The Great Escape

Forget images of Steve McQueen trying to jump over barbed wire on a stolen Wermacht motorbike; this is about Carchuna and the Spanish Civil War.

Seventy-five years ago, 308 Republican prisoners of war, captured after the collapse of the Asturian Front, made a daring escape from the Carchuna fort where they were being held; its a little known story, but one worth hearing.

But this wasn’t so much about an escape plan hatched from within but a plan worked out further along the coast behind the Republican lines (Castell) involving 35 soldiers on a mission to rescue them. The commando group was led by a North American, William Aalto and the plan was to overpower the 38 Nationalist guards and free the 308 prisoners and guide them back through the enemy lines to safety – and it worked.

It didn’t start off well, mind, because two launches that left Castell de Ferro for the fort in Carchuna had to turn back; one had engine problems and the other simply lost its way, sailing straight past the fort ending up just off Motril, which was not a healthy place to be for Republican forces in May 1938.

The Asociacion 14 de Abril was behind a project to organize a walk to retrace the escapees’ steps through the Sierra de Castell de Ferro and El Pico del Águila – an 11-hour walk. They have also made an ‘inventory’ of the Civil War trenches and fortifications on Granada’s southern front and so far have 20 kilometre trenches, machine-gun nests, command posts and have even recovered military material.

We shall try to find out more about this club, as I for one would be very interested in this project.

(News: Carchuna, Costa Tropical, Granada, Andalucia)