The Spanish Civil War remnants are a core important part of the rich cultural heritage of the Castelló Sud territory, spread across the urban areas, the rural and overall the mountainous ones. Due to its geographic location, it became a crucial territory during the Valencia Offensive phase and a border zone (front) between 1938 and 1939.
Battle of Valencia
This military campaign, which began on 18 April 1938 in Vinarós, was a nationalist attempt to regain control of the city of Valencia from the republicans. The offensive was led by military general Francisco Franco who, on 1 October 1936, following the death of other conspirators during a failed coup d’état attempt, was declared political and military leader of the rebel army.
The southwards, pincer-like advance through the province of Castellón – which saw the nationalists take the N-340 and the road from Sagunto to Teruel – was rapid at first due to the disorganised retreat of the People’s Army of the Republic, who had no areas in which they could hold ground and put up a strong resistance.
Defense of Valencia
After 10 April, however, general Vicente Rojo was already reorganising the armies, creating new military units and planning the construction of new defensive lines. 100,000 volunteers joined the army and another 50,000 joined the fortification brigades. On 28 April 1938, using the slogan ‘To resist is to win’, generals José Miaja (Commander of the Central Region Army Group) and Manuel Matallana (Chief of Staff) presented various defensive lines, with one being the Levante Line between Oropesa and Nogueruelas.
On 3 May 1938, in anticipation of the potential fall of these lines, a committee chaired by the Lieutenant Colonel of Engineers, Tomás Ardid, was commissioned to build another large fortification line that would run through the provinces of Castellón, Valencia and Cuenca. This would be the longest defensive line built during the Spanish Civil War, and would become known as the XYZ Line. This defensive barrier helped the republican side to put up a strong resistance. Not only did this allow them to regain their lost morale, but it also allowed them to delay the end of the war, wear down the rebel army and prepare the Ebro Offensive with certain guarantees.
The XYZ Line was the longest defensive line built during the Spanish Civil War, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the town of Santa Cruz de Moya (Cuenca). It is noteworthy for using the marshy areas on the coastal plain (the La Llosa-Almenara area) and the irregularities of the mountainous landscapes, peaks and ravines of various ranges (such as the mountains of La Vall d’Uixó, the Sierra de Espadán, the headwaters of the Palancia river and the Sierra de Javalambre in the Jérica-Viver area) to its advantage. This has led some historians to claim that the three letters in its name actually represent the coordinates of width, height and depth used in its construction. The construction work was carried out by some 15,000 military and civilian personnel between May and June 1938, with work intensifying in June due to the incorporation of Army Corps A and B following the fall of Castellón to the nationalists. 14 resistance centres were created along this defensive belt, which were split into 23 sectors.
In addition to the XYZ Line, other defensive lines were constructed between this and the regional capital of Turia.
These were known as the Intermediate Line (or the Palancia Line) and the Immediate Line (the El Puig-Carasols Line). There were also other lines on the XYZ front whose mission was to halt Franco’s advance and reorganise the troops along the XYZ barrier. These minor advanced lines included La Comtessa in Xilxes and the Belcaire Line (named as such due to the orography of the river of the same name), to which the military remains found in Moncofa belong.
The battles in Castelló Sud took place at the beginning of July 1938, with the first heights of the Sierra de Espadán mountain range being occupied from 1 July onwards in the Muntanyeta de Sant Antoni (Betxí). This was followed by the occupation of El Puntal (Artana) on 4 July, and from there towards the plain on 7 July (La Vilavella) and 8 July (Nules). As a result of this offensive, defence and observation outposts, such as those at Alfondeguilla, were set up. These were conceived to allow the republicans to confront the nationalists if strategic areas of the Sierra de Espadán fell, such as Castro Castle. From the second week of July onwards, the inability of the Galician Army Corps to continue advancing due to its limited offensive capacity – brought about by attrition and the loss of troops – led to a period of calm without significant conquests by Franco’s forces. This culminated in the total paralysis of the front on 25 July 1938 due to the outbreak of the Battle of the Ebro (a diversionary movement that forced the troops stationed in Levante to move to the Catalan front).
On 25 July 1938, a new phase of peace would begin on the Levante Front which would last until the end of the Spanish Civil War in March 1939. During this period, the two armies dedicated themselves to relentlessly fortifying and re-fortifying the terrain, giving rise to many of the constructions that now punctuate our municipal districts.
For more information, please visit the XYZ Line Interpretation Centre
Paraje Natural del Estanys – Via Camí, 12590 Almenara