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Battle of Santander
Part of the Spanish Civil War
Date August 14 - September 1, 1937
Location Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Result Decisive Nationalist victory
Spain Second Spanish Republic Spain Nationalist Spain
Italy Italy (CTV)
Mariano Gamir Ulibarri Fidel Dávila Arrondo
80,000 infantry 90,000 infantry
126 guns
220 aircraft
Casualties and losses
60,000 dead, wounded, or captured Nationalist: 30,000 dead, wounded, captured
Italian: 486 dead
1,546 wounded
one missing

The Battle of Santander was fought over the summer of 1937 in the War in the North campaign in the Spanish Civil War. Santander's fall on September 1 assured the Nationalist conquest of the province of Santander and marked the last stand of the Republic's "Army of the North," which was destroyed and captured in the fighting.



14 Aug. The Nationalist 1st Navarrese Brigade attacks the front between Valdecebollas (Palencia) and Cuesta Labra, trying to cut off the Republican forces south of the Cantabrian Mountains.
15 Aug. The Nationalists advance in the area of Barruelo (Palencia) up to Peña Rubia, Salcedillo, Matalejos and Reinosilla; the Republic's fight back at Portillo de Suano.
16 Aug. The Nationalists overcome the Republicans at Portillo de Suano and take the factories near Reinosa (Cantabria); they enter Reinosa itself at nightfall. The 4th Navarrese Brigade advances at the River Saja valley towards Cabuérniga Valley (Cantabria). Italian forces advance from Burgos to Lanchares and San Miguel de Aguayo (Cantabria).
17 Aug. Italian forces take El Escudo Pass and join the rest of the forces at San Miguel de Aguayo. 22 Republican battalions are encircled at Campoo (Cantabria).
18 Aug. Nationalist forces take Santiurde, and Italian forces take San Pedro del Romeral and San Miguel de Luena (Cantabria).
19 Aug. Nationalist forces advance in Cabuérniga and the Pas River valley, taking Bárcena de Pie de Concha and Entrambasmestas (Cantabria).
20 Aug. Italian forces advance towards Villacarriedo and Navarrese forces advance towards Torrelavega and Cabezón de la Sal.
22 Aug. The Nationalist take Selaya, Villacarriedo, Ontaneda and Las Fraguas (Cantabria).
23 Aug. Navarrese forces enter Mazcuerras Valley and take Mount Ibio, nearly cutting the main road and railway between Santander and Asturias. Italian forces face Republican resistance near Puente Viesgo (Cantabria).
24 Aug. General Gámir-Ulibarri orders the general evacuation towards Asturias. The Nationalist take Torrelavega and Barreda, cutting the main road to Asturias. The Basque forces, after defeating the front, sign the Santoña Agreement (Spanish Pacto de Santoña) by which they surrender to the Italians.
25 Aug. The main Republican authorities leave Santander, heading to Gijón (Asturias).
26 Aug. Nationalist forces enter Santander around noon; 17,000 republicans are made prisoners, many of whom would be immediately executed.
1 Sep. The Nationalist take Unquera (Cantabria), in the limit with Asturias.
The rest of Cantabria (valleys of Tudanca and Liébana) would be taken during the Asturian campaign.


Santander's fall, coupled with the capture of heavily-fortified Bilbao, tore an irreparable gap in the Republic's northern front. The destruction of the Army of the North marked another crippling blow to the Republic's sagging strength and turned the war to Franco's favour. Factors accounting for the Republican defeat include:

  • The Nationalists' overwhelming superiority in artillery and air power.
  • A lack of unified command among Asturian, Cantabrian and Basque Republican units.
  • The precision, shock, and rapidity of the Nationalist advance, which had as its objective the destruction of enemy forces and not the consolidation of territory.
  • The defenders' poor morale, in contrast to the exceptional confidence and enthusiasm of the Nationalists.
  • Mutinies and sedition by the Basque units in the Republican camp (Santoña Agreement).

The disaster proved total and the losses beyond repair. Of the twelve Basque brigades there remained at the end only eight battered battalions. The Republican Army of Santander of twelve brigades was reduced to six battalions. The Asturians committed 27 battalions and escaped with only fourteen. In no other theatre of the civil war did Franco's troops achieve results as decisive as those of the Santander campaign: sixty thousand Republican soldiers were wiped off the map, with corresponding losses in materiel. The War in the North was all but won.

External links


  • VV.AA.; Gran Enciclopedia de Cantabria. Editorial Cantabria SA. Santander. 1985 (8 volumes) and 2002 (volumes IX, X y XI)



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