Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Today is the 75th Anniversary of September 5, 1936, the day in which there was the rushing escape from Cerro Muriano (Córdoba) made by its inhabitants, when the village was bombed by Francoist aircraft coming from Electromecánica airdrome, which was located around 7.8 km in the west of Córdoba City, during the afternoon in which the three columns under the global command of general Varela attacked Cerro Muriano (more specifically Las Malagueñas Hill and Torreárboles Hill, located near the village, and whose capture was essential for the subsequent conquest of it, which happened the following day) having gone out from Córdoba City very early in the morning, at 5:30 a.m.
Photo: Hans Namuth / Georg Reisner. Near the north exit of Cerro Muriano. Afternoon of September 5, 1936. A huge collective panic has just spread, raised by the bombing of the village by Francoist aircraft, intensified from approximately 15:00 h in the afternoon. Everybody believes that the Moroccan troops of tabor of Regulares are about to enter the village, which catalyzes the hasted generalized escape, both by the civil population and the numerous militiamen who were inside Cerro Muriano village.
Reality is that the Francoist commanders haven´t any intention to enter the village on September 5, 1936, and while, the true combat front is in Las Malagueñas, Torreárboles and the Finca of Villa Alicia, where abundant contingents of militiamen and Republican soldiers fight against the Francoist troops striving for assaulting both hills, whose capture is necessary for the subsequent conquest of Cerro Muriano village.
Even, Franz Borkenau, in his book The Spanish Cockpit tells that unlike the village guard, the front line (Las Malagueñas, Finca of Villa Alicia and Torreárboles) remained firm at every moment.
It can be seen that panic-stricken and wishing to flee by all means, a man who was escaping walking has just jumped on the truck and is helped by one of his occupants grabbing him in his trousers, subsequently falling upside down inside tha back platform of the vehicle, where six inhabitants of the village have already mounted, together with two militiamen, one of whom is staring at the photographer, in the midst of a great stress, because the fear to be reached by the Francoist columns, specially the Moroccan troops, is big.
Thirty years have almost elapsed since Richard Whelan, the greatest expert on Capa ever, had a meeting with Hans Namuth in 1982, and this assured him that the pictures taken by Bob of refugees fleeing from a little village near Córdoba City, belonged to Cerro Muriano, because he had likewise been that day in Cerro Muriano together with the also photographer Georg Reisner and the writer Franz Borkenau.
Hans Namuth confirmed Richard Whelan that they didn´t see or came across Capa and Gerda Taro at any moment, but some weeks later, when he watched the pictures of refugees taken by Bob in the number of the French magazine Vu of September 23, 1936, he realized that Robert Capa and Gerda Taro had undoubtedly been there, on recognizing some frightened people escaping from the Francoist air raids, whom he had also photographed, along with some of the places appearing in the images.
Bearing in mind the huge complexity of the events, the very high figure of years elapsed - three quarters of a century- , the chaotic nature of the first months of the Spanish Civil War in which most times the militiamen killed in combat were quickly buried on the spot, complete families of civil citizens were bound to go away to save their lives often remaining uprooted as the front lines evolved, losing their dwellings and properties and finally arriving at different cities and towns all over Spain, usually under pitiful conditions, together with a lot of different factors, the research on the happenings which took place in Cerro Muriano (Córdoba) on September 5, 1936, has certainly been strenuous, and finally it has revealed that Hans Namut, Georg Reisner and Franz Borkenau arrived at Cerro Muriano on September 5, 1936 at around 15:30 h in the afternoon, while Capa and Taro had been in Cerro Muriano area for approximately three days: http://elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com/2011/09/cerro-muriano-75th-anniversary-capa-and.html
A SOLVED MYSTERY
Very recently, elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com has been able to discover the keys of the hurried escape from Cerro Muriano of its inhabitants on September 5, 1936 and which was the true reason of the Francoist air raid on the village, watched live by the Swiss journalist Franz Borkenau, who when remembering the facts in his book The Spanish Cockpit explains that he became rather puzzled on realizing the small size and weight of the bombs (roughly 50 kg) dropped by the Francoist aircraft, their scarce accuracy and brought about damages and very specially something unexplainable: the Moroccan troops of tabor of Regulares could have captured the village with relative ease during September 5, 1936 day, but they didn´t do it.
´ At 15:30 h in the afternoon of September 5, we arrived at the village of Cerro Muriano. That was a full-fledged pandemonium. At a short distance from the village, there´s a little hill full of trees where now and then you could hear the noise of rifles and machine gun opening fire. On the right of the village, the bombing in the morning had fired the wood. At the moment of our arrival, the fight was not evidently very intense.
But we were witnesses of a scene that I didn´t know but within the stories of the Thirty Years War. The whole civil population was fleeing from the village: men, women and children, walking on donkeys, by cars or by trucks which had been gathered at the entrance of the village opposite to the front, so as to transport troops, ammunitions and food. It all, obviously, in the middle of a great chaos.
The women took their children in their arms and the cattle was tied with ropes. They sobbed, the children cried and the men tried to load all the personal belongings they could in a rush. After a few minutes, the village was empty. It had endured a steady bombing by aircraft for the whole morning, accompanied by artillery fire from time to time.
Later on, as usual, calm came from approximately the siesta hour, more or less between 13:00 h and 15:30 h in the afternoon, a rite observed by both sides from the beginning of the war. The inhabitants of the village had hurled themselves at the vehicles, and, either took them by themselves (the few ones who could drive), or with their guns in hand, had made the drivers disobey orders, abandon the battlefield and convey the runaway persons.
Many of the fleeing people bore the CNT badge on their bags and took their rifles not to use them against foe, but against anybody trying to prevent them from escaping. ´
75 years after the events, four copies of photographs rescued from oblivion and from an unknown origin, acquired during late nineties in one of the booths existing then in the Rastro of Madrid, between Square of Campillo and Mira El Sol Street, and which we do believe almost with 100% certainty that were made by Hans Namuth / Georg Reisner in Cerro Muriano (Córdoba) on September 5, 1936 (because the right background in two of them coincides with other pictures made by Hans Namuth/Georg Reisner and Capa such day), along with a surprising finding in an inscription appearing on the upper area of a little bus used as a courier coach in Alicante province and requisitioned by the militiamen probably during late July 1936, have enabled the unravelling of developments and discerning which was the actual wherefore of the bombing of the village by the Francoist planes during the afternoon of September 5, 1936, much more intensified than the one carried out during the morning: to make believe the Republican troops located inside Cerro Muriano village, in front of the Cerro Muriano Train Station (the most important target of the Francoist attack during the next day September 6, 1936 when the village was captured early in the morning) and the Republican contingent placed on the Washeries and Foundries of the Córdoba Copper Company on the east of the village, that the three columns of the Francoist attack were going to attempt taking Cerro Muriano village during such afternoon, just after the aerial bombing.
But truth is that the attack designed by General Varela, a military high officer featuring great experience in ruthless colonial war in Morocco, had a weak point: if they wanted to capture Cerro Muriano village, it was utterly indispensable to previously assault Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles Hills (which is where the front was really during the whole September 5, 1936), full of militiamen, an aim for which the key factor was the Moroccan Tabor of Regulares of Melilla Number 3 under the command of major López Guerrero (with troops on horseback) and the Moroccan Squadrons of Regulares of Ceuta Number 3 and Alhucemas, both of them under the command of major Gerardo Figuerola (with troops on foot), that made up the elite spearhead of the right Francoist column under the global command of colonel Sáenz of Buruaga. These Moroccan forces have got the mission to perform the encircling manoeuver through their north side and its surroundings of the quoted knolls, to fall on the back of the Republican forces defending the summits and south sides of those two hills from the frontal onslaught of the other two Francoist columns attacking through the south slopes.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
But a highly amazing situation discovered by Francisco Moreno Gómez in mid eighties happened which altered the battle scheme devised in advance by General Varela: at roughly 13:00 h in the afternoon of September 5, 1936, the Tabor of Regulares of Melilla Number 3 under the command of major López Guerrero with Moroccan soldiers on horses, tried to penetrate towards the Hill of Las Malagueñas through a ravine located behind the area of Washeries and Foundries of the Córdoba Copper Company, with the aim of encircling Las Malagueñas Hill and the advanced Republican command post (majors Juan Bernal, Balibrea, Armentia and Aviraneta) placed on top of it, when suddenly, an abundant contingent of militiamen from Alcoy (Alicante), on becoming aware of the attack, thrust en masse against the Moroccan professional soldiers, firing at will and forcing them to defensively get stuck to their positions, so on not being able to fulfill the encircling manoeuvre, the advance of the other two Francoist columns (the left one under the command of major Baturone - whose target is Torreárboles- and the middle one under the command of General Varela (whose target is Las Malagueñas) also came to a standstill.
This is a critical moment for the Francoist attack, not only because its success depends to a great extent on the Moroccan tabors of Regulares of the right column (under the command of colonel Sáenz de Buruaga) and the implementation of the encircling manoeuver, but also because on having been stopped by the furious attack of the Alcoyanos and being static at those instants, fighting frontally agaisnt the militiamen, if there was from then on a perpendicular or diagonal attack on the tabor by other Republican forces coming from the village of Cerro Muriano or the area of Washeries and Foundries of the Córdoba Copper Company, or even from reinforcements arrived from El Vacar, the Moroccan troops would have great difficulties to adapt themselves to those new menaces and at the same time going on fighting against the Alcoyanos.
Colonel Sáenz of Buruaga, who is in permanent communication with general Varela, reports him about the real situation, and they decide to intensify the bombing of the village with the Francoist aircraft in order that the Republican troops inside it believe that they are going to attack Cerro Muriano and remain there fixed, when actually the most important targets of the Francoist attacks are Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles Hills (where are most of the Republican forces in the area with the best automatic weapons and artillery), and they haven´t got any intention of assaulting Cerro Muriano village until next they.
Obviously, this is a despicable act, because the inhabitants of the village (mostly mothers, boys, girls, children, babies, old men, old women and many fathers) are mainly having lunch at those moments - a number of mothers still with their aprons on can be seen in some of the pictures of refugees of Cerro Muriano fleeing from the village and taken by Capa- and the bombs, albeit sporting a little size - weighing approximately 50 kg, as explained by Franz Borkenau- and dropped by the Francoist aircraft in an aleatory way from high altitude, bring about with their explosions the panic of both the civil population, hastily escaping northbound towards Obejo Train Station and El Vacar, and the militiamen inside the village, who quickly mount on the trucks and also abandon Cerro Muriano with north direction.
Photo: Hans Namuth / Georg Reisner. Near the north exit of Cerro Muriano. Afternoon of September 5, 1936.
Everybody believes that the Francoist troops, specially the feared Moroccan tabors of Regulares, are about to enter the village within a few minutes immediately after the bombing, when really, the three attacking Francoist columns are having a lot of difficulties to capture Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles Hills - whose assault they won´t be able to perform until approximately ten o´clock in the night- and the survival and further encircling advance of the Moroccan Tabor of Regulares of Melilla Number 3 (under the command of major López Guerrero) and of the Squadrons of Ceuta Number 3 and Alhucemas with Moroccan troops on foot (both of them under the command of major Gerardo Figuerola) depends on the certainty that no other contingent of Republican troops coming from Cerro Muriano village attacks them.
THE LITTLE COURIER COACH SANTA POLA-ALICANTE
elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com has been able to also discover an evidence verifying without any doubt the lavish presence of CNT and FAI militiamen from Alcoy (Alicante) in Cerro Muriano on September 5, 1936.
It is a little courier bus appearing in the background of one of the pictures made by Hans Namuth / Georg Reisner, of which we can glimpse part of its two front wheels and forward upper area, on whose top zone appears written the inscription CORREO SANTA POLA-ALICANTE (COURIER COACH SANTA POLA-ALICANTE).
Photo: Hans Namuth / Georg Reisner. Near the north exit of Cerro Muriano. Afternoon of September 5, 1936
It´s a photograph oozing a lot of stress, since it is taken during the escape of the civil population of Cerro Muriano across the north exit of the village in the afternoon of September 5, 1936. There are three men who have climbed on top of this courier coach Santa Pola-Alicante (probably captured during late July 1936 in Alicante province by the militiamen from Alcoy), while a man wearing formal clothing is talking to them.
And at the same time, very near the camera, we can see part of the cabin and left wheel of a truck on which there are five inhabitants of the village (one of them being an old man wearing a beret) and a highly fidgety CNT bearded militiaman, staring at the photographer. Everybody wants to escape mounting on the trucks, because a great fear has spread and common belief at those moments is that ferocious Moroccan troops of tabors of Regulares are about to enter the village, so all the persons depicted in the photograph are convinced that they are making a hairbreadth escape, exactly what Varela, Sáenz de Buruaga and Baturone want they to believe, and for which they have increased the bombing of the village with their aircraft from approximately 15:00 h in the afternoon.
Very probably, this little bus was included in the aforementioned column which went out of Alcoy on August 7, 1936, going to Córdoba province, and on arriving at Pedro Abad, it split into two halves, one of them going to Cerro Muriano village. It seems apparent that this little courier coach was parked inside Cerro Muriano village and was captured by some people in full helter-skelter flight, both militiamen and civil citizens, who jumped on it quickly to get away as soon as possible. That´s the reason of the walloping restlessness visible in the picture, since all of them are afraid of being reached by the Moroccan troops and are convinced that they have just achieved a hairbreadth escape, exactly what the Francoist commanders want them to believe.
The Francoist commanders are very experienced military high officers, toughened by many battles in Morocco since Abd-El-Krim times, fighting against the very strong men of the Rif from early twenties. They have thoroughly studied the cartographic maps of the area and know that the key of the battle is not in Cerro Muriano, but in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas, the hills whose capture is indispensable for the subsequent conquest of the village of Cerro Muriano, and where vast majority of republican forces and the best armed are, along with the advanced Republican command post in the Mansión de Las Malagueñas, a big and very beautiful countryside house on top of this knoll.
Besides, if Francoist troops try to firstly capture the village of Cerro Muriano, they would leave on their back a lot of abundant contingents of both militiamen and Republican soldiers placed on the summits and surroundings of such hills, well equipped with rifles, machine guns and artillery, and evidently, from the Francoist viewpoint, they are greatly the ones being a significant menace for Córdoba City since late August of 1936, such as was discovered by Francisco Moreno Gómez with his finding in mid eighties of a page of the number of September 6 of Ahora newspaper of Madrid (with information dating back to approximately one week before and including pictures taken in Cerro Muriano area probably between August 31 and September 2 of 1936) in whose images of Torreárboles (two photographs with militiamen occupying its crest and with their rifles and machine guns oriented towards the south, in the direction of Córdoba City) and Las Malagueñas (a picture with Republican soldiers wearing helmets and aiming their rifles), it can be clearly seen that there are great numbers of militiamen and Republican soldiers who have been occupying both hills in a defensive scheme, having lavish quantities of Mauser 1893 caliber 7 x 57 mm rifles, Mosquetones Mauser 1916 caliber 7 x 57 mm and machine guns (mainly Hotchkiss and Maxim Sokolov).
Coming back to the photograph of the little courier bus, on the right of the image can be seen a very sturdy militiaman, who bearing in mind his attire, could belong to the FAI. He is throwing blankets and various clothes inside the truck, possibly to subsequently trying to mount on it. The landscape on the right background belongs to the north exit of Cerro Muriano village and coincides with the one appearing in other photographs made by Hans Namuth / Georg Reisner and Capa on that same day September 5, 1936.
THE PICTURES OF THE FRENCH NEWSPAPER L´INTRANSIGEANT OF SEPTEMBER 21, 1936
During the afternoon of September 5, 1936, Hans Namuth / Georg Reisner made other four pictures which appeared in the number of September 21, 1936 of the French newspaper L´Intransigeant, in half a page, sixteen days after the events. Two of the images are already known, were explained in http://elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com/2010/05/capa-and-refugees-of-cerro-muriano.html and appear strongly trimmed with respect to the original 35 mm negatives, while the two lower photographs are greatly unknown and likewise endured a lot of reframing by the editor regarding their true original aspect ratio 2:3:
Photo: Hans Namuth / Georg Reisner. Near the north exit of Cerro Muriano. Afternoon of September 5, 1936
We do believe that this picture made by Hans Namuth /Georg Reisner is really impressive and very significant to understand the context of this hasty escape raised by collective panic. It can be seen how the mother walks very fast, taking his baby with her left arm and hand leaned on her hip, while probably - out of image - she grabs with her right hand some personal belongings which she will have been able to save in the last moment.
The level of physical effort, nervousness and anxiousness for the life of his son in this woman are huge, and become the pith of this first class graphic document verifying the top-notch photojournalistic work made by Hans Namuth / Georg Reisner in Cerro Muriano village on September 5, 1936, perhaps not valued in its deserved measure during the last decades.
FRANZ BORKENAU, HANS NAMUTH AND GEORG REISNER TAKE SHELTER IN A TUNNEL UNDER THE TRAIN TRACK
Another key element in our research to be able to grasp the happenings is the description made by Franz Borkenau in his book The Spanish Cockpit, when he tells that after entering Cerro Muriano village with Hans Namuth and Georg Reisner and watch that every house had been abandoned, it dawned on them that in spite of it, combat front remained firm, and that then they reached an area in which the left flank of Cerro Muriano is protected by a bank on which the railway passes, turning out to be a higly valuable defense.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
He also remembers that the three of them were in a makeshift Red Cross post which had been built by the Republican troops on the front part of the village, using an old living quarter, and suddenly, an aviation bomb exploded very near.
Likewise, Franz Borkenau reports that a few hours later, they tried to reach the front line again, but the intense machine gun fire prevented them from attaining it, so they decided to take shelter inside the tunnel located under the train tracks, from whose entrance they saw a bomb explode at a few meters´ distance, and whose expansive wave pushed them backwards.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Entrance to the tunnel under the train tracks going across the left flank of Cerro Muriano, inside which Franz Borkenau, Hans Namuth and Georg Reisner took shelter approximately at 17:30 h in the afternoon of September 5, 1936, after having arrived at the north entrance of Cerro Muriano at around 15:30 h and after visiting an improvised Republican Red Cross post located on the front area of the village approximately at 16:30 h. Both the Swiss journalist and the two photographers going with him tried to arrive at the battle front area in Finca de Villa Alicia and Torreárboles (the other one was in Las Malagueñas), but it was impossible for them, because of the presence of small contingents of Moroccan soldiers of Tabor of Regulares, who opened fire with their Mauser rifles and machine guns to avoid any movement of Republican troops or civil persons trying to go down from the village of Cerro Muriano, so Borkenau, Namuth and Reisner had to take refuge in this tunnel to protect themselves from the intense Francoist rifle and machine gun fire, along with the aviation bombs which went on being dropped. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza.
Tunnel where Franz Borkenau, Hans Namuth and Georg Reisner took shelter, with the train track visible on top. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
75 years later. Inner view of the tunnel inside which Franz Borkenau, Hans Namuth and Georg Reisner protected themselves from the aviation bombs, roughly at 18:00 h in the afternoon of September 5, 1936. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza.
And then, he explains that some Moroccan artillery soldiers approached on the left, from the other side of the railways, and had gone beyond the Republican lines, without facing any opposition, so they could enter the village at any moment.
However, Franz Borkenau remembers puzzled thay they didn´t do it.
Reality is that the dreaded Moroccan tabor of regulares troops have very strict orders not to try entering the village of Cerro Muriano until Las Malagueñas, Torreárboles and the Finca of Villa Alicia have been captured, and that 90% or more of theTabor of Regulares of Melilla Moroccan soldiers under the command of major López Guerrero are at those moments fighting with nails and teeth against the anarchist militiamen from Alcoy (Alicante), who have stopped their advance on the nearby area to Las Malagueñas Hill for some hours, which has also slowed the progression of the other two Francoist columns (the left one under the command of major Baturone and the middle one under the command of general Varela).
But the Francoist high officers have also sent small contingents of Moroccan Tabor of Regulares soldiers to the surroundings of the train track adjacent to the left flank of Cerro Muriano, with instructions to open machine gun fire small caliber artillery fire in order that the militiamen defending the village believe that they are going to attack them immediately. And likewise, from approximately 10:00 h in the morning, they have placed samll contingents of the dreaded Moroccan soldiers in the surroundings of Piedra Horadada, where they will show themselves during the whole day to the Republican soldiers and militiamen located defensively in the Washeries and Foundries of the Cordoba Copper Company, in the zone of their visual limit, to make them believe that they can attack them at any moment (something that will not happen until the next day) and fix them also on their positions.
The intention of the Francoist commanders is to fix the Republican forces inside Cerro Muriano village on their positions and avoid any movement of Republican forces from the village towards the surroundings of the north side of Las Malagueñas Hill, because the Alcoyanos have attacked en masse the Tabor of Regulares of Melilla under the command of major López Guerrero, which is at those moments stuck on their positions, without being able to advance or encircling, so if this Moroccan unit is attacked by other Republican forces from different angles, they could be wiped out.
Copyright Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA
Inscribed in the Territorial Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid