In the footsteps of the volunteers

Post date: 05/05/2022

Hundreds of ramblers and supporters who attended the the 23-24 April commemoration of the mass trespass at Kinder Scout learned about how many of the young men who played leading roles in the protest would go on to fight fascism in Spain a few years later.


Members Hilary Jones and Tony Fox running the IBMT stall at the trespass anniversary.

Members of the IBMT-affiliated North West International Brigade Memorial Group put on a display for attendees of the anniversary gathering. The site was Hayfield where, in April 1932, the trespassers gathered to hear speeches before setting off, led by organisers from the British Workers Sports Federation. Recent research has established that around 20 young men who took part in the trespass fought in Spain, with more than half killed in action.

A steady stream of visitors viewed the display, putting forth questions to north-west IBMT members Hilary Jones and Mike Wild, daughter and son of British Battalion commander Sam Wild. They were helped by fellow members Paul Ward, Tony Fox, Steph Turner and Rob Hargreaves. Rob said: ‘There was a great deal of interest in the connection with Brigaders, and quite a few folk came up to say that relatives of theirs had fought in Spain.’ In addition, the stall did a brisk trade in IBMT merchandise and literature.

Visitors also heard that trespass leader Benny Rothman, who was one of the five men convicted and imprisoned on trumped up charges and false evidence, had volunteered for service in Spain – but was rejected because Communist Party general secretary Harry Pollitt vetoed the decision, wanting him to carry on his trade union activities in Britain.

The occasion had added poignancy for IBMT stalwart Hilary, whose uncle Jud (Joe) Clynes, another of the Trespassers convicted at Derby Assizes, was sentenced to hard labour. Jud Clynes went on to play a prominent role in anti-Mosley demonstrations in Manchester, and in raising funds for Republican Spain. His brother Max Clynes was also on the trespass.

IBMT member Mike Wild speaking to attendees.

Speakers at the commemoration included Julian Batsleer, of socialist climbers group Red Rope, who urged trade unions and working class representatives to get behind the fight for better countryside access. Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said that access needed to be defended and extended and that 'peaceful direct action and trespass' were legitimate ways of achieving this – as they had been in 1932 when more than 400 trespassers, mainly from Manchester and Sheffield, challenged the right of the Duke of Devonshire and other landowners to exclude them from their grouse moors.

Posted on 5 May 2022.

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