31 Pages


ABOUT FOUR WEEKS AGO WHEN THE ENEMY BROKE through our lines, first at Getafe and then at Villa Verde, I thought for a moment that all was lost, and I was not alone in thinking so. I had seen our scattered companies decimated by the machine-gun fire of the low flying Heinkels. As we went by, villages and stations were bursting into flames and collapsing under shell-fire. Everything that stood in the way of the Moorish cavalry was cut down and our troops were thrown back to the bridge of the Princesses and the bridge of the French. I maintain that in those days it was the women who saved Madrid. They literally chased back to the front the men who were seeking refuge in their homes; they themselves picked up the rifles that had been thrown away and defended the entrance to the town from behind hastily thrown-up barricades. It soon

became clear that the stampede of the previous days could not be ascribed to cowardice on the part of the militiamen; it bore all the characteristic marks of an unreasoning panic. They who had fled the previous days now streamed back to their companies, not only offering resistance, but actually launching a counter-offensive under infinitely more difficult circumstances. With boundless bravery and at the cost of frightful sacrifices, they succeeded in definitely checking the enemy’s further progress and in winning back a number of important positions. I cannot sufficiently insist upon the fact that our militiamen are the finest and bravest material it is possible to imagine, provided they are well led. In many respects, however, they are mere children, and extraordinarily susceptible to psychological influences when energetic leadership is lacking or the officers lose their heads. When later they recover their balance, their very sense of shame induces them to perform the maddest acts of bravery in order to make good. The days of Getafe and Villa Verde were also the days when boys like Col, armed only with a few hand-grenades, captured one enemy tank after the other.