Graffiti of the Madrid Battalion in a pillbox in Ketura
Repository: Ketura, Álava-Araba, Spain
Creator: Soldiers of the Madrid Battalion
Fond or Collection
Josu Santamarina Otaola, “Paisaia ahaztuak 1936-1937: el patrimonio bélico de la Guerra Civil en Araba,” Funded by the Autonomous Government of the Basque Country, 2016-2017.
Repository and Location
Ketura, Álava-Araba, Spain
Date Created: 1937
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Ketura, Spain
After the failed Villarreal offensive (30 November-24 December 1936), the Republican forces in the Basque Country fortified their positions along the border between Álava and Vizcaya. As part of this defensive effort, they built several concrete pillboxes, including those of Ketura (Zigoitia, Álava). The position was held by the Republicans until the Francoist offensive of the spring of 1937. The Ketura fortification fell in April that year, apparently without much resistance, unlike nearby positions. The stronghold of Ketura was occupied by a certain Madrid Battalion. Not much information about it exists, but we know of its presence in Ketura because the members of the battalion left much graffiti on the walls of their pillboxes. Along with the name of the unit, there were many personal names, some with an indication of rank, for example “Capitán Álvarez”. The ideology of the battalion can be inferred from the slogans, symbols, and acronyms written on the walls: “Long live the Red Army”, the hammer and the sickle, and “UGT” (General Workers’ Union).
The Madrid Battalion was, in fact, a socialist unit that was established in September 1936 and incorporated into the Basque Army (Euzko Gudarostea). The references to the Soviet Union evince the strong influence of communism in the socialist organizations during the Spanish Civil War, whereas the name of the battalion, as well as the multiple times the name “Madrid” appears inscribed on the Ketura pillboxes, attest to the importance of the capital of Spain for the Republicans as a symbol of resistance and hope in the defeat of fascism. There were in fact, several “Madrid” battalions, including those of the 48 Mixed Brigade operating on the Guadarrama front in the mountains north of the capital and the XII International Brigade.