History of Siege of Madrid

Nationalist soldiers raiding a suburb of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War

The siege of Madrid was a two-and-a-half-year siege of the Republican-controlled Spanish capital town of Madrid by the Nationalist troops under General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 CE to 1939 CE. The TOWN, besieged from October 1936 CE, fell to the Nationalist troops on 28 March 1939 CE. The Battle of Madrid in November 1936 CE marked the most severe fighting in and around the center when the Nationalists made their most relentless attempt to take Madrid.

Uprising (July 1936 CE)

The Spanish Civil War started with a busted coup d’état against the Popular Front Government of the Spanish Republic by Spanish Army administrators on 18 July 1936 CE.

In the civil war, Madrid was occupied by the Republicans. However, its population carried a significant number of Nationalist sympathizers, over 24,000 of which sought asylum in foreign embassies in the town. The weeks following the July uprising saw several fascists and fascist sympathizers killed in Madrid by Republicans. The upcoming war was more or less a reality.

Battle for Madrid (November 1936 CE)

The Republicans had a topographical advantage in securing Madrid: the River Manzanares deserted the Nationalists from the town center and was an intimidating physical obstacle. Insurgent General Emilio Mola planned his attack on Madrid for 8 November 1936 CE. He planned to attack via the Casa de Campo park on a front of only 0.62 mi (1 km) wide to avoid street fighting, as the park was open land and lay just across the river Manzanares from the town center. Mola’s original intention was to take the University City, just north of the town center, to secure a bridgehead across the Manzanares. He also propelled a diversionary attack towards the working-class neighborhood of Carabanchel to the town center’s southwest. However, on 7 November of the same year, the Republicans had seized plans of the attack on the body of an Italian officer located in a destroyed tank and so could strengthen their troops in the Casa de Campo to meet the principal attack.


Mola charged on 8 November 1936 CE with 20,000 troops, primarily Moroccan regulares, supported by German Panzer I tanks under infamous German officer Wilhelm Von Thomas and Italian light armor. The German Condor Legion also gave air support, which took a heavy toll on the quarter’s buildings.

The Republicans had stationed 14,000 troops in Carabanchel and 40,000 more to meet the principal assault at the Casa de Campo. Despite their supremacy in numbers, they were severely equipped since they had primarily only small arms, with only ten rounds for each rifle. Also, most of them had never been properly trained in the use of any weapons, let alone encountered combat before. Nevertheless, they were able to hold of the Nationalist onslaught at Casa de Campo. Some regulares ultimately broke through and made the first crossing over the Manzanares towards the Modelo jail, the target of the offensive, but the attack stalled at the western fringe of the city.

Final Nationalist assault

On the 19th of the same month, the Nationalists made their final frontal assault. Undercover by a massive artillery bombardment, Foreign and Foreign Moroccan troops finally fought their way into the University City quarter of Madrid. While the rebels checked their advance, they built a bridgehead over the Manzanares River. Intense street fighting ensued, and Durruti, the anarchist leader, was executed on the 19th. Three theories try to explain the mystery of Durruti’s death. The shot may have come from one of the nationalist men. Others feel that Durruti was killed by the random discharge of one of his own army’s weapons. A third theory recommends he was betrayed and killed by the communists. Despite brilliant counterattacks by the XI International Brigade and the stationed Spanish Republican units, the Nationalists kept their toehold in the University City and were in possession of three-quarters of the complex by the end of the battle.

In 1938 CE, the siege of Madrid tightened, and its population suffered increasingly from a lack of warm clothes, food, and arms, and ammunition. However, Franco had given up on the idea of another frontal assault on the city but was happy to constrict the siege slowly and continue to bombard the town.

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