There was an excellent leading article in the Oxford Times on 15 January about the IBMT’s plans for an International Brigade memorial in Oxford and in response to ‘No Other Way’, the new book about the Oxfordshire volunteers.
The article, copied below, can be accessed here:
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History books tend to focus on two famous Oxford events in the 1930s: the 1933 King and Country debate at the Oxford Union, and the famous 1938 by-election, when the Master of Balliol A.D. Lindsay stood as an anti-appeasement candidate following the Munich agreement.
Both events certainly overshadowed the remarkable role that Oxfordshire and its people played almost 80 years ago in the story of the Spanish Civil War.
Hundreds of Basque refugee children were offered homes in Oxford, which became a centre of activism on behalf of the Spanish Republic and 31 men and women from the county joined the fight against Franco, either by taking arms or serving with medical units.
The cause united town and gown, the university and the city’s burgeoning working class in a unique way.
Six of the volunteers gave their lives serving the Republican cause, in a struggle that one historian called “a world war in miniature”.
It is easy to understand why the International Brigade Memorial Trust believe that a memorial should be erected to those who went to Spain in 1936-39, and why they view Bonn Square as the most desirable location.
It is to the group’s credit that when their proposal in the autumn went before the city council’s west area planning committee, where questions were raised about the design and the prospect of the memorial adding clutter to the square, trust members did not despair.
Instead they have asked no fewer than eight sculptors to come up with bolder designs, in what is effectively a competition, with designs now likely to be inspired by the posters that epitomised that period.
At the same time local members of the trust have produced a painstakingly researched book, which for the first time tells us something about all 31 of Oxfordshire’s Spanish Civil War volunteers.
Anyone who has any doubts about erecting a memorial in the city should read it, for it is impossible not to be moved by the courage, conviction and selflessness of these men and women who stood against the forces of Fascism.
It is difficult too, not to be struck by their diverse backgrounds: for the volunteers included highly privileged university members, an Olympic gold medallist and a leading actor, but also men of humble origins like Victor Reginald Claridge, the son of a farm labourer from South Leigh, the 13th of 15 children who lived to 1978.
The fundraising for the memorial still continues, but we hope that when designs are resubmitted the city council will ensure that Oxfordshire’s rich and noble links with the Spanish Civil War will finally be properly celebrated in good time for its 80th anniversary.