Obituary: General Jaime Milans del Bosch

General Jaime Milans del Bosch was one of the last survivors of the hardline army officers from the years of the Franco regime.

His military career spanned the Spanish Civil War in the mid-1930s, a period fighting as a volunteer for Germany in the Second World War, and years as representative of the Franco regime in Argentina and other Latin American countries, but he will be remembered above all as one of the leaders behind the attempted coup in February 1981 by officers who refused to accept the direction that new democratic rule was giving Spain after Franco's death.

He was born in Madrid in 1915 into a family which could boast several generations of military men. He graduated as an infantry lieutenant shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and there were never any doubts as to where his sympathies lay. One of his first experiences as a young officer was to take part in the defence of the fortress of Alcazar of Toledo when the garrison held out for over two months although the rest of the city was in the hands of the Republicans.

The resistance of the Francoist troops became a symbol of heroism and sacrifice that was used time and again in Francoist propaganda, and in later years led to a right-wing publication, Alcazar, of which Milans del Bosch was a director.

So fervently anti-Marxist was the young officer that after the end of the Spanish Civil War he joined the volunteers fighting alongside the Germans on the Eastern front in the Divisin Azul (Blue Division). After the end of the Second World War, he was sent by Franco as military attache in several Latin American countries where the Fascist example was influential - including Argentina, Uru-guay, Chile and Paraguay.

Back in Spain in the final years of Franco's rule, Milans del Bosch still showed unswerving loyalty towards the Generalissimo, who for him continued to represent the true values of Spain. He became commander-in-chief of the crack Brunete armoured division, and in 1977 was named lieutenant- general for the III military region, with headquarters in the eastern city of Valencia. From there he made his scorn for the transition to democratic rule plain in interview after interview, blaming weak politicians for all the country's ills, from unemployment to pornography.

He was still fighting this rearguard action against the despised politicans and trade unions into the 1980s. It seemed his chance had come when, on 23 February 1981, the civil guard Colonel Antonio Tejero seized the parliament building in Madrid and called on King Juan Carlos to dissolve parliament. Milans del Bosch ordered all his tanks, armed cars and troops out on to the streets, ready to back any revolt.

That night King Juan Carlos appeared on television calling on the armed forces to back his authority. He telephoned Milans del Bosch personally in the early hours of the 24 February to persuade him to remain loyal. Grudgingly, Milans del Bosch stood down his troops. Unable to avoid responsibility for his part in the uprsiing, he was dismissed from his command later the same day. In March 1981, he was tried along with 24 other military officers and given a jail sentence of 26 years for rebellion, and cashiered from the army.

Milans del Bosch was eventually freed in 1991 after serving almost 10 years of his sentence, and afterwards lived quietly in Madrid with his family. Never at any point did he express any regret for his actions, but tried until his final days to be allowed to regain his position in the army, the only thing that had ever really mattered to him.

Nick Caistor

Jaime Milans del Bosch y Ussia, army officer: born Madrid 8 June 1915; married Amparo Portoles y Balaguer (three sons); died Madrid 26 July 1997.

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