The Nationalist uprising of July 1936 fared poorly in Asturias, a province overwhelmingly hostile to Franco and controlled almost from the outset of the war by a curious but effective council of state officials, technicians, and mine workers. CNT and UGT membership in Asturias totalled around 70,000, forming the backbone of a disciplined militia.

Against such opposition the military governor of Gijón, Colonel Antonio Pinilla, dared not to declare his loyalty to Franco.

Very few were fooled, and by late July his outpost was surrounded and cut off from General Emilio Mola’s Army of the North by several hundred miles of enemy territory.