IBMT Scotland Secretary Mike Arnott reports on efforts to preserve the Spanish Civil War heritage of the Castilian village of Tarancón, where there was an International Brigade hospital during the 1937 Battle of Jarama. There is also a memorial to the 39 Scots killed in the battle and another to the Spaniards killed in Francoist repression.
Tarancon hospital campaign: background
The Hospitalillo de Santa Emilia (pictured below) was designated as Tarancón Hospital No 2 by the Republican medical services in 1936, the only one of four hospitals established in the town which had previously been used as a hospital. No 1, sometimes known as the American Hospital, was where Dundee International Brigaders Allan Craig and Willie McGuire, amongst others, died after having been wounded at Jarama in February 1937. It has since been demolished and its site is now a secondary school. No 3 was a large private house, which still stands but was returned to its original owners in 1939. A fourth hospital predominantly treated Spanish Republican wounded.
Also within a short distance of Tarancón were other major Republican and International hospitals; at Villa Paz, Huete. Ucles and Valdeganga. The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) in the Cuenca region, co-ordinated by Tarancón resident Máximo Molina, has as its prime objective the recovery, identification and memorialisation of the victims of the Franco dictatorship and they have erected memorials to the civilian dead in both Cuenca and Tarancón, as well as undertaking exhumations of mass graves in the region. However, they also want to set up a permanent educational and interpretative site to tell the story of the Republican hospitals in the region. Ideally this would be in the Hospitalillo de Santa Emilia in Tarancón, or in a bomb shelter located within its grounds.
The Hospitalillo was built on land which was donated by one of the main landowners in Tarancón, the Alonso family, in the 1920s, specifically for its construction. ARMH have tried to trace its ownership in the registration office, but have drawn a blank. Given its origins, it is run in a traditional way; by a board of trustees formed by the mayor and the priest, as alternating members, and a representative of each of the five richest families in the town. It seems that the mayor presides over the board but only has a limited ability to control it. The way the board works is set by a statute, which ARMH has also not been able to see, although it establishes that the land can only be put to social use. It also apparently establishes that if the building was without any use for a period of time (possibly 25 years?), the land will revert to its original owners.
In 2011, Máximo, Ernesto Viñas and Alan Warren met the PSOE mayor. At the time he was trying to get the hospital demolished to build an old people’s home on the site. That started protests which eventually stopped the project. When they later met the new PP mayor, María J Bonilla, at the town hall, she agreed to inform them if anything was happening relating to the Hospitalillo. She didn’t. It has since degraded to the verge of ruin. The council walled up the doors and windows, but this did not prevent the hospital’s bell from being stolen. A subsequent episode which ARMH is aware of concerns the air-raid shelter at the hospital. The council ‘had to’ create a rubble ramp for a digger to enter the hospital’s back yard in order to clear it. There must be more than 70 metres of boundary along which the ramp could have been built, but they put it right on top of the access to the shelter. Undoubtedly, they will allege they did not know about it. Still, it was a malicious act, especially as the entrance was clearly visible.
In June 2016, after having lost the local election, a PP councillor was caught destroying documents. The first two folders to be destroyed concerned the Hospitalillo and its board. These documents are now in the custody of the local court. Apparently they contain all the information needed to establish what can possibly be done with the hospital.
Collections have been taken by the international visitors who have come to Tarancón over the last two years, as part of the annual Jarama March commemorations, to support the work of ARMH with this initiative. It was planned that the day before the Tarancón commemoration in February 2018, international guests would join in with a ‘guerrilla gardening’ insurgency to tidy up the hospital forecourt.
Press related to the above;
2018 Video; ARMH Background to Tarancon Hospital No2;
Mike Arnott (second from left) and Máximo Molina (second from right) at the hospital site.
On Thursday 15February 2018 a group of around 20 locals and six Scottish guests entered the hospital grounds and proceeded to both tidy the environs and to dig out the steps down to the air raid shelter at the rear of the premises. It was discovered that rubbish which had previously been cleared by the ayuntamiento (town council) and left outside the premises had mysteriously made its way back inside and had been used to infill the shelter steps. After a tiring but enjoyable few hours, those present enjoyed a late siesta before hearing a talk by Máximo Molina and Ernesto Viñas on the importance of the Tarancón hospitals to the wounded from Brunete.
Press video: Thursday 15February: Hospital grounds clean-up at Tarancon:
The memorials at Tarancón
In October 2011, the municipal cemetery in the town of Tarancón, about an hour’s drive south east of Madrid, witnessed a small but emotional commemoration to remember the 39 Scottish members of the International Brigade who fell during the Battle of Jarama in 1937. During the ceremony Allan Craig Jnr, the son of one of the deceased, planted an olive tree in his father’s memory. Allan’s investigation into the fate of his late father, Dundee-born International Brigade volunteer Allan Craig, had identified the cemetery as his final resting place. Allan Snr had been sent to the No 1 Hospital in Tarancón after being wounded on 17 February 1937 at Jarama and had subsequently died there on the 22nd. The event, which included the unveiling of a stone bearing a plaque, was arranged with the assistance of the local branch of the Cuenca ARMH, and the plaque listed the Scots who had fallen at Jarama. Allan Jnr had always wanted to see his father’s sacrifice recognised, but also insisted that all the Scots who fell with him at Jarama should be remembered with him. In 2012, members of the family of Brigader William Crawford, one of the Scots named on the memorial, visited the cemetery and discovered that the plaque had been damaged. A fundraising campaign followed in Scotland, organised by the International Brigade Memorial Trust, attracting contributions from the Craig and Crawford families and from a number of trade union branches and individuals, particularly in Allan Craig Snr’s home city of Dundee. It was arranged to unveil the new plaque at the cemetery to coincide with the annual Battle of Jarama commemoration weekend in February 2013. ARMH provided a suitable stone for the memorial. A group of 30 visitors from the UK and Ireland travelled though from Madrid for the event and were joined by a number of locals for a moving ceremony and unveiling.
Above and below: This year's commemoration at the memorial to the Scottish dead.
It was on this visit that many from the UK became aware, for the first time, of ARMH’s ongoing campaign for a physical memorial in the cemetery to the town’s Republican victims of the Franco dictatorship; dozens of civilians rounded up at gun point and ‘disappeared’, particularly in 1939. Having made friends in Tarancón and seen the support which ARMH and local people had given to ‘our’ memorial, it became a matter of honour for those of us from the UK to support their campaign for a memorial in their cemetery, to remember their own victims of the dictatorship.
The existence of the new memorial led an even greater number to attend the February 2014 commemoration, both from the UK and Ireland and in particular, locals from the Tarancón area. ARMH were approached ahead of the event by members of a number of local families who had lost relatives during the repression by the Franco dictatorship which followed the civil war. They asked if they would be able to read the names of their murdered relatives at the International Brigade commemoration. Everybody involved was delighted to agree, and the 2014 event was thus made even more poignant by members of Tarancón families reading the names of their executed Republican relatives. It was humbling to realise that, albeit unintentionally, the event for the Scottish Brigaders had created a space where local families felt able to come forward and name their lost relatives, in their own town, for the first time in 75 years.
The 2015 commemoration saw the largest turnout yet and heard the two rolls of honour; the 39 names of the Scottish Brigaders and a similar number of civilians slain from Tarancón, read out alternately in a joint act of remembrance. Poems and tributes were read, ending with all present joining in singing The Internationale in their own languages. Following the ceremony, ARMH arranged a tour to the two intact former Republican hospitals in Tarancón, as well as a civilian air raid shelter by the railway station.
As we were planning the 2016 commemoration, we were delighted to learn that, as a result of the ongoing campaign by Máximo, the ARMH and the people of Tarancón, and following a change in the political complexion of the local council following recent elections, permission has been granted for a memorial to the Tarancón civilian victims of the Franco dictatorship to be unveiled, alongside the memorial to the Scots.
The unveiling of two memorials, flanking the one to the Brigaders, took place during the annual Jarama commemoration weekend, organised by the Spanish Friends of the International Brigades, AABI. Most moving was the speech by the great granddaughter of one of those named from Tarancón, who had died in Mauthausen Nazi concentration camp.
Just days ahead of the 2017 commemoration, we were angered, and saddened, to hear that the three memorials had been vandalised. The timing was obviously no accident, but local people were able to make them presentable for the arrival of the international visitors. The memorial to the Brigaders had been covered by red paint, and the two civilian memorials had suffered Falangist graffiti, as well as having the word ‘Franquismo’ scraped off their top lines, which identified the names below as ‘Victims of the Franco dictatorship’.
Around 300 attended, from the US, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Germany and Spain. Solidarity was again expressed in music, words and song. All who have been involved in the commemorations at Tarancón feel incredibly moved by this story of historical memory and the symbolic joining of Scotland’s International Brigaders with those who they came to Spain to fight alongside.
On 16February 2018, about 25 international visitors from Ireland and the UK attended the annual commemoration at the public cemetery in Tarancón. They were joined by a similar number of locals. Speeches were made, poetry read, music was played and floral tributes laid. Following the ceremony, the group were led on a guided tour of Tarancón by Máximo Molina of ARMH Cuenca, receiving fresh information on the Republican medical services operating in the town between 1936 and 1938.
Gallo Rojo’s single of them performing Gallo Negro Gallo Rojo is now available to download at Bandcamp. All the money raised goes directly to ARMH Cuenca to support their historical memory work including the memorial to Scots Brigadistas in Tarancón. The download costs only £1 with an option to pay more as a donation. Gallo Rojo have no involvement in collecting the cash or deciding how it’s spent. https://gallorojo.bandcamp.com/…/gallo-negro-gallo-rojo-sol…
Gallo Rojo also played a gig in Dundee on 10th February, following the annual Dundee IB commemoration. €250 in donations was raised for ARMH Cuenca.
Posted on 28 February 2018.