75th anniversary of the return of the volunteers from Spain

Post date: 07/12/2013


Seventy-five years ago today, 7 December 1938, the British Battalion arrived home from Spain. See silent footage of their arrival in Newhaven and then at London’s Victoria Station, where they are welcomed, first by Fred Copeman, a previous commander of the British Battalion, then by Labour Party leader Clement Attlee:


After the footage of Attlee there is a flashback showing the volunteers in Spain in the summer of 1938 and a visit by Communist Party leader Harry Pollitt. 


The film returns to Victoria Station, where there are more speeches from, among others, Labour’s Stafford Cripps, Communist MP Willie Gallagher and Herbert Morrison, Labour leader of the London County Council. 


The volunteers then leave the station, passing through cheering crowds, and are taken by bus for dinner at the headquarters of the Cooperative Wholesale Society in Prescot Street, Whitechapel. Again they are addressed by prominent supporters, including Charlotte Haldane and Ellen Wilkinson. 


Finally Sam Wild, the last commander of the battalion, speaks to camera.


“Welcome to the International Brigade” runs for just over 6 minutes. The film-maker is unknown, but is thought to be Ivor Montagu of the Progressive Film Institute.


There is a copy of the film in the archives of the British Film Institute. The BFI have digitised it especially for the IBMT so that a high-resolution version (much better than this one on YouTube) can be screened tonight at the Rich Mix arts centre in London, where there will be a gala evening of speeches, poetry, comedy, film and music to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the return of the British Battalion.

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