We all know about the enormous number of publications based on the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) and how, these kind of conflicts can generate the greatest of passions and the most diverse interpretations. Much of the published titles came from personal diaries and memories of combatants from both sides, among countless other documents guarded in various public and private archives. It seemed almost impossible to find new sources to clear and clarify more details on one of the most important and tragic pages in the history of Spain, but it is not.
In the beginning of 2010 the Popular Foundation for Basque Studies received a visit from the holder of a documentary fund about the Spanish civil war which, as we shall see, was completely ignored by professionals of history and, of course, by general public. This archive collects documents of affiliation of Basque carlist requetés born in the deepest valleys of Guipuzcoa in various regiments. We were astonished by the novelty and eloquence of such documentation that had been jealously and lovingly guarded for over seventy years.
The fund of the Carlist War Council of Guipuzcoa collects 3,300 membership forms in the three regiments of Guipuzkoa -Oriamendi, San Ignacio and Zumalacárregui and the ones attached to Requeté Campaign Radio (Transmissions) service - combining a set of 12,800 documents. The documentary fund has preserved the reference of the three hundred seventy-seven requetés from Guipuzcoa killed in the battlefields. The highest numbering form, 4,226, indicates that almost a thousand references of undoubted historic value were lost. It is a significant number, of course, but without those references we can still note the active presence of many Basques enrolled in regiments of requetés.
One of the most important aspects of this Archive is that it refers to a period in which the formation of those units was absolutely voluntary, and it was not subject to any government recruit at all. This feature allows a comprehensive analysis to research on the religious, political and other type of reasons that motivated volunteers to enlist in the Requeté and, of course, on the socio-political reality of Guipuzcoa.
The existence of volunteers from Biscay reflected in the membership forms can be explained as follows: they were in Guipuzcoa at the time when such regiments were formed. Although Unification Decree of April 1937 dictated by Franco ended the recruit volunteers for the Requeté militias, there was still time to organize two more regiments in Biscay: Nuestra Señora de Begoña and Ortiz de Zarate. Besides, before the setting those two regiments many Basques participated in the Nuestra Señora de Estibaliz, Virgen Blanca and Nuestra Señora de Begoña (Álava) regiments from Álava.
The Oriamendi regiment was created in San Sebastian by initiative of the Carlist War Council of Guipuzcoa in September 1936, a few days after the requetés from Navarra took the city. The Carlist War Council of Guipuzcoa was the administrative body formed by carlist leaders and guarantors of Tradition, in charge of creating the various regiments. In Guipuzcoa the people responsible for highest body of carlism were Lt. Col. Luis Barrios and civils Antonio Arrue, Francisco Juaristi, Ignacio Orbe, Benigno Oreja, Antonio Jose Eceibarrena and Antonio Olazabal.
The Oriamendi regiment was formed by the company San Martin de Loinaz, from Beasaín, plus other volunteers from San Sebastián, Tolosa and Villafranca. The San Ignacio regiment was composed by volunteers born in Azpeitia, Azcoitia, Zarauz, Zumaya, Cestona. Finally, the Zumalacárregui regiment was formed by people from Oñate, Vergara, Mondragón and other towns in the region.
The Oriamendi regiment was characterised from the beginning of the offensive of Biscay and in the fightings Arechavaleta front by its tribute of blood. In fact, in this attack they had 127 killed and wounded, being among the first of them Commander Luis Guijosa Leguia. Fightings of Mondragon Ochandiano, Saibigain, the rocks of Urquiola... would make their way to Bilbao.
The San Ignacio regiment stood out in the combat of Peña Lemona in June 1937, where its four captains and 177 requetés (of 400 soldiers) were killed. The regiment was reduced to a single company.
The Zumalacarregui regiment also suffered numerous losses in the campaign of Biscay. They had 270 killed and wounded.
These regiments, together with other regiments of the same traditionalist significance of Alava, Biscay and Navarre were the spearhead of the national army. Integrated into the Brigades of Navarre, they took part at the forefront of combats of the Northern Front, Brunete, Teruel, the battle of the Ebro and at the final offensive in Levante.
In short, thanks to the presentation of the fund of the Carlist War Council Guipuzcoa, scholars of Basque past will be able to issue more accurate judgments of a transcendental part of our history.
Data search for the general public likely to be performed by the field surname. Although more than half a century has passed since this horrible tragedy ended, the children and grandchildren of the fighters want to know what happened to our parents and grandparents, in which regiments they fought, and if they were wounded and evacuated from the war fronts. The records of the deceased are the ones that provide more information as they have information about the place where they died, what kind of wound they suffered, as well as obituaries and death notices published in the local press.
But you can also search other fields to understand better the requeté volunteering, since you can learn the profession of the Red Berets, what villages they came from, in what regiments they enlisted... Certainly interesting data to conduct historical and sociological studies on the Basque reality of those eventful years.