The war began in July 1936. (PROSE: History 101) It was caused by a group of conservative generals revolting against the democratic government out of fear that traditional Catholic values were being undermined and the government was leaning towards Communism. The Nationalists' original leader was José Sanjurjo, who was killed in a plane crash caused by the fact that he was carrying too much luggage. He had wanted to look impressive when he took power. He was succeeded by Francisco Franco. (AUDIO: Fiesta of the Damned)
The Republicans were supported by the Soviet Union, and so they were seen as supporters of Communism. The Partido Obrero de Uniﬁcación Marxista (POUM), a Spanish communist party, fought for the Republicans, but they differed from the Russian communists and opposed Joseph Stalin. Also in support of the Republicans were the anarchists, notably Buenaventura Durruti. The Confederación Nacional del Trabajo was the major anarchist group. The Basque army also supported the Republican party, as did the Guardia de Asalto, the Spanish police force. The various political groups that made up the Republican force had very different ideologies and so, they were internally divided.
The Nationalists were, in some part, supported by fascists. The Nationalists organised an embargo to prevent international aid for the Republicans. They had the French sign a policy of non-intervention. The Nazis supported the Nationalists and the Luftwaffe bombed both Guernica and Durango at the request of the Nationalists. Franco claimed that the Republicans had destroyed Guernica themselves while in retreat.
Many foreign journalists entered Spain to report on the war; George Orwell visited Spain to witness the fighting and took part in it, fighting for the Republicans.
In 1936 and 1937, the Eighth Doctor and Anji Kapoor stayed in Barcelona for a few months while investigating anomalies in history. They pretended to be British journalists reporting on the war. The city was under the control of anarchists and so they associated with them, in particular, Eleana Domínguez. Barcelona was nearly inaccessible by sea as the area was mined to destroy supply ships.
Meanwhile, Fitz Kreiner travelled with Sasha to view the bombing of Guernica. This act was widely reported across Spain as a horrific event, but the exact details were in dispute. This was due to The Absolute affecting people's perceptions. Upon returning to Barcelona, Fitz fought alongside Joaquín and the POUM in a street battle that erupted between them and the regular communists. After the fighting ended, the POUM were accused of inciting violence among the Republicans to aid the Nationalist forces. (PROSE: History 101)
In the winter of 1938, the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Melanie Bush arrived in Spain during the war. The Doctor intended to give his companions "a taste of the real Spain". They ended up with a group of Republicans who were on the run from Franco's fascist army and also fought an alien seeding device. (AUDIO: Fiesta of the Damned)