Wednesday, 10 July 2019
The murder in Alicante of Miquel Grau - the last Francoist victim before the transition to democracy
I must have walked past this memorial dozens of time while out and about in the city or catching the tram from Lucheros station. The final victim of the Francoists during the transition to democracy in Alicante in 1977. Miquel Grau I Gómez. Murdered at Lucheros in October that year while putting up posters to celebrate the Valencian Day that had been outlawed under the years of the dictatorship. He was killed by a brick thrown from a balcony by a fascist supporter. His funeral was attended by nearly 20,000 people and the armed Guardia Civil broke up the procession from the church to the cemetery and seized the coffin. His killer was initially sentenced to a lenient 12 years in prison and even that was later reduced to 6 years on appeal. I am grateful to the Historical Memory group in Alicante for ensuring that Miquel is not forgotten and his story shows just how recent the days before democracy in Spain really are.
Wednesday, 12 June 2019
I was lucky enough to be in Alicante on a saturday morning in late May when the exhibition marking the 80th anniversary of the fall of the City to Franco's forces was on. Even luckier, the museum in the old fire station housing the display was open - something that you need to check in advance if you are planning a trip as the hours are seriously restricted now. It was a beautifully created exhibition with some extraordinary contemporary artefacts and lovingly crafted displays. I found the work on the displacement of thousands of refugees, who had hoped for evacuation from the port side, to the holding area at Los Almendros before being transported to the concentration camp as San Isidro particularly moving. As was the long list of those who died immediately before and after the fall of Alicante - many from suicide as they knew what awaited them at the hands of Franco's thugs. There was a model of the Stanbrooke, the only ship to break the naval blockade and effect a limited evacuation, and I was just pleased to see that those involved in the historical memory work around the Civil War are still doing such great work.
Tuesday, 12 March 2019
Up in the hills behind the new hotels that have sprung up at the south of Arenales, rising up over the Clot De Galvany nature reserve, lies this absolute beauty of a machine gun post. It's a bit of a clamber up to reach it but it really is stunningly well preserved and well worth the effort. Although at some point it looks like the rough stonework has had some repointing it is not sealed up and you can step inside and back in time and peer out of the gun slots with their view across the road network and land to the south. It's tiny inside, probably a one man operation and possibly more for observation purposes. Alongside it runs what look like the remains of a trench network - long filled in with the sand from the dunes but with their stone lips intact. I am pleased to be able to add this important and historic relic to the overall picture we are building up.
I've come to the conclusion that there is a mass of hidden and undocumented Civil War military history buried away in the Clot De Galvany and I am on a mission to uncover it. We know about the well-preserved bunkers and installations on the official trail but I'm after the areas secrets. Having found one collapsed and overgrown bunker near the lake a few months ago I now have an eye for the tell tale signs and am sure these parts of the Republican defensive wall were built in clusters and strategic lines. So, I was well chuffed to spot this the other side of the nature reserves fence and squeezed under to take a look. The straight concrete line is the lip of a trench behind what would have been a domed and camouflaged gun emplacement. The trench has been filled in with sand down the years and the bunker has collapsed but the curved wall is still visible although well overgrown. You can also pick out some of the internal concrete shell that the stone disguise would have covered. Another important discovery.
Tuesday, 4 December 2018
The authorities in Alicante are slowly opening up some of the long-buried civil war architecture that lies beneath this beautiful city and which reveals its brutal past. I was hoping I might catch the team working on the large air raid shelter beneath Plaza Musico Tordera but I was out of luck and had to resort to peeling back the metal grill and trying to grab a shot of the entrance steps. The shelter was built for 700 people and is thought to be perfectly preserved since it was sealed up in 1947. It is due to be opened up to the public along with five other deep shelters over the next year or so. There was some signs of works opening up the large shelter under the steps leading up to IES Jorge Juan. I will be back for further investigations.
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
I must have wandered through the square of the castle in the middle of Santa Pola dozens of times but I had a friend with me who had never been and as he looked up at the bell tower he casually asked "is that a siren up there?". I had never clocked it before and the grey mushroom-shaped metal piece jumped out me as I focussed in. I did a quick check on a previous blog entry and it is very similar to the siren on display in Alicante Market and definitely a throwback to the Civil War. It makes sense, Santa Pola was in the front line for the airborne raids of the Condor Legion bombers and the bell tower would be the logical place to place a siren. And there, over eighty years on, it still sits. I owed Tony a lunch down by the harbour for spotting it and his eagle-eyed vigilance reinforces the motto of the amateur historian - look up!
Wednesday, 26 September 2018
Sometimes as an amateur historian you just get lucky. It's happened to me a few times but occasionally you get the shock of your life when a landscape you are familiar with suddenly throws up some signs of something lurking in the undergrowth that hasn't jumped out at you before. I'd been taking a walk around the Clot De Galvany, more exercise than anything else, and was leaning on the railings on the photo point for the bird spotters overlooking the lake. It's a beautifully tranquil spot and there wasn't a soul in sight other than some wildlife out on the water. As I scanned the surroundings I noticed a glimpse of curved wall that needed checking out. Much of this area was terraced with local rocks by farmers many years ago to conserve water, it's a familiar sight but this was something different. I clambered down the hill and was knocked out to find the partly collapsed remains of a machine gun nest with the rusting anchors of the gun mount still visible. Another one I've not seen documented elsewhere. I was chuffed to bits to log it and photograph it before heading off for some cold beers to celebrate.