VOL. 173 No. 5149

LONDON, JANUARY 14th, 1939




By Christopher Dawson


By Our Burgos Correspondent THE TWO CITIES A LEADER ON T H E R OM E V IS IT

Full List o f Contents on page 36.

THE WORLD WEEK BY WEEK The Nationalists Press On

The Spanish Nationalist Army

The capture o f Montblanche has brought the Nationalist lines in Catalonia to the Artesa road, which runs through to Tarragona, and virtually the whole of the countryside between the Ebro and that road, the western end o f Catalonia, and all Tarragona province is now in Nationalist hands. The Army is now less than fifty miles from Barcelona itself. There has been bad weather and mist further north, but there is no evidence that General M ia ja’s diversion in Estramadura has achieved its essential purpose of drawing off troops and slowing down the Nationalist offensive. The Estram adura thrust is to be judged entirely by its success in doing that.

I t is an established principle in civil war that a commander must recapture swiftly any territory lost to the enemy, in order th a t the population under his control shall have no tem ptation to think they will suffer for their loyalty, and ju s t as it was psychologically o f the first importance to relieve Toledo at the beginning o f the struggle, although th a t relief meant, in the upshot, a fatal delay in occupying Madrid, the Nationalists cannot now, for psychological reasons, let General M ia ja’s thrust go too far. They have not merely to hold it, but to drive it back ; but this is the task o f those southern forces, based on Seville, which themselves gained ground in this area in August, although they failed to push their advance to the point of capturing the Almeden mercury mines.

The purpose o f such a counter-attack as the Republicans have launched is not wholly military. It is extremely important for the morale of their population that their papers shall not have to be full every day o f the Catalan offensive o f their enemies. The Barcelona Vanguardia these days naturally fills its front page with the doings and claims of the Estram adura army and can then dismiss the local fighting much more briefly. The Estram adura offensive could achieve some initial success from being launched in a remote and loosely held part o f the front, but these advantages have the counteracting disadvantage th a t this remote front is hard to support from Madrid.

The Catalan offensive is engaging a Nationalist force o f some 300,000 men. There are six army corps, that of Aragon, under General Moscardo, the defender of the Alcazar ; that o f Navarre, which has, as always, covered itself with laurels, now under General Solchaga ; that of Catalonia, under General Badia ; th a t o f Urgel, under Munoz Grande ; a new army corps, th a t of Maestrazgo, under General Garcia Valino, and the Moroccan army corps under General Yague. There is a seventh mixed army corps o f legionaries, and three divisions of the Arrows, and it is in this army corps that the Italian contingents are fighting. They do not amount numerically to more than five per cent o f the soldiers taking part. This fact is well known to governments, but it is conspicuously obscured, and obscured not only in the Left Press, whose motives are comprehensible if discreditable, but also in papers like Lord Beaverbrook’s organs, whose motives for always putting the Italians in the headlines, as though it were primarily their offensive, are particularly unintelligible at the moment, because the Beaverbrook Press is also supporting Mr. Chamberlain’s Italian policy.

The great political reason against withdrawing the remaining Italian contingents is that the withdrawal would be heralded by their enemies, particularly in France, where the pro-Barcelona elements are now at long last somewhat subdued, as marking a turning of the tide. The Italians are primarily in Spain as a potential threat, as a force th a t could be increased, and would be, if wholesale recruitment o f foreigners, in and through France, was to be embarked upon again. There is still too little proper understanding o f the numerical extent o f that outside recruitment. On December 30th a French deputy, M. Valentin, looking at the matter from the point o f view o f the loss that France, which needs all the men o f military age available, has suffered through it, raised the question o f how many Frenchmen failed to report for service last September because they were fighting in Spain, and reached the figure of between twenty and thirty thousand. Under