Sunday, 2 November 2008

Manuel Muñoz and Barcelona Air Raid Shelters

From the cover of Defiendete del Peligro Aero-Quimico
Mariano Barrasa, Juliàn Castresana. Toledo 1935.

Manuel Muñoz' report of what the municipal authorities
had achieved by the time the Generalitat, the autonomous
Government of Catalonia, created the Junta de Defensa
Passiva and took over ARP in the summer of 1937 will
perhaps help to show that Ramon Perera neither invented
the air raid shelters nor was solely responsible for their
construction. The report dates from August 1937.*

The Junta had been created the previous June and after
some insistence by the council and the CNT Manuel
Muñoz was accepted as a member in representation of the
council. Surprisingly, given the persecution not to say
elimination of the anarchists after the Barcelona May days,
he maintained this position until the end of the war.

Manuel had joined the city council in October 1936 when
the anarchists began to participate in formal government.
In November he was named as liaison with the Generalitat's
Department of Defense for questions of air raid protection
and very soon the construction of shelters was under his

Initially it was thought that basements, with a little
preparation, could provide sufficient protection during
the raids. So his department of Urban Planning and Public
organized the inspection of 17,000 buildings.
Only 700 were considered suitable and of these the
Generalitat quickly decreed a prohibition of the
use of
some (below banks) as shelters.

Stronghold evidently having a variety of meanings.

Underground "mine" tunnels were also considered
suitable for shelters so, besides preparation of the existing
metropolitan tube stations he overseered the construction
of 24 new tunnels of 100 metres each (for posterior use as
sewage tunnels) 14 of which had been completed by August

For the 600 or so shelters that were being built independently
by the people of Barcelona, Manuel's department offered
technical advice and subsidised the cost of labour and building
materials and most especially published the excellent manual
"Air Raid Shelters" with instructions on how to build them.
Many of the calculations on the destructive capacity of the
bombs and the type of construction necessary to resist them
are based on information provided by Swiss and French ARP
organizations. The Spanish military had also published
recommendations prior to the war.

After the first raids had shown the real effects of the bombs,
the council began the construction of a number of larger,
more resistent collective shelters below city squares in
the different districts of Barcelona. 11 were in construction
in the summer of '37. But by this time the increasing scarcity
of materials and reduction of available labour force because
of conscription were already seriously affecting progress in all
the shelters.

In his 17-page report Manuel Muñoz gives credit to all of the
many different people and organizations involved to date in
building of shelters and civil defence.

He, at least, knew that without the collective effort of every
one of them Barcelona's extraordinary achievement of over
1000 shelters would never have been possible.

*For those interested in consulting the report, the reference is:
Arxiu Administratiu
Caixa 21411 Carpeta 1.5

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