Tour 3: Gerda Taro and the Brunete Offensive

Frontline Madrid cover vis [2]_Layout 1

This tour is covered in Dr David Mathieson’s fully illustrated guide to the battlefield sites of the civil war around Madrid – with foreword by Jon Snow.   Click on the icon to order your paperback or kindle copy.

In  July 1937 the republicans launched a massive offensive on nationalist lines at Brunete some 35km west of Madrid.  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 with tens of thousands of casualties – and once again the International Brigades were in the thick of the action.

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Tour Itinerary

This tour takes us to the parched battlefield of Brunete (above),  some 40 minutes outside Madrid.   Heading west from the city, we explore some republican bunkers and an original command  post which offers a panoramic view of the battlefield.

We will then walk or drive to the charming village of Quijorna –  a scene of fierce fighting during the battle – to examine several of the war-time fortifications which remain.

After lunch (provided) we will travel more crucial points of the battle – Villanueva de la Canada, Mosquito Crest and, of course, the village of Brunete itself where there are more important sites to be seen. Will wil also visit the spot where 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.

Book this tour at spanishsites@ymail.com

brunette-with-mountains

A republican tank outside Brunete and battlefield remains today (above)

Tank Brunete

                        Republican troops outside the village of Villanueva de la Canada

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 photo-journalist 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.

 

David Mathieson at the memorial plaque to Gerda Taro in Stuttgart, Germany
David Mathieson outside Taro’s birthplace in Stuttgart, Germany.

More about Brunete and Taro…

This short newsreel film from 1937 contains vivid images of the battle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZEYUX3tgz0

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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