Civil war

Barcelona July 19, 1936.
Barricades in Barcelona on July 19, 1936.

In 1936 I was managing a poultry farm twenty miles north of Barcelona, at Llinars del Vallès. On that ill-fated day, Sunday 18 July I had arranged to go on an excursion to Mount Montseny with some friends of mine from the Catholic Club in Plaça Trilla, but all my plans kept collapsing like a house of cards.

Early in the morning I learnt from my radio that there had been an attempted military coup. I rang round my friends and relations to try to find out what was happening. “people are fighting and killing each other in the streets,” said one. “They are putting up barricades of paving stones in the main square and in the avenues,” said another.

I plucked up courage and decided to walk to my girlfriend’s house in Carrer Girona. I spent the whole of that Sunday with her and her family, listening intently to the radio and hoping that order would soon be restored. However, the situation grew worse as the hours went by; it was clearly no ordinary coup d’etat, but nobody had yet realized that it was the beginning of three long years of civil war.

Utter confusion reigned. Neighbour denounced neighbour, paying off old scores.

My younger sister Elena and my mother were themselves arrested as counter-revolutionaries, but thanks to a relative in the anarcho-syndicalist trade union, the CNT or Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, they were snatched from certain death and eventually released.


The Republicans, who considered themselves to be the legitimate government, now called up all officers in the reserves in order to replace those soldiers who had joined the rebels. It was therefore my duty to report to my regiment, but I was loath to take sides in such a fratricidal fight but by no reporting, I became a deserter, absent without leave. I had to hide.

I decided to stay permanently with my girlfriend but one night her father and brother were arrested and so was I.

I was detained in prison for a week. Meanwhile my girlfriend had got in touch with one of the units of the Socorro Blanco, a secret organization which endeavoured to assist those who were being persecuted for idealistic or religious reasons. One of their girl helpers posed as revolutionary and arranged for me to be let out of the prison at dead of night.

Free, I joined the ever-growing number of those leading a clandestine existence. I went into hiding again.