HAVE YOU EVER played a
game of guessing ages? Try the siege of Alcazar as a yardstick. It is 30 years since the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Those born after 1920 will register it, possibly vaguely, as an event in history; others will probably betray some emotion.
When you discuss the siege of Alcazar the older generation sometimes, metaphorically speaking, straighten their shoulders as though they themselves had taken part.
This year we remember also the Irish Rising of 1916. War or revolution of any kind is unpleasant, but reading The Siege of Alcazar, by Cecil Eby (Bodley Head 30s.) it would seem that the troubles of 1916 could after all be classified as a gentlemen's war in comparison with the stark horror of Alcazar.
Young or old will not fail to be gripped by the story of the 10 weeks siege when Col. ,Moscardo, inside the Military Academy in Toledo, resisted the Republicans. The book reads like a novel. The younger reader, furthermore, unaware of the outcome of the struggle, will enjoy the suspense.
Nearly 100 of the 1,800 beleaguered Nationalists, who included women and children, were dead and 500 wounded, when Franco's relief forces finally freed them. Col. Moscardo became a legendary figure of heroism.
The siege, like an international chess match, was watched by the world Press from outside the walls. When two mine shafts were dug beneath the fortress by Asturian miners and filled with T.N.T. the Press were informed of the impending surrender of the defenders. The explosion rent the fortress almost in two but the surrender never materialised.
Despite 30 air attacks and the 9,800 artillery shells which were hurled at them from July to September. Col. Moscardo and his followers stood firm. They defied military attacks and withstood the deprivations of hunger which had forced them into absolute squalor.
Although a blind beggar could walk the street of No Man's Land while both sides held their fire, the atrocity of Spaniard to Spaniard was appalling.
Too often history is presented as history, dull and uninspiring. This book is never dull, and often it is so exciting that one cannot put it down.
A study of housing in Britain is provided by Adela Adam Nevitt in Housing, Taxation and Subsidies (Nelson, 35s.). Tenants no less than landlords will find much to interest them here.