The swift capture of the capital Madrid was key to General Franco’s attempted overthrow of Spain’s Republican government in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). With air support and armoured units supplied by Fascist Italy and Germany, Franco’s Nationalist forces, built around veteran colonial troops and legionnaires, easily routed opposing Republican militias and converged on Madrid. Attacking from the west, their initial assault was directed to the north, through the parkland of the Casa de Campo on 8 November. But the Republicans’ last-ditch defence repulsed them at Los Franceses Bridge. Switching south, the Nationalists then attacked through the Carabanchel suburbs, but house-to-house fighting favoured the local, streetwise opponents and they were once again driven back. On 19 November, they reverted to the Casa de Campo, and finally fought their way across the Manzanares River, and into the northern suburbs. However, heavy casualties forced their withdrawal; Franco signed off by ordering a characteristically vindictive aerial bombardment of mainly civilian targets.
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