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History 2

Britain and the Spanish Anti-Franco Opposition, 1940–1950 by David J. Dunthorn

By David J. Dunthorn

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The simultaneous imposition of Anglo-American oil sanctions on Spain was an unfortunate coincidence obliging Don Juan to counter Franco-inspired stories that he was merely a tool of foreign interests. So, almost immediately after his statement to La Prensa, in a telegram of 3 February 1944, Don Juan confirmed his break with Franco but at the same time appealed for an agreement with him. In April he indicated to General Juan Vigón, Franco’s Air Minister, his willingness to meet Franco, a call which he repeated in October.

The change in tone in Anglo-Spanish relations in 1940–44 and whether this change was matched by a similar modification in Britain’s attitude towards the Spanish anti-Franco opposition are considered in this chapter. 2 In July 1941, Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, reminded the War Cabinet of the basic reasons for this policy: Gibraltar’s use as a naval base and as a staging point for the delivery of aircraft to the Middle East was wholly dependent on the maintenance of Spanish neutrality; any quarrel with Spain was likely to complicate Anglo-Portuguese relations and jeopardise Britain’s air communications through Lisbon; Spain was an important supplier of essential foodstuffs and raw-materials – especially high grade iron-ore – and the short sea haul to Britain saved on shipping.

In the early years of World War II, moreover, the British government, though warning Don Juan against accepting Axis support, made no move itself to assist in the restoration of the Spanish monarchy. So, it seemed to Don Juan at first that a policy of monarchist collaboration with Franco was the only feasible option. Soon, however, the allied landings in French North Africa of November 1942 exposed the vulnerability of the Franco regime and improved Don Juan’s bargaining position. 48 In his first political dec- 24 Britain and the Spanish Anti-Franco Opposition, 1940–1950 laration of 11 October 1935 the young Prince had unreservedly identified himself with Acción Española’s ‘crusade’ against the Second Republic and, in July 1936, while Alfonso XIII was appealing to Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI on behalf of the rebels, Don Juan had had himself smuggled into Spain to fight for the nationalist cause.

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