The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

Spanish civil war monument
Spanish civil war monument (Photo credit: pixelnaiad)

Just finished reading Anthony Beevor’s book The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 and it really is an eye opener. I’ve already read a couple of works on The Spanish Civil war such as Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, William Rust’s Britons in Spain, the History of the British Battalion of the XVth International Brigade and some references in Jack Jones’ autobiography Union Man. But nothing of the horror comes across in those references as it does in Beevor’s book. The Spanish Civil War really did nail down the adage that there’s nothing civil in a civil war.

So Beevor’s book tries to take an unbiased overview of the timeline of the awful events and I think he succeeds well. Neither the Republican or Nationalist forces and their respective backers come out well. Everyone is tarnished.

I’m not going to write a review but instead highlight some points which have stuck with me after finishing the book.

  • The British government, especially Eden, Chamberlain and Halifax come out badly. Paralysed by uncertainty and a lack of concern for human suffering.
  • Stalin’s support seems to start out with good intentions but soon falls apart as policy seems to become dictated by propaganda, communist hegemony, fear of the Nazis and paranoia about Trotskyist and Anarchist plots.
  • Italy input is coloured by Mussolini’s character and plays to the stereotypes of Italian warmaking – incompetence, more interested in the sins of the flesh and an inability not to bomb their own troops.
  • The rapidity and willingness of the Spanish to kill with abandon those from the opposing camp.
  • The usual capitalist manoeuvres from the USA in selling equipment to both sides.
  • The greed of Hermann Goering in selling weapons to both to the Nationalist and Republican forces.
  • How the Nazis used the Spanish country and people as a test bed for new weaponry and tactics.
  • The barbarism of the Moors who form part of the Army of Africa.
  • The awful behaviour of the Republicans towards the Catholic church.
  • The absolutely awful behaviour of the Catholic church towards those they viewed as ‘Reds’ – ‘1 month off purgatory for every Red killed’.
  • The usual profiteering of those directing the war, both Republican and Nationalist.
  • The plan by the Spanish Communist leadership to purge the Socialists, Trotskyists and Anarchists when the time is right.
  • The bigotry and racism of some of the International Brigades towards the Spanish – Kleberism.
  • The hatred of the Spanish Communist leadership, people such as Marty and Negrin towards others on the left who weren’t part of the Communist Party.
  • How Spain was forgotten and overshadowed by the events of Czechoslovakia in 1938.

It’s well worth a read.

Authored by Chris Hall

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More Christian Presenters needed on Children’s TV

The BBC have been told to put more Christian presenters on children’s TV to ‘familiarise’ youngsters with different denominations. The study said Christian presenters would ‘validate’ the feelings of Christian children.  It said this was important for young people in their ‘ formative years’.

BBC children’s programmes should include more Catholic, Orthodox and Pentecostal Christians, a report of the corporation recommends. A panel of nine experts said youngsters should be introduced to the diversity of Christian denominations in their early years. While there has been a gradual increased in the representation of these people, they remain ‘still relatively invisible’ in the media, they said.

Demonstrating positive experiences and outcomes will stop Christian children feeling isolated, it said, particularly in rural areas. The report commissioned by the broadcaster, which drew on audience surveys and nine ‘faith experts’, concluded that all genres of programming should regularly feature diverse denominations, with news and drama currently the biggest problem areas.

For dramas and soaps, she recommended bolder storylines featuring Christian characters, while documentaries were deemed to need more Catholic presenters and portrayal of the Orthodox in history. As for comedy, the report concluded that the ‘biggest risk’ was Anglicans being the focus of a joke. This was judged as only truly acceptable when the comedians themselves were Anglican.

Acting director general Tim Davie, chair of the BBC Working Group which commissioned the review, said: ‘The BBC has a fundamental obligation to serve all its audiences. In fact, it’s one of the BBC’s public purposes to reflect the diversity of UK life, especially when 55% of the UK describe themselves as Christian according to the recent census.

Of course the above is a parody of this news item.

But it does make me ask the question as to why someone feels it’s important to have different Christian denominations as Children’s TV presenters? I mean, how do you know if they are Christian, and even if they are what denomination? Are we expected to keep an eye out for how they make the sign of the cross, or whether they genuflect or bow their head?

It’s madness, or as someone else has said:

I don’t want gay presenters, I don’t want straight presenters, I don’t want northern presenters, I don’t want southern presenters, I don’t want black, white, male female, able bodied or disabled presenters. I want competent presenters which seems less and less likely from an increasingly incompetent organisation.

Bishop Devine goes for Cameron

Top man!

…and rightly so.

From the Telegraph:

Joseph Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, said he considered the Prime Minister “out of his depth” and Christians cannot trust him given the “contradiction” between his statements on religious matters and his actions.

Spot on Bishop Devine. Cameron has proven he will say any old rubbish to hide his real agenda.

He also used a two-page letter to Mr Cameron, to accuse him of “belittling” the Church of England by attacking its reluctance to ordain women bishops.

The CofE has a form of democracy in the process of Synod but the Laity in the Synod were just so ‘not with the programme.’ Obviously the Synod got it so wrong* compared to the theological colossus that is Cameron.

The Church is also upset the Prime Minister has refused to support moves by Christians to go to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to demand their right to wear the cross.

Another top man!

Perhaps Cameron thinks they’re the type of Christian that would vote the wrong way in Synod. Obviously not worthy.

In a separate move, Philip Tartaglia, the archbishop of Glasgow, said it was a “great disappointment” that Mr Cameron’s plans to change the laws on royal succession would not end the anomaly that bans the monarch from being Catholic.

Funny how some forms of ‘discrimination’ are more worthy than others.

Bishop Devine used his letter to accuse Mr Cameron of claiming to be an advocate for Christian values while undermining freedom of conscience and family life.
“You vacillate, ambivalent about the role you wish to perform – the disciple of David or Nero,” he wrote, referring to the ECHR row over the cross.
“With such a contradiction between your statements and actions, on what basis can you expect anyone – Christians in particular – to trust or respect you?”

Why would any Christian put their trust in a man like Cameron and others of his ilk?

Accusing the Prime Minister of acting with “indecent haste” to legalise gay marriage, the bishop added: “I suspect it is only a matter of time before you go one step further and outlaw the teaching of Christian doctrine on sexual morality on the grounds of discrimination.”

Coming soon to a country near you.

“So far as the Roman Catholic Church … is concerned, you are out of your depth. We will take no finger-prodding lectures from anyone or any group devoid of moral competence.” 

You have to admire some of the Catholic hierarchy, they do have backbone. Only some though.

A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on the letter but said the debate on gay marriage was “about how rather than if” it would go ahead. Mr Cameron has said he is resisting ECHR action on the cross as he wants such issues dealt with in British courts.

‘How rather than if’ sums it up. This is nothing to do with public support, theology, justice, right or God. An agenda or ‘get with it programme’ has already been decided upon and God help those who don’t toe the line.

Thank God I’m no longer in the CofE. I don’t think I could take such Governmental interference and ignorance driving theology and church practice.

* yes I do know the vote wasn’t about women bishops.

Authored by Chris Hall

The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople

The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of ConstantinopleThe Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople by Jonathan Phillips
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jonathan Phillips has authored a fantastic book in The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople. It’s been immensely enjoyable to read and extremely informative.

Phillips’ book tries to be non-partisan and objective in delving into the political, commercial and theological roots for the Fourth Crusade and the story around why it went astray. He brings comment from both the Western nations and the Roman Catholic church as well as from the Byzantine Empire side, although I would have wanted to read more from the point of view of the Orthodox church.

I’d put this almost on the same level as Herrin’s magnificent book Byzantium: The Surprising Life Of A Medieval Empire.

If you have any interest in the Crusades or this era then this book is a must read.

View all my reviews

Authored by Chris Hall


Epiphany or Twelfth Night today in the Western churches a rememberance of the adoration of the Magi upon the Christ child. In Anglicanism it marks the season of Epiphany, in the Catholic church it’s a single day.

Matthew 2:9-12
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 

I really must do more to relate to the church calendar, New Year’s resolution and all that.

Wonder if the Magi would manage to get through to Bethlehem today?

To Your Health!

Just When I’m Warming To Catholicism II

…along comes an article to derail me.

Tony Blair could accompany the Pope

Not only has the article reminded me that Blair was welcomed into the Catholic church despite his unrepentant attitude over the illegal war and hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq and his appalling contradictory record on all matters pertaining to Catholic social teaching, now they’re planning to have ‘straight guy’ Tone accompany the Holy Father on his trip to England!

Who’s running the show, who’s planning the itinerary? They should sub it out to the National Secular Society or suchlike as you can guarantee they wouldn’t do such an appalling job.

Do the English Catholics really despise Pope Benedict that much?