Truth Gradually Emerging
It is still impossible to arrive at the truth as to how the ancient capital of the Basques was destroyed last wcck. •
It has become evident, however, that mining within the town and Red incendiarism must have played a big part in the work of destruction.
Nationalists and Germans strengthen their contradictions of the original reports emanating from Bilbao. According to a Nationalist telegram foreign journalists have been taken over the city since its capture and have not only failed to find bomb holes but have seen traces of mining, and in certain undamaged houses material that seemed to show that petrol had been used.
Among the journalists who visited Guernica at the invitation of the Nationalists was The Times correspondent in Vitoria.
His despatch which The Times describes as a " trivial view," tells a very different tale from the message, critically analysed by the Catholic Herald last week, which• was published from Bilbao on Wednesday week.
On the other hand the Catholic Herald has been assured by the French Catholic paper, L'Aube, that an interview with a, Basque priest. published in L'Aube, is authentic and first-hand, though here again the possibility cannot be put out of court that what he saw was a Red air raid with disguised planes.
A letter in The Times argues that Guernica was a centre for the manufacture of arms.
Example of False Reports
Meanwhile the impossibility of easily getting at the truth in the present state of inflamed passions is illustrated by the fate of the battleship Espana, which was described in the whole of the British press with every circumstantial detail as having been sunk by Red aircraft. The Nationalists contradicted this and asserted that the vessel struck a mine.
The British Admiralty now confirms the Nationalist version. •
'Journalists were shown over Guernica soon after its occupation by the Nationalists. They were afforded full freedom by General Mola's staff to search all over the town and to question with the inhabitants as to how the town was destroyed.
The Nationalist officers drew the attention of the journalist to the fact that nowhere were there any traces of bomb explosions, and that the absence of any traces of projectiles, taken together with facts ascertained in other ways, made it plain that the burning of the town had been a voluntary act.
The attention of the journalists was likewise invited to the fact that places, where the fire did not take hold, especially in houses built of reinforced concrete, had been soused with spirit; and they were able to see, inside houses still intact, traces of flames which must have been caused by petrol, as the smoke had deposited a very thick soot on the walls.
Mines, not Bombs Notwithstanding meticulous searching, the journalists were unable to discover any bomb holes in the town, though they came across a few on the outskirts of the town, particularly near the roads.
Civilians who remained in Guernica after the departure of the Government forces plainly assert that the Reds began their destructive work on Monday night.
Right in the centre of the town were found four large craters made by mines. These had not been filled up and caused considerable inconvenience to vehicular traffic.
Among these journalists was The Tunes Special Correspondent in Vitoria who has telegraphed to The Times his impressions.
" It has been asserted," he stated, " that Guernica was subjected to bombing of exceptional intensity. but the distinctive marks of an aerial bombardment are not numerous. In Durango explosions blew great pieces of the walls of buildings out into the streets, exposing the interiors of houses, and outside walls were indented by flying fragments of shells and bombs— there are pieces of shells and bombs to be found among the wreckage and in the streets, while in the main square are bombholes full of muddy water.
" In Guernica, on the other hand, few fragments of bombs have been recovered, the facades of buildings still standing are unmarked, and the few craters I inspected were larger than anything hitherto made by a bomb in Spain. From their positions it is a fair inference that these craters were caused by exploding mines which were unscientifically laid to cut roads.
" in view of these circumstances it is difficult to believe that Guernica was the target of a bombardment of exceptional intensity or was selected by the Nationalists for art 'experiment with incendiary bombs, as is alleged by the Basques.
" In the investigators' opinion it will be difficult to establish exactly how the fire started."
Basque Priest's Conflicting Report
L'Aube has wired confirmation of the following interview with a Basque priest in the following terms: " We certify that the Basque priest interview is first-hang and we hold his name at your disposal."
DESTRUCTION OF GUERNICA
Summary of Haziness
brothers and one sister at Marquina and my mother at Aulestia. Having arrived in Bilbao on Saturday, and anxious about the rebel advance, I decided on Monday to get them to leave their village as soon as possible.
" On Monday, at three o'clock in the afternoon I motored to Marquina and Aulestia. I had made up my mind to go round by Guernica in order to see some friends.
" Two ambulances accompanied us ...
" I reached the walls of Guernica at a quarter to four. At that moment three aeroplanes, easily recognisable as Junkers, approached-from the sea. Immediately the bombs did enormous damage. The windows of the houses all broke together and the street was soon paved with pieces of glass.
" Maddened with fear, the population ran to take refuge, some towards the mountains, some to shelters.
" I saw, huddled together in doorways, women holding their children tight and praying aloud and with great calm.
" Then came the mass attack. Seven two-engined and six three-engined 'planes arrived and dropped together, as though by signal, all their bombs.
"To remain in Guernica would have been to condemn oneself to death. The population tried to escape. Immediately the 'planes flying low over the hills gave chase, machine-gunning the poor fleeing people.
"For my part. I had to resign myself to watching the burning of the town from which I had had to fly.
Hid Under Bridge " Our motor was about a kilometre away when by chance a 'plane noticed us. Immediately it attacked us and others with it. The bullets crackled against the tree branches which they stripped like a storm of hail. I was able to take cover under a tittle bridge over a stream. I found live other men there, who made room for me.
Observers who saw us began to drop bombs near the bridge " We remained there from six to eight hours waiting for the darkness, which finally drove away the 'planes.
" Guernica was ablaze and one could see from a distance of twenty kilometres the tragic brilliance of the fire."
A storm of indignation, states a telegram from Vitoria, at the deliberate destruction of Guernica by Bolshevist dynamiters and incendiaries has arisen in Nationalist Spain. That town, it is stated, has shared the same fate as Eibar, Durango and "run.
It is announced from Valencia that in semi-official circles the view is taken that the destruction of Guernica was not ordered by Spaniards but by the semi-independent German headquarters at Deva.
Germany indignantly repudiates the charges against her, and attributes them largely to the anti-German feeling in England.
No Spaniard of whatever party, it is said in Valencia, could have been responsible for such an order. These atrocities excite the indignation of the whole of Spain and the whole civilised world. They would unify Spaniards against the foreign invader and General Franco, as a result of them, might well treat with less hostility the idea of a compromise with Valencia, a solution which, whatever people might say, was welcomed more or less everywhere.
Osservatore Comment The only reference to the matter in the Osservatore Romano is a mention that " Guernica appeared to the liberating troops as practically entirely razed to the ground by the destructive fury of the Reds who, before abandoning it, gave it over to the flames."
Guernica was Munition Centre
That Guernica was an armament centre is stated in a letter to The Times by Major H. B. C. Pollard, the Sporting Editor of Country Life and the author of a history of firearms. He writes:
" Sue—The bombing of Guernica is not an attack on an unimportant civilian centre. Guernica is almost as much a centre for the manufacture of small arms as Eibar. It contains many small factories making arms components and throughout the region arms manufacturing is a dominant industry. Much work is carried on by small workers outside the main factories and the abundant water power furnishes cheap electrical energy.
" Viscaya [the Basque Province] has furnished the pistols and small arms for most of the trouble in Spain since the Republic and it has been a profitable industry. The relatively uncontrolled manufacture of cheap yet lethal weapons in Spain has had effects outside the Spanish frontiers. Arms of Spanish make have reached terrorists in India and Egypt and are also widely distributed in France . . .
" No one who knows the industries of this region can believe that Eibar and Guernica are not perfectly legitimate objectives for attack. The Viscayans have chosen to try to make money out of war—and they have apparently lost the war. There need be little sentiment for them, for no community has ever tried to make more trouble in the world by the unrestricted sale of arms than these Basque industrialists. Autonomy for the Basque simply means sales of arms without control—and the world in general has had about enough of this. They are simply reaping what they have sown." "I had," writes the Basque priest, "two