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Battle of Málaga
Part of the Spanish Civil War
Date February 3 – February 8, 1937
Location Málaga, Spain
Result Decisive Nationalist victory
Spain Second Spanish Republic Spain Nationalist Spain

Italy Italy

José Villalba Lacorte Queipo de Llano
Duke of Seville
Antonio Muñoz Jiménez
Agustín Muñoz Grandes
Mario Roatta
40,000 Republican militia 15,000 Nationalist regulars
5,000 Italian militia
Casualties and losses
Unknown; but heavy Spanish: Unknown
Italian: 74 killed,
221 wounded,
two missing

The Battle of Málaga was the culmination of an offensive in early 1937 by the combined Nationalist and Italian forces to eliminate Republican control of the province of Málaga during the Spanish Civil War. The participation of Moroccan regulars and Italian tanks from the recently arrived Corpo Truppe Volontarie resulted in a complete rout of the Republicans and the capitulation of Málaga in less than a week.



After the failure to capture Madrid and the Republican counter attack at the Battle of the Corunna Road, the Nationalists sought to regain the initiative. A 25 mile wide strip of land in southern Spain along the Mediterranean Sea centering on Málaga was held by the Republicans and the arrival of Italian troops at the nearby port of Cádiz made the attack on Málaga very logical.

On January 17, the campaign to conquer Málaga began when the newly constituted Army of the South under Queipo de Llano advanced from the west and soldiers led by Colonel Antonio Muñoz Jiménez attacked from the northeast. Both attacks encountered little resistance and made advances of up to 15 miles in a week. The Republicans failed to realize that the Nationalists were concentrating for an attack on Málaga and thus they remained unreinforced and unprepared for the main attack on February 3.

The Combatants

A mixed force of 15,000 Spanish regulars, Carlist militia members (Requetés), and Italian volunteers participated in the Nationalist attack on Málaga. This force was commanded overall by Queipo de Llano. The Italians, led by Mario Roatta and, known as the Blackshirts, formed nine mechanized battalions of about 5,000 soldiers and were equipped with light tanks and armored cars. In the Alboran Sea, the Canarias, Baleares and Velasco were in position to blockade and bombard Málaga.

The Republican forces were composed of 40,000 Andalusian militiamen of the National Confederation of Labour (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, or CNT). Although large in number and high in spirit, the militiamen were completely unprepared for military warfare. In addition, they lacked the weapons to sustain a successful defense against the modern weapons of the Italians.

The battle

The Army of the South initiated the assault of Málaga from the west at Ronda on February 3. Attacking from the north on the night of February 4, the Italian Blackshirts achieved a massive breakthrough because of the Republicans being unprepared for armoured warfare.[1] The Nationalists continued a steady advance towards Málaga and by February 6 had reached the heights around the city. Fearing encirclement, the Republican commander, Colonel Villalba, ordered the evacuation of Málaga.[2] On February 8, Queipo de Llano and the Army of the South entered a bleak and barren Málaga.


The Republicans who could not escape Málaga were either shot or imprisoned. The Nationalists caught up with the fleeing Republicans on the road to Almería and shot the men, but let the women continue so as to put the burden of feeding them on the Republican government.[3]

The devastating defeat suffered by the Republicans caused the Communists in the Valencia government to force the resignation on February 20 of General Asensio Torrado, the Under Secretary of War. Francisco Largo Caballero replaced him with the editor of Claridad and a man without a military background, Carlos de Baráibar.

Mussolini saw the spectacular success of the Italian troops as reason to continue and increase the Italian involvement in Spain despite having agreed to the Non-Intervention Agreement. The Italian commanders failed to see that their quick victory was achieved because of good weather and the lack of experience by the Andalucian Republican militiamen with armoured warfare. Plans to capture Valencia were abandoned in order to achieve greater glory by attacking and sacking Madrid. However, the Italians were to suffer an embarrassing defeat to the Republicans at the Battle of Guadalajara.


  • Franz Borkenau. El reñidero español. Ibérica de Ediciones y Publicaciones. Madrid. 1977. ISBN 84-85361-01-6
  • Hugh Thomas. The Spanish Civil War. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961.


  1. ^ Franz Borkenau. El reñidero español. Ibérica de Ediciones y Publicaciones. 1977. Madrid. p.178
  2. ^ Franz Borkenau. El reñidero español. Ibérica de Ediciones y Publicaciones. 1977. Madrid. p.176
  3. ^ Franz Borkenau. El reñidero español. Ibérica de Ediciones y Publicaciones. 1977. Madrid. p.181.

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