Catalan government appeals for help in identifying Ebro dead

Post date: 01/01/2021

Excavations have begun at the site of a front line hospital used during the Battle of the Ebro in the summer and autumn of 1938, to identify those buried there, which it is believed includes some International Brigaders.

The project is being run by the Catalan Government’s Democratic Memory agency, at the Mas de Santa Magdalena hospital site, near the Serra de Cavalls.

The agency has asked the IBMT and other International Brigade associations to help with the identification process.

If anyone thinks that their family members who were killed at the Ebro may have died from injuries at the hospital, they should contact the IBMT at The appeal is reproduced below.


On 14 December the General Directorate of Democratic Memory started archaeological work in Mas de Santa Magdalena, near Serra de Cavalls, in the area of the Battle of the Ebro, in order to locate a mass grave where several soldiers are believed to be buried.

Throughout August and September of 1938 this was the location of a field hospital for the 15th Republican Army Corps, which included the 35th International Division. According to historical sources, this hospital received soldiers who were injured in the Corbera, Gandesa and Vilalba dels Arcs areas, and was a point in the evacuation line to Móra d’Ebre. This hospital was used not only by the 15th Army Corps, but by other Republican units as well, such as the 18th and the 5th Army Corps, including the 45th International Division. New Zealand doctor Douglas Jolly and British nurse Lillian Urmston are known to have served there.


Douglas Jolly and Lillian Urmston.


An archaeological team is working to find the mass grave associated with this hospital. We know the names of more than 20 soldiers who died there, thanks to the documents of Doctor Miquel Gras Artero, who worked in one of the hospital surgical teams in August 1938. This list includes Josep Aubeso Rovira, who was registered by his relatives in the Census of Missing Persons.

We started searching for living relatives of these soldiers in order to include them in the Census of Missing Persons and in the Genetic Identification Program, but it is believed that more soldiers could have died there.

We would appreciate your collaboration in the search for living relatives of those volunteers who went missing at the Battle of the Ebro, who might have been transferred to the Mas de Santa Magdalena hospital, or to others.

This is the 34th archaeological project of the Catalan Government’s Mass Graves Plan. You can find more information about our projects, including photos of excavations, on our website here.

Thank you very much in advance.

Posted on 2 January 2021.

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