Franco: The Man and His Nation

Franco: The Man and His Nation

Franco: The Man and His Nation

Franco: The Man and His Nation

Excerpt

Thirty minutes after midnight on the morning of 4th December 1892 Francisco Franco was born. His birthplace was El Ferrol, the Spanish naval base on the north-western corner of the Iberian Peninsula.

Ships making for the port of Corunna twelve nautical miles to the south-west of El Ferrol pass as close as half that distance to the base; no one on the bridge will see it: not even the man in the crow's nest will catch a glimpse of it. The traveller coming inland over the mountains will look down upon a valley with a stretch of water which he might well compare to a loch. He may suffer a high wind on the crests, and yet except upon an occasional day meet scarcely a ripple below. From the heights he will see upon the northern shores of that apparent lake a town of one hundred thousand inhabitants, which stretches away from a promontory with shipyards where tankers are built and men-of-war repaired: he will notice the town's encroachment on agricultural land from an obviously older nucleus of a perfect grid pattern of six long streets and six transverses. He may wonder how those ships escape to sea; there is seemingly no exit. Only if he flies overhead will he realise that the water is not a loch but an inroad of the sea. It runs from the open sea and a deep bay into a narrows, almost a canal, a full nautical mile and a half in length but never wider than two cables lengths; and from the narrows it flows into that apparent lake, which even at low tide is never less than three miles long and one in width.

In 1892 El Ferrol was much smaller. It had at the most twenty thousand inhabitants wholly contained within the promontory by a massive wall erected one hundred and sixty years earlier--soon after 1726 when the Bourbon Philip V of Spain had decreed the establishment at El Ferrol of a new, better and bigger naval base than those which had long existed at Cadiz and Cartagena. For Philip never lost hope that he would recover Gibraltar lost to England early in the . . .

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