NEWSLETTER Nº22 . APRIL 2024
INTRODUCTION

Dear Member,

 

Our first newsletter of 2024 has been slightly delayed because we wanted to publish it to correspond with the 50th anniversary of the 25 April Revolution. I hope you will feel that it was worth the wait.

 

We have three main articles on the Carnation Revolution, and welcome four new authors to the Society’s publications. José Matos and Zélia Oliveira have recently published two books in English on the Revolution and their article is based on the first, which explores the background to the coup in relation to the colonial wars and the dissatisfaction of officers in the military. The second article, on the music of the Revolution, is by Richard Mayson, who spoke on this topic to the Lisbon group of the Society on 19 April. Last, but not least, to provide a British connection to the Revolution, Óscar José Martín García examines the role played by Harold Wilson’s Labour government in trying to promote parliamentary democracy in Portugal after 25 April 1974. We are grateful to all for their contributions.

 

As it is four months since our last issue, our Members’ News section is overflowing with interesting information. Please keep providing us with news for future newsletters. We are also pleased to restart our “50 Years On” feature, in which we look at how events were reported by the Anglo-Portuguese News.

 

Please reserve 6 July in your diaries for our Annual General Meeting. We’d welcome your presence and your suggestions as to how we can improve our activities. More information on this and other events will be sent to members by e-mail.

 

With all good wishes,

 

 

Edward Godfrey

Chairman

 

NEWS see more News here

APRIL 4, 2024

Winston Churchill Memorial Dinner

Talk by our Chairman

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EVENTS see more Events here

APRIL 13, 2024

Visit to Villar d'Allen in the camellia season

Outing by the Porto Group

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MARCH 20, 2024

Report on talk by Oliver Balch on Portugal's National Highway EN2

Talk to the Porto branch on 14 March 2024

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FEBRUARY 27, 2024

Report on visit to the exhibition "Identidades Partilhadas" at the MNAA in Lisbon

February 2024

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FEBRUARY 5, 2024

Report of Annual Lunch 2024 and Talk on the Urgeiriça Uranium Mine

Event on 13 January at Carcavelos

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ARTICLES see more Articles here

The Background to the Carnation Revolution in Portugal

Author: José Matos and Zélia Oliveira

Report:

Page:

Year: 2024

Subject Matter: Portuguese History

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The British Labour Government and Portugal in the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution

Author: Óscar José Martín García

Report:

Page:

Year: 2024

Subject Matter: Portuguese History

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The Music of the Revolution

Author: Richard Mayson

Report:

Page:

Year: 2024

Subject Matter: Portuguese History

READ MORE

The British in Portugal - April 1974

In 2009, BHSP published a book entitled Eyewitness Accounts of the Portuguese Revolution (1974-1976), in which 36 members provided their recollections. The following summarises their memories of the week from 25 April to May Day 1974.

 

The Revolution seemed to have been a surprise for some, but many others report feeling that the end was near for the Estado Novo. Jennifer Fernandes, a relative newcomer to Portugal, says that throughout 1973 “there was an almost tangible build up in tension, with a feeling that something was going to happen”. Guy van den Berg, originally from South Africa, also reports that in the days before the 25th he was learning from colleagues that “something was afoot”. Peter Mollet writes that “nearly all [of his acquaintances] had seen the revolution coming”.

 

The first responses of British people on the morning of 25 April were to call friends and colleagues and to turn on the radio, either the local state stations, then known as the Emissora Nacional de Radiodifusão, or the BBC World Service. The television was just playing music. The Emissora Nacional was one of the first targets of the rebels and people tuning in were rather re-assured by the politeness of the “new, excited and a little nervous” rebel announcers, who referred to the deposed president (Américo Tomás) and prime minister (Marcello Caetano) as “Sua Excelência”. Robert Symington tells the amusing story of a Portuguese lady woken in the early hours by the noise of troops advancing on the radio station, shouting out of her window to tell them they were making too much noise. She received the reply, “Desculpe, minha senhora” from the officer-in-charge.

 

In addition to announcements, the radio stations played two main pieces of music. One was Grândola, Vila Morena by José Afonso and the other, surprisingly, was A Life on the Ocean Wave. Grândola was the song used overnight on Radio Renascença to inform the troops that the Revolution had started. Robert Bremner tuned to frequencies used by the Guarda Nacional (GNR). Hoping to find out what was happening, he only managed to hear a sergeant complaining that he had 12 men and only eleven lunches! This provides support for the otherwise difficult-to-believe story of Clive Gilbert that he was told by one of the rebel leaders that they aimed to succeed in seizing control before noon, as their troops would be more interested in their lunches after that.

 

Contacting friends by phone proved impossible for some, with their phones having gone dead. Some, such as the husband of Jennifer Fernandes, were able to get in touch with a few friends and colleagues before theirs were also silenced. Others had no difficulties, which was fortunate for people such as Martin Reynolds, who had arrived by train in the morning, only to learn later that all trains had been cancelled. He had to call his wife to drive in from Sintra to collect him. Woken at 07.00 by a friend’s call, Clive Gilbert, whose factory was in Sacavém, a town with Communist Party sympathies, ignored the radio’s demand that people stay at home and quickly made his way to work.

 

Not all British became aware immediately of the situation. Lesley Leitão (who would later marry a Portuguese) was one of five professional dancers who were in Portugal to perform shows at the Algarve’s three casinos. They worked until the early hours and slept until late. They had no TV and spoke no Portuguese so could not understand the radio. Eventually being told of the Revolution and informed that their show that evening had been cancelled, they naively assumed they could go out for a night on the town.  

 

While most people stayed at home that morning, complying with the request to do so by the rebels, some braver souls, people wanting to stock up before the shops ran out of food and the petrol stations ran out of fuel, people with business interests to protect, and the early birds who had left their homes in the suburbs without hearing the news, found themselves walking down streets occupied by tanks and hearing bursts of machine gun fire. Robin Rankine witnessed a GNR contingent withdraw after spotting more-heavily-armed insurgents. He was the first of many to hear the chant O povo, unido, jamais será vencido (The people, united, will never be defeated). His reaction was that such a chant (used a year earlier in Chile), so soon after the rebellion, could not have been spontaneous and must have been pre-planned.

 

Ormond Fannon, a teacher at St. Julian's, drove to the school in the morning when things were very quiet. Returning an hour later, as few students had turned up, he found there were troops everywhere and was stopped and searched on the Marginal. Sheilah Fenner Leitão, a teacher at the same school, also made it to St. Julian’s that morning, but left when it became clear that the Marginal would be closed from 13.00. In later days, she found driving around Lisbon worrying, particularly as a Mercedes “was somewhat risky”.

 

As the day went on, both those who stayed at home and those who had made it to their offices, remained glued to their radios. Jany Philip records letting out a sigh of relief every time the surrender of a new building was announced, slowly putting an end to her “hours of anxiety and anguish”. Radio broadcasts could be both concerning and amusing. One live reporter, responding to a momentary panic in the crowd around him, ran down the nearest steps for safety, only to discover he was in a ladies’ toilet.

The British in Portugal (cont.)

Those in their offices often had tanks right outside their windows, but no overall idea of what was going on. However, it rapidly became clear that there was little or no opposition to the coup. Indeed, D’Arcy Orders reports that his staff had assumed this from the very beginning, as they turned up at the office wearing very casual clothes, instead of the usual sombre business attire. In the so-called “red town” of Setúbal, there was no effective government opposition. Guy van den Berg reports that celebrations began earlier than in Lisbon, with people on the streets as if it were a carnival.

 

Several people report having seen the naval frigate, NRP Gago Countinho, which was leaving Lisbon that morning to join a NATO exercise. It was recalled by the government and ordered to fire warning shots to intimidate the insurgents in Lisbon’s Terreiro do Paço. However, Captain Seixas Louçã ignored those instructions, pointing the ship’s guns upwards and making evasive manoeuvres in case the rebels decided to fire.

 

In Porto, according to Angela Lockhart, peoples’ minds turned to another naval vessel, the one that had taken British people to safety during the Spanish civil war. Would the British government be sending a destroyer this time? It soon became clear that such a response would not be needed. Ian Sinclair suspected that something was up as he found soldiers lining the Ponte da Arrábida as he drove to work. The next thing he saw was the view from his office in Vila Nova de Gaia of cars belonging to the PIDE (Secret Police) being dumped in the Douro on the Porto side. Within a few days he was finding, as D’Arcy Orders did in Lisbon, that staff we relaxing their dress code, with women turning up in trousers, and men forgetting their ties and, horror of horrors, growing beards. Meanwhile, some of the Portuguese and British elite in town were nowhere to be seen.

 

By the late afternoon of the 25th, when the success of the coup seemed assured, jubilant crowds were appearing on the streets of Lisbon. Gwyneth Roberts joined those outside the Carmo barracks where the president and prime minister were being held. The prevailing atmosphere in the crowd was one of near disbelief that such events could be happening. A few people were already carrying red carnations. Some of the British began to get in touch with Portuguese friends. While a few were apprehensive, many of those contacted were “in tears of emotion at this unexpected freedom”, as Barry Vernon reports. 

 

25 April was a Thursday. On Friday more and more red carnations filled the streets in button holes, pinned to people’s clothes and in the rifles of the soldiers. This was when the only reported casualties occurred, with five people being killed in a stand-off outside the PIDE office. Jennifer Fernandes turned up for a driving test, not expecting to find the examiner there. But he was, and she was able to enjoy traffic-free streets. There were, however, so many cars parked at the side of the road that only with great difficulty did the examiner find a space for her to show off her reverse-parking skills.

 

Whether the revolutionaries were a fighting force by the weekend is debateable, as they had had little sleep: several people report how tired all the soldiers seemed. Banks did not open until the following Tuesday. When they were allowed to open it was decreed that this would only be to pay out salaries, it being the end of the month. But the banks were swamped and had little choice but to meet the demands of all customers, who were lining up six deep along the pavement. Barry Vernon managed a small bank called BOLSA, but the queue was 50 metres long. This inevitable run on the banks led to the authorities imposing a 2000 Escudo (around €350 in today’s money) limit on the amount of cash that could be withdrawn at any one time. Even so, some of Vernon’s customers had to make do with notes destined for the shredder.

 

While most Portuguese celebrated, many British were wondering what the future held for them. Warnings of future problems were beginning to appear. All the political prisoners had been released by Day 2 of the Revolution and the Portuguese Communist Party leader Álvaro Cunhal returned from Paris on 30 April on a flight that contained many other exiled communists. The Socialist leader, Mário Soares also returned. The various left-wing factions were already beginning to vie for supremacy. Wednesday was May Day and 500,000 people flooded into the streets of Lisbon for the country’s first ever May Day celebrations.

 

The general impression from the British eyewitness accounts was that the events of 25 April 1974 and the following few days increased peoples’ admiration for the Portuguese, seeing it as a very civilized revolution with, perhaps, the treatment of some members of the PIDE being an understandable exception. However, the same admiration is not expressed about many of the events of the following 18 months, known as the Processo Revolucionário Em Curso (Ongoing Revolutionary Process).

 

Eyewitness Accounts of the Portuguese Revolution is available from the BHSP library for €10. An article also based on this and covering the period May 1974 to April 1976 will appear in a future edition of the Newsletter.

Quiz

This house in Cascais played an important role in the Carnation Revolution. What was it?

The answer to the quiz can be found at the end of the Members' News section

50 Years Ago

As previously advised, our regular feature on the “Anglo-Portuguese News (APN) 50 years ago” had to be suspended as our copies were with a scanning company, to scan them in preparation for a forthcoming web site on the APN. We are pleased to say that the copies are now back in our library and good progress is being made to develop the web site.

 

The 25 April 1974 fell on a Thursday, too late for the APN to mention it in the edition published on the following Saturday. However, the following edition of Saturday 11 May included, on page 6, an article with the heading “For a New Political Structure”, together with a photograph of “General Sebastiao de Spínola – Head of the Junta of National Salvation”.

 

For the APN, it was probably fortunate that two weeks had passed since the 25th as the initial euphoria of the Revolution had passed and the article could bring the reader up to date with a reasonable summary of political developments. The article began by mentioning that the rising by the armed forces had deposed the Government and put an end to the régime which had operated in Portugal since 1926. No mention was made of the actual events on 25 April, such as the populace taking to the streets and pushing carnations into the soldiers’ gun barrels, the surrender of prime minister Marcelo Caetano in the GNR headquarters in the Largo do Carmo, the liberation of political prisoners from the Fort of Caxias and four civilians being shot dead by members of the DGS – PIDE from the windows of is its headquarters in Rua Maria Antonio Cardoso, near the São Carlos Opera House.

 

Instead, the article concentrated on the newly formed Junta of National Salvation, which was to have governmental powers until a Provisional Government was formed. The Junta would revoke the mandate of the former President of the Republic and of the former Government and order the dissolution of the National Assembly and the Council of State. All the present Civil Governors were to be dismissed as well as the Governors General of the Overseas Provinces. The Acção Nacional Popular, the political party supporting the Estado Novo, was to be disbanded together with the DGS (secret police), the Portuguese Legion and political youth organisations. There was to be a political amnesty for all political prisoners and censorship was to be abolished. Its aims included the political, and not military, solution of the wars in Portugal’s overseas possessions, the creation of a new National Assembly within 12 months, elected by universal, direct, and secret ballot, the political liberty of citizens, and the formation of political groups. Labour syndicates were to be allowed full liberty, subject only to special laws being drawn up, and complete liberty of freedom and thought was to be permitted.

 

The following issue, a fortnight later, recorded the proclamation, on 15 May, of Spinola as President and reproduced parts of the speech he made when accepting the position in a ceremony at the Queluz Palace. It also recorded the names of the members of the Provisional Government, which were also announced on 15 May. However, like the edition of 11 May, there was little or no reporting on the impact of the Revolution on the people of Portugal or on the British community.

 

We shall continue our review of APN’s reporting of the progress of the Portuguese Revolution and associated personalities in future newsletters.

Members' News

Political cartoons by Augusto Cid in the years immediately after the Carnation Revolution feature prominently in an exhibition of his work at Casa Sommer in Cascais. This excellent exhibition runs until 10 May.

 

Our member, Ricardo Charters-d'Azevedo, has recently published From 25 to 25 - The carnation Revolution in Portugal. This provides a very detailed look at the events in the days before the Revolution and in the  period from 25 April 1974 to 25 November 1975, the day of the failed military coup d'état. As well as providing a broad survey of national events the paper looks at activities in Leiria, the author's home town. It also draws on his own experiences working at the Military Academy, where he set up the Electronics and Telecommunications Laboratory. At the Academy he had got to know many of the "Captains of April". Ricardo's paper can be downloaded here.

 

Another member, Robert Knight Cavaleiro, is also an active publisher, with articles in Portuguese in Sol and in English in the Portugal Resident. His recent articles on the Exploitation of Portugal's Mineral Resources and on Lithium Resources in Portugal provide some fascinating information. (Click on the titles to download)

 

Jonathan Rawes, a long-time member, has just published Different Worlds (The Choir Press). This is about Susanna Roope Dockery, the English painter of scenes of rural life in Portugal, and her American husband Victor Dockery. Their daughter, May, married into the Rawes family. Jonathan traces the history of the Roope family in Oporto and the Dockery family in North Carolina. Only 100 copies of the book have been printed and, with thanks to Jonathan, one can be reviewed in the Society’s library.

 

As we advised members some issues ago, St. Julian's School has embarked on the preparation of a series of podcasts on the history of the school. The first podcast, covering the 1930s (the school opened in November 1932), is now available and provides an interesting examination of the role played by Cable and Wireless at Quinta Nova, and the early years of the school. Interviewees include Manuela Nogueira, one of the first students, who is the niece of Fernando Pessoa. The podcast can be listened to here.

 

The next podcast will cover the WW2 period. If any member knows of school alumni from the period, or more recently, who would be willing to be interviewed, please contact the Society at: library@bhsportugal.org

 

Occasionally the Society ventures outside Portugal for its trips. This was the case 20 years ago in October 2004 when we went to Galicia in Spain. Among other places, visits were made to A Coruña, to the site of the death of Sir John Moore in the Battle of Corunna and to Santiago de Compostela. A brief video of the trip has now been made by João Rodrigues, using photos by our member Malcolm Howe. You can see this on YouTube.

 

Answer to Quiz. In 1974, 45 Rua Visconde da Luz in Cascais was the atelier of the architect João Braula Reis. On 5 March 1974, just under 200 army, navy and air force officers gathered there to agree on a document stressing that it was impossible to defeat the independence movements in Portugal's African colonies. It is considered the first step in defining a political programme to overthrow the Estado Novo. Preliminary steps were also taken to plan a possible military operation.

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