Sre,—As the number of foreign troops engaged on General Franco's side has once more become a matter of prime importance, perhaps 1 may be allowed to make one or two observations on the subject. , An article recently published in the Catholic Herald put the number of Italians at 140,000. This was so absurd that it did not seem to me to require any comment. Sr. del Vayo has now given his estimate as 75,000 to 80,000. Clearly he would not err on the side of modesty, and the number is more likely to be half of what he says.
I must say, however, that the soldiers I have met who have recently come from Spain have been inclined to put the number round about 20,000.
Clearly it is of real importance that we should have some idea, if not of the figures, at least of the order of the figures. Since Sr. del Vayo has spoken, we know that the 100,000 mark is ridiculous, and, as he habitually uses his position for propaganda purposes, we might disregard the figures he recently gave. The actual number of Italian troops is somewhere near the figure 1 have given. and this reduces the whole position to ultimate sanity.
General Franco has, I believe, 500,000 Spanish troops at his disposal, and if it be suggested that he ought to have defeated the Communists with such a force, it must be pointed out that his success up to now— the beginning of the favourable season for operations—has been remarkable. When it is remembered that Mola at Pamplona and Queipo de Llano at Seville started with only a handful of troops, and that since then have penetrated southward and northward respectively until two-thirds of Spain is occupied by the Nationalists, one must conclude that a very great deal has been achieved already. Bilbao would also have fallen by this time but for the fact that the British Fleet has intervened and, in effect, broken the blockade. The town will fall shortly, but the delay has been due to intervention.