domingo, 26 de julio de 2015


SPANISH has been able to discover both the authorship and location of one more picture made by Robert Capa in Torreárboles hill (2 km in the southwest of Cerrro Muriano) before September 5, 1936.

It is an image appearing on page 127 of the book The Spanish People´s Fight for Liberty by A. Ramos Oliveira (edited by the Spanish Embassy in London in 1937), in 21 x 17 cm size, and in which a group of eight CNT and FAI militiamen from Alcoy (Alicante) going up towards the top of a hill can be seen.

One of them is taking a 7 x 57 mm Mauser caliber Hotchkiss M1914 heavy machine gun featuring a weight of 24, 4 kg on his left shoulder, while the one on his left is about to put the machine gun tripod on the hill summit.

The rest of militiamen walking behind them with ascending direction are transporting ammunition boxes containing five steel strips each one with twenty-four 7 x 57 mm Mauser caliber cartridges for the aforementioned machine gun.

South side of Torreárboles hill, where can be seen the slope whose last meters is necessary to walk up to reach the top. Capa made the picture from the last stretch of it, located slightly on the other side, from a low angle viewing point, shooting his Leica II (Model D) with a Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 lens aiming upwards and framing the militiamen while they were walking up the last meters of slope before reaching the peak of the hill, taking the Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun, its tripod and abundant boxes of 7 x 57 mm Mauser ammunition.

Torreárboles hill summit seen from the northwest slope. 

Everything is happening at very few meters from the top of Torreárboles hill, featuring a height of 692 m and located around 2 km in the southwest of the village of Cerro Muriano (Córdoba).

Selective reframing of the picture made by Capa, in which can be seen the militiaman on the right taking on his left shoulder the heavy 7 x 57 mm Mauser caliber Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun featuring 24,6 kg and Gerda Taro behind him, and on the left of the image is another militiaman who has taken the tripod on his right shoulder until now and is beginning the movement to put it on the ground.

Besides, has been able to discover that the person behind the militiaman taking the machine gun is Gerda Taro, who is wearing the same dark trousers that she has also used throughout late August of 1936 in Santa Eulalia (Aragón Front), where Capa has made her three photographs (one reproduced on page 69 of This is War! Robert Capa at Work exhibition catalogue book, where Gerda Taro appears on the left of the 35 mm contact with these same dark trousers, and other two reproduced on page 034 of the second volume of The Mexican Suitcase exhibition catalogue book, looking at the crater produced by a bomb: a horizontal one in which Gerda Taro appears alone and a vertical one in which she can be seen with four militiamen in the background, being clad in both of them with these dark trousers and a short-sleeved clear shirt).

From the following day after the picture of the militiamen going up with the machine gun, its tripod and the ammunition boxes towards the summit of this hill, Taro changed her dark high trousers for
clearer militiaman trousers.

This picture was made by Capa on September 3 or 4, 1936, and not on September 5, 1936 (day in which he makes his two great reportages The Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia and the Escape of the Cerro Muriano Refugees Across the North Exit of the Village going towards the Obejo Train Station and El Vacar).

Selective reframing showing the second militiamen from right of the picture going up to the summit of Torreárboles with two 7 x 57 mm Mauser ammunition boxes, each one containing five 24 round strips. The great quantity of ammunition boxes for the Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun which are being taken to the peak of this hill by the militiamen appearing in the complete image, indicate that the Republican high officers in the area were preparing the defense against the impending attack of Francoist forces under the command of general Varela, that they deemed certain within one or two days, and the outstanding deployment of weaponry proves that vast majority of Republican forces and militiamen were not inside Cerro Muriano village, but defending Torreárboles, Las Malagueñas and the Finca of Villa Alicia, where was really the combat front on September 5, 1936, the day in which battle took place.

It´s apparent that the militiamen appearing in this image are not in combat, there isn´t any battle at that moment. They are hiking up with the heavy machine gun, its tripod and abundant ammunition boxes towards the top of Torreárboles hill, one or two days before the battle, which will take place from approximately high noon of September 5, 1936, when three Francoist columns under the global command of general Varela, and integrated by high military commanders with long experience in ruthless colonial war in Africa (colonel Sáenz de Buruaga, major López Guerrero, major Gerardo Figuerola, major Sagrado and major Baturone) will attack Las Malagueñas hill and Torreárboles hill (two heights whose conquest is fundamental for the subsequent capture of Cerro Muriano village), along with the Finca of Villa Alicia, in which there are plenty of contingents of CNT and FAI anarchist militiamen from Alcoy (Alicante) and Andalusian militiamen.

The Republican high officers in the area (under the command of major Juan Bernal, and whose general staff - located at the Las malagueñas House, placed on the summit of the hill bearing the same name - also includes majors José Balibrea, Gerardo Armentia and Aviraneta) know that general Varela will attack them soon, since the presence of numerous Republican forces in the area of Cerro Juriano (placed around 15 km in the north of Córdoba city), a strategically very important zone, poses a great threat for Córdoba city, which is in the hands of Francoist troops.

Therefore, they have ordered the militiamen to take machine guns with their ammunition boxes both to the summit of Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas.

Capa gets the picture with his Leica II (Model D) coupled to a Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 lens, from a low position, while the militiamen are going up the last stretch of slope immediately adjacent to the top of Torreárboles, under a scorching sun, and probably using a f/8 diaphragm.

Peak of Torreárboles, in its area at very few meters from the concrete structure with a cylinder on its upper zone, built in 1974 on the base of an old Arab tower and which nowadays crowns Torreárboles hill. In the background, on the right, the city of Córdoba can be seen. From the summit of this hill the panoramic views are amazing and offer an excellent watching quality, so any movement of Francoist troops from Córdoba city towards the area of Cerro Muriano could be easily detected both visually and through binoculars, in such a way that the placing of Hotchkiss M1914 machine guns (whose lethal range was 3,800 m) on the summit enabled to assuredly defend the position with 7 x 57 mm Mauser machine gun fire at a rate of 600 rounds/minute and 724 m/seg muzzle velocity against any enemy attempt to assault the hill, though Torreárboles was finally captured by the left attacking Francoist column on September 5, 1936.

From a military viewpoint, the decision made by the Republican high commanders to install machine guns on top of Torreárboles (in the same way as in Las Malagueñas) is entirely justified, because it is the highest geodesic vertex of the Cordoban range and from its summit there is an exceptional panoramic view of the whole surrounding landscape within a radius of many dozen kilometers (Córdoba city, the ranges of Jaén, Los Villares, Sierra Morena and the villages of the north of Córdoba province), so you can control both the south side of the hill and any onslaught manoeuver by enemy troops coming from Cordoba city (located around 13 km in the south of Torreárboles).

Definitely, the rumours which spread during the first days of September 1936 about an impending Republican attack on Cordoba city were utterly groundless, the Republican commanders in the zone were preparing the defense against the certain attack of Francoist forces under the overall command of general Varela, and Robert Capa and Gerda Taro didn´t arrive at Cerro Muriano area on September 5, 1936, but one, two or even perhaps three days before, getting pictures in Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles before September 5 of that year, as we explained in July 2013 in our article on a picture made by Capa in Las Malagueñas also one, two or three days before September 5, 1936 and which was published in the French magazine Regards of September 24, 1936.

Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza