On 3 June 2020, IBMT activists Stuart Walsh, Paul Ward and Barrie Eckford laid a wreath on a memorial to Thomas Moore, Manchester International Brigader who was killed at Teruel in 1938. This article by Stuart Walsh provides an account of the accidental re-discovery of the grave by Barrie Eckford. A version of this article was published in ¡No Pasarán! 3-2019.
IBMT activists Barrie Eckford and Paul Ward laying a wreath at the Moore family gravestone, Moston Cemetery, Manchester.
The genesis of this piece is a visit to Moston Cemetery in Manchester by IBMT member Barrie Eckford, who was there with his wife attending to a family grave. While walking around, his eye just happened to catch sight of the inscription on the bottom part of a gravestone of the Moore family, which reads: ‘Also Thomas, their beloved son, killed in action in Spain. Jan. 24th 1938. Aged 22 years’.
Barrie had been there many times before, and had never noticed the inscription before, so was surprised and delighted to come upon it in this fortuitous way. Who, then, was Thomas Moore, and what was the story of his time in Spain?
Thomas Moore, or Tommy as he was known to his friends in Manchester and Spain, was born in Ancoats in 1916. He was a cabinetmaker, very active in his trade union, and in the Young Communist League, in which he held the post of treasurer, and was also elected as an area committee member.
Without informing his family he had made his way to Spain in July 1937, and he arrived there on 30 July. At Albacete, he trained as a light machine-gunner, and scout/observer. He obviously impressed his superior officers, and at the end of his training period he was recommended for officer training, but he declined this: ‘No, I first want to prove myself as a private soldier,’ and asked to be sent to the front. By all accounts, he was an excellent soldier, and saw action on the Aragón front, and at Teruel, where he was killed on 24 January 1938.
The circumstances of his death were described by fellow Brigader, friend and Mancunian Walter Greenhalgh in a local newspaper: ‘The idea was for No.3 Company to act as the first stop to any projected attack by the enemy. When the attack was launched the companies made a fighting retreat, Moore and a few others with light machine-guns stood forward to cover the retreat of the main body. That is how he was killed.’
Left: Detail of the Moore family gravestone. Right: A sketch of Moore in Spain, artist unknown.
In a letter home dated 16 December 1937 Tommy had said: ‘I’m looking forward to returning to England some time next year, as I think by that time we will have given the Fascists, General Franco and Hitler more than they can take.’ Alas, it was not to be, and just over a month later he was dead, and, while he is memorialised on his family’s gravestone in Moston Cemetery, his actual bones lie forever mixed with the Spanish earth.
Tommy Moore has a well stocked file at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, which includes a number of letters to family and friends, and three illustrated postcard letters, which were produced by the International Brigade Commissariat. In one of these he mentions getting his photograph taken while on leave in Madrid, though this does not seem to have survived. But we do have the remarkable drawing reproduced here, said to be the work of one of his comrades, which was also produced while he was on that Madrid leave.
This discovery set me thinking that there may be other cases like this. We are all aware of the growing list of memorials in our towns and cities. But do readers know of any other Brigaders who are memorialised on family gravestones like this? If so, do let the IBMT know.
Posted on 11 July 2020.