Battle of Santander

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Battle of Santander
Part of the Spanish Civil War
Nido de ametralladoras de Piquío (Santander).jpg
Machine gun nest in Santander.
Date August 14 - September 17, 1937
Location Cantabria, Spain
Result Decisive Nationalist victory
Belligerents
 Spanish Republic  Nationalist Spain
Kingdom of Italy Corpo Truppe Volontarie
Nazi Germany Condor Legion
Commanders and leaders
Second Spanish RepublicMariano Gamir Ulibarri
Second Spanish RepublicAdolfo Prada
Francoist SpainFidel Dávila Arrondo
Francoist SpainJosé Solchaga
Kingdom of ItalyEttore Bastico
Strength
80,000 infantry1
50 artillery batteries1
44 airplanes1
90,000 (25,000 italians) infantry1
126 guns
220 aircraft1
Casualties and losses
60,000 captured2 Nationalist: 30,000 dead, wounded, captured
Italian: 486 dead
1,546 wounded
one missing

The Battle of Santander was fought over the summer of 1937 in the War in the North campaign in the Spanish Civil War. Santander's fall on August 26 assured the Nationalist conquest of the province of Santander, now Cantabria, and marked the last stand of the Republic's "Army of the North," which was destroyed and captured in the fighting.

Background

After the fall of Bilbao on 16 June and the end of the failed Republican offensive at Brunete on 25 July, the Nationalists decided to continue their offensive in the North and occupied the Cantabria Province.

Opposing forces

The Nationalists' Army of the North had 90,000 men (of which, 25,000 Italian), led by general Davila. The Italian force, led by General Bastisco, comprised Bergonzoli's Littorio Division, Frusci's Black Flames Division and Francischi's 23 March Division. The Nationalists had also six Navarrese brigades led by Colonel Solchaga, two Castilian brigades led by General Ferrer, and one mixed Hispano-Italian division, the Black Arrows, led by Colonel Piazzioni. The Nationalists had also 220 modern aircraft on this front (70 of the Condor Legion, 80 of the Aviazione Legionaria and 70 Spanish), including many Me-109 fighters.3

Opposing them, the Republicans had Prada's 14th Army Corps and Garcia Vaya's 15th Army Corps, under the command of General Gamir; a total of about 80,000 men. The Republicans had also 44 aircraft (mostly slow and old, except 18 Soviet-built fighters). Furthermore, the morale of the Republican trops was low and Basque soldiers thought that they might surrender to the Italians, in return for their lives.4

Timeline

Consequences

Santander's fall, coupled with the capture of heavily fortified Bilbao, tore an irreparable gap in the Republic's northern front. The destruction of the Army of the North marked another crippling blow to the Republic's sagging strength and turned the war to Franco's favour. Factors accounting for the Republican defeat include:

  • The Nationalists' overwhelming superiority in artillery and air power.
  • A lack of unified command among Asturian, Cantabrian and Basque Republican units.
  • The precision, shock, and rapidity of the Nationalist advance, which had as its objective the destruction of enemy forces and not the consolidation of territory.
  • The defenders' poor morale, in contrast to the exceptional confidence and enthusiasm of the Nationalists.
  • Mutinies and sedition by the Basque units in the Republican camp (Santoña Agreement).

The disaster proved total and the losses beyond repair. Of the twelve Basque brigades there remained at the end only eight battered battalions. The Republican Army of Santander of twelve brigades was reduced to six battalions. The Asturians committed 27 battalions and escaped with only fourteen. In no other theatre of the civil war did Franco's troops achieve results as decisive as those of the Santander campaign: sixty thousand Republican soldiers were wiped off the map, with corresponding losses in materiel. The War in the North was all but won.

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p.697
  2. ^ Thomas, Hugh. (2001). The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p.699
  3. ^ Beevor, Antony. (2006). The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. Penguin Books. London. p.237
  4. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. pp.696-697

References

  • VV.AA.; Gran Enciclopedia de Cantabria. Editorial Cantabria SA. Santander. 1985 (8 volumes) and 2002 (volumes IX, X y XI) (Spanish)

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