Gerda Taro and the Brunete Offensive

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Read Dr David Mathieson’s new fully illustrated guide to the

battlefield sites of the civil war around Madrid – with foreword by Jon Snow. 

Order your copy here.

 

Tour Itinerary – Gerda Taro and the Brunete Offensive

This tour  leaves Madrid through  the wooded Casa de Campo to the parched battlefield of Brunete some 40 minutes outside the city.   Heading west, we cross the River Guadarrama, explore some republican fortifications and walk to a vantage point near the republican command position of Valdemorillo for a panoramic view of the battlefield. 

We will then walk or drive to the charming rural village of Quijorna – a distance of about 10km – following the route taken by the republican army during their attack of 8 July 1937.  We will then stop for a picnic lunch in Quijorna and explore some of the fortifications around the village.

After lunch we will explore crucial points of the battle – Villanueva de la Canada, Mosquito Crest and, of course, the village of Brunete itself where there are more important remains to be seen. Will wil also visit the spot where it is believed that the pioneer war photographer Gerda Taro was killed whilst taking photographs of the battle.

On arrangement, the tour leaves Madrid at 10:00 am from the principal entrance to Parque Debod, beneath the fallen soldier memorial (junction Calle Ferraz with Calle Pintor Rosales, opposite the Plaza de Espana). It returns to Madrid at about 16:30 to the same drop-off point.

To book a tour contact us at:  spanishsites@ymail.com

 

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Remains on the battlefield of Brunete today

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 The Battle of Brunete

By the summer of 1937 the Civil War in Spain had dragged on for almost a year and the siege of Madrid was into its ninth month. There had been no decisive breakthrough nor end in sight. One of the few sure things was the “internationalization” of the conflict and the build-up of foreign involvement. General Franco was by now heavily dependent on Hitler and Mussolini for war materiel, while the Republic was deeply in hock to the Soviet Union.

Republican commanders sought to break the deadlock by mobilizing for a massive offensive on the Nationalist line just outside Madrid.

The attack, which became known as the Battle of Brunete, was expected to be a decisive strike against the rebels and to turn the war against Franco. But the assault quickly lost momentum. The two armies slogged it out for more than three weeks on the bare Castilian plain under the scorching summer sun. The battle turned into one of the bloodiest engagements of the war and of the estimated 150,000 men involved around a third were killed or wounded. Once again the International Brigades were in the thick of the action—and once again they suffered appalling losses.

Gerda Taro – a pioneer of war photography

And Gerda Taro…

Perhaps the most notable foreign casualty, however, was not a combatant but a witness to the carnage. Gerda Taro was a 26-year-old photographer who had been forced into exile from her native Germany when the Nazis came to power. Armed only with impetuous courage and a Leica camera she captured some of the most moving images of the conflict. After her, war photography would never be the same again: she literally changed the way people saw the world.

This tour follows in the footsteps of Taro in that fateful summer of 1937. We will travel to the harsh, beautiful plain where the battle was fought just outside Madrid to see the many remains of the conflict which remain there to this day.

 

 

 

David Mathieson at the memorial plaque to Gerda Taro in Stuttgart, Germany

David Mathieson at the memorial plaque to Gerda Taro in Stuttgart, Germany

 

Republican roops outside the village of Villanueva de la Canada

 

British soldiers from the XV Brigade on the Brunete Offensive

 

More about Brunete…

http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/LuisSilva/00000014.htm – this shortish account by Luis Silva is lively account of this confusing battle.

…and Gerda Taro

The journalist Ted Allan was with Taro for the last few hours of her life.  You can read his gripping and moving account of what happened here.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3669821/Gerda-Taro-the-blonde-of-brunete.html – Daily Telegraph review of an exhibition of Taro’s photograhs in New York.

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