The Republican offensive in Vilanova de la Barca

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25 July 1938 saw the start of the Republican offensive along the Ebro, and to avoid reinforcements being transferred from the river Segre, Republican commanders prepared a campaign in Vilanova de la Barca. There were two goals to this operation: holding back Franco’s forces; and seizing Balaguer bridgehead, which was under the control of Franco’s army. All told, it was an ambitious, utopian plan.

     The offensive was initiated on the morning of 9 August with attacks spanning the area between Menàrguens and the south of Vilanova. Across the bridge and the two gangways located opposite the town, the guards, the cavalry and twenty T-26 tanks crossed the river and took Franco’s forces by surprise, aided by the artillery and air strikes, causing them to retreat back to their line of resistance located opposite Torrelameu.

     Les forces republicanes aconseguiren ocupar una zona al marge dret del riu Segre de 1.000 metres per 300 metres de profunditat.

     Republican forces succeeded in occupying an area on the left side of the river Segre 1000 metres wide by 300 metres deep. Despite the efforts, the reaction of Franco’s forces took them by surprise owing to their counterattack. Casualties on both sides were substantial, especially Republicans, who were augmented by the flood caused by the Franco supporters to opening of the floodgates swamp of Camarasa and Sant Llorenç. Water power was carried downriver horses, riders, police and everything in its path. A T-26 tank was passed enemy lines. Government forces waited to declining river flows to strengthen and advance its units, but this plan was disrupted by the arrival of Mehala of Tetouan. The following days, the fighting acquired an extreme hardness and the Francoists were reducing the small bridgehead Republican by the flanks, due to tanks T-26 had been stranded near the river.

     On the 17th, to the precariousness of the republican forces, the Francoists, backed by fighter jets and bombers, launched a new attack on the center, where there was a real slaughter when Republican Units wanted, stacked in front of a walkway, retreat to Vilanova. The Moorish troops who had come to the area, massacred about 500 Republicans, 278 of which were buried the same night and the rest were abandoned, due to a new flood was about to come and drag them down the river.

     On August 19th the fighting was over. Everything was back as before the offensive started, there were only the other side of the river, the dead soldiers victims of another failed offensive and remind us that today the remains of a Russian T-26 tank that was rescued from the river Segre.



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