Being now faced with forbiddingly strong defenses in Aragon (15+CF/hex), the Insurgents shifted their stance, railed their elite formations into Castilla, and started a strong offensive on a broad front in the central plain between Albacete and Cuenca. The main thrust developed along the Madrid-Cartagena rail line and penetrated to within a few miles of Albacete, apart from Teruel the only city once held by Nationalists and now still in Loyalist hands. The attack near Cuenca was once again spearheaded by the small but effective Nationalist force of light tanks and also included engineers to contend with enemy entrenchments. In Aragon the Nationalists pulled more troops out of the line, to be available for exploitation of any successes elsewhere. The fronts in the mountains between Teruel and Cuenca and between Albacete and the Mediterranean remained quiet. While the Republicans had kept their fighters and fighter bombers concentrated in Aragon, the Nationalists Airforce struck again at targets in Valencia and Murcia. Targeted were ships in port at Valencia and Cartagena and rail lines near Valencia and Albacete. This time, anti-aircraft fire proved ineffective, and Ju-52s from the Legion Kondor hit the cruiser Miguel de Cervantes at Cartagena in a low-level bombing run, causing her to blow up (in the words of Franco’s delighted press “avenging the slaughter of her officers at the hands of the mutinuous crew” a year ago). Except for this success, however, little damage was caused. (Historical footnote: Miguel de Cervantes was of course not the only vessel on which this happened, but by all accounts the massacre aboard her was the worst. Whether it can be called mutiny is debatable, however: The crews acted on instruction from the Loyalist-controlled Admiralty in Madrid.


The Loyalist managed to field two new and well-equipped infantry divisions composed of International Brigades. Both were dispatched to Teruel to stop any Insurgent attempts to break through to the sea. Other reinforcements were raised in Murcia and used to patch up the teetering front in the central plain. The Loyalist Airforce kept busy under its new commander. An all-out strike was launched to damage Insurgent air power. A massive attack on Lorca remain without much success, however, and so did smaller excursions against Cordoba and Almeria. The Fleet remained inactive, but Cartagena’s anti-aircraft defenses were beefed up to guard against a repetition of last week’s raid.


The Loyalists appear more concerned about Cataluna and a possible Natinalist breakthrough from Teruel to the sea than about the front in the central plain, where territory seems to be judged expendable. According to informed sources, the shift in Nationalist Schwerpunkt did not come as a surprise and was in fact quite welcome because it relieved the pressure on what is considered the most vital area. This tallies with the relatively small portion of reinforcements the front at Albacete and Cuenca has received.