Battle of Jarama commemorative week

Post date: 01/03/2024

Last week saw the annual programme of events to mark the anniversary of the 1937 Battle of Jarama, south-east of Madrid. As always, the high point was the Memorial March, this year held on 24 February.

The commemoration is organised by the Madrid-based Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales (Friends of the International Brigades), and this report is based on what appears on the AABI website.

20-21 February: Visit to Almansa and Albacete

A group of family and friends of the Yugoslav volunteers wanted to commemorate not only the struggle in Spain but also in Yugoslav lands against the Nazi occupation. Two German sisters, daughters of the Czech volunteer Adolf Preissler, also came, as did two members of the Polish Freedom Volunteers Association, two colleagues from the Italian association AICVAS and one colleague from the US.

In Almansa they were received by the Pablo Iglesias Cultural Association, which organised the day's programme, including a reception at the town hall by the Socialist mayor Pilar Callado. They also visited places where the artillery base of the International Brigades was established, where many volunteers from Yugoslavia took part.

The next day the group visited places in Albacete, guided by Manuel Ramírez, from the Fosa de Alcaraz association. Albacete was the main base of the International Brigades from October 1936 to April 1938, when it moved to Barcelona. After an event at the International Brigade monument on the campus of the University of Castilla La Mancha, a lunch was held, during which Anastasia Tsackos, daughter of a Greek Brigader, was presented with a copy of Giannis Pandelakis' book  ‘The Good Anti-fascists: Greek Volunteers in the Archives of the International Brigades’. At Madrigueras they visited the International Brigade memorial.

22 February: Film ‘The Spain of Our Youth’ 

The documentary made in Yugoslavia in the 1960s, ‘The Spain of Our Youth’, was screened at the AABI headquarters in Madrid. The place was packed and it was a warm meeting between family and friends from abroad and Spaniards who joined in the discussion after the screening.

23 February: Visits to Tarancón and Brunete

As has been done in recent years, supporters from Britain and Ireland visited Tarancón, where there is a memorial to the Scottish volunteers who fell at Jarama.

Another group visited the Brunete battlefield, with an emphasis on those places where the XV Brigade fought, including the Dimitrov and Lincoln Battalions. The visit ended at Mosquito Hill, where Nancy Philips placed a bouquet in memory of the Lincoln Battalion commander, Oliver Law, who was killed in the attempted capture of Mosquito Crest.

Memorial to the British volunteers on the Jarama battlefield.

24 February: Jarama March

The march began at 10am, bringing together about 400 friends who arrived in four buses and numerous private vehicles. On this occasion, the marchers paid tribute to the volunteers of the Dimitrov Battalion and, by extension, to the entire XV Brigade, which included the British, Canadian and US battalions as well. 

Historian Miguel Ángel García explained some aspects of the battle and the role of the Internationals, highlighting the great efforts made by the volunteers both in the battle from 6-27 February and in the following four months, in which they continued to the defence of the Madrid front until the Brunete offensive began.

At the end of the march, the final inauguration of the British memorial took place. This memorial was a replica of the one made by British volunteers on 29 April 1937, which had disappeared after the war. Thanks to the efforts of another historian José María Olivera, its exact location was discovered, as well as where the remains of the fallen were buried. With the encouragement of AABI, a replica of the memorial was reconstructed in which the Morata town council and its mayor, the Socialist Ángel Sánchez, took part. The memorial was provisionally inaugurated on 29 April 2023 and is now officially inaugurated. Moving stories from family members of the fallen were told. 

25 February: Visit to Fuencarral cemetery

There was a gathering in front of the International Brigade memorial at Fuencarral Cemetery. This was where those who had fallen in the defence of Madrid had been buried in individual graves with their names and nationalities inscribed or, where appropriate, with the inscription ‘Unknown’. These graves were desecrated and emptied in 1941 and the remains thrown into a mass grave somewhere outside the cemetery. 

Participants observed a minute of silence and placed a wreath in front of the cemetery memorials. At the end of the event, they visited the site of the suspected mass grave, accompanied by members of the neighbourhood association with whom AABI carried out the campaign to prevent the digging up of this area until it was verified that the International Brigade members were not buried on that site. This campaign was supported by sister associations, including the IBMT.

IBMT logo

Support our work

You can support the IBMT by joining us or affiliating your union branch – see details and membership forms here:
menuchevron-up linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram