Battle of Bielsa pocket
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Spanish Wikipedia. (July 2011)|
|Battle of Bielsa pocket|
|Part of the Spanish Civil War|
Location of Bielsa in Aragon.
|Spanish Republic||Nationalist Spain|
|Commanders and leaders|
The Battle of Bielsa pocket took place between 14 April and the 15 June 1938, during the Spanish Civil War. After the fall of the Aragon front a republican division, on April 1938, was surrounded by the Nationalists in the Cinca River Valley. The division heavily outnumbered managed to hold until July 6 and then crossed the French frontier.
After the battle of Teruel, the Nationalists led by the general Fidel Dávila, launched an offensive in the Aragon front on March 1938. The Nationalists broke the Republican lines, pursued them and by April the Nationalist reached the Mediterranean sea at Vinaroz and the river Segre, occupying Aragon. One republican division was isolated by the Nationalist advance in the valley of the Alto Cinca river, near the French Frontier. By the end of March, the 43rd division of the Republican Army, led by Antonio Beltran, nicknamed El Esquinazado (The Dodger), was surrounded by the Nationalist troops in the Cinca river Valley.
The bielsa pocket
The 43rd division had around 7,000 men with four guns and no air cover. In this front the Nationalists concentrated a force of 14,000 men with 30 guns and overwhelming air power. Virtually isolated, without ammunition reserves, and outnumbered the Republican troops managed to halt the Nationalist attacks due the difficult terrain, the bad weather and the dogged resistance of the troops, but by the end of May became clear that a further resistance was impossible. The Republican troops evacuated to France 4,000 civilians and then, retreated slowly across the French frontier. On July 6 the town of Bielsa fell and on July 16 all the Republican troops croosed into France.
This battle had no military importance, but the resistance of the Esquinazau division, after the disaster of the Aragon retreat, was a morale boost for the Republicans. Furthermore, the French government allowed the republican soldiers to choose between returning to the Republican held territory or the Nationalist held territory. 411 soldiers and five nurses chose the Nationalist held territory, more than 6,000 the Republican held territory.
- Thomas, Hugh. (2001). The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. London.
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