Bibiano Morcillo: A Veteran’s Story

Bibiano Morcillo García is a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, 94 years old at the time of our March 2009 interview with him. Our GEFREMA tour guide and GEFREMA president, Antonio Morcillo, arranged for us to meet and interview his father. On March 9, 2009, Bibiano shared with us his amazing story as a 21 year-old soldier in the Spanish army during the first moments of civil war in Madrid.

Bibiano’s StoryBibiano Morcillo
Bibiano first began his military career upon the urging of a French professor, who suggested he join the military academy. In 1936, he was a volunteer in the Regiment of Combat Engineers of the 1st Division of the Cuartel de la Montaña (Barracks of the Mountain) in Madrid. His duties as assistant to Lieutenant López Sánchez were to go to the Barracks to get the day’s orders and take them to the lieutenant, who lived in a nearby boarding house; the rest of the day he could go to the academy and study.

On July 19, 1936, the lieutenant warned Bibiano to put on his uniform and present himself at the Barracks, because they were going to incite a rebellion. Bibiano did as told, but stopped by a local bar before going to the Barracks. He told the workers that, although it seemed to be a lie, the Barracks would be revolting immediately. Several of the workers from the bar accompanied him to the headquarters of the Communist Party, where he repeated the story. With three more individuals in tow, Bibiano headed to the Ministry of War, where he was sent to meet with the Minister of War himself. Before he could reach him, a colonel stopped Bibiano and said, “Soldier. Don’t you know that we military men shouldn’t get involved in politics? Go immediately and join your unit!”

Bibiano followed orders and returned to the Barracks, where he found everyone inside armed. In the middle of the night, Bibiano and his fellow soldiers awoke and constructed a barricade in front of the main door. The next morning, the Barracks was already surrounded with armed guards in the street and in the balconies and windows of the surrounding buildings.

At 9am on the 20th, the artillery opened fire and planes passed over, dropping little red and white pamphlets. The officers forbade the soldiers to pick them up and the soldiers speculated as to whether the planes were friends or enemies. Bibiano secretly took a pamphlet and read it: “Soldiers. You are discharged by the Republic of Spain. Don’t obey the orders of your officers.” Soon after, the planes returned, this time dropping bombs.

He saw through holes that were in the walls (to ease access between barracks) General Fanjul surrounded by officers. They carried bombs in each hand and constantly screamed, “Arriba, España!” After a plane flew over and dropped a bomb nearby, most of the officers were left dead or badly-wounded. Then Bibiano noticed a strange silence. Had the fight ended?

He slowly approached the door, which soon opened, revealing an incredible crowd: people with rocks, sticks, pistols, mixed with armed guards. Bibiano called it an impressive scene, likening it to the storming of the Bastille. The crowd rushed in, pushing Bibiano into a nearby room in which he saw the bodies of several officers, who he believes must have committed suicide once it was clear the revolt had failed.

He led the crowd to the armory and he was told to take off his army jacket, since that distinguished friend from enemy. He also heard word that General Fanjul and Coronel Quintana had tried to escape, but were arrested on a nearby street.

Bibiano stumbled upon another soldier from his company. The soldier had distinguished himself in favor of the revolt when the pamphlets fell. Bibiano grabbed his arm and said, “You’re a fascist!” Someone was walking by and placed the barrel of his gun against the man’s chest and asked threateningly, “This one is a fascist?” The soldier, scared to death, urinated on himself and stammered, “No! I’m not a fascist! Viva el fascio! No, no! Viva Largo Caballero!” (Francisco Largo Caballero was a famous leader of the Socialist Party in Spain). Bibiano pushed the barrel of the gun away and told the man with the gun to let the soldier go.

Bibiano grabbed a gun and boarded a bus, which took the crowd to an encampment. Here they all heard news that the military had revolted. At this encampment, Bibiano found dead, wounded, and abandoned horses strewn about with cars in the courtyard. He also noticed a cadaver covered with a blanket on a nearby staircase. He got a bit closer and lifted the blanket, revealing the body of General García de la Herrán.

Video of our Interview with Bibiano (3-9-2009)


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