Local history schoolteacher Tom Millard was the project coordinator for the new plaque to the International Brigade volunteers from the Dover area. Here he describes the aims and success of the project.

Over 90 years ago, hundreds of volunteers left from Dover to join the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Around 20 volunteers, from nurses to soldiers, left from East Kent. 

A blue plaque looking out towards the port of Dover was unveiled on 13 December at the RMT offices on Snargate Street to pay respects to the memory of three volunteers who would not return and died in the conflict. 

The ceremony was marked with the playing of The Internationale by students from Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School, whilst speeches were made by the local trade union representatives, Mike Sargent and Eric Segal, John Bulaitis, senior lecturer in history at Canterbury Christ Church University, and IBMT Chair Jim Jump.

The most moving speech for many came from Trinity Buckley, grand-daughter of Harry Addley, one to the three men who died in Spain and are listed on the plaque. 

Harry was a veteran of the First World War and the Battle of the Somme. He ran popular restaurants in both Folkestone and Dover, including one nearby to the site of the plaque on the former Northampton Street. 

At the outbreak of the civil war, Harry was joined by his friend Arthur Ovenden in being one of the first of the International Brigades to reach Spain. He successfully participated in the defence of Madrid against the Fascist forces of Francisco Franco. On 20 December 1936 he died fighting Italian and German tanks and weaponry at the Battle of Boadilla. 

Harry left behind a wife and two children, one of whom became the father of Trinity Buckley. 

The two other comrades who came from Dover and Folkestone and who would die in the conflict are John ‘Jack’ Black and George Gorman. 

Black was a miner from Betteshanger in the Kent coalfield. When news broke of his death in the Battle of Brunete in the summer of 1937 over 400 mourned in Dover at a public meeting. 

Tom Millard and the brass trio from Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School.

George Gorman had moved to Folkestone from the Longtower district of Derry and would fight and ultimately die in September 1938 in the final climatic battle of the war, the Battle of the Ebro. Just a few weeks later In 1938 the International Brigades would be repatriated and with that the contribution of the local Brigaders had spanned the entire conflict.

The plan to create a lasting memorial plaque began as a school project in 2020 at Dover Grammar School for Girls. In 2021 students organised an exhibition at the Urban Room in Folkestone and finally, with trade union donations, a lasting memorial has been able to be established. 

These three volunteers and many other Brigaders have no known resting place. Indeed Harry Addley’s grave in the north of Madrid was destroyed at the end of the war by the Nationalists and this made the case for a permanent memorial all the more compelling. 

Trinity Buckley (centre) at the plaque unveiling ceremony.

This memorial would not have been possible without the support of the Dover Girls Grammar School Past Students Association, the IBMT and Jim Jump for support with educational resources, John Bulaitis, historian Richard Baxell and, most importantly, Mike Sargent and Eric Segal of the South East Kent Trade Union Council. 

Members of trade unions made up the bulk of the 2,500-strong British and Irish contingents in the International Brigades and their comradely spirit and active promotion of working-class history was what made this project such a success. 

The unveiling was carried out by members of the Harry Addley family from as far afield as Spain and Miles Pitcher, a leading member of the student group who researched the background and life of local International Brigadiers. 

For further enquiries, contact project coordinator Tom Millard.

Members of Parliament are signing up to an Early Day Motion (EDM) marking the 85th anniversary of the return of the International Brigades from the war in Spain. 

The motion also praises the work of the IBMT in keeping alive the memory of the volunteers ‘who fought on the side of the Republican Government against fascism of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler’.

The EDM has been tabled by Beth Winter, the Labour MP for Cynon Valley in Wales, and has attracted cross-party and UK-wide support from Scottish National, Plaid Cymru and Social Democratic & Labour Party MPs.

It was on the evening of 7 December 1938 that the remaining 304 members of the British Battalion arrived at London’s Victoria Station. They received a rousing welcome from tens of thousands of well-wishers and were addressed by labour movement dignitaries, including Labour leader Clem Attlee.

Some 2,500 men and women from Britain and Ireland had volunteered to fight in Spain, and 530 of them lost their lives in a conflict that presaged the Second World War.

The International Brigades were disbanded in the final months of the Spanish Civil War as the Spanish Republic tried in vain to increase diplomatic pressure on Hitler and Mussolini to withdraw their forces from Spain.

Beth Winter.

As well as Winter, the other five sponsors of the EDM are Richard Burgon (Labour, Leeds East), Ian Byrne (Labour, Liverpool West Derby), Jeremy Corbyn (Independent, Islington North), Claire Hanna (SDLP, Belfast South) and Chris Stephens (SNP, Glasgow South West). The signatories also include several Plaid Cymru MPs.

IBMT supporters are being urged to press their own constituency MPs to sign up to the EDM.

Throughout this week, events are being staged by the IBMT around the country to commemorate the anniversary of the return of the Brigades.

The full text of the EDM 149 says:

That this House notes that 7 December 2023 marks the 85th anniversary of the return to Britain of the British and Irish volunteer members of the International Brigades who fought on the side of the Republican Government against fascism of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler in the Spanish Civil War; recalls that 304 volunteers of around 2500 who served from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth were met at Victoria Station by Labour Party leader Clement Attlee MP; regrets the 530 deaths the British and Irish volunteers suffered; notes there are now over 100 memorials to volunteers across Britain and that they continue to increase in number; and celebrates the ongoing work of the International Brigade Memorial Trust, including through its work in schools, and through its close relationship with official governmental and civic society sister organisations in Spain, to keep the volunteers memory alive.

IB Cymru Secretary Mary Greening reports from the commemoration in Tonypandy on 16 November

The cause that led an unemployed Rhondda miner to sacrifice his life in the Spanish Civil War remains as important now as when he died in 1938, a commemorative event has been told.

Harry Dobson from Tonypandy died in the Battle of the Ebro fighting for Republican Spain against fascist rebels led by General Francisco Franco, who won the war and went on to rule Spain as a dictator until his death in 1975.

A plaque in memory of Harry was put up in Tonypandy Library shortly after he was killed, but it got lost when the old library was demolished in the 1990s. After representations from historians and activists, a new plaque has been unveiled in the replacement Tonypandy Library.

The event was opened by Cllr Wendy Lewis, Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council.

Ray Gleeson Harry’s nephew unveiled the plaque and told those who attended the event: “Our family is very proud of Harry. He worked as a miner until 1931 when he was victimised for his activities. He was a member of the South Wales Miners Federation and in 1929 he joined the Rhondda branch of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

On his way to Spain, Harry survived the sinking of his ship which had been torpedoed by an Italian submarine off the coast of Malgrat de Mar, north of Barcelona.

On the day that Harry’s plaque was unveiled in Tonypandy, Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez won a vote in Parliament with the support of Catalan and Basque nationalists that will enable him to govern for another term.

The memorial plaque to Harry Dobson in Spain (photo: Nation.Cymru).

Speakers at the event were Alan Warren (Porta de la Historia), Peter Harris (Cymru Catalunya Association), Geoff Cowling (former Consul General in Barcelona) and Ray Gleeson. Mary Greening represented the IBMT and spoke briefly about the Trust's work.

Cor Cochin Caerdydd sang 'Jarama Valley' and 'The Internationale'. IB Cymru provided refreshments.

The IB Cymru Exhibition Wales and the Spanish Civil War was on display and will remain in the library for a month.

Opposition led by the Madrid-based Association of Friends of the International Brigades (AABI)

The municipal authorities in Madrid, which is run by the right-wing PP party, want to install a large rubbish depot right at the back of the wall of the cemetery of Fuencarral, where the AABI suspects that the bodies of International Brigaders were dumped in 1941.  

Amongst those bodies, according to the list drafted in 1937 (see below), were some British volunteers, including Julian Bell, Samuel Walsh and Arnold Gens [Jeans].

The AABI is liaising with the socialist government’s secretary of state for democratic memory on this issue, and they are urgently trying to contact any relatives of the volunteers mentioned in the 1937 list.

‘It would help our efforts to preserve the memory and dignity of these Brigaders if we could prove that relatives opposed this terrible project,’ says AABI President Almudena Cros.

See report in the Madrid daily El Diario.


Sean Cooney will be among several performers who will take part in events on the weekend of 6-8 October to remember the Teessiders who fought in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.

The award-winning singer-songwriter and member of The Young'uns will sing and speak on Saturday afternoon (7 October) at the Georgian Theatre in Stockton.

Earlier in the day there will be speeches and wreath-laying at the International Brigade memorial in the nearby Wasp Nest Yard.

The names of eight of the nine Stockton men who fought in Spain are inscribed on the memorial. One of them, Johnny Longstaff, inspired Cooney to write acclaimed album and show, ‘The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff’.

The International Brigade memorial in Wasp Nest Yard, Stockton.

Among the other speakers at the commemoration will be actress Liz Estensen, known for her role as Diane Sugden in Emmerdale. She is the daughter of Otto Estensen, a merchant seaman from Stockton who fought in Spain.

Twenty-four local men joined the International Brigades and battled General Franco and the forces sent by Hitler and Mussolini to help his army revolt. 

Nine of them died in the conflict, which many historians regard as a prelude to the Second World War.

The IBMT will be holding its annual general meeting in Stockton’s Georgian Theatre immediately before Sean Cooney and others perform.

Sean Cooney (left) with The Young'uns.

The AGM will be opened by actress, Thornaby-born Marlene Sidaway, who, among her many roles, played Maureen in the TV sitcom Mum. She is the IBMT President and was the partner of the late David Marshall, a civil servant from Middlesbrough who was an early volunteer in the fight against Franco. 

The late afternoon and evening are set aside for music and a social, with performances from Joe Solo and Dan Donnelly of The Levellers, as well as Sean Cooney.

Earlier on the Saturday in the Georgian Theatre there will be a talk by Sheila Gray and Pete Widlinski about the local International Brigade volunteers. 

Two of Gray’s uncles, Edward and William Tattam of Whitburn, near Sunderland, were killed while fighting in Spain.

On Sunday morning Teesside ‘Time Traveller’ Martin Peagam will lead a guided walk around sites in Stockton associated with the town’s anti-fascist history. 

The route will take in the plaque in Market Square commemorating the Battle of Stockton in 1933. This was when Oswald Mosley’s fascist Blackshirts were chased out of town by thousands of local protesters. Several of the men who took part subsequently went to Spain.

The plaque in Middlesbrough Town Hall.

The weekend will be launched on Friday evening at a reception in Middlesbrough Town Hall, where a plaque dating back to 1939 names ten men from Teesside and Durham who fell in Spain. 

This will be followed by a social in Middlesbrough hosted by the Unite trade union, which is organising the weekend’s events along with the IBMT.

IBMT Chair Jim Jump said the weekend is an opportunity for local people to celebrate an important part of Teesside’s heritage. ‘We hope lots of people can join us for these events.’ 

He added: ’Though the International Brigades suffered terrible casualties and lost the war in Spain, they helped check the rise of fascism for nearly three years and alerted the world to its dangers. Hitler’s defeat started on the battlefields of Spain.’

For more information about the IBMT's AGM, including reports and motions, see here.

This is an edited version of the talk delivered by Peter Crome at the annual commemoration of the British volunteers who fought in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War held on the South Bank on 1 July 2023.

I have been asked to say a few words about the medical services at the Battle of the Ebro, the last major battle in which the British Battalion of the International Brigades participated. Although my children believe I am very old I was not so old to have been at the Ebro. Luckily many of those who were there have written accounts of the medical services and there are also several excellent accounts written by distinguished historians. A disclaimer – all errors in what I have to say are theirs and not mine!

The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War was a pivotal moment not only in Spain but throughout the world. This statue commemorates all those who went to Spain from Britain to support the Spanish Republic, amongst whom were a substantial number who went to provide medical, nursing and other humanitarian services. 

Local fundraising for food and medical supplies took place throughout the UK.

Organisations such as the Spanish Medical Aid Committee were established soon after the outbreak of the war and their first team left for Spain in August 1936 and established a hospital. From Scotland, the first Scottish Ambulance Unit went out in September 1936.  Medical teams came from all over the world including large contingents from the US. In the spring of 1937 most the different national teams had been incorporated into the International Brigades, with doctors and nurses from different countries working together and in partnership with Spanish doctors and nurses.

Those who went to provide medical aid as non-combatants, just like those who went to fight, came from all sectors of UK society and included, not just nurses and doctors but also ambulance staff, drivers, and mechanics and administrators. I must mention Nan Green, the administrator who worked with my father and who ran the International Brigade Association for many years.  

Not all of those in medical services were ‘lefties’. They held different political and religious views and many went for humanitarian reason. An example was the Quaker Nathan Clark, of the Clark shoe factory who is credited with designing the desert boot. Many wrote memoirs of their experiences and oral and documentary testimony has resulted in numerous books and articles. I had the privilege of meeting many of the volunteers and a number became long-lasting family friends. These included Janette Opman from France, František Kriegel from Czechoslovakia and Carl Coutelle from the GDR. The British volunteer Alex Tudor Hart was the family GP for a while. 

I would like to mention the names of two doctors who have special relevance to where we are on the South Bank and almost opposite the Houses of Parliament. Larry Collier, then a medical student, who later became Lord Monkswell but gave up his peerage without taking his seat in the House of Lords. One of the most surreal experiences I had was when I went with him and his family to the ancient ceremony of disclaiming a peerage in the rather grand office of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. Sadly we lost a voice in the House of Lords. There was also Chris Thornycroft, who provided engineering services to the medical units and who was a descendent of the Thornycrofts who sculpted the statues of Boudica and of Oliver Cromwell just over the river.

Peter Crome speaking at London's Jubilee Gardens on 1 July. Photo: Andrew Wiard.

Many of those from the UK serving in the medical services were students or, if qualified, were very junior and even fewer had undertaken military service. I don’t know if any spoke Spanish! My father Len Crome had only been qualified for three years when he arrived in Spain and later became head of medical services of the XVth Army Corps that fought at the northern end of the Ebro Battle. He attributed his promotion not to his skills as a doctor but to the fact that he spoke several languages and could communicate with the generals. 

The doctors and other health workers had to learn quickly, and indeed they did so. 

By the time of the Battle of Ebro in 1938 the medical services were better prepared and the medical advances were some of which now seem obvious. 

Wound care: The traditional way of dealing with wounds was to stitch them up. This had the great effect of promoting gas gangrene, amputations and death. The Spanish method, associated with the name Trueta (who later moved to the UK and became a Professor in Oxford) was to lay the wound open, wash it, remove all dead tissue and contaminating material – if necessary on more than one occasion, apply antiseptic, leave open and immobilise. The techniques that had to be learned again in the Second World War, to leave the wounds to heal from the bottom up. 

Len Crome.

Blood transfusions: Blood banks were established before engagements. Blood was collected from the civilian population, who received food vouchers in exchange for their donation. Norman Bethune from Canada was associated with the development of blood banks and from the UK there was Reggie Saxton, a stalwart supporter of progressive causes until his death in 2004.

Stretchers: These were standardised. They were designed so that they were raised from the ground so wounds would not get contaminated and could slot into lorries and trains for transportation. They were light and could fold so that they could be carried by one person and had a raised head so that, when not used for a patient, staff could sleep on them.

Lorries: These were converted into auto-chirs containing operating tables, autoclaves, fridges for storing blood and their own generators for providing light. Often there would be two operations going on at the same time, with a single anaesthetist going between the two patients.

The key to the management of battle injuries was the physical organisation of the evacuation of the injured. 

First-aid posts were established 300-700m behind the front line. Morphine and vaccinations were given. Dressings and tourniquets were applied. Then the injured were taken by ambulance or mule to a classification point. There, a doctor would practice triage and people were sent to first-line or second-line hospitals depending on the severity of the wound. It was at these hospitals that major surgery was undertaken. Further back were base hospitals. 

The hospitals were located in any suitable place that had not been bombed. These included quarries, caves and tunnels. The front at the Battle of the Ebro was not static. It went forwards and backwards and the hospitals had to move. Sometimes the front line services were behind the second line services!  The hospitals also had to cope with ‘ordinary’ diseases such as tuberculosis and typhoid, which were common at that time in Spain

The most iconic and best-described medical facility was the Santa Lucía cave hospital established in the village of La Bisbal de Falset. I had the privilege of visiting the cave and unveiling a commemorative plaque.  There are several published descriptions of its operation. You will be able to see videos of it on Youtube. If you visit you will see boards which tell the story of the hospital. It had between 80 and 100  low camp beds for the patients, who included British, Spanish and other International Brigaders as well as prisoners of war. 

Reggie Saxton giving a blood transfusion.

Wounded soldiers were triaged, with the less serious being sent further away. Len had been reprimanded by General Walter for suggesting this approach previously. Patience Darton writes about struggles trying to retrieve blankets from the dead so that she could use them for living. There was a blood transfusion laboratory housed in a lorry, with the transfusions supervised by Reggie Saxton.

Lessons were learned in Spain and lessons on how best to manage battle injuries were lost and had to be relearned in the Second World War. Many, if not all of the doctors who went to Spain, later served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and had to reintroduce the techniques that they adopted in Spain. 

To conclude, here’s something that Len told me. Of course he was proud to have served in Spain and proud to have been part of the international effort to fight fascism. However, he said the people who deserved the most praised were the ordinary people of Spain, particularly the women and children, who suffered so much during and after the war.

Professor Peter Crome is the son of Len Crome and a Patron of the IBMT.

IBMT member Nancy Phillips writes…

Eighty five years ago the Ebro offensive was initiated by Republican forces, who crossed the Ebro river on 24/25 July with the aim of stopping the advance of Franco’s Nationalist troops towards Valencia. It became the longest and largest battle of the Spanish Civil War, with massive air warfare that was unprecedented. As noted by historian Helen Graham, Republican communications were bombed to oblivion and their troops were blasted off the bare and rocky hillsides by the sheer force of the incendiary materials launched.  

In the end, in November 1938, the last men of the Republican forces had to retreat back across the Ebro at Flix. According to Helen Graham: ‘…retreat was a function not of military defeat (the Republic had successfully blocked Franco’s attack on Valencia) but of an absolutely devastating political defeat’ at Munich, which had removed any hope of aid from the Western democracies. Barcelona fell in early 1939 and Madrid in March 1939.

Reminders of the Battle of the Ebro can be found all over Catalonia today: trenches, bunkers, anti-aircraft shelters, improvised command centres and field hospitals, museums and perhaps the most moving of all, the former village of Corbera de l’Ebre left untouched since destroyed in battle. We are also left with a plethora of letters, poems and memoirs of Brigaders whose works remind us of ‘the nightmare come to life’ of combat in the Pandols. And, of course, there are the number of memorials to those who fought there.

Corbera d'Ebre.

From all of this, it’s clear that the Ebro battle has resonated in the minds of those who fought there and those of us who remember them. But beyond the landscape scars, monuments and historic sites, this battle has acquired additional meaning. It has become a symbol of the international resistance against fascism; for the pessimists, a milestone of resistance against fascist totalitarianism.

Below is a poem for this occasion, ‘For My Dead Brother’ by Alvah Bessie*, written from prison in 1951 to his fellow Lincoln volunteer Aaron Lopoff, killed on Hill 666 during the Ebro battle.  I am not sure what Aaron meant; perhaps you know.

For My Dead Brother

Alvah Bessie

The moon was full that night in Aragon…

we sat in the black velvet shadow

of the hazel (called avellano there); 

the men lay sleeping, sprawled on the packed earth

in their blankets (like the dead)…

With dawn we’d move in double files

down to the Ebro, crossed in boats,

and many lying there relaxed

would lie relaxed across the river

(but without their blankets).

He said, ‘You started something, baby –’

(I was thirty-four; he ten years less;

he was my captain; I his adjutant)

‘– you started something, baby,’ Aaron said,

‘when you came to Spain.’

Across the yellow river

there was a night loud with machine guns

and the harmless popcorn crackle 

of hand grenades bursting pink and green,

and he was gone and somehow Sam found me in the dark,

bringing Aaron’s pistol, wet with blood.

He said:

   ‘The last thing Aaron said

   was, “Did we take the hill?”

   I told him, “Sure.”’

Aaron, we did not take the hill.

We lost in Spain, Aaron,

I know, finally, what you meant that night

under the thick black shadow of the avellano,

sitting here in prison twelve years later.

We did not take the hill, mi comandante,

but o! the plains that we have taken

and the mountains, rivers, cities,

deserts, flowing valleys, seas!

You may sleep… sleep, my brother, sleep.


Helen Graham ‘The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction’

Cary Nelson ‘Revolutionary Memory’ 

Edmon Castell & Lluis Falco ‘Across the River’ 

* Alvah Bessie was a novelist, journalist and scriptwriter who, as one of the Hollywood Ten, was jailed in 1950 during the McCarthy witch-hunts in the US.

For Key Stage 3…

Why did so many people volunteer to fight in the Spanish Civil War?

Welcome to the IBMT teaching resource pack. Here you will find a five-lesson unit on the International Brigades aimed at Key Stage 3 (primarily Year 9) students. The unit and resources are designed to be as straightforward and adaptable as possible, so that teachers can modify them to the needs of their own students and curricula.

Download the teaching resources here:

1/ Enquiry: Why did so many people volunteer to fight in the Spanish Civil War? – a PowerPoint presentation including 62 slides and notes for teachers

2/ A Knowledge Organiser chart with key words, individuals and dates from the PowerPoint presentation above

3/ A 13-page Enquiry Booklet PDF including sources

4/ A 15-page Teacher Reading PDF guide with background on key themes and events

5/ A 4-page Mark Scheme PDF guide.

Artwork for a commemorative plate to remember the International Brigades.

Why teach this topic?

The International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War is an inspiring and engaging topic to teach that allows pupils to explore an oft-overlooked aspect of 20th century history.

Thematically, many curricula neglect working-class history. At the same time, this unit is designed to provide a valuable bridge between topics studied in many schools in Key Stage 3. Most history departments cover the end of the First World War and/or the Russian Revolution, as well as the rise of the Nazis or the road to the Second World War. This unit knits these stories together as well as bolstering vital source skills and exploring the complexity and interconnectedness of historical causation.

Leader of the military rebels, General Franco, with a portrait of Hitler on his desk.

In Lesson 1, students are introduced to the enquiry question ‘Why did so many people volunteer to fight in the Spanish Civil War?’. Students are challenged to think why at least 35,000 people from over 50 nations would risk life and limb in another country’s civil conflict, as well as being introduced to their first primary source and the key terms and dates of the topic in the knowledge organiser. Frequent recall tasks through the unit are designed to embed this key content knowledge, which, once secure, will allow students to engage fully with the sources and key question of causation.

Each subsequent lesson deals with a different reason why people volunteered to serve in Spain and from Lesson 3 onwards students must analyse a primary source focused on that particular reason. We would advise teachers to take the ‘I-We-You’ approach to scaffolding and modelling this source work over the course of the unit. This will build up the students’ skills and confidence in working with these sources over the course of the five lessons until they are able to demonstrate independent practice by the end.

This 1937 poster produced by the government of the Spanish Republic says: 'All the peoples of the world are in the International Brigades on the side of the Spanish people'.

n Lesson 4, students are faced with the complex web of causation that pulls together all the reasons for volunteering that the unit covers. It is important to emphasise the interconnectedness of these factors and the ways in which causation – and human decision making – is not a simple ‘x leads to y’, but rather an interplay between interlocking causes. Many links between the causes studied are essential as students head into the final lesson in which they have a chance to demonstrate both their source skills and their knowledge and understanding of the central enquiry question.

We sincerely hope that teachers will find these resources useful and that students will be engaged by the unique story of the International Brigades.

This teaching resource pack has been created with the help of a grant from the Lipman-Miliband Trust and individual donations from IBMT members, for which we are very grateful. If you have any queries or comments, please contact

Doc Ritchie of AVzounds writes…

No Pasaran! is a 30-minute musical documentary about the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and uses electronic beats, voice-overs, samples, contemporary songs and music to tell a story of great courage, danger, and political conflict. 

Listen to it here.

In 1986, I was in Barcelona, 50 years after the war had started, with an unofficial contingent of English anarchists, where we met people from the CNT union and listened to speeches from Spanish Civil War survivors. 

There were colourful posters and stickers on every wall with the majority for the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and the CNT. There was also lots of rough red wine, delicious tortillas, and the smell of coffee and cigarettes in the morning.

I had just turned 21 and knew very little about the complexities of the war, but when I got back home I absorbed as much as I could. 

Doc Ritchie: Inspired by a visit to Barcelona.

That experience in Barcelona has remained a lifelong inspiration and maintained a belief that international working class solidarity can and must defeat fascism whenever it appears.

No Pasaran! is a celebration of those from around the world who went to Spain to fight against Franco’s fascist coup in 1936, those who fought and died there, those who tended the wounded and dying, those who witnessed or wrote about it and sent their reports for the rest of the world to hear.

It is also dedicated to the memory of life long anti-fascist Richard Bircumshaw (1951-2019) who I went to Barcelona with in 1986.

 AVzounds is a company-in-community who mix radical speech with lo-life beats. Our first release was Speak! with American poet Hans Ostrom, followed by Pink Punk Poetry by Swedish poet Louise Halvardsson, and we are currently working with asylum seekers in Teesside to tell their stories of exile.

Musician and writer Doc (Dr C) Ritchie runs AVzounds. His new book, ‘Marx & Work and the 21st century’, is published by Manifesto Press:

On Saturday 15 October, the Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor Donna Ludford opened the IBMT’s 2022 Annual General Meeting with the following address. 

The AGM also heard friendly greetings messages sent in from the IBMT’s international sister-organisations, which have also been reproduced below.

From left: Councillor Sean McHale, Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor Donna Ludford and Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd at the AGM.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, 

The initial AGM of the International Brigade Memorial Trust was held in Manchester in 2002 and again in 2006.

I am delighted to welcome you all back to Manchester for the 2022 AGM.

A very warm welcome if you have travelled from near or far.

The International Brigade Memorial Trust commemorates the men and women from the UK who volunteered to go to Spain to join the International Brigades to fight fascism and defend democracy in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939.

2,500 men and women from the UK went. 130 men and women from Greater Manchester went and 35 were killed, many at the Battle of Jarama.

In 1938 Manchester City Council placed a plaque in Manchester Town Hall to commemorate the men and women from Greater Manchester who went to Spain. This plaque is now placed in Manchester’s Central Library.

Like all registered UK charities, the IBMT is required to hold an Annual General Meeting, to elect the committee and review the previous year’s business. However, the IBMT’s AGM weekends are much more than a formal meeting.

The AGM weekends are an opportunity for family members and supporters of those who went to Spain, to come together to remember, commemorate and celebrate the volunteers’ bravery and principles.

I am sure that you have a busy agenda set out for you during your tiem here but I do hope you will have a little free time to explore and enjoy all that Manchester has to offer. You are assured the warmest of welcomes here. Thank you.

International greetings to the 2022 IBMT AGM

From the Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales, Madrid

Dear friends and relatives of the anti-fascist volunteers in the International Brigades, 

We send you our fraternal greetings from Spain, where so many British men and women chose to do their moral duty against the advance of international fascism. We honour and remember them, and we are delighted to announce that we will be marking the site of the original memorial in Jarama as soon as it becomes feasible. We are also hoping to share more information about the nationality being extended to the descendants of the International Brigaders in the next coming weeks, when the new Law of Historical Memory is published in full. 

As winter approaches and the working class will see our disposable income greatly reduced due to the cost of living crisis, we stand united and in solidarity. In the current political climate, with the apparently unstoppable advance of fascism in Europe and beyond, there is even more cause to celebrate and commemorate the men and women in the International Brigades who made a decision in 1936 to fight an ideology of hate and exploitation. 

Let's remember their bravery and determination in our hearts and minds and in a proper monument when the time comes.

From the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, New York

Warmest greetings from ALBA to all of the men and women in our sister organisation, the International Brigade Memorial Trust. 

These times demand that now, more than ever, we recommit to the values and tell the history of the brave anti-fascists of the Fifteenth Brigade. They are role models whose stories, when uncovered and told, as you do in your work, serve to inspire new generations in the struggle for peace, democracy, human rights and social justice. 

We wish you the greatest success in your annual general meeting in Manchester.

Posted on 24 October 2022.

An up-to-date, interactive map of all International Brigade and Spanish Civil War memorials in Britain and Ireland is available via Google Maps.

It is made with Google My Maps and based on an original map produced by Stichting Spanje 1936-1938, the Dutch International Brigades memorial association.

It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

By Lynda Walker

Belfast hosted two keynote talks on different aspects of the anti-fascist war in Spain on 5 and 6 August as part of the city’s annual Féile an Phobail (Festival of the People).

At the Shankill Library on 5 August IBMT Chair Jim Jump described the role of merchant seafarers in the fight against fascism in Spain. This included the substantial contribution made by the more than 100 individual British and Irish seafarers who joined the International Brigades. Equally significant was the part played by the crews of British ships that beat the blockade of Spanish Republican ports on the Atlantic and Mediterranean seaboards.

British ships brought essential food supplies to Spanish cities swollen by refugees and also ferried thousands of refugees from northern Spain to safety in France. In the dying days of the war, two British ships, the African Trader and Stanbrook, took more than 4,000 Spanish Republicans to safety in French Algeria as Mussolini’s troops prepared to march into Alicante, the last Republican-held port on the Mediterranean.

Crews trading with Republican ports faced bombs and torpedoes from the planes and warships sent by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to help General Franco. ‘Britannia may have ruled the waves in those days,’ Jim noted, ‘but when it came to Spain, she preferred to turn a blind eye and appease the fascist powers.’ About 30 British ships were sunk, and scores of seafarers lost their lives.

Jim, who is the former editor of The Seaman, the monthly magazine of the National Union of Seamen (now part of RMT), read out the names of Irish seafarers who had fought in Spain. One of them was Henry McGrath from the Shankill, whose name is on the plaque donated to the Shankill Library in 2014 by Belfast’s International Brigade Commemoration Committee (IBCC).

A short film, ‘Britain Expects’, commissioned in 1938 by seafaring unions and shipowners trading with Spain to protest about the lack of protection provided by the Royal Navy, was screened at the meeting, which was organised by the IBCC and introduced by its chair, Ciaran Crossey.

Afterwards several participants went to Writers’ Square to lay flowers on the International Brigade memorial. The memorial was unveiled in 2007 by Dublin-born Brigader and former merchant seaman Bob Doyle.

On 6 August Jim Jump delivered the Madge Davison Memorial Lecture at the Cultúrlann community centre on the Falls Road. This time the theme was historical revisionism, with the title of the talk being ‘The International Brigades and the re-writing of anti-fascist history’.

Jim examined current attempts to equate communism and fascism. Though with roots in the Cold War, this dangerous credo had now moved from the far right fringe to the political mainstream, as evidenced by the European Parliament’s 2019 resolution on European Remembrance. The resolution drew equivalence between fascism and communism and asserted that the Soviet Union was as much to blame for the Second World War as Hitler’s Germany.

‘The resolution was doubly shocking,’ said Jim, ‘not just for its distortion of history but also for the fact that it garnered overwhelming support, with MEPs of the S&D socialist and social democrat grouping in the parliament, including Labour MEPs, all voting in favour.’

He pointed out that the resolution failed to mention the Spanish Civil War, or Britain’s appeasement of the Axis powers and the Munich Pact, which, after Spain, sacrificed another European country, this time Czechoslovakia, to fascist aggression.

Nor did MEPs acknowledge the often leading role of communists in the 20th century’s long war against fascism, from the conflict in Spain to the struggle of partisan armies in Nazi-occupied Europe. Many also joined in Allied forces which along with the Soviet Union’s Red Army fought and ultimately defeated German and Italian fascism.

The new revisionism also meant that memorials to the International Brigades, most of whom were communists, had been removed in countries such as Croatia, Hungary and Poland. Many monuments to partisan fighters and to the Red Army had also been taken down.

Jim’s talk was illustrated by photographs and a short film about an ‘insurrectionary commemoration’ at Warsaw’s tomb of the unknown warrior. The names of battles in the Spanish Civil War had been erased from its plaques, he explained, but in 2016 a group of young Poles holding replica banners of the Brigades held a defiant wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial.

There followed a lively discussion after the talk, in which one contributor said it was nonsense to equate fascism with communism as fascism was an extension of capitalism.

The event was hosted by the Madge Davison Memorial Committee and chaired by Adam Murray, secretary of the Irish Communist Party. He welcomed audience members, noting that this was the twelfth year that a lecture had taken place in the memory of Madge, a prominent local communist, women’s rights campaigner and civil rights activist.

Lynda Walker is the organiser of the IBMT-affiliated International Brigade Commemoration Committee in Belfast.

Posted on 16 August 2022.

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