Written by J. Sebastian Browne.
On 26 January 1939, the Catalan capital of Barcelona fell to the advancing troops of General Franco. The occupation of Barcelona was the last major battle of the Spanish Civil War, with the Republic forced into unconditional surrender two months later. The Insurgent offensive against the Republican Army in Catalunya begun on 23 December 1938 prompted the beginning of an exodus that was to result in the flight of 470,000 refugees into France, with the greatest number crossing the frontier in the two weeks that preceded Franco’s closure of the border on 10 February 1939. Republican forces in fact fought a well-organised retreat and much of the army of the Levant passed over into France where it was disarmed and its soldiers incarcerated in concentration camps, with initially little or no shelter or sanitary facilities and treated as prisoners of war.