Share This Article

Dear Mr History,

I am researching how the UK during the Second World War influenced Gen Franco to stay neutral and not join the Axis Powers (if he had, the war in Europe and the Middle East would have had a very different outcome).  But I am having difficulty finding primary and (maybe more importantly) authoritative secondary source material.  What sources would you suggest I research?

Many thanks,
Pete S

? ? ?

Dear Pete:

I am no more familiar than you on Britain’s influence on Francisco Franco’s nominally maintaining Spain’s neutrality during World War II. He had more than enough reasons of his own to avoid such a commitment, starting with the ruined state of his country after almost three years of self-inflicted devastation. Moreover, after Franco’s victory the army, conservative elements and the Catholic Church quickly swept aside the fascist-styled Falangists from a position of power for influencing Spanish affairs. Franco’s main motivation against Britain was to regain Gibraltar, something that neither Adolf Hitler nor Benito Mussolini were prepared to guarantee. After a 12-hour meeting with Franco at Hendaye on October 23, 1940, Hitler is quoted as saying that he would “rather have three or four teeth pulled” than have to deal with the generalissimo again. Franco did look the other way while an entire division of volunteer soldiers and a rotating squadron of fighter pilots went to the Eastern Front, with the stipulation that they didn’t fight any Allied opponents other than Soviets. Given all those factors, what influence the British exerted—or needed to exert—is somewhat problematic.

Probably your best bets for primary materials would be the Public Record Office in London and (if the statute of limitations has allowed their public release) government records in post-Franco Madrid.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History