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  You are in: Home > History > A Balancing Act  

A Balancing Act
British Intelligence in Spain during the Second World War

Emilio Grandío Seoane

In the Series

Studies in Spanish History 

Emilio Grandío Seoane is a specialist in the history of the Second Republic and the Civil war. His current research focuses on the history of Spain in and after the Second World War, democratic transition in Spain, and the republican exile during the Franco regime. His most recent published books include: A Segunda República en Galicia. Memoria, mito e historia (2010); Casares Quiroga. La Forja de un Líder (2011); Vixiados. Represión, investigación e vixilancia na Galicia da Guerra Civil (2011), War Zone. La II Guerra Mundial en el noroeste de la Península Ibérica (2012); y Derribar a Franco. Represión y clandestinidad política en el noroeste de la Península Ibérica (1945-1953) (2013)


This book reveals the development, strategy and extraordinary success of Britain’s secret services in Franco’s Spain during the Second World War. The main claim of this study is that British pressure, exercised above all through their intelligence services, led Franco to distance himself from the Axis cause and eventually embrace that of the Allies. Starting from a virtually non-existent base, the British rapidly built up a complex intelligence network in Spain that stretched from Corunna to Barcelona and from Bilbao to Gibraltar. As Spain was a non-belligerent, spy networks – including those of the Germans, Italians, Portuguese and British – proliferated in the Iberian Peninsula. Double-agents abounded within these networks; each one knew what the others were up to.

The British exploited this two-way traffic to let Franco know that if he did not accede to their demands, they would back a restoration of the Bourbon monarchy under Don Juan. This pressure culminated in the meeting of 1943 between Franco and the British Ambassador, Sir Samuel Hoare, at the dictator’s country retreat in Galicia, the British underlining their purpose by flying warplanes close by the estate. Following this meeting, Franco almost immediately began to move away from the Axis powers and towards the Allies. The British swiftly dismantled their intelligence networks given that they had achieved their aim. Franco’s expulsion of the German naval forces from Spanish ports and the denazification of the regime explains the benevolent attitude of the Allies towards the Spanish dictatorship after the war. Throughout this whole process, the British secret service, as this extensively researched study uncovers, played a crucial role.

Preface by Series Editor Nigel Townson

List of Illustrations

“There is no alternative”: The British Position in Relation to Spain before the Second World War

Chapter 1. British Intelligence in Spain at the Outset of the Second World War
1.1. The Creation of the Special Operations Executive and the Hard Months of July to October 1940
1.2. From Beigbeder to Serrano: The Cards are Revealed (November 1940 to January 1941)

Chapter 2. The Threat of German Invasion: Organizing the Resistance (Spring of 1941)
2.1. The Impatient Wait: The Expansion of the Network (Summer-Winter 1941)
2.2. A Change of Rhythm: The Allied Invasion of Northern Spain in 1942

Chapter 3.  Franco’s Most Complicated Year: 1943
3.1. How to Tip the Balance towards the Allies? The Doubts over Franco
3.2. All or Nothing: The Crossroads of Pazo de Meirás (20 August 1943)
3.3. The Letter of the Generals: September 1943

Chapter 4. Franco and the Allies Face to Face

Chapter 5. Spain Changes Sides, 1944-1945

5.1. Building the Bases of the Future



Reviews to follow


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
200 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
August 2017
  Illustrated:   Yes
Hardback Price:
£65.00 / $74.95

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