The Commune de Paris Battalion

The Commune de Paris Battalion, 11th International Brigade

John Cornford
The British Communist intellectual, John Cornford.

The Commune de Paris Battalion, part of the 11th International Brigade, included several British volunteers. Several of them, such as H. Fred Jones and Jock Cunningham, had previous military experience, though many did not. One of the other British volunteers, Sam Russell (aka Lesser) described them as, ‘just a collection of odds and sods’.

During early November 1936 the British volunteers in the Commune de Paris battalion, alongside their comrades in the 11th International Brigade, were involved in the defence of the Spanish capital in the Casa de Campo, the park to Madrid’s west, and in University City nearby. During their desperate defence of the Spanish capital, many of the British section were injured or killed. Amongst those killed were the leader of the group, H. Fred Jones, Robert Symes and two New Zealanders, Steve Yates and Griffith McLaurin. John Cornford, the Communist intellectual and poet, was wounded to the head.

By 23 November, though General Mola’s rebel forces had captured two thirds of the area of University City, the rebels realised that the Republican forces were now well established, organised and determined and that the direct frontal attack on Madrid had failed. Consequently, the rebel Generals reluctantly called off the attack.


Bernard Knox, Essays Ancient and Modern, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1989.

 -- Premature Anti-Fascist, New York University, 1998. (Click here for on-line version)

John Sommerfield, Volunteer in Spain, London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1937.

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