With the outbreak of civil war in Spain in July 1936, the rest of Europe began to have a sickening foretaste of the kind of "total war" that it too was shortly to experience. In the first days of the war, General Francisco Franco, caudillo (leader) of the Nationalists, who were rebelling against a weak left-wing Republican government, appealed to Germany for help. Officially, the major European powers had agreed not to intervene. But on July 29th, the Nationalists received 20 German bombers and six fighters. Fascist Italy also sent fighters. More followed the next summer. These were faster, with greater range and firepower than aircraft simultaneously supplied to the Republicans by the Soviet Union. As a result, the Nationalists were able to win control of the skies. The last major Republican stronghold, Madrid, fell in March 1939. Foreign intervention probably had little influence on the war's eventual outcome. But the strafing and bombing of Republican strongholds by Nationalists and foreign fliers, most devastatingly the Basque town of Guerntea, in which hundreds of civilians lost their lives, helped to erode support in the democracies for the current policy of appeasing the Fascist powers. Also important were the reports sent home by thousands of Republican sympathisers who descended on Spain, such as the writers George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway.