From Our Own Correspondent
On the subject of bombardments of British and other foreign vessels in Spanish ports three principal views have been put forward during the last few days: I. The bombing of ships is incidental and accidental during the bombardment of ports that . are, unquestionably, military objectives. •
2. The attacks are " in ...spite of " Franco, and outside the control of his commandment.
3. The attacks are deliberate and ordered by the Nationalist G.H.Q.
The first theory is the one stated to be the true one by General Franco. In view of the fact that petrol and ammunition dumps exist on the very quayside of certain ports, and that it is practically impossible for a pilot to aim within a few yards when he has to keep clear of enemy fire, is by far the most reasonable.
The second explanation, I personally, as your correspondent in Spain, deny without the slightest hesitation. Franco has always had complete control of the military activities of Nationalist Spain. The plans and suggestions of his allies' headquarters are submitted to him for his personal judgement before being carried out, and are modified by him if he thinks fit.
Apart from the possibility of any one pilot acting on his own initiative and overriding his orders (which would. mean courtmartial for the pilot., and could only be an isolated incident), no action can take place without Franco's consent.
Nothing to Gain
In judging the value of the third hypothesis, several points must be considered dispassionately: (1) It is obvious to all that Franco has more reason than ever not to offend British susceptibility.
(2) Franco has nothing to gain out of an international contlict—(a fact that is proved over and over again by the efforts of the Reds to create one).
(3) The mere destruction of material that is manifestly insufficient for the needs of the Reds cannot weigh in the balance when there is a risk of provoking a general conflict.
Therefore it seems that this explanation must also be put aside.
National Metamorphosis But it is common knowledge that many vessels visiting Spanish Red ports are neither British nor French, but simply pirate-ships carrying a cargo of arms and ammunition. (A Frenchman who escaped from Valencia a few months ago observed several cases of this kind while he was there. He told me of one that was " Greek " on its first trip, then " Mexican," and when he last saw it, " French." Another, that sails under the Panama colours, but is too old and unseaworthy to have ever crossed the Atlantic, and whose crew was composed of Catalonians, has made 22 voyages between French Mediterranean ports and Barcelona, carrying arms and ammunition, of which, for two of the voyages, I can produce lists and photographic proofs).
How, therefore, is the Nationalist aviation to distinguish between the real and the false, the legal and the illegal, cases of beans and cases of cartridges?
Franco's first job is to win the war, and to win it as soon as he car}, with as little loss of life—first to his own side and then in general—as possible, and it is certain that the war would have been over many months ago if the Spaniards had been left to themselves. He judges -and he is better placed to do so than anyone—that it will be over sooner, and therefore with less bloodshed, through the isolation of the Red zone from outside supplies.
Not even the " reddest " Communists can now still believe in the possibility of a final victory for the Spanish Reds, and all, excepting a tiny minority of anarchistminded partisans of annihilation, must wish and pray for peace in Spain, if only from the point of view of eliminating a constant danger to world peace.
Through complete victory Franco is going to obtain lasting peace in Spain, which would certainly not be obtained through an armistice or compromise with the Reds; all Spaniards know this.
There are only two ways of achieving complete victory and the end of hostilities:
(1) Through continuing the slaughter to the bitter end, till the last Red stronghold is reduced, after many more weary months of fighting, and at the price of many thousand more dead.
(2) Through the unconditional surrender of the Reds.
Franco knows he can go through with it if he is pushed to do so; the heart and mind of Nationalist Spain are with him and will follow him to the end. There are enough factories producing war material and explosives to enable him to hold out almost indefinitely without needing supplies from outside. It is extremely probable that there would be a second revolution against Franco if he were to entertain the idea of compromise with the Reds. Their surrender as soon as possible is therefore the object for which he must work,