BY FRANCIS McCULLAGH
(Continued from last week.)
/N the case of General Varela, it is not quite so certain that the many attempts made to kill him were guided by the reports of spies, but certainly he had some narrow escapes.
After selecting a house in Antequera for his headquarters, he went out for a moment, leaving behind him a pet monkey which he had brought with him from Morocco, and which at once popped into his empty chair. Hardly had the General closed the door than an aerial bomb dropped on the chair, killing the monkey and wrecking the house.
Varela moved into another house, but next day that also was bombarded from the air, and so violently that the doors were blown open by the explosive wave of one bomb. The lady who owned the house, her daughter. and a priest were with the General at the time; and the priest evidently expected the worst, for he gave conditional absolution to the General, the woman, and the girl.
On another occasion he had made preparations overnight to go to Granada; and in the morning he set out on foot for his motor-car, which was waiting some distance off, surrounded by his escort. But he did not go to Granada that day, for there was another aerial attack, the Reds having evidently been informed of the preparations made for his journey.
"Those Red airmen must have been very competent and persistent men."
Is Non-Intervention Plausible?
If you make that remark in the hearing of any Spanish General, he will reply: " They are Frenchmen. Half the French machines that we have brought down were constructed since the war began."
It is difficult to get English people to believe this, but it is a fact. Mr. Eden's plea for non-intervention is beautifully worded and sound in every particular save one; and that one unsound section is at the very base : it is the assumption that France has not assisted Madrid, is not assisting them, and will not assist them.
The enforcement of the non-intervention pact will, in my opinion, simply mean the isolation of Franco. Pe alone will receive no more help from abroad, whereas the
Reds will, continue to get French and Russian help via Perpignan.
Hero of Toledo
General Varela's greatest achievement was the relief of Toledo.
" I came just in time," he said, " for the garrison had only food and ammunition for three days."
But, before relieving Toledo, he had achieved other triumphs. At the beginning of the Civil War, his seizure of Cadiz rendered possible the embarkation of Franco's African troops, and his success in quelling the mutiny of the sailors in the ships then anchored at Cadiz, prevented the loss of that vitally important port.
He raised the siege of Granada, destroyed the grave menace which hung over Cordova, took Bobadilla, and re-established railway connection with Algeciras. Then came the rapid conquest of the positions around Malaga, and afterwards the advance on Madrid.
Problem of Madrid
The difficulties he had to overcome in his march on Madrid are quite unknown to the general public even in Spain, for, of course, as in all wars, a great deal has to be concealed. The fact that General Varela was wounded at Villanueva del Pardillo was for a long time concealed, and the war correspondents were put upon their honour to say nothing about it.
It is still unknown to the general public in Spain, that on several occasions during his advance on Madrid, Varela ran great risks of a smashing defeat. His greatest risk of that kind was taken at Itlescas, halfway between Toledo and Madrid, where the enemy was unexpectedly strong, and apparently confident of stemming the advance, for Largo Caballero had been invited to witness the expected rout, and was present. The fighting lasted three days, and it was touch-and-go all the time. The Nationalist leader had to throw all his reserves into the firing line; and when he noticed the intensity relax in any sector, he skilfully sent forces from that sector to some other part of his line which was more strongly attacked. Finally the Reds retreated, leaving many dead, but not so
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