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Author Topic: "You are history. You are legend."  (Read 2603 times)
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John
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« on: August 12, 2015, 16:29:57 PM »

Comrades of the International Brigades: Political reasons, reasons of state, the welfare of that very cause for which you offered your blood with boundless generosity, are sending you back, some to your own countries and others to forced exile. You can go proudly. You are history. You are legend. You are the heroic example of democracy's solidarity and universality in the face of the vile and accommodating spirit of those who interpret democratic principles with their eyes on hoards of wealth or corporate shares which they want to safeguard from all risk. We shall not forget you; and, when the olive tree of peace is in flower, entwined with the victory laurels of the Republic of Spain.. return! Return to our side for here you will find a homeland.. those who have no country or friends, who must live deprived of friendship.. all, all will have the affection and gratitude of the Spanish people who today and tomorrow will shout with enthusiasm..  

Long live the heroes of the International Brigades!




Anyone who has been following this forum for a while will have realised by now that my political views seem to fall firmly to the right, and I can occasionally make Attila the Hun seem like a namby-pamby care worker. But life is more complicated than that, and my views can often appear contradictory - I'm patriotic, but not a monarchist. I'm agnostic, but with Christian views. I despise the Communists and their dupes (Hewlett Johnson springs to mind) but believe in the rights of the workers, and acknowledge the fact that without left-wing agitation this country would be in a sorrier state than it is today. I believe that the British Empire was a force for good in the world, and at the same time I can shudder with horror at some of the things we inflicted on 'lesser' countries. I blame my Dad for my ambiguous nature, after all he was a die-hard Tory who was also a shop steward in the T&GWU.
 
Anyway, when I decided to knock together a post about the local volunteers who served in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, I found that I was confused in my attitude towards them. It's a subject that I'd never thought much about, and all I knew was that a Republican government in Spain was getting a good kicking from a Fascist-led rebellion, and a bunch of Communist sympathisers from various countries went to Spain to prop up the Left. Broadly true - but as I said, life is complicated, and as I delved deeper into Anthony Beevor's work on the subject I became quite fascinated. (An aside - does the word fascinated have any link to fascist?).

Men and women from the South East joined the International Brigade for reasons that were many and varied. Some wanted to escape from unemployment and live a life of excitement and adventure. Some were Communists through and through, others were just anti-Fascist, many were believers in social justice and wanted to support what was, after all, the legitimately-elected Spanish Government. Turning to the British Newspaper Archives to see what was said about our local volunteers revealed a few stories and, I think, gave me a better understanding of these men (and women - although outnumbered by their male counterparts, the ladies were certainly involved too). Medical aid to the Republicans was a hot topic in the local press, and here's an example from the Hastings & St. Leonard's Observer in January 1937:

"Mrs. Isabel Brown, of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee, told of her recent experiences in Madrid. She exhibited a bomb of recent German manufacture, which she picked up in Madrid, and also a 1,000 German Mark note dated 1912. This had been taken from a Moor, and was a typical example of the currency with which Franco was deceiving his hirelings. She gave a graphic description of the work of the British Medical Unit, and claimed that despite enormous handicaps it was now operating with real efficiency. One innovation of great interest was the use of canned human blood for transfusions. Mr. Ernest Brown stated that the cost of the British Medical Unit was £25 a day, and he made a moving appeal for Hastings democrats to show their sympathy in a practical manner. Pound and ten shilling notes were quickly forthcoming, and in a few moments the sum £21 3s. 10d. was collected, all of which will be sent to the British Medical Unit."

The fighting was brutal, and many men were disillusioned by their experiences in the conflict. The Kent & Sussex Courier interviewed one volunteer who was being treated in Pembury Hospital for pleurisy:

"Around Madrid it is all street fighting, and you can certainly believe what you read about the ruthlessness of this war. When we search houses we do it in threes, dragging out all the men prisoners to be inspected by a senior officer. If he does not like the look of them, he takes out his revolver and uses it. Every so often we were sent to Catalonia for a rest. Here the local peasants hated us English soldiers far worse than they did Franco. They absolutely refused to sell anyone in the International Brigades food or cigarettes, and we had to grovel in the gutter for fag ends. I was never wounded myself, and in this respect I was far more fortunate than the majority of my companions. The casualties in our regiment were shocking. They used us as a stop-gap on every occasion, and wherever we were we had to bear the brunt of the attack... In England I was offered the job of speaking for the Communist party, but as I had shortly before seen one of their most prominent speakers, who comes over regularly by ’plane, draw his revolver and shoot dead a 15-year-old conscript who had committed a trifling breach of the regulations I refused with thanks. I went over to Spain because there was absolutely nothing for me here. It was either that or the Foreign Legion. I am very much afraid that when I leave hospital it will be the same story, and I shall be compelled once more to make my way across the border."

Many of our local volunteers were not as lucky as the chap in Pembury Hospital, and their bodies "remain, shrouded in Spanish earth." One such was Southsea union activist C. J. Simmons, as the Portsmouth Evening News reported in March 1937:

"News has reached Portsmouth that Mr. C. J. Simmons, of Berkeley Street, Southsea, has been killed in action with the British Battalion of the International Brigade at Aganda Bridge on the Madrid-Valencla road. Mr. Simmons was well-known locally as Literature Secretary of the N.U.W.M. in Portsmouth and constant and hard worker for the cause of the unemployed."


In 1938 the Dover Express mentioned one local casualty:

"Mr. W. H. Bennett (Labour candidate for the Dover Division), spoke of the death in Spain Dover man, Jock Black who was killed in the International Brigade this summer. His heroic death and noble self sacrifice should be a spur to urge them on to greater efforts for the Spanish people."

Whitstable volunteer Ian Clark returned to his home town after the British members of the International Brigades came back to this country in late 1938, many of them being met at Victoria Station by Clement Attlee. Clark was, on his return, still suffering from wounds received on the Ebro front. In general, very little publicity was given to these men in the local papers - they certainly weren't greeted as returning heroes. Was it lack of public interest? Or, more likely, political pressure?:

"Mr. Ian Clark (son of Mr. G. M. Clark, of 6, West Cliff, Whitstable), who has been fighting with the Government forces in Spain, is one of the 300 members of the International Brigade who arrived in England this week and he will reach Whitstable this afternoon."

One particular Portsmouth man made it back home with severe wounds, only to pass away from his injuries on home soil. He was Jimmy Moore, a young Communist from the Dockyard, who was buried in Milton Cemetery in January 1939. His headstone has a fitting, and quite moving, inscription. The Portsmouth Evening News reported his funeral:

"Mr. J. Moore, the 22-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. G. Moore, of 16, Edmund Road, Southsea, who died in a London hospital as a result of wounds received while fighting in the International Brigade in Spain, was buried in Milton Cemetery yesterday. There were many people from the local working-class movement at the cemetery, to pay tribute. The Portsmouth Trades Council to which he was a delegate, was represented by its Chairman, Mr. T. J. Farnes, the Transport and General Workers Union (of which he was a member) by Mr. B. Weeks, and the British Battalion of the International Brigade by Messrs. A. C. Williams and S. Harrison. There were also present many of Mr. Moore’s workmates from the Dockyard, and fellow members of the Labour Party. Mr. Moore received a shrapnel wound in the left leg at the Sierra Pandolls during the Spanish Government's offensive over the River Ebro in August last. He arrived back in England at the end of December, and efforts were made in St. Stephen's Hospital, Fulham Road, London, to save his life by amputating his leg. He died on Saturday last. The service was conducted by the Rev. D. Pilkington, and was followed by a tribute from Mr. Farnes, who said that Mr. Moore had given his life - all that a man could give - in the fight to free the common people from military aggression and social oppression. The coffin was draped in the red flag, and many wreaths were in the Spanish colours."

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Craggs
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« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2015, 21:04:25 PM »

There is an "International Brigade Memorial Trust" .  On their website they have a section detailing the memorials in "The South East" and it includes your one (above) to 'Jimmy Moore' and it has a small photograph of him.

There are also small photographs of memorials in Canterbury, Dartford, Newhaven, Winchester and Worthing - plus a few others in the South East which are not really in our area. 

The link to that site / section is     http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/memorials?tid=9

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John
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2015, 08:53:30 AM »

Portsmouth Evening News - Friday 19 February 1937

SAKLATVALA BATTALION. 35 British Prisoners.
The fact that there is a Saklatvala battalion in the International Brigade, taking its name from Mr. Saklatvala, the Indian who was at one time Communist M.P. for Battersea, was, it is stated, revealed by the arrival at Talavera de Reina of 35 captured British belonging to this battalion. They were taken prisoner while fighting on the Jarama front last week-end. According to a message from Talavera they declared that their battalion had been decimated during a counter-attack on the insurgent positions on the left bank of the Jarama River. The prisoners said that they had been brought to Spain to work as agricultural labourers at £6 a week, but on arrival were taken to Madrigueras, where the battalion was formed. There they were forced to take arms and go to the front. One of them who refused to fight was shot out of hand, and rather than undergo the same treatment the others obeyed orders. — Reuter.


Portsmouth Evening News - Wednesday 24 February 1937

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.  
Sir, - It was with some astonishment that I read In Friday's paper the news item relating to the Saklatvala Unit of the International Brigade in Spain. As the wife of a Portsmouth man who left England on December 22 to join this unit, I feel I must correct a few of the statements made. My husband clearly understood that he was wanted in Spain as a fighting man and that military experience was necessary. Since there are millions of agricultural labourers in Spain, to send men there for such purpose would be like sending coals to Newcastle. So far as there being any question of compulsion to fight, I quote his last letter to me, in which he says:—

"We have a marvellous English-speaking battalion.. Don't worry about me - this is an army I'm with, not a rabble.. This is a real outfit and every day the steel is becoming more tempered. There is no place in the world where you can find so much enthusiasm for the job in hand. The boys here are a real bunch, and have forged a good weapon.. The difference from ordinary armies is positively amazing. There's no clicking of heels, polishing buttons, or any of that Tommy rot. The battalion doesn't cater for a surface smartness, but when the occasion calls for it, everybody can jump to it like one man.

"Our lectures are really amazing from an army point of view. Political and military subjects are discussed - healthy argument, constructive criticism. Everybody seems to have something to offer, and amazingly, from ordinary army view-points, most of the suggestions are carried out in our work! The "skipper" is a great guy. He can roar or he can whisper; we have even heard him 'earnestly beg!' - and every time the response is amazing."

As regards the £6 a week fable, the question of monetary payment was never discussed before he reached Spain, but he now receives 6d per day, and, as you will see from the enclosed, dependents get allowances of £1 for wife and 10s. for each child.

Yours, etc.,
Jane Williams.
24, Upper Arundel Street,
Portsmouth.
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Tim of Aclea
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2015, 11:42:27 AM »

Excellent post John.  My father did consider volunteering for the International Brigade but thought better of it.

thanks

Tim
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pomme homme
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2015, 11:42:38 AM »

An aside - does the word fascinated have any link to fascist?

I think not. It seems to be no more than an etymological coincidence.

The etymological root of the noun 'fascist' is in the latin fasces, meaning a bundle of hay. However wikipedia suggests that its modern usage derives from fascio littorio, which was an axe round which was tied a bundle of rods. This was the symbol of authority of a civil magistrate in Rome and was used on his behalf to inflict punishment on those against whom he had made a judicial finding. More literally the seminal Italian fascists treated the fascio littorio as a symbol of strength, in that whilst a single rod easily can be broken, a bundle of them is more difficult to break. The symbolism is apparent, as is the reason why it was adopted by the early Italian fascists.

The etymological root of the verb 'fascinate' is more simple. It is said to derive from the middle French verb fasciner which, in turn, has its root in the latin verb fascinare, meaning to bewitch or enchant.

Another source seeks to make a latin connection between fascinare and fascinum. The latter has a number of meanings, but at the centre of these is 'penis'. So depending on your political perspective you could use etymology to claim, as one of my left wing American friends might say, 'you'd have to be a dick to be a fascist'!    
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« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2015, 16:35:06 PM »

Portsmouth Evening News - Friday 04 June 1937

GOSPORT MAN HOME FROM SPAIN. Thrilling Story of Civil War.
This is the plain, unvarnished, and probably unromantic story of a Gosport man's experiences while fighting for the International Brigade British Battalion in Spain. He is  Mr. A. Rabone, youngest son of Mr. H. J. Rabone, of 11, Woodstock Road, Gosport, and although he is not yet 21 he has been in Spain since the beginning of this year. This is his story:-

"On January 2, I left England with 120 others. We arrived In Spain at Furigas on the Spanish-French border on January 5, and left next day for for Albacete, a town 250 kilometres south of Madrid. From there, we left the following day for Madridguras, and went in training for six weeks. On February 10, at four o'clock In the afternoon, we were given orders to proceed to the front.

"We left at 10.0 p.m. by lorry, bound for Villa Rubia, boarded a train, and travelled to a place called Chin Chon. This is a fairy large town, which had suffered through many air-raids. We met the enemy in a valley, eight kilos from a village called Morata, at 11 on the morning of February 11, and heavy fighting started. We had taken up position on a range of hills, overlooking a river valley, but had only two machine-guns to supplement our rifles, while the enemy, advancing shoulder to shoulder, had the support of tanks, artillery and many machine guns.

"It was like hell let loose, and four hours later we asked to retreat, but were ordered to hold the ridge at all costs. Then, aircraft came swooping over us, using their machine guns, and at 4 p.m. we retreated. It was a run for life as the enemy had almost surrounded us, and bullets were coming from all angles. That night, we checked up on the Company, and out of ours, No. 4 Machine Gun Company of 150 men, only 30 were present.

"On February 13, we received six more machine-guns, but on the next day Franco's forces captured a number of our men. Then, although there were only about 100 of us in the front line at this time, a bayonet charge was ordered. The Moors turned and ran; we had been told they were frightened of cold steel. The machine-guns save them - the gunners were expert - and we think they were Germans or Italians.

"That night, at about seven o'clock, the Moors crept up on us, a tank had come from our left, a searchlight revealed our whereabouts, and hand-grenades were being thrown at us. What a nightmare! We thought liquid-fire was being used, because a kind of flame was coming towards us all the time.

"For the next few days, the enemy kept advancing, and on February 26 the Moors were promised two months pay and one month's leave if they captured Morata. Franco used high-explosive shrapnel, 12 tri-engined bombers, and many fighters. Their bombs fell wide, however. and one of the bombers was brought down in flames by our planes. We drove the enemy back, and then things quietened down for a few weeks, there being little activity with the exception of daytime artillery duels.

"At night, we brought into use propaganda broadcasting vans, and the Spaniards would call over to Franco's men. telling them to come over to our lines.  Four or five men would come over each night, and by this means we learned something of the disposition of the enemy forces.

"They told us that all the men in Franco's front line trenches were political prisoners. They were forced to fight, otherwise they would be mown down by the German machine guns which were kept trained on them from behind. They told us, too, that the food was bad, and that they were paid in German marks, which were of no value to them. On April 29, came out for rest, after 80 days in the lines, and went to the village of Alcala, 20 kilos east of Madrid. The Spanish capital was a terrible sight; the houses and buildings were razed to the ground by aerial bombardment and shell-fire.

"The Inhabitants of the City walk about during the day as if nothing was happening, and their only interest seems to be getting into food queues, many of which were one mile long. The bombardment of the City starts at three o'clock in the afternoon and was carried on until the early hours of the morning.

"Every day, the young army of Spain is being trained, and when they are ready, the International Brigade will be withdrawn, and these newly-trained men will take our place.

"In the International Brigade, we have a battalion of Italians, and a battalion of Germans, who have escaped from concentration camps who have come to fight against Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. After the defeat of the Italians, at Gradalozara Mountains, Franco withdrew the Italian officers and replaced them with his own men. This made trouble behind his lines, because the two factions were fighting among themselves as to who should be in control.

"When I left to come home things were fairly quiet. Despite all we have gone through, we have nothing to grumble about. Our treatment was splendid, and the Spaniards could not do enough for us. What they had was ours. Under the circumstances, the food was good. We had stewed mules' flesh and potatoes, and goats' meat - the staple diet of the country. Out of the trenches we were given as much of the wine as we could drink."
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« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2015, 19:30:17 PM »

I remember a Lance-Corporal in my billet at Horsham in the early 60s. 'Paddy' had been a volunteer for the International Brigade and was a true 'character'. He told many horrifying stories of the fighting against the fascists. He had more medals than anyone on the unit and at our annual inspection, the inspecting General would spend 10 minutes or so chatting with Paddy about his 'gongs'. Paddy took a bullet in the head in Spain and all his life he had a silver plate in his skull. His party trick when 'well-oiled' was to smash an (empty) beer bottle over his own head, knowing where to bash himself and walking away unharmed. I recall one day on a platform in York station when Paddy insisted on showing his trick to passers-by. He went down like a ton of bricks, as being so drunk he forgot which side the plate was on.  RIP George.
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2015, 11:31:49 AM »

Portsmouth Evening News - Thursday 15 July 1937

INTERNATIONAL BRIGADE.
Spain, as seen by a Portsmouth man who volunteered to serve in the International Brigade, was described to the members of the Portsmouth Central Labour Party of Youth at their meeting last evening. Mr. A. C. Williams, the volunteer, left England and joined the Brigade on December 23, 1936, being drafted to the Saklatvala Unit, comprising 600 men. "The I.B. is a unique army," said Mr. Williams, "inasmuch as a rank and file member will tell an officer if he does not think the officer's methods are suitable. The private soldier will carry out the order first - relating to, say, machine-gun practice or drill formation, and then point out how he thinks the method could be improved." Captured by the Foreign Legion whilst defending the Valencia road early in March, "A. C." was taken first to Getafe and thence to Talavera and placed in a big new prison there. In reply to questions, Mr. Williams stated that the people in Spain were bewildered at the refusal of Britain to supply them with the arms necessary for their defence.
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« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2015, 11:42:30 AM »

Sevenoaks Chronicle - Friday 08 April 1938

MAJOR BRANSON'S SON PRISONER IN SPAIN. FELL IN WITH INSURGENT COLUMN.
 
Mr. Clive Branson, the 30 years old son of Major and Mrs. Branson, "Rise House," Woodland Rise, Sevenoaks, who recently gave up painting in London to join the International Brigade of the Spanish Government forces, was taken prisoner last week-end. It is understood that he and almost 100 more British volunteers were detailed to join a column at night, and while waiting for its arrival fell in with Insurgent forces, who took them prisoners. Major Branson on Monday told the "Sevenoaks Chronicle" that the day before he had been able indirectly to get into touch with his son, and had learnt that he was quite safe and being well treated. Mr. Branson has been in Spain about two months.
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2016, 18:20:17 PM »

Chatham News - Friday 17 February 1939

Sapper Sentenced.
Sapper Edmond Dineen, aged 25, of the Training Battalion, Royal Engineers, who was recently charged with desertion before a Chatham court-martial, has been found guilty and sentenced to 66 days' detention. At his trial, Dineen described how during his summer leave he decided to go to Spain, "to get a bit of practical experience of active service, to see what it was like." Dineen, who was wounded, returned with the International Brigade, on January 10th, and gave himself up to the police at Preston ten days later.
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