Tour 1: John Cornford and Madrid’s Western Front

 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.   Click on the icon to order your paperback or kindle copy

In the November 1936 Madrid became the focus of world attention. The capital of Spain was held by the republicans but General Franco’s rebel army was closing in fast and few expected the city to survive the final assault  Yet Madrid did not fall.  Ordinary Madrileños and volunteers from the International Brigades fought tooth and nail  defend Madrid in the parks, streets and university campus close to the city centre.  Under the famous slogan ‘No Pasarán’ (they will not pass) the nationalist advance was held in a battle which has been compared to Stalingrad and entered into legend.

Bunkers in the University District

Tour Itinerary

This tour will explain how the struggle for Madrid unfolded in the tense, desperate weeks of November 1936. It tells the story of ‘No Pasarán’ (‘they shall not pass’) the republican slogan used during the defence of Madrid. It is an extraordinary tale of an exceptional time driven by remarkable people.

We will explore the front line of the fighting as the battle raged in the parks, streets and on the University campus close to the city centre.  Our tour will cover the battlefield on the western side of Madrid where the most important action took place. We will visit the Parque Debod (Debod Park),Parque Oeste (West Park) and University campus stopping along the way to see the remains of the war which are still there today (above). Looking out over the river Manzanares and the Casa de Campo we will see the nationalist artillery positions from which they shelled the city night and day. On the bike tour will head down river to see the remains of the Pasarela de la Muerte (gangway of death), used by the nationalists to supply troops in their bridgehead stronghold in the University campus.  We will visit the key points of interest in the University, where the terrain and many of the buildings still bear scars from the fighting.

The tour will also tell the story of the volunteers of the International Brigades, like writer John Cornford, who came to fight for the republican cause in Spain. And on the university campus we will see the only memorial in Madrid to the those volunteers many of whom, like Cornford, fought – and died – in the fighting across the university.

This popular tour can be done on foot or by bicycle according to the preference of the visitor.   There is no need to travel outside Madrid and the tour time is 3 hours (maximum).

On arrangement, the tour leaves Madrid at 10:00 am from the principal entrance to Parque Debod, beneath the fallen soldier memorial. The Parque Debod entrance is at the junction Calle Ferraz with Paseo Pintor Rosales, opposite the Plaza de España.

contact us at spanishsites@ymail.com

The faculty building in the University where Cornford and Brigaders held out
The University faculty where Cornford and Brigaders fought

 

The faculty building today

More about John Cornford…

John Cornford was one of the young International Brigade volunteers.  Born into a family of distinguished academics – he was Charles Darwin’s great grandson – Cornford graduated from Cambridge in 1936 with a First class degree. Like many anti-fascists of his generation, he was a communist and quickly joined the Spanish republican forces to fight in the civil war. Cornford was badly wounded in the fighting at university and a month later, on his 21st birthday, he was killed in action. His body has never been recovered.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/oct/25/poem-of-the-week-john-cornford is a critical analyis in the Guardian of one Cornford work which was chosen as their Poem of the Week.

…and the Casa de Campo and University in the civil war

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDfH28xbF3I&feature=related slide show of images from the Madrid front set to well known Republcan anti-fascist songs

 

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