilaron las fuerzas por el centro de la ciudad entre delirantes ovaciones y frenéticos aplausos (...). El enemigo, derrotado, huía en dirección a Motril, perseguido de cerca por nuestros soldados.
The evacuation en masse of the civilian population of Malaga started on Sunday Feb. 7- Twenty-five thousand German, Italian and Moorish troops entered the town on Monday morning the eighth. Tanks, submarines, warships, air planes combined to smash the defences of the city held by a small heroic band of Spanish troops without tanks, air planes or support. The so-called Nationalists entered, as they have entered every captured village and city in Spain, what was practically a deserted town.
Now imagine one hundred and fifty thousand men, women and children setting out for safety to the town situated over a hundred miles away. There is only one road they can take. There is no other way of escape. This road, bordered on one side by the high Sierra Nevada mountains and on the other by the sea, is cut into the side of the cliffs and climbs up and down from sea level to over 500 feet. The city they must reach is Almeria, and it is over two hundred kilometres away. A strong, healthy young man can walk on foot forty or fifty kilometres a day. The journey these women, children and old people must face will take five days and five nights at least. There will be no food to be found in the villages, no trains, no buses to transport them. They must walk and as they walked, staggered and stumbled with cut, bruised feet along that flint, white road the fascists bombed them from the air and fired at them from their ships at sea.
Now, what I want to tell you is what I saw myself of this forced march - the largest, most terrible evacuation of a city in modern times. We had arrived in Almeria at five o'clock on Wednesday the tenth with a refrigeration truckload of preserved blood from Barcelona. Our intention was to proceed to Malaga to give blood transfusions to wounded. In Almeria we heard for the first time that the town had fallen and were warned to go no farther as no one knew where the front line now was but everyone was sure that the town of Motril had also fallen. We thought it important to proceed and discover how the evacuation of the wounded was proceeding. We set out at six o'clock in the evening along the Malaga road and a few miles on we met the head of the piteous procession. Here were the strong with all their goods on donkeys, mules and horses. We passed them, and the farther we went the more pitiful the sights became. Thousands of children, we counted five thousand under ten years of age, and at least one thousand of them barefoot and many of them clad only in a single garment. They were slung over their mother's shoulders or clung to her hands. Here a father staggered along with two children of one and two years of age on his back in addition to carrying pots and pans or some treasured possession. The incessant stream of people became so dense we could barely force the car through them. At eighty-eight kilometres from Almeria they beseeched us to go no farther, that the fascists were just behind. By this time we had passed so many distressed women and children that we thought it best to turn back and start transporting the worst cases to safety.
It was difficult to choose which to take. Our car was besieged by a mob of frantic mothers and fathers who with tired outstretched arms held up to us their children, their eyes and faces swollen and congested by four days of sun and dust.
'Take this one.' 'See this child.' 'This one is wounded.' Children with bloodstained rags wrapped around their arms and legs, children without shoes, their feet swollen to twice their size crying helplessly from pain, hunger and fatigue. Two hundred kilometres of misery. Imagine four days and four nights, hiding by day in the hills as the fascist barbarians pursued them by plane, walking by night packed in a solid stream men, women, children, mules, donkeys, goats, crying out the names of their separated relatives, lost in the mob. How could we choose between taking a child dying of dysentery or a mother silently watching us with great sunken eyes carrying against her open breast her child born on the road two days ago. She had stopped walking for ten hours only. Here was a woman of sixty unable to stagger another step, her gigantic swollen legs with their open varicose ulcers bleeding into her cut linen sandals. Many old people simply gave up the struggle, lay down by the side of the road and waited for death.
We first decided to take only children and mothers. Then the separation between father and child, husband and wife became too cruel to bear. We finished by transporting families with the largest number of young children and the solitary children of which there were hundreds without parents. We carried thirty to forty people a trip for the next three days and nights back to Almeria to the hospital of the Socorro Rojo Internacional where they received medical attention, food and clothing. The tireless devotion of Hazen Sise and Thomas Worsley, drivers of the truck, saved many lives. In turn they drove back and forth day and night sleeping out on the open road between shifts with no food except dry bread and oranges.
And now comes the final barbarism. Not content with bombing and shelling this procession of unarmed peasants on this long road, on the evening of the x2th when the little seaport of Almeria was completely filled with refugees, its population swollen to double its size, when forty thousand exhausted people had reached a haven of what they thought was safety, we were heavily bombed by German and Italian fascist air planes. The siren alarm sounded thirty seconds before the first bomb fell. These planes made no effort to hit the government battleship in the harbor or bomb the barracks. They deliberately dropped ten great bombs in the very centre of the town whereon the main street were sleeping huddled together on the pavement so closely that a car could pass only with difficulty, the exhausted refugees. After the planes had passed I picked up in my arms three dead children from the pavement in front of the Provincial Committee for the Evacuation of Refugees where they had been standing in a great queue waiting for a cupful of preserved milk and a handful of dry bread, the only food some of them had for days. The street was a shambles of the dead and dying, lit only by the orange glare of burning buildings. In the darkness the moans of the wounded children, shrieks of agonized mothers, the curses of the men rose in a massed cry higher and higher to a pitch of intolerable intensity. One's body felt as heavy as the dead themselves, but empty and hollow, and in one's brain burned a bright flame of hate. That night were murdered fifty civilians and an additional fifty were wounded. There were two soldiers killed.
Now, what was the crime that these unarmed civilians had committed to be murdered in this bloody manner? Their only crime was that they had voted to elect a government of the people, committed to the most moderate alleviation of the crushing burden of centuries of the greed of capitalism. The question has been raised: why did they not stay in Malaga and await the entrance of the fascists? They knew what would happen to them. They knew what would happen to their men and women as had happened so many times before in other captured towns. Every male between the age of x5 and 60 who could not prove that he had not by force been made to assist the government would immediately be shot. And it is this knowledge that has concentrated two-thirds of the entire population of Spain in one half the country that is still held by the republic.
Originally published as a pamphlet in Madrid by Publicaciones Iberia, February 1937.