Commemoration at the 'living memorial' to the Australian volunteers

Post date: 04/02/2021

Jim Minter, member of the IBMT and the Australian Friends of the International Brigades (AFIB), has sent in the following report of the AFIB’s commemoration event held late last year. Seventy Australian International Brigaders and medical volunteers travelled to Spain to fight fascism. Materials on the volunteers and their experiences are available in the Australia & the Spanish Civil War exhibition on the Australian National University website here.

Member Luisa Espinosa delivering a speech before the wreath-laying.

Every year, on the first Sunday in December, the Australian Friends of the International Brigades (AFIB) holds its commemoration and picnic at the Australian Volunteers to the Spanish Civil War Memorial in Canberra, Australia. The memorial was built in 1993 and was unveiled by Lloyd Edmonds, Australia’s last known surviving International Brigade volunteer. He is recorded in the IBMT volunteers’ database. The memorial was the result of an incredible amount of hard work by a dedicated group of private volunteers, with support from committed politicians and members of the labour and union movement. The memorial is flanked by three olive trees that were planted by the Spanish ambassador at the time of the unveiling.

Unfortunately, the ravages of time have seen the passing of many of the initial creators of the memorial. But the sense of duty and dedication that drove the volunteers who served in Spain and also those who worked tirelessly to support the Spanish Republic from Australia, will always be remembered and honoured at this memorial. Floral tributes and information boards are regularly placed by the AFIB to show to passers-by that it is a living memorial.

Despite Covid-19, this year saw a good turn-out of about 40, which included a very gratifying surge of participation by young people who were attending for the first time. The commemoration event consisted of speeches by Luisa Espino and Humphrey McQueen, who laid wreaths, followed by individual flower-laying by all present. During the wreath and flower laying, Brian Hungerford played Galician pipes. It was an extremely moving ceremony, which was then followed by the Friend’s picnic where excellent food was shared in good spirit.

Australians in the Spanish Civil War memorial in Canberra, installed in December 1993.

It constantly amazes this writer that there are so many people, with no direct or familial connection to the Spanish Civil War or the International Brigades, who continue to understand the significance of and relate to the meaning of the duty and the sacrifice of the cause. We are all united in our understanding of our duty to never forget.

The AFIB is working hard to increase understanding of the significance of the Spanish Civil War and the commitment and sacrifice of the International Brigadistas. For more information, please contact:

Posted on 4 February 2021.

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