Tangier, Northern Morocco, and the Spanish Civil War

TALIM Tangier Gazette Spanish Civil War formatted

The Spanish Civil War erupts, July 1936. From the Tangier Gazette archives at the TALIM research library.

Ali Al Tuma of the Institute for History at Leiden University, the Netherlands, has published "Tangier, Spanish Morocco and Spain's Civil War in Dutch Diplomatic Documents" in the June 2012 issue of JNAS, The Journal of North African Studies (Vol.17:3 (2012) pp.433-453) of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS).  Al Tuma has found a valuable resource in the rarely consulted archives of the former Dutch Legation in Tangier, which in its reports did not hide its distaste for Spanish "reds," as it termed the Republicans.

The following excerpts illustrate the confused and "precarious" situation in Tangier at the outset of the Civil War, which ended with Franco's victory and his later takeover of the Tangier International Zone after the fall of France in June 1940.  The entire article can be obtained through the JNAS website of publisher Taylor & Francis.  The excerpts (in plain text below) are presented with the permission of the author, the publisher, and the JNAS editor.

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Tangier: Spain to the north & Spanish Protectorate to the south; Spanish in the International Zone

An international territory since 1923, Tangier's neutrality was supposed to be guaranteed by "The Powers" – represented in the International Zone by the Committee of Control – in time of war, tested for the first time by the Spanish Civil War.

This was not easy, especially during the first stage of the conflict. Tangier was surrounded by the Spanish Protectorate where the military rebellion against the Republic first started and prevailed. Spanish political and diplomatic representation in Tangier was Republican, but the Spanish colony, the largest European one, was divided between Republicans (the majority) and those pro-Franco.

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Firefights over the bay of Tangier

In July 1936, seven Republican warships came to Tangier, precluded from using the Nationalist-held ports of southern Spain for refuelling.

Republican sailors had formed ‘committees’, imprisoned the officers, and asked Madrid to send leftist officers to take command. Franco requested the Mendoub (Sultan’s representative in Tangier) to prevent the ships from leaving the harbor or he would reserve the right to undertake ‘violent measures’. British and Portuguese envoys requested more ships to safeguard the city. Franco’s planes flew over Tangier from Cadiz, [and Republican] ships opened fire. ‘This happened in the immediate neighborhood of the bay in front of thousands of onlookers’. The situation was so tense that the Comité de Contrôle requested French and Italian marines to guard legations.

[Note: Shortly thereafter a British cargo ship was attacked, and the British destroyer Whitehall engaged Nationalist planes.  The Republican ships left Tangier, but later submarines came into Tangier.]

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