Saturday, 18 October 2014

Bloody November - Madrid 1936: Reading and Information Sources

Following the publication yesterday of the introductory post to our Spanish Civil War campaign for Chain of Command, I have received several communications requesting recommendations on information sources for the Battle of Madrid in 1936.

I may have to disappoint my English-speaking readers, but unfortunately I haven't been ablo to find any good reliable source in the language of Shakespeare, so what follows are references to bibliography in Spain.

Another warning: I’m not intending neither to be exhaustive in my suggestions, nor pretending that I’ve read every single book published on the topic. I consider myself a serious history aficionado (in fact for me is the other side to enjoy wargaming as a hobby) but I try to balance deep studying a period and using that information for my game.

In no particular order of preference, but these are most of the books/publications that I did use to get to know the period and on which I have some opinion:

1#  Desperta Ferro Contemporánea 4: Madrid 1936
This is the 4th issue published by Desperta Ferro in its new series of magazines focused on modern (XX and XXI century) conflicts. I really like this magazine and its approach to combine popular military history with wargaming, providing an excellent background when undertaken a new period or a specific event within a period of your interest.

Little comment needed, as the magazine fell right spot in the topic under study. Worth mentioning the article called La Defensa de Madrid (page 28) is particularly good and the lavish colored illustrations of the assault to Ciudad Universitaria are a master work of art.      

2# Jorge Martínez Reverte: La Batalla de Madrid
Another work topping my recommended lists, neck on neck with the next title below. This is a modern work (2007) in which Jorge Martínez Reverte (a famous Spanish writer, not to confuse with Arturo Pérez Reverte) using historical direct sources (official reports, memoirs, interviews, etc) creates a compelling literary painting of the day-to-day of the battle, confronting the two sides (Nationalists and Republicans), the main historical personae but also the unknown madrileños suffering , fighters, etc. 

Each chapter one day of the battle, fom 27 Septmeber 1936 to 22 January 1937. A must-read.

3# General Vicente Rojo: Así fue la defensa de Madrid

Vicente Rojo was the Republican mastermind of the Madrid battle. A 100% professional soldier, despite his deep Catholic religious beliefs, he threw his lot with the Republic and remained loyal until his exile in 1939. In November 1936 his rank was colonel but shortly after he was appointed General and commander of the Republican Army forces. This book was written and published (of course out of Spain) in the 60s and has been difficult to find. Luckily, in 2010 been very reprinted within a larger tome using the documents kept by the family and researched by Jorge Martínez Reverte in what seems an attempt of General Rojo to write (but never completed) a full complete history of the Spanish Civil War.

The book is written in a very professional tone, rather like a publication to teach in an officer’s military school than a history or memoir works. It is full of details of the battle during the critical days of November; but it also covers the battles of Guadalajara and Jarama, that were follow-up attempts by the Francoist´s army to capture Madrid after failing though Ciudad Universitaria. Another must read now that is widely available.

4# Colonel José Manuel Martínez Bande: La marcha sobre Madrid
This book is part of the “oficial” history of teh Spanish Civil Work written by Colonel Martínez Bande during the 60s and 70s, using the historical archives which were restricted to any other researcher in those days. The book (and the rest of the series) was presented as an attempt to write an impartial and definitive military history of the conflict… that totally failed as many of you probably have guessed.
Sadly, the editorial that hold the publication rights went into receivership some years ago and these books are no longer available except from second hand dealers but a priced as rarities (just saw one copy available in Amazon Spain for €60).

In any case and despite all its faults, this work supplies readers with substantial information of interest from both sides, good detail on the different battles and a set of excellent maps to follow . Another must-read.

There are lots of other books and publications available, just take a quick look to the bibliography list put together by Desperta Ferro (available free in pdf in their website) and the four above are just the tipping point although enough for my project.

As said at the beginning I haven´t been able to find good sources in English about the Ciudad Universitaria. The reason for this may be several: the battle was part of the major epic struggle to capture Madrid, Francoist’s historians paid less attention to it as it was an outright defeat (the first defeat in fact) and also that most of the members of the International Brigades fighting in this period were non anglo-saxon.

I thought that in order to make this post more useful, I’ll try a more interactive angle: if you happen to know any source of info or publication in English about this particular episode in the second half of November 1936, do contact me through the comments section or directly in my email ( I will collect and prepare an updated version with all the findings and your help.


  1. Another vote here for Reverte's La Batalla. There is another book about La Marcha, whose title and author escapes me right now... it was however packed with detail about the forces involved in the columns setting out from Sevilla for Madrid and the battles they fought on the way.

    Sadly you are right however and there are no books in English with anything more than a brief coverage. I am always envious when I go into book stores here in Spain as there is a wide choice of books on the GCE.

    1. Thanks Jim
      The book you mention is probably the Martinez Bande commeneted above.

      If you are still in Spain and have the time to pay us a visit to madrid, please let us know, we will really happy to organise a game with you and then have lunch

    2. Gracias... I am in Spain for the foreseeable future and holidays and family visits home permitting, I will be coming to Madrid at some point. At this stage I cannot say when however, but you have my word! I could not refuse such an invitation. :-)

    3. Hope to see you at Dragon Club to pay you some beers for your kind support to our questions in the CoC forum

  2. Hola Anibal,

    There's also this book:
    You probably already know it , and to be honest , I buy it on Saturday so I couldn't have time to read it in depth but it's so packed of information, maps pictures and my grandfather is in the cover picture (it was the security chief of coronel Prada) so that I couldn't resist!!

    The list that you give is really good.

    Whenever I can, I pass by your blog to have a look and it's always worthwhile and now that I recently bought CoC I will pass by more often.

    Keep on the good work full of eye candy and really inspiring

    Un saludo


  3. Thanks Alberto
    I did not know about this book, now it is a target
    If you live in madrid, do not hesitate to visit us at Club Dragón any SUnday morning (contact me at before)

  4. You're welcome Anibal,

    You can find it also here: BOOK CENTER LUCHANA , C/Luchana 6 .
    Many thanks for the invitation I will probably do so.

    Un saludo