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Major Battles of the Spanish Civil War

Images from Belchite

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After the war ended the destroyed town of Belchite was left untouched as a monument to the Nationalist war dead. The slideshow above contains images of the town as it remains today. Images 1, 3 and 5 by Ecelan. Image 2 by Kurtxio, image 4 by Tamorlan.

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The International Brigades

The International Brigades were organized by the Comintern to fight on the side of the Republic. Not all members of the Brigades were communists, but the command and organizational structure was entirely in communist hands. It is estimated that around 35,000 men volunteered to fight in the Brigades, representing fifty countries. The largest contingent was French (approximately 10,000 volunteers). The International Brigades were used as shock troops by the Republican government and saw action in all the major engagements of the was, from the siege of Madrid until their withdrawal during the closing stages of the battle of the Ebro. By the time of the Internationals withdrawal, the Brigades were actually comprised of a majority of Spanish troops.


The Battle of Belchite

The battle for Belchite took place during the Republican offensive in Aragon which was launched on the 24th August 1937. The campaign itself was aimed at relieving the pressure on Republican and Basque troops who were being hard-pressed on the northern front at this time. The hope was that the Nationalists would be forced to withdrawal troops from the north to reinforce their forces in Aragón, but this hope was mostly unfulfilled. The campaign in the north was barely delayed and the northern front fell to the Nationalists in October 1937. There has also been speculation that the offensive was mounted at least partially, to justify sending Communist led troops onto Aragón to break up the Council of Aragón and the anarchist collectives there. These troops, under Enrique Lister broke up the Council and most of the collectives in August 1937.

Belchite itself was not the main objective of the offensive, but after some early initial successes for the Republicans, Belchite was were Nationalist resistance stiffened. Belchite was a fortified town with a population at the time of just under 4,000. The town was destroyed in the fierce fighting, when outnumbered Nationalist troops attempted to hold out, despite lacking access to food and water. Belchite was bypassed by Republican forces leaving it ten miles behind the lines and surrounded by the International Brigades. The fortified nature of the town allowed the defenders, who numbered in the several hundreds, to throw back attack after attack. Finally the Internationals took the town by storm and the surviving defenders surrendered on September 6th 1937.

The Nationalists would recapture Belchite during their own Aragón offensive in 1938. The town was left in its ruined state as a monument to the Nationalist dead and a new town was build nearby.