The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War

The Battles for Madrid


The Spanish Civil War

The Battles for Madrid


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Tour Introduction

This five-day tour explores many of the key events in Spain of late 1936 and mid 1937. You will come away with a better understanding of what happened in those heady days and, perhaps more importantly, be enriched by what you have seen and heard. We will be based in the beautiful city of Madrid with its wonderful museums, parks and art deco architecture. We also take in the dramatic mountains north of the city, the amazing El Escorial Palace and the magnificent medieval city of Toledo.

Colonel Ray Wilkinson, who leads the tour, has been fascinated by the exploits of the International Brigade and the characters who served within, for many years and knows the ground and the local community intimately, which allows us access to some rarely visited sites.


The Spanish Civil War led to the deaths of half a million people, and over 30 years of a dictatorship under Franco, the social and political impact of which is still being felt in Spain today. The conflict was used by some countries as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the Second World War. Commentators have gone so far as to say the Second World War started in 1936 not 1939.

Most western governments (apart from Italy, Germany, and Russia) adopted a noninterventionist policy towards the conflict. In spite of that some 40,000 individuals from around 50 countries volunteered to fight in Spain on the Republican side, and 1,500 foreign nationals, mainly from Britain, Ireland, and Portugal, volunteered to fight for the Nationalists (alongside the large contingents from Nazi Germany and Italy). Amongst their ranks were left wing writers such as George Orwell and John Cornford, Winston Churchill’s anti-fascist nephews Giles and Esmond Romilly, and passionate anti-communists like Peter Kemp. Why did they feel so passionately that they left their homelands, many miles away, to go and fight in a foreign land?


  • With soldier and expert guide Ray Wilkinson
  • Beautiful Madrid, Toledo and El Escorial
  • British and American brigades at Jarama
  • History and culture combined

"Ray's combinations of enthusiasm and knowledge for the subject was perfect - a great privilege for us all."


Day 1 – North of Madrid

Fly London to Madrid. On arrival, travel to the imposing historical residence (El Escorial) of the King of Spain built at the instigation of King Philip II, in 1563. Afterwards visit the Valle de los Caidos (the Valley of the Fallen) built by General Francisco Franco to commemorate the dead of both sides, before checking-in to our hotel in Madrid.

Day 2 – Brunete

Travel to the site of one of the biggest battles on Spanish soil where the British Battalion fought, as part of the 80,000 strong Republican army, attempting to relieve the pressure on Madrid in July 1937. After lunch in the rebuilt town of Brunete return to Madrid and visit the Reina Sofia Museum of modern art in which Picasso’s famous painting, Guernica, is exhibited.

Day 3 – Toledo

Tour the famed Alcazar in Toledo, the well-preserved site of the famous siege and now symbol of Spanish nationalism, where Colonel Jose Moscardo Ituarte and his Nationalist Guarda Civil held out against vastly superior numbers of Republican militia despite the capture and subsequent shooting of his son. Visit the Spanish Army Museum and explore the town. Afterwards return to Madrid to view Nationalist positions on the Casa de Campo from which they launched their main assault on the City.

Day 4 – Jarama

Visit the memorial to the International Brigades at Jarama and walk the ground that the British Battalion, under Captain Tom Wintringham, (and the Lincoln Battalion – their US counterparts), fought over for three dreadful days in February 1937. Take in the privately owned museum of the Battle of Jarama at Morata de Tajuna. Return to Madrid to visit the Temple of Debod, one of the few examples of ancient Egyptian architecture outside of Egypt and the only one in Spain.

Day 5 – University & Return

We visit Ciudad Universitaria (where much of the hard fighting during November 1936 took place) and the Parque del Oeste (Western Park). Late afternoon flight home.

Recommended Reading List

Photo Gallery

  • Valle de los caidos
  • Republican bunker outside Brunete
  • Ray on the bridge across the Rio Guaderrama.
  • Pointing out Suicide Hill, Battle of Jarama
  • Outside the Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo
  • Our first view of Toledo
  • Our final dinner at Amicis
  • Our group in front of the monument to the volunteers
  • Madrid skyline from Casa de Campo
  • Col Ray Wilkinson in action

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