Skip to main content

Illustrated timeline of the Spanish Civil War (in-depth)

This timeline is divided into four sections, one for each year of the conflict: 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939.

Most of the images are from documents made available online as part of our Spanish Civil War digitisation project. When a full online version is available, a 'link' symbol should appear after the image - click on the thumbnail to see the complete document.

Click on the highlighted words in the text to search for that keyword in our database of Spanish Civil War archives.

1936

Popular Front
15 January
Centre-left and left political parties agree to jointly contest parliamentary elections as the ‘Popular Front’.
Elections
16 February
Elections held. The ‘Popular Front’ win a majority in the Cortes (parliament).
October, 1934
19 February

Republican ‘Popular Front’ government formed, with Manuel Azaña as Prime Minister.
 
The new administration declares an amnesty of political prisoners, many of whom had been imprisoned since October 1934 (following a violently suppressed uprising in Asturias and Catalonia against the Lerroux government).
General Franco
22 February
General Francisco Franco removed from his position as Chief of the General Staff in Madrid, and made military commander of the Canary Islands.
Lluis Companys
26 February
Generalitat of Catalonia re-established, with Lluis Companys as President.
General Mola
28 February
General Emilio Mola relieved of his command in charge of the Army of Africa, and posted to the provincial garrison at Pamplona.
General Franco and General Mola
8 March
Meeting of officers in Madrid (including General Mola and General Franco) to discuss military coup to be headed by General Sanjurjo.
Fascist demonstration
15 March
The fascist organisation the Falange is outlawed by the government following attempts by its members to assassinate Luis Jiménez Asúa, a Socialist member of the Cortes, on 10 March, and the trade union leader Francisco Largo Caballero on 14 March. Its leader, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, is arrested for illegal possession of weapons.
Niceto Alcalá Zamora
7 April
Niceto Alcalá Zamora removed as President of the Spanish Republic.
French Popular Front
3 May
French general election won by the Popular Front - a coalition of socialist, radical and communist parties.
Manuel Azaña
10 May
Manuel Azaña becomes President of the Spanish Republic.
Indalecio Prieto
13 May
Santiago Casares Quiroga becomes Prime Minister, after the post was refused by Indalecio Prieto.
General Mola
25 May
‘Instrucción reservada no.1’ sent by General Emilio Mola, regarding need to unite military and political groups behind a planned military coup.
Leon Blum
4 June
Léon Blum, leader of the Socialist Party, becomes Prime Minister of France. He forms a government composed of socialist and radical politicans.

 

Blum served as Prime Minister of the Popular Front government between 4 June 1936 - 22 June 1937 and 13 March - 10 April 1938. The Radical politician Camille Chautemps was Prime Minister between 22 June 1937 - 13 March 1938.
12-13 July
Murder of Lieutenant José Castillo Seria (a socialist member of the Assault Guard) by Falangist gunmen in Madrid. Murder of Monarchist leader José Calvo Sotelo in revenge.

"Supporting the Fascist Murderers in Spain"

17-18 July
Start of military rebellion against government in North Africa, then mainland Spain.
Distribution of arms
19-20 July
The military uprising is defeated in Madrid and Barcelona. Morocco, Galicia, Navarre, Old Castile and Seville soon come under the control of the rebels.
Distribution of arms
19 July
José Giral Pereira becomes Prime Minister, following the collapse of the government of Santiago Casares Quiroga and the failure of Diego Martinez Barrio to form an administration. Giral dissolves the army by decree and orders arms to be handed out to workers' organisations.
General Sanjurjo
20 July
Death of General Sanjurjo, the intended figurehead of the military coup, in an aeroplane crash in Portugal.
Franco at Alcazar
21 July - 27 September
Members of the Civil Guard and military cadets are besieged in the Alcazar citadel, Toledo, by pro-government forces. After more than two months the siege was raised by Nationalist troops commanded by General Franco.
 
The relief of Alcazar was seen as a great symbolic victory by the Nationalists, and stories of 'red' atrocities towards civilians during the siege were used in anti-government propaganda.
Barcelona Peoples’ Olympiad
22-26 July
Intended dates of the Barcelona Peoples’ Olympiad, organised as a socialist counterpoint to the Berlin Olympic games. It was cancelled due to the outbreak of war.
General Cabanellas
23 July
Alternative military government - Junta de Defensa Nacional - established by the rebels at Burgos (President: General Miguel Cabanellas).
German munitions
Late July onwards
Italian and German military supplies, including aircraft, received by the rebels in North Africa and Spain. The Soviet Union, through the Comintern, agrees to send aid to the Republican side.
History of non-intervention
1 August
The French Cabinet appeal to the British and Italian Governments for "the rapid adoption and rigid observance of an agreed arrangement for non-intervention in Spain". During August, key governments (including Portugal, Germany, Italy, the USSR, and Britain) state that "in principle" they will accept such an agreement, and not send military supplies to Spain.
General Franco
6 August
Arrival in Spain of General Francisco Franco from North Africa.
Munitions
8 August
The French Government suspends arms sales and closes the border with Spain.
Badajoz
14 August
Capture of Badajoz, Extremadura, by Nationalist forces commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Juan Yagüe. The systematic massacre of an estimated 2,000 - 4,000 civilians followed.
 
Badajoz was used in Republican propaganda as a symbol of Nationalist barbarism. The Nationalists' use of Moroccan troops ("Moors") to perpetrate atrocities against Spaniards in Badajoz and elsewhere was often highlighted.
Federico García Lorca
18 August
Arrest of the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca by Nationalists in Granada. He is subsequently shot dead.
'Foreign Help'
19 August
British government ban on arms exports (including civil aircraft) to Spain comes into force.
Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party: Only Stalin remains
19-24 August
First Moscow Show Trial: 16 defendents sentenced to death for supposedly plotting to kill the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Subsequent show trials of leading Bolsheviks take place in January 1937 and March 1938.
Francisco Largo Caballero
4 September
Francisco Largo Caballero replaces José Giral Pereira as Prime Minister. He heads a coalition of socialists, communists and Left Republicans.
Capture of Irun
5 September
Irun is taken by the Nationalists.
 
Large areas of the town were set alight by Republicans (usually identified as militants of the anarchist CNT-FAI) as they retreated. Nationalists would subsequently use the example of Irun as supporting evidence when they argued that the destruction of towns such as Guernica was caused by Republican arson rather than Nationalist bombardment.

"The flickering flame

9 September
First meeting of international supervisory committee on Non-Intervention in London. 26 countries are represented.
Parade through San Sebastian
13 September
The Nationalists take San Sebastian.
Spanish gold
13 September
The Republican Council of Ministers authorises the transfer of gold and silver to Moscow, to obtain military aid from the Soviet Union.
Nationalist generals
21 September
Rebel leaders agree that General Franco should be appointed supreme commander of the Nationalist forces (Generalissimo).
Franco as head of state
28 September
General Franco announced as ‘Head of the Spanish State’.
'The "Nationalists"'
30 September
Pastoral letter praising the Nationalist ‘crusade’ published by the Bishop of Salamanca, Plá y Daniel.
Members of the International Brigade
October
Arrival of first International Brigade (Brigadas Internacionales) volunteers.
General Franco being invested at Burgos
1 October
General Franco formally invested as Caudillo (leader) in throne room at Burgos.
Basque crest
1 October
Formal establishment of Republic of Euzkadi (Basque Country), under President José Antonio Aguirre. Confimed at Guernica on 7 October.
Stalin and Lenin in Spanish propaganda
6 October
Representatives of the Soviet Union state that they will be no more bound by non-intervention than Germany, Italy and Portugal have been. Within a month tanks and fighter planes from the U.S.S.R. are in action on the Republican side.
Regular Republican army unit
18 October
Republican government decree announces the creation of 'mixed brigades', combining members of regular army units and militia groups into a 'Popular Army'.
Rome-Berlin Axis
25 October
Treaty of friendship signed between Italy and Germany, laying the foundations for the Rome-Berlin Axis.
Republican troops near Madrid
2 November
Nationalist troops capture Brunete.
4 November
Representatives of the anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) - Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI) join the Popular Front government.
General José Miaja
6 November
Evacuation of Republican government from Madrid to Valencia. A Junta de Defensa, under General José Miaja, is left in charge of the capital’s defence.
War and peace
7 November
Start of Nationalist ground assault on Madrid.
German aircraft
Mid November
Arrival of first contingents of the German Condor Legion. They are used as part of the Nationalist offensive on Madrid.
Hitler and Franco
18 November
Germany and Italy recognise the government of General Franco as the legitimate government of Spain.
Funeral of Durriti
19 November
Death of the anarchist Buenaventura Durruti at Madrid. Three days later, nearly half a million people were estimated to have taken part in his funeral procession at Barcelona.
Members of the Falange
20 November
Execution of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, leader of the Falange, by Republicans at Alicante.
Mussolini
28 November
General Franco signs pact with representatives of Mussolini, agreeing to Italian control of the Mediterranean in return for military aid.
Captured Italian soldiers
6 December
Mussolini agrees to send an expeditionary force - the Italian Corpo di Truppe Volontarie (CVT) - to assist Nationalist troops in Spain. They arrive in Spain later in December.



1937

International Brigade: List of relatives of deceased

6 February
Start of the Battle of Jarama - a Nationalist offensive to cross the river Jarama, to the east of Madrid. It continued for most of February.
Malaga
7 February
The southern port of Malaga is taken by Nationalist forces.
Guadalajara
8-18 March
Battle of Guadalajara (Nationalist offensive). The city of Guadalajara is 34 miles north east of Madrid.
Basque soldiers
30 March
Start of Nationalist offensive on the northern front, commanded by General Mola.
Durango
31 March
Bombing of the Basque town of Durango by German and Italian aircraft.
Publicity for the film 'Blockade'
6 April
Nationalists announce blockade of Republican ports on the north (Cantabrian) coast.
19 April
Franco orders the amalgamation of political groups, including the Falange, Carlists and Renovación Española, into one party (Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista), with himself as leader.
Press communique
19 April
Non-Intervention Committee scheme to patrol ports and frontiers comes into effect.
Guernica
26 April
Destruction of the Basque capital of Guernica by aerial attack from German ‘planes.
Barcelona Bulletin
3-8 May
‘Events of May’ in Barcelona: Divisions between different Republican groups (Communists, socialists and anarchists) result in street fighting. Those killed include the trade union leader and socialist politician Antonio Sesé, and the Italian anarchists Camillo Berneri and Franco Barbieri.
Juan Negrín
17 May
Juan Negrín López becomes Republican Prime Minister, replacing Francisco Largo Caballero. His new government contains more Communists.
Neville Chamberlain
28 May
Neville Chamberlain replaces Stanley Baldwin as Prime Minister of the 'National' Government in the UK.
 
The National Government was first formed in 1931, following the collapse of the minority Labour government and in response to the international economic crisis. In theory it was a coalition of all major parties; in practice the Labour Party split over the issue, with the majority of Labour M.P.s refusing to support the policies of the new government. By 1937, the 'National' government was very much a Conservative dominated administration.
Otto von Bismark
30 May
Germany and Italy withdraw from Non-Intervention Committee.

General Mola

3 June
Death of the Nationalist commander General Emilio Mola in an aircrash.
Huesca
12 June
Start of Republican offensive against Huesca. The commander of the operation, General Lukács, is killed. Offensive abandoned on 19 June.
POUM
16 June
Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM) declared illegal by the Republican government. Its leaders are arrested, (including Andres Nin, killed several days later).
Bilbao
19 June
Entry of Nationalist forces into the Basque city of Bilbao.
Clergy
1 July
Spanish Bishops collectively endorse Franco as legitimate ruler of Spain.
List of British International Brigaders killed in action
6-26 July
Battle of Brunete - Republican offensive against Nationalist forces to the west of Madrid.
Picasso
July
First exhibition of Picasso's painting 'Guernica' in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exposition.
Map of Spain
14 August
Start of Nationalist offensive towards Santander and Asturias.
24 August
Start of Republican offensive in Aragon (Battle of Belchite).
26 August
Capture of Santander by Nationalist forces.
Pope
28 August
The Vatican recognises Franco as ruler of Spain.
View of torpedo
10 September
Start of Nyon Conference, in Switzerland, to discuss Italian submarine attacks on international shipping.
Gijon
21 October
Capture of Gijon (and Asturias) by Nationalist forces. All of the Cantabrian (north) coast is now under Nationalist control.

Cortes in session

Late October
Republican government moves from Valencia to Barcelona.
CNT-FAI
12 November
The anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) withdraws from the Popular Front government.
14 December 1937 - 22 February 1938
Battle of Teruel. Republican forces capture Teruel, before being forced to retreat by a Nationalist counter-attack.



1938

Burgos
30 January
Franco constitutes his first cabinet of ministers.
Eden
20 February
Anthony Eden resigns as British Foreign Secretary in protest over the government’s policy of appeasement. Replaced by Lord Halifax.

CNT-FAI Bulletin

9 March
Start of Nationalist offensive in Aragon.
Austria
12 March
Germany invades Austria.
French propaganda leaflet
16-18 March
Major bombardment of Barcelona by Italian aircraft.
Franco-Spanish border
March-June
Border with France temporarily reopened, allowing supplies to be transported by land to the Republicans.
Leon Blum
10 April
In France, the Radical politician Edouard Daladier replaces Leon Blum, a Socialist, as Prime Minister.
Vinaroz
15 April
Catalonia cut off from the rest of Republican Spain, as Nationalist troops take the Mediterranean coastal town of Vinaroz.
16 April
Signing of Anglo-Italian agreement, including provision that Italian troops should be entitled to stay in Spain until the end of the war.

Members of the International Brigade

25 April
Start of Nationalist offensive towards Valencia.
13 points
1 May
Issuing of Negrín’s 13 point declaration of the war aims of the Republican government, intended as a formula for peace negotiations.
Cave hospital
25 July-16 November
Battle of the Ebro. Republican troops launch an offensive across the River Ebro. Despite initial success, the Republican army is eventually forced back across the river by Nationalist counter-attacks.
International Brigade
21 September
Negrín announces unconditional withdrawal of the International Brigade in speech at the League of Nations.
Munich
30 September
Munich Agreement, transferring the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Germany, signed by the leaders of Germany, Britain, France and Italy.
International Brigade parade
4 October
Withdrawal of International Brigade from the front.
POUM prisoners
11 October
Start of trial of POUM leaders before Tribunal of Espionage and High Treason.
Report to Spanish Medical Aid Committee
23 December
Start of Nationalist offensive in Catalonia.



1939

26 January
Nationalist forces enter Barcelona. The Republican government had transferred from Barcelona to Figueras.
Cortes
1 February
Last meeting of Republican Parliament (Cortes) in Spain (held at Figueras). It approves Dr Negrin's three points for the establishment of peace. Nationalist forces occupy Figueras seven days later.
Law of Political Responsibilities
9 February
Law of Political Responsibilities introduced by Franco. It allows penalties (including imprisonment and confiscation of property) to be imposed on any supporters of the Republic, present or past.
Refugees
10 February
Fall of Catalonia. In the preceeding week thousands of refugees flee to France, including the President of the Republic, Manuel Azaña.
Martinez Barrio
27 February
Britain and France recognise Franco’s government.

 

Azaña resigns as President of the Republic, succeeded by Diego Martinez Barrio, leader of the Cortes.
Besteiro
5 March
Successful coup d'etat in Madrid against the government of Juan Negrín. A Junta de Defensa is formed under the leadership of Colonel Segismundo Casado, supported by Julian Besteiro and General Miaja. Fighting within the Republican ranks (between rival supporters of the Junta and Negrin) follows.
Czechoslovakia
15 March
Germany invades Czechoslovakia.
Madrid
28 March
Madrid taken by Nationalist forces.
1 April
Republican armies surrender. Franco declares war to be over.
Hitler
September
Outbreak of the Second World War:
The German army invades Poland on 1 September.
Britain and France declare war on Germany on 3 September.
Spain remains officially neutral throughout the Second World War.

 

This timeline was compiled using a range of archive material and published sources.

Books used include: Antony Beevor, 'The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939' (Phoenix, 2006); Julian Casanova, 'The Spanish Republic and Civil War' (Cambridge University Press, 2010); Peter Darman, 'Heroic Voices of the Spanish Civil War' (New Holland, 2009); Andy Durgan, 'The Spanish Civil War' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007); Helen Graham, 'The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction' (Oxford University Press, 2005); and Gabriel Jackson, 'The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931-1939' (Princeton University Press, 1965).