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Battle of Brunete
Part of the Spanish Civil War
Battle of Brunete.png
Map of the Battle of the Brunete
Date July 6 – July 25, 1937
Location Brunete, Spain
Result Tactically inconclusive, strategic Nationalist victory
Spain Spanish Republic Spain Nationalist Spain
José Miaja José Varela
80,000 infantry
150 aircraft
65,000 infantry
105 aircraft
Casualties and losses
25,000 dead or wounded
100 aircraft
13,000 dead or wounded
23 aircraft

The Battle of Brunete (6 July – 25 July 1937), fought 15 miles west of Madrid, was a Republican attempt to alleviate the pressure exerted by the Nationalists on the capital and on the north during the Spanish Civil War. Although initially successful, the Republicans were forced to retreat from Brunete and suffered devastating casualties from the battle.



After the capture of Bilbao on June 19, the Republicans devised the attack on Brunete to divert Nationalist forces from the north and allow the fleeing Republicans time to reorganize. In addition, Brunete was also chosen because it was situated on the Extremadura road and its capture would make it harder for the Nationalists to resupply their forces besieging Madrid.

From a political standpoint, the offensive was chosen for Brunete to satisfy communist demands and to prove to the Russians that the Spanish possessed military initiative. In fact, Russian advisors had been pressing for an attack on Brunete since the spring of 1937.

Furthermore, assistance from the Soviet Union had decreased due to the successful blockade of Republican ports by the Nationalists. Prime Minister Juan Negrín needed to convince the French Premier Camille Chautemps that Spanish Republic was still capable of military action after the disastrous losses of Málaga and Bilbao. It was expected by the Republicans that a show of force at Brunete would persuade France to open its border for arms shipments.

The Combatants



General Miaja commanded two army corps, about 80,000 soldiers.

In reserve were Cipriano Mera's 14th Division, General Kléber's 45th Division, and Gustavo Doran's 69th Division.


Facing the Republicans was the Nationalist Army of the Center under the command of General Andrés Saliquet Zumeta. However, overall command for the battle was given to General José Enrique Varela Iglesias and the units that fought in the battle were:

  • The 7th Army Corps commanded by General José Varela consisted of:
    • 71st Division, led by Colonel Ricardo Serrador Santés. It was composed chiefly of Falangists and approximately 1,000 Moroccans.
  • The 1st Army Corps commanded during the battle by Colonel Juan Yagüe Blanco included:
    • 11th Division, led by General José Iruretagoyena Solchaga.
    • 12th Division, led by General Carlos Asensio Cabanillas.
    • 13th Division, led by General Fernando Barrón y Ortiz.
    • 14th Division, led by Colonel Juan Yagüe Blanco.

Transferred to the front were the 150th Division led by General Sáenz de Buruaga, the 4th Brigade of Navarre led by Colonel Juan Bautista Sánchez and the 5th Brigade of Navarre led by Colonel Alonso Vega.

Republican offensive

July 6

At daybreak on July 6, the Republicans bombarded by artillery and air for half an hour the Nationalist positions held by the 71st Division. Immediately after the bombardment, the Republican 11th Division commanded by Líster advanced 5 miles and encircled Brunete. The Nationalist forces there were completely taken by surprise and the town fell to the Republicans by noon.

However, the Republican attacks by the 34th and the 46th Divisions on the flanks of Líster's 11th Division stalled upon meeting fierce resistance by the Nationalists and forced Líster to halt his advance south of Brunete.

The Nationalists placed overall command of the battle in General Varela. By noon the 12th, 13th and 150th Divisions along with the Condor Legion arrived to help bolster the defense.

July 7

The Republican Colonel Jurado diverted the 15th Division to end the stalemate at Villanueva de la Cañada and the British Battalion of the XVth Brigade managed to clear the village of Nationalists by 7 am on July 7. The Nationalists in the nearby villages of Villanueva del Pardillo and Villafranca del Castillo continued to hold out.

To allow Gal's 15th Division to continue towards Boadilla on the Republican left flank, the 10th Division under Enciso attacked Asensio's 12th Division defending the Mocha Ridge. The Nationalist troops were driven back and they fell back to the hills near Boadilla.

July 8–9

After crossing the Guadarrama River on July 8, the 15th Division assaulted the newly fortified positions held by the 12th Division for two days. All of the attacks were repulsed and when an attack did succeed in evicting the Nationalist defenders, a counterattack quickly eliminated the gains made by the Republicans.

With the Republican attack on the right flank of Líster remaining held up at the village of Quijorna, Modesto ordered the 35th Division to assist El Campesino's 46th Division. The original intent of the 35th Division was for it to be used in support of Líster's attack through the center. Without the 35th Division, Líster's 11th Division would be unable to advance any further. On the morning of July 9, Quijorna was finally cleared of Nationalists.

July 10–11

Villafranca del Castillo was slowly being surrounded by Enciso's 10th Division and Kléber's 45th Division. Colonel Jurado made plans for an assault on the village on July 11, but he became ill and was replaced with Colonel Casado. Citing poor morale and fatigue, Casado requested to cancel the attack, but General Miaja ordered for the attack to proceed as planned. The Republicans were able to trap the Nationalist garrison in Villafranca del Castillo, forcing General Varela to send the 5th Brigade of Navarre to relieve the pressure. The arrival of the Navarrese tipped the balance in favor of the Nationalists as the Republicans were forced from their positions and fled back across the Guadarrama River.

The one bright spot for the Republicans was the capture of Villanueva del Pardillo on July 11 by the XIIth International Brigade of Durán's 69th Division.

July 12–17

The Republican offensive was clearly grinding to a halt and Miaja finally ordered an end to the attacks on July 15. At this moment, the Republicans held Brunete and had cut the Extremadura road. Major George Nathan of XV International Brigade was killed by bomb fragments. The Nationalists had prevented their forces besieging Madrid from being cut off and with reinforcements having arrived were able to prepare to counterattack. The Republicans dug in and waited for the expected Nationalist counterattack on July 18.

Nationalist counterattack

July 18–23

The counterattack by the Nationalists was planned by General Varela for the 1-year anniversary of the Spanish Civil War on July 18. The Republicans were well aware of this and the three pronged attack by the Nationalists failed to achieve any substantial gains through July 23.

July 24

The Nationalists finally managed to break through the Republican lines on July 24. The 13th Division under General Barrón attacking through the center with the aid of a concentrated attack by German tanks was able to force the Republican 11th Division from much of Brunete, except for the cemetery.

July 25

A counterattack by the Republican 14th Division commanded by Cipriano Mera on Brunete was thwarted and Líster's 11th Division was finally removed from cemetery. Franco ordered Varela to halt his attack so that the Nationalists could finish off the Republicans in the north at Santander.


At the close of the battle, the Republicans failed to cut the Extremadura road, but they still held Villanueva de la Cañada, Quijorna and Villanueva del Pardillo from the Nationalists. From this point of view, both sides were able to claim victory.

The losses of men and equipment in the battle were much heavier for the Republicans than the Nationalists. Indeed, the Republican army lost much of its indispensable equipment and so many of their best soldiers in the International Brigades that the battle can be seen as a strategic Nationalist victory.

Politically, the communists suffered a loss of prestige because the offensive failed to stop the Nationalist troops from completing the conquest of the north. Further destabilizing the Republican situation was the rebellion of many in the International Brigades against going back to the front. It took the Assault Guards to reestablish order and force the Brigadiers to undergo a reorganization and reeducation.

The frenetic conditions at Brunete for the Nationalists enabled the Germans to acquire favorable trade concessions because of the effectiveness of the Condor Legion. The Nationalists granted most favored nation status to Germany and acquiesced to send raw materials to Germany as repayment for the debt incurred.


  • Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961.
  • Jose Manuel Martinez Bande, La ofensiva sobre Segovia y la batalla de Brunete, 1972
  • Manuel Aznar, Historia Militar de la Guerra de Espana, 3 vols.,1969.

External links


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