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The Volunteers

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The database

Between 1996 and 2016, IBMT archivist Jim Carmody and historian Richard Baxell worked on putting together an annotated list of all the British and Irish volunteers for the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939. 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 (IBA) and the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History in Moscow (RGASPI).

The searchable list above gives a brief summary of each of the nearly 2,400 individuals for whom there are records. In time more information will be placed online. Hopefully, until then, this will be a useful starting point for relatives, students and researchers. This database has been placed online with generous financial support from Unite SE/6239 Branch.

If you have any comments or additional information about any of the individuals listed here, contact the IBMT by clicking this link. If you have a photo of any of the volunteers which you would like to see added to his or her entry, please send it to this same link. We are grateful to Kevin Buyers for allowing us to use several of the photos from his ‘XV International Brigade in Spain’ website, to Mick Brunton, who volunteered to load these images onto our site, and to Alan Lloyd and Stuart Walsh, who have assisted in photo research. 

NB: The records include assessments of the volunteers made by their political superiors in the latter part of the war in Spain. Many are derogatory, referring to desertion, drunkenness and indiscipline, but should be taken with a pinch of salt. They were written for internal use, primarily as an assessment of suitability for future membership of the Communist Party at home. Many volunteers with outstanding military records in Spain – including senior ranking officers – nevertheless received extremely critical assessments.

Can't find what you're looking for?

If the name you are searching doesn’t appear on our database, there could be a number of explanations… 

1/ The records kept in Spain were not always accurate. It could be that the name you are looking for was misspelt at the time. You could therefore try alternative spellings. 

2/ The person in question may have travelled to France and Spain with the intention of joining the International Brigades but was arrested and repatriated by French police; or they were rejected by the International Brigades on medical grounds and returned home; or they changed their mind at the last minute and decided not to enlist. If you think any of these possibilities may apply, you could consult the list of some 4,000 names compiled by Special Branch, who were monitoring ferry ports for suspects travelling to Spain. The list is held at the National Archives in Kew (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk). None of these records is online, so you will have to go to Kew in person or pay to get digital copies. 

3/ The person may have used a false name in Spain. Several volunteers did so. If this is the case, you will have to use other fields for your search, or find out from other sources what the alias may have been. 

4/ The person you are looking for may have enlisted in a different battalion. Our records centre on those who served in the British Battalion. However, several British and Irish or British and Irish-born volunteers served in, for example, the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion or the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. Others fought in French and German units or even in Spanish Republican forces. To search for such individuals we recommend you consult the databases of American and Canadian volunteers (www.alba-valb.org/volunteers and https://spanishcivilwar.ca/volunteers/browse). Additionally, you can consult the database of all International Brigade volunteers being compiled by the Sidbrint research centre at Barcelona University (http://sidbrint.ub.edu/en) and the Comintern archives of the Russian Foreign Ministry (http://sovdoc.rusarchives.ru/#tematicchilds&rootId=94999). Historian Richard Baxell has produced this useful guide to navigating the Russian archives: www.richardbaxell.info/moscow-files

5/ Several Jewish volunteers used noms de guerre or were known by different names than the ones used in Spain. For more information on individual Jewish volunteers, see this list compiled by Martin Sugarman of the Association of Jewish Ex Servicemen and Women: www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jews-who-served-in-the-international-brigade-in-the-spanish-civil-war

Glossary of political organisations referred to in the database

AbbreviationPolitical organisation
BLLoYBritish Labour League of Youth
CPCommunist Party
CPACommunist Party of Australia
CPCCommunist Party of Canada
CPICommunist Party of Ireland
CPNZCommunist Party of New Zealand
CPUSACommunist Party of United States
ILPIndependent Labour Party
ISLPInternational Socialist Labour Party
IRAIrish Republican Army
IRCIrish Republican Congress
LPLabour Party
LPSALabour Party of South Africa
SDFSocial Democratic Foundation
SLSocialist League
SPGBSocialist Party of Great Britain
YCLYoung Communist League

Database sources The following is a key to the sources mentioned in the comments column. It should not be taken as an exhaustive bibliography of the British Battalion in Spain, nor the International Brigades themselves. 

AbbreviationSource Details
BABill Alexander, British Volunteers for Liberty. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1982.
BCBob Clark, No Boots to my Feet: Experiences of a Britisher in Spain 1937-38. Student Bookshops, 1984.
C&PMike Cooper & Ray Parkes, We Cannot Park on Both Sides: Reading volunteers in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39. Reading: 2000.
C&RD. Corkhill & S. Rawnsley (eds.), The Road to Spain: Anti Fascists at War 1936-1939. Fife: Borderline, 1981.
CHChris Hall, Not Just Orwell. Warren & Pell, 2009.
DHDavid Hooper, No Pasarán! A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War. London: Avon, 1997.
EREsmond Romilly, Boadilla. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1937.
FRFrank Ryan, ed., The Book of the XVth Brigade: Records of British, American, Canadian and Irish Volunteers in the XV International Brigade in Spain 1936-1938. Madrid: War Commissariat, 1938.
FTFred Thomas, To Tilt at Windmills: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War. East Lansing: State University of Michigan Press, 1996.
GCGeoffrey Cox, The Defence of Madrid. London: Victor Gollancz, 1937.
GOGeorge Orwell, Homage to Catalonia. London: Secker & Warburg, 1937.
HFHywell Francis, Miners Against Fascism: Wales and the Spanish Civil War. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1984.
HSH. Stratton, To Anti-Fascism by Taxi. West Glamorgan: Alun Books, 1984.
HSHugh Sloan, ‘Why I Volunteered’, Scottish Trade Union Review, 51, July-Sept 1991, pp. 30-31
HTHugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, 3rd edition. London: Penguin, 1990.
IBAInternational Brigade Archive, Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1
IMIan MacDougall (ed.), Voices from the Spanish Civil War: Personal Recollections of Scottish Volunteers in Republican Spain, 1936-1939. Edinburgh: Polygon, 1986.
IMDIan MacDougall, ‘Tom Murray: Veteran of Spain’ Cencrastus, 18, Autumn 1984, pp. 16-19.
IWMSAImperial War Museum Sound Archive, London.
JAJohn Angus, With The International Brigade in Spain. Loughborough: 1983.
JCJudith Cook, Apprentices of Freedom. London: Quartet Press, 1979.
JGJason Gurney, Crusade in Spain. London: Faber and Faber, 1974.
JHJames K. Hopkins, Into the Heart of the Fire: The British in the Spanish Civil War. California: Stanford, 1998.
JMJoe Monks, With the Reds in Andalusia. Privately published, 1985.
JSJohn Sommerfield, Volunteer in Spain. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1937.
KWKeith Scott Watson, Single to Spain. London: Arthur Baker, 1937.
LELloyd Edmonds, Letters from Spain. Sydney: George Allen & Unwin, 1985.
LLLaurie Lee, A Moment of War. London: Viking, 1991.
LPALinda Palfreeman, ¡Salud! British Volunteers in the Republican Medical Service during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39. Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press, 2012.
ManchesterManchester Studies Collection, Tameside Local Studies Centre, Ashton-under-Lyne
MJMichael Jackson, Fallen Sparrows: The International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1994.
MJHM.J. Hynes, ‘The British Battalion of the XVth International Brigade’, Unpublished B.A. Dissertation, University of Manchester, 1985.
MLMaurice Levine, Cheetham to Cordova. Manchester: Privately Published, 1984.
MORMichael O’Riordan, Connolly Column. Dublin: New Books, 1979.
NANational Archives (formerly the Public Record Office), Kew
PHMPeoples’ History Museum (formerly the National Museum of Labour History)
PTPeter Thwaites, ‘The ILP Contingent in the Spanish Civil War’, Imperial War Museum Review, 1987, pp. 50-61.
RGASPIInternational Brigade Collection, Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Recent Historical Documents, Moscow.
RSRobert Stradling, Ireland and the Spanish Civil War. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999.
SHGood to be Alive: The Story of Jack Brent. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1954.
SWStanley Weintraub, The Last Great Cause: The Intellectuals and the Spanish Civil War. London: W.H. Allen, 1968.
TWTom Wintringham, English Captain. London: Faber & Faber, 1939.
VBVincent Brome, The International Brigades. London: Heinmann, 1965.
W&CDon Watson & John Corcoran, An Inspiring Example: The North East of England and the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Newcastle: McGuffin, 1996.
WGWalter Gregory, The Shallow Grave: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War. London: Victor Gollancz, 1986.
WRWilliam Rust, Britons in Spain. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1939.
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