POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (10)

TYNESIDE VOLUNTEERS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR.

The International Brigade Memorial Trust keeps the spirit alive of men and women from around the world, who volunteered to fight fascism in Spain from 1936 to 1939.

But who were the volunteers ? Over 20 years, Archivist Jim Carmody and historian Richard Baxell worked on putting together a list of their names.

A list of over 2,000 volunteers are available from the International Brigades on the link at the bottom of the article.

For some young men it was more than a shock to the system to see the brutality of war. On arrival in Spain 19 year old American Frank Neary was shot in the head on the first day and died in a Madrid hospital. German Artist Stephen Pollock, born 1914, was badly wounded at Brunete. From New Zealand came Doctor Douglas Jolly who was in charge of a mobile surgical team.

Angus MacLean travelled from Scotland but was ordered home after one month as ‘Since leaving Britain he spent most nights in brothels’.

There was a miner from Wales, Tim Harrington, who was withdrawn from battle as ‘he suffered with old lung injury after being gassed in WW1’.

Irishman Thomas Delaney volunteered in December 1936 but by February ’37 was ‘sent home, too young’.

Volunteers from the North East of England included Francesca Wilson born in Newcastle 1881. She was a Teacher who left England in 1939 and worked with refugees in Murcia where she founded a children’s hospital.

From Sunderland was NUWM officer Frank Graham, in Spain he served as a scout and intelligence officer, also Broadcaster on Radio Barcelona.

Included here is a detailed list of volunteers from Tyneside:

Name: Thomas Atherton. Place of birth: Jarrow 1903

Political organisation: None. Occupation: Seaman

Date of arrival: 27 September 1937. Brigade ID: 1312

Date of departure: October 1938

Comments: Captured in Aragon. POW San Pedro de Cardea. Accused of being Russian for having a bushy beard and almost shot.

Name: John Corby. Place of birth: North Shields 1902

Political organisation: None. Occupation: Painter

Date of arrival: 16 January 1938. Brigade ID: 1576

Date of departure: December 1938

Comments: Assessment: ‘Disrupter and deserter’.

First name: William Z Morrison. Birth: Wallsend on Tyne 1908

Political organisation: Communist Party. Occupation: Radio Expert

Date of arrival: 5 November 1937. Brigade ID: 1421

Date of departure: April 1938

Comments: In transmissions unit of the XV IB at Teruel. In Hospital in Barcelona with suspected appendicitis from 25 March 1938. ‘Deserted? Former Comintern radio operator in house in Wimbledon?’ 

Name: William Tattam. Place of birth: Whitburn 1907

Political organisation: Communist Party. Occupation: Miner

Date of arrival: 21 December 1936. Brigade ID: 339

Date of death: 17 July 1937. Where killed: Brunete

Comments: Believed to have died when the lorry he was riding in overturned on the way to Brunete.

‘When the British Battalion was moving up to the front at Brunete, William Tattam was sitting at the back of one of the trucks. The truck hit an obstacle in the road and William was thrown out of the truck and fell under the wheels of the following truck, he died instantly. His body was probably buried near the roadside where he was killed’.

Name: Eileen O’Shaughnessy. Place of birth: South Shields 1905

Date of arrival: 17 February 1937. Date of departure: June 1937

Comments: Worked in Independent Labour Party Office in Barcelona.

Name: Stephen Codling. Place of birth: South Shields 1907

Political organisation: Communist Party. Occupation: Lorry Driver

Date of arrival: 13 May 1937. Brigade ID: 1028

Date of death: 31 March 1938. Where killed: Calaceite

Comments: Acting commander of the British Battalion’s Communications Company. Captured at Calaceite on 31 March 1938. ‘Rumoured to have been seen in Barcelona in civilian clothes’.

 Name: Frank Antrim. Place of birth: South Shields 1904

Political organisation: Communist Party. Occupation: Auto-electrician

Date of arrival: 2 October 1937. Brigade ID: 1351

Date of departure: December 1938

Comments: Worked in Auto-Park. Believed to have trained Lewis Clive’s company in shooting and was asked to be a political commissar (information from conversation with his son).

Name: Arthur C P Teasdale. Place of birth: South Shields 1913

Political organisation: Communist Party. Occupation: Bricklayer

Date of arrival: 24 February 1937. Brigade ID: 872

Date of departure: 23 July 1938

Comments: Hands damaged by shrapnel. Deserted from 20th Battalion of mixed Brigade citing family difficulties. ‘Been in and out of jail in Spain. He was last arrested in Barcelona in May 1938. While in jail managed to get a bomb and set it off in the cell. He has become an enemy of the working class. He should be kept in mind as he was once a secretary of a branch in Communist Party Great Britain’. Repatriated.

Name: Samuel Thompson. Place of birth: South Shields 1916

Political organisation: Communist Party. Occupation: Miner

Date of arrival: 13 May 1937. Brigade ID: 1052

Date of departure: October 1938

Comments: A good report. ‘He was a good steady comrade, though not a brilliant brain.’ Originally believed killed, but actually taken prisoner. POW at San Pedro de Cardea

Name: John Palzeard. Place of birth: South Shields 1916

Date of arrival: 14 December 1936. Brigade ID: 625

Date of death: February 1937. Where killed: Jarama

Comments: Company runner at Las Rozas in No 1 Company.

This information was collated by IBMT archivist Jim Carmody and historian Richard Baxell between 1996 and 2016. The list drew upon a wide range of sources held in Britain, Spain and Russia, though principally those held in the International Brigade Archive in the Marx Memorial Library in London and the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History in Moscow.

http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/.

Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

 

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (9)

International Brigade Committee. David Marshall sitting at the front.

While researching for the Teesside International Brigades memorial, Tony Fox repeatedly came across one name – David Marshall. David was one of the first British volunteers to fight in Spain. Tony takes up the story… On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in September 1936, David had travelled to Spain to join the International Brigades in Barcelona. He joined one of the first groups, the German-speaking Thaelmann Battalion, with whom he fought to defend Madrid.

On 12th November 1936, a sniper’s bullet hit him just above his ankle. He was removed by stretcher under heavy fire, then transported on a lorry for more than two hours to a field hospital. After treatment in Alicante he was repatriated to England at the end of 1936 where he began campaigning for aid to be sent to the Spanish Government.

However his significant contribution on Teesside has not been been looked at. On his return from Spain he actively campaigned for aid to Spain. In 1939 he was instrumental in the production of the memorial. He was guest of honour with Frank Graham and John Longstaff when it was dedicated in 1991 and again at the 1996 rededication in Middlesbrough Town Hall.

When the Second World War broke out he, like many other Brigaders, was at first barred from entry into the armed forces. Working in the Civil Service he uncovered and published the directive barring Brigaders from serving, and worked to overturn the policy. The policy was overturned when Churchill formed his National Government.

David volunteered and served in the engineers, however when he was interviewed about his background in Spain, the Captain wrote on his records that David ‘was Communistic or fascist’, and even as a corporal he was never placed on guard duty when abroad. He fought in the Normandy campaign, liberating Belsen and serving in the occupying forces until 1947.

Marshall returned to Teesside after demobilization, returning to the ministry for Labour once again. He maintained his links with Brigaders. It seems likely that Tommy Chilvers, who painted the Teesside International Brigades memorial introduced him to Ruth Pennyman. Ruth had formed her Basque refugee children into a concert party, and Tommy played the guitar.

David worked as a carpenter on the sets until joining the Joan Littlewood Who’s Theatre Workshop which began life at Ruth Pennyman’s home in Ormesby Hall. In 1975 his wife Joyce died, afterwards he bought a sailing barge which he refurbished.

Marshall was instrumental in the formation of the International Brigades Memorial Trust in 2000, serving on the executive committee, with fellow North East Brigaders, Dave Goodman, Frank Graham and John Longstaff.

Sadly, David died on 19th October 2005, his partner Marlene Sideaway is currently President of the IBMT, she led the 2009 IBMT AGM in the North East, in which the Teesside International Brigades memorial was rededicated and relocated within Middlesbrough Town Hall.

She also donated some of David’s materials to The Dorman Museum. David was a superb poet, I am honoured that Marlene has signed a copy of his 2005 book The Tilting Planet, which includes the wonderful I sing of my comrades.

Sources:

Richard Baxell, Unlikely Warriors (Aurum Press 2012), page 119

 David Goodman, From the Tees to the Ebro (London: CPGB, 1986), page 12

 http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/local-news/service-honours-teesside-spanish-war-3713541

If you have any information about the North East men and women who were involved in the Spanish Civil War please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

 

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (8)

Another article came in from International Brigades Memorial member Tony Fox. He talks about the campaign for a Stockton Memorial to volunteers who fought during the Spanish Civil War 1936-39…..John Christie, the landlord of the award-winning pub, The Golden Smog, is leading a campaign to raise money for a memorial commemorating the Stockton Brigaders. It will be erected just off Stockton High Street. The memorial will include names of the eight Stockton volunteers who were employed when they left for Spain.

When researching about the volunteers the picture that emerges is that of conscientious activists, with experience in a number of campaigns for justice, and anti-fascist activity. There was John Longstaff who had fought the British Union of Fascists at Cable Street, London. I found William Carson, Joe Harding, John Longstaff, Wilfred Cowan and Bert Overton, who had been in the Welsh Guards and was put in command of No.4 Company at Jarama.

Otto Estensen was commissar and commanded the Anti-Tank Battery in 1938. There was Patrick Maroney who was a member of the Irish Republican Congress, a pro-communist grouping of the IRA.

Described as ‘an uncompromising fighter for Trade Unionism’, George Bright was a NUWM activist and Communist Party member. At 60 he was the oldest Brigader in the British Battalion. George and Phyllis Short, Bert Overton, and George Bright had organised the September 1933 anti-fascist protest known as the Battle of Stockton.

Sadly, George Bright was killed at Jarama, Bert Overton was killed at Brunete and Joe Harding was killed on 23rd September 1938 at the Ebro River. This on the same day Juan Negrin, head of the Republican government, announced that the International Brigades would be unilaterally withdrawn from Spain.

If you would like to know more I will be producing a booklet to accompany the memorial, or have any information you can contact me at foxy.foxburg@gmail.com

More research will be done when the Local History libraries open, but for now in Postcards from Spain, the search goes on for North East stories from the Spanish Civil War. If you have any information please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (6)

Here’s another interesting article for the series about the Spanish Civil War, International Brigades Memorial Trust member, Tony Fox, looks at representation from North East men during the conflict…….I discovered that volunteers travelled to Spain together, Frank Graham left Sunderland on 15th December 1936 with friends, Tommy Dolan and Bill Lower. In London the groups were sent to the Communist Party offices at 16 King Street to meet the formidable ‘Robby’ Robson who would assess their suitability, in military and political terms. Robson explained in detail the dangers to be faced.

On acceptance volunteers were told to purchase weekend return rail-tickets from Victoria Railway Station to Paris, as this did not require a passport. In France volunteers had to act with discretion as groups of volunteers would occasionally be arrested and repatriated. The recruitment of the International Brigades was coordinated by the Communist Party in Paris.

On arrival in Paris the volunteers would meet the liaison, Charlotte Haldane. It was in the red-light district of Paris they underwent medical examination and checks on their political reliability. From Paris they would travel to the Spanish border by train on what became known as ‘The Red Express’, then travel across the frontier by bus or train.

After February they would be smuggled in groups past non-intervention patrols, over the top of the Pyrenees. Some volunteers were smuggled onto ships which attempted to break through the naval blockade of patrolling Royal Navy warships and Italian submarines.

Bill Lower, Frank Graham’s companion from Sunderland, died along with 54 volunteers and about 100 passengers and crew when the SS Ciudad de Barcelona was torpedoed by an Italian submarine in May 1937.

Once across the frontier, they would be taken to the International Brigade headquarters at Albacete, where volunteers would be vetted again, processed and divided up by nationality to be placed into the different linguistic battalions of the International Brigades. British speakers were placed in the XVI Battalion of the XV Brigade.

Frank Graham and Bert Overton, from Stockton arrived at the Madrigueras training base on 1st January, four of the seven Stockton men I am studying arrived in Spain the following week. At Madrigueras the Brigaders with military training instructed the others. Bert Overton had been in the Welsh Guards, therefore he was made an officer in No.4 Company.

Officers, commissars and specialists received separate instruction, leading activists from the North East took key positions in the British Battalion: George Aitken would be the first Political Commissar for the British Battalion, Frank Graham would command 3rd section of No.1 Company until later becoming a scout.

Bill Meredith, a well know activist from Tyneside, would later command No.2 Company. Bob Elliott would be the Political Commissar for No.2 Company with Wilf Jobling his deputy commissar.

The North East continued to be overly represented as officers and Commissars throughout the conflict; later in the war Sunderland born Bob Cooney became Battalion Commissar, Stockton’s Otto Estensen was Commissar and commanded the anti-tank Battery. Dave Goodman from Middlesbrough became the No. 4 Company Commissar on his arrival in Spain in January 1938.

More stories soon from the front line of the Spanish Civil War in Postcards from Spain.

If you have any information about North East men and women who were in any way involved in the Spanish Civil War please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

Sources:

The Battle of Jarama 1937 by Frank Graham. Published 1987

Unlikely Warriors by Richard Baxell. Publisher Aurum Press 2012

Fred Thomas diaries currently being transcribed for the Imperial War Museum by Alan Warren.

http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/

Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (1)

In 1936 International Brigades, including more than 100 men and women from the North East, travelled to Spain to fight against General Franco, who had rebelled against the newly-elected democratic government. Many countries saw that a Franco victory would strengthen fascism in Europe, and threaten another world war.

The Spanish Civil War inspired artists, writers and musicians to comment….

‘Holes in your head today, But I’m a pacifist, I’ve walked La Ramblas but not with real intent’…. sang the The Manic Street Preachers on ‘If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next’ and before that ‘Spanish Bombs’ by The Clash… Bullet holes in the cemetery walls. The freedom fighters died upon the hill. They sang the red flag. They wore the black one’.

Author, George Orwell wrote a personal account of his experiences of the war in his book Homage to Catalonia….‘In Barcelona there was a peculiar evil feeling in the air – an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, uncertainty, and veiled hatred’.

Orwell had originally gone to Spain to write some newspaper articles, but joined the militia…. ‘Almost immediately, because in that atmosphere it seemed the only conceivable thing to do. Practically every building had been seized by the workers and was draped with red and black flags of the Anarchists: every wall had been scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with initials of revolutionary parties’.

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso created one of the most powerful images of war and destruction, after seeing the city of Guernica bombed by Nazi Germany at the request of Franco’s Nationalists.

To find out more about the North East connection I contacted Stockton based Tony Fox from the International Brigades Memorial Trust. He passed on a list of North East names held in the International Brigade Archive in London and Moscow. He also talked about various memorials to honour the men….On the Newcastle memorial there is a list of 35 men who died, 10 who died on the Teesside memorial, and I am writing about 8 volunteers from Stockton, 3 were killed’.

A selection of names from the archives included South Shields men John Palzeard who died in 1937 at Jarama, and Stephen Codling who died on 31st March 1938 in Calacette. There is no dates yet for brothers Edward and William Tattam from Whitburn and for Harry Reynolds in Wallsend.

A number of deaths occurred during 1937, Robert Coutts, from North Shields died in Las Rozas. From Sunderland, Thomas Dolan and Edgar Wilkinson died at Jarama. Ernest Lower, died by drowning in SS City of Barcelona and Robert Mackie, died at Brunete.

From Gateshead, John Ferguson, Frank Keery, Alfred Lichfield, William Young and Harry Smith all died at the Battle of Jarama.

I asked Tony if the details are being updated as more information becomes available… ‘The opening of the Moscow files brought a change, up until very recently the focus was on those who fell. As far as we know, our Stockton memorial will be the first to name all the men from a geographical area who volunteered’.

In 2016, Mike Kelly, journalist from Newcastle’s Chronicle, wrote about an information panel (pic. above) which was unveiled in the grounds of Newcastle Civic Centre featuring names of 35 men who were killed in action.

Kelly spoke with the daughter of Harry Smith from Gateshead who died at the Battle of Jarama in 1937. She remembers the stories her mum told of him….He was there three weeks before he was shot and wounded at the Battle of Jarama. He was taken to a field hospital which was blown up and he died there.  My dad was interested in politics and joined up because he said if General Franco wasn’t stopped it would leave the way open for Hitler’.

Sadly Franco wasn’t stopped and remained in power until his death in 1975. The Spanish Civil War ended on 1st April 1939, by 1st September Hitler’s Nazi Germany had invaded Poland and the world was plunged into another war. One that would last six years and claim millions of lives, resulting in a new cold war between the emerging superpowers of the USA and the Soviet Union.

If you have any information about the North East men and women who fought for the International Brigades please get in touch.

Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

Research from Local Studies, Newcastle City Library.