Picture the lunch-time scene: It is early November 1936 and the Spanish Civil War has arrived to the outskirts of Madrid. Franco's troops are amassed outside the city eagerly awaiting the order to enter. Inside, the Republican government has fled to Valencia leaving the capital to be defended as best it could. The first International Brigade arrives that morning and one Russian artillery expert - Colonel N. Voronov - is atop a telefonica tower with his binoculars overlooking the battle-lines to advise on the placement of canons at the front line. It is nearing 2pm and the following conversation is heard.
Voronov: “Re-align the canon 26 degress east. Move it back 15 yards and prepare to fire.” Spanish Companero: “Okey dokey Coronel” Voronov: “Now, bring the other canons forward and align them 27 degrees south west.” Spanish Companero: (Speaking on telefone) “Cease fire”. Voronov: "What's happening?” Spanish Companero:“It's lunch hour. But don't worry, after lunch we'll decimate the enemy!” Voronov: "But by then the enemy will have changed position”. Spanish Companero: “No they won't. They'll be having their lunch too.”
Sweat streams down the Russian’s face as he strains to hear sounds of artillary or movement of troops on the battlefield. In disbelief he scans the horizon with his binoculars, as his Spanish companion unwraps his bocadillo and takes out his flagon of Rioja.
Spanish Companero: “Care for a bite, Colonel?”
Voronov huffs and puffs and paces anxiously for 2 hours. At 4pm precisely, his Spanish companion stands up and shouts down the phone-line: “Fire!” Canons blast and the Rebel troops, already preparing to retaliate, begin to fire back. Lunch is officially over.
Fact or Fiction?
The incident is true, and took place as described. What does this illustrate about the importance of culture and tradition in this country? The importance of food, timetables and rest periods in the history of Spain?
I have a few ideas, but I’m keeping mine for next weeks post, when I report on the Scottish Anarchist in Barcelona as part of the new series on "Little Known Histories From the Civil War. "
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