Hello and welcome to the history page. We left off last week at the
threshold of the Republican invasion of the Pitiuses, noting that
Commandant Mestre, the islands’ maximum military leader and a staunch
National ally, found himself hard-pressed to defend his domain for a
variety of reasons. Firstly, of the 143 professional soldiers at his
disposal, he had posted 23 in Formentera, thus weakening an already
tenuous position. Secondly, a hefty number of local volunteers deserted
ranks and scattered to the countryside when real military action began
to loom on the horizon. Thirdly, owing to a nearly total stoppage of
commerce between town and country, primary necessities in Vila had
dwindled to dangerously low levels (despite pleas to Majorca for food
and fuel) making it necessary for Mestre to confiscate such staple items
as flour, coffee, sugar and benzene. These shortages, compounded by the
imminent prospect of armed combat, accounted for the exodus of large
portions of land-owning city dwellers to their fincas,
effectively placing Mestre’s forces in a no-win position.
Occupation Draws Nigh
fully understand the Republican intervention in Ibiza and Formentera,
which, after all, were not particularly crucial territories, we must
look to the strategic importance of Majorca as a Mediterranean outpost.
The Pitiuses were but ancillary appendages to the larger island,
important only in the sense that their occupation by National forces
would threaten the security of Majorca as a base of Republican
operations. Therefore, as often occurred in the course of ancient and
medieval history, the Pitiuses were targeted as initial objectives in
the ante-theatre of greater war.
this end, on 30th July, Republican aircraft circled low over
Ibiza, throwing down propagandistic leaflets over Vila in an attempt to
obtain peaceful surrender from Mestre and the Ibicenco people. What
follows is a complete transcript of the proclamation:
The loyal troops, seconded by the people, have suppressed the infamous
rebellion against the Government constituted by the suffrage of Spanish
Palma is being bombarded intensively and surrender is imminent.
Mahón, your sister island, seconds the Government, with [Republican]
naval, air and ground forces fraternizing with her people.
Surrender so that you may avoid needless sacrifice, for your resistance
will be suicide.
Abandon your absurd attitude which, without glory, will only bring you
opprobrium and affront.
Disarm the fascists and ally yourselves with the Popular Front.
REPUBLICANS OF IBIZA:
If Commandant Mestres takes your side, which is the side of Reason and
Justice, tolerate no reprisals against the fascists, for the Government
of the Republic will take justice into its hands in due course.
We invite you to surrender in order to avoid the total destruction of
Do not give up. Evacuate the city. LONG LIVE THE REPUBLIC!
Military Commandant MARQUÉS and
Sergeant and fellow countryman JUAN TORRES
it transpired, these words were written largely in vain for Mestre
(whose name the propagandists managed to misspell twice) was as
entrenched in the rightness of his position as the Republicans were in
theirs. Nonetheless, as we noted earlier, the townspeople did heed the
warning to vacate Vila, and all who could sought refuge in their country
estates. In an unsuccessful attempt to halt this exodus, Mestre levied
fines on anyone abandoning their habitual abode, censored the press and
enjoined the Ibicenco people to place their trust in the new regime.
Approximately sixty leftist sympathizers were incarcerated in the Castle
at Dalt Vila, but none were killed nor was any blood shed during this
initial mild phase of National repression.
The Republican Occupation (August - September 1936)
actual capture of Ibiza was carried out under the auspices of the
Generalitat, (the Catalan government) in conjunction with the Committee
of Anti-Fascist Military Forces of Barcelona. The expedition set off
from Barcelona on 5th August under the command of Captain
Alberto Bayo, with Valencia as its first objective. There the Republican
ranks were beefed up by a mixed regiment of soldiers, guardia civiles,
left-wing activists (including six Ibicenco republicans who, for various
reasons, found themselves in Valencia at the outbreak of war) as well as
a rather motley crew of civilian militias who, in Artur Parron’s words
“had little or no training, were of low social and cultural extraction,
and for whom the expedition was merely an adventure.” This melange of
humanity was headed up by Manuel Uribarry, described by Parron as “a
August, the troops, under the dual leadership of Bayo and Uribarry, set
of from Valencia in two destroyers, the Almirante Miranda and the
Almirante Antequera, as well as a cargo carrier, the Mar
Cantábrico. Their first stop was not Ibiza but Formentera, which
they took hands down due to the smallness of the National detachment
posted there under the command of Mestre’s subordinate, Lieutenant
Miquel Tuells. In his memoir, My Disembarkation in Majorca
(written during his exile in Mexico), Bayo describes the operation in
vivid detail and I, in turn, reproduce it here for the readership:
“From the time we saw land we were possessed by nervousness and the
desire to arrive swiftly.
We hoisted down some life boats and sent off two spokesmen, Justo Tur
and Agustín Gutiérrez, to speak with the factious authorities on the
island, intimidate them into total surrender and force them, in my name,
to present themselves immediately in our ship (the
Miranda), which they did in great haste.
Almost all of the inhabitants on the very beautiful island of Formentera
were humble farmers or fishers who fully sympathized with the republican
institutions but who had succumbed to the yoke of fascism due to the
coercion of firearms wielded by the sergeant of the guardia civil and
the detachment of infantry on that island.
These authorities spoke with me and assured me that there would be no
resistance from any quarter of the island’s population.
[…] In Formentera we arrested Lieutenant Tuells whom I obliged to
contact Commandant Mestres in Ibiza by cable, in my presence, and I
dictated the words he should write:
“My Commandant: I find myself in the position of
having to surrender to the
forces of Captain Bayo which have come in two warships and two carriers
there is a discrepancy for other sources site only one carrier] with
of soldiers, militias and abundant war
They have yet to arrive at this headquarter but resistance is useless.
minutes they will be here.
I inform you that tomorrow they will attack the island [of Ibiza] at
points with aviation, artillery and abundant personnel.
Here they have not taken reprisals and their moral is very high. They
say that if
Ibiza surrenders there will be no bloodshed, but
if there is resistance all those
who oppose them will be swept away.”
Mestres gave the signal that
he had received the telegram but did not reply.
Half an hour later I called
him by cable and he attended my request for an interview.
I began by telling him
“Commandant Mestres: I have come at the helm of a
strong regiment to re-establish constitutional legality, violated by a
small group of traitors who have taken control of that island.
I have sufficient forces at my disposal to take
the island quickly despite any resistance, large or small, that you may
If you give yourselves up, your lives will be
spared. If you want blood, you will have it in abundance.
Think it over quickly and give me your answer in
five minutes, which is the maximum time I will grant you.
Your head is on the guillotine of war. It is up to
you what I do with it.
Five minutes later he
answered me thusly:
“The blood you wish to shed will be shed.”
Ironically, both Mestre and Tuells were subsequently executed, the
former by the Republicans for his opposition, the later by the Nationals
for his surrender. Join us next week as we go on to explore the imbrued
events of Ibiza’s five-week Republican occupation. Until then.