Teruel and Segura de los Baños

Teruel and Segura de los Baños

Ambulance crew
Medical unit in the freezing Teruel snow, during the winter of 1937-38

On 17 January 1938, the British Battalion moved into position, struggling through bitter cold and several feet of snow. Despite a ferocious rebel artillery bombardment, the battalion held their ground and brought the rebel counter-attack to a halt.

The battalion and its commander, Bill Alexander, and political commissar, Walter Tapsell, were commended for their dogged defence of Teruel, but the cost to the battalion was very high: twenty-one British volunteers were killed in this action, thirteen of them from the Major Attlee Company which had borne the brunt of the rebel artillery barrage.

The depleted British force was withdrawn, but their period of rest and recuperation was to be short-lived, as the rebels’ counter-attack gained momentum.

On 16 February the battalion advanced on Segura de los Baños, forty miles north of Teruel, in a diversionary attack aimed to draw rebel attention away. Despite some initial success, the rebel's superior numbers soon told and the battalion was forced back, with their commander Bill Alexander being replaced by Sam Wild following his shoulder injury. Teruel was recaptured by the rebels shortly afterwards.


Bill Alexander, British Volunteers for Liberty, London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1982

Bill Rust, Britons in Spain, London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1939.

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