The massacre that the Republican Army unleashed on the civilian population in Castellón in 1938

Salvador Salvador Fontenla Ballesta

In retaliation and in revenge for its defeat, it carried out a widespread massacre of civilians on the night of 13-14 June.

On 13 June 1938, the National Army (EN) advanced towards Castellón, and some of its detachments reached the city centre. The civilian population of the city took to the streets with unrestrained enthusiasm to await their liberating forces, and national flags were hung from their balconies.

Meanwhile, forces of the People’s Army of the Republic retreated towards Castellón. The commanders of the 107th mixed brigade, which had been decimated and was on the verge of being overrun in Borriol, were exasperated by the excited civilians who, fearful, went into the shelters, leaving many balconies adorned with the bicolour flag.

The aforementioned brigade, in retaliation and in revenge for their defeat, carried out a widespread massacre of civilians on the night of the 13th to the 14th, with hand grenades and shootings at their command posts, on the road and elsewhere. Circumstances that make it difficult to quantify, although it is estimated at around two hundred.

The province of Castellón was a major theatre of the civil war between April and July 1938 - ©GTRESONLINE

The province of Castellón was a major theatre of the civil war between April and July 1938 – ©GTRESONLINE

The 426th battalion, of the 107th brigade, was taken prisoner in Castellón by the EN, and those directly involved in the massacre were tried in a court martial (summary 497 of 4 July 1938), whose decisions report the horrors suffered by the people of Castellón, due to their anticipated celebration:

Captain E.M.F. (affiliated with the UGT) “spent all afternoon at the command post of the Brigade and the Division on whose route several corpses of the countrymen killed that afternoon were found, he took a direct part in the death of some by shooting at least two and witnessing the death of more. He boasted of having killed a Guardia de Asalto and more people earlier that day”.

On 13 June, Captain J.M.C.B. “knowing that several prisoners had been killed at the command posts of his Brigade and Division sent to them several of those who had been arrested in Castellón by individuals from his Bn, having ordered hand bombs to be thrown into the shelters of the population to force those who refused to evacuate, of which several victims resulted”. The political delegate S.A.B., (UGT affiliate): “On the 14th he interrogated two men and a woman who were arrested and sent them to the command post, he was involved in the theft of valuables”.

Among the lieutenants involved was A.P.G., (JSU affiliate) who “on the afternoon of the 13th went around several shelters in Castellón and although he did not commit violence in some of them, he arrested all the men he found and sent them to the command posts where they were killed”. Lieutenant J.O.C. (a POUM affiliate) “was in the afternoon of the 13th inside Castellón taking people out of the shelters and sending them to the command posts”.

Another of the lieutenants involved was J.C.C. who, although he did not enter Castellón on the 13th, the following day “after murders had been committed at the command posts, he arrested two men and a woman and sent them to the command post”. Lieutenant J.R.L. did the same on the 13th and “arrested three men and a woman whom he sent to the command post”.

For his part, Lieutenant R.O.P. (a CNT affiliate): “against the orders of the Red command, which was that he should enter Grao, on the afternoon of the 13th he went into Castellón, arresting people he sent to the command posts, knowing what their fate would be”.

Lieutenant A.P.B. “although he was unable to enter Castellón, he led several individuals to the command post where they were killed”. Likewise, Lieutenant P.G.M. “entered Castellón with a machine gun on the 13th, proceeding to the arrest of three civilians whom he delivered to the command post where the murders were being committed”.

The sergeants included: J.C.B. (a UGT member) who “without receiving any orders, ordered three men and a woman, all of them civilians, to be taken to the Company’s command post, and who have disappeared”. Also sergeant J.S.L. (PS affiliate): “had, during the tragic days of 13 and 14 June, Section command, and intervened in arrests and searches carried out in this square on the aforementioned days”.

And Corporal A.R.M. (UGT member): “also took part in the searches of shelters and arrests carried out by the red hordes in this city”. And finally, Corporal J.S.S. (affiliated to the CP and CNT): “on 13 June this year he took a civilian prisoner to the Brigade post, despite the request made by the soldier who accompanied him, Miguel Hernández, to release him, as his life was in danger, he refused to do so, handing him over to the Command Post and on being told by a so-called Red Captain, who was there, to finish him off, he left the Command Post with the prisoner and shot him several times with his rifle, dying as a result of these wounds…. and intervened in the arrests made in this square”.

Sources

This post was translated from:

Fontenla Ballesta, S. (2022) ‘La masacre que el Ejército republicano desató en Castellón contra la población civil en 1938’, El Debate, Madrid, 10 June. Available at: https://www.eldebate.com/historia/20220610/masacre-castellon.html (Accessed: 11 June 2022).

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