No. 55 NAI DFA Madrid Embassy IP 3/6
St Jean de Luz, 12 May 1937
I called on the Duchess of Tetuan yesterday in San Sebastian, where she is now living; she had just returned from Salamanca, where she spent the last few weeks and where she was a guest of Fr. McCabe1 at the Irish College. O'Duffy went to meet her there. She was anxious to see him; she is well disposed towards O'Duffy and not inclined to criticise him but she thinks him somewhat 'fantastique'. She asked me to treat confidentially any information which I picked up in the course of my conversation with her.
There has been friction between O'Duffy and General Yagüe2. The Duchess believes that a couple of the Spanish liaison officers (of whom I understand there are about 5 in all) are largely responsible for this state of affairs, because of their propensity for carrying tales to headquarters. O'Duffy is perfectly satisfied with the conduct of his men, but the Spanish military authorities are definitely of opinion that they are very undisciplined and are much given to drinking; the Duchess says there have even been some cases of shooting amongst themselves. The lack of discipline led to a demand on the part of the military authorities that a Spanish officer (a commandant or major) should be put in charge of them, presumably under O'Duffy's generalship. Yagüe made this demand and Franco approved of it. O'Duffy refused flatly. This is the big difficulty that has arisen; my personal opinion is that it is a convenient difficulty and is a pretext rather than the real cause for O'Duffy's recent decision, unless the proposed appointment meant in reality the shelving of O'Duffy.
The Duchess, who is if anything prejudiced in favour of O'Duffy and his men, made every effort to bring about some agreement between O'Duffy and the military authorities; she is concerned at the harm which may be done to Irish prestige by O'Duffy's departure; Spanish newspaper readers in Franco's territory are not yet aware of this impending event. The 'bandera' was not engaged in any actual fighting, but had had continuous service near the front, and needed a rest. The men were badly clothed and needed new uniforms. A proposal was made that they should be transferred from General Yagüe's control to that of General Mola3 on the Santander front, that they should be supplied with new uniforms, that they should be given three weeks' rest and that they should have a Spanish officer in charge of them. There was agreement on the first three points but not on the last, and on this last point both O'Duffy and the Spanish General Staff are equally unyielding.
The present position is that the 'bandera' has been disbanded and that the men are stationed in Caceres pending the completion of the arrangements by the Spanish authorities for their embarkment at El Ferrol (the naval base near Corunna4); I do not know whether the ship will transport the men direct to Ireland or via Liverpool.
The Duchess thinks there were not more than about 650 men in O'Duffy's 'bandera'; one of the men had a leg amputated; she thinks, but is not sure, that this man is a minor. She says that O'Duffy was constantly with his men, but that he was criticised for giving orders direct to the men rather than through their officers and that his manner was not that of a general. She quotes General Yagüe as saying that the worst possible Irishmen had been sent to Spain and that it would be a good riddance to pack them all into aeroplanes and send them over to the 'Reds'.
The Duchess says there are 3 or 4 Irish volunteers ill in hospital at Salamanca, one of these suffering from tuberculosis; she visited them. If there are any wounded or sick who are unable to travel, I presume that the Spanish authorities will care for them whilst in hospital, but that, if and when they are discharged as cured or incurable, the question of their repatriation at public expense will arise for consideration.
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