Invaluable history of North East Brigaders

Post date: 16/11/2022

IBMT member Tony Fox’s ‘I Sing of My Comrades: Remembering Stockton’s International Brigaders’ (2022) has been reviewed by Don Watson in North East History, Volume 53 (2022), the journal of the North East Labour History society. An edited preview of the review can be read below.

‘I Sing of My Comrades’ is available from the People's Bookshop in Durham, Drake the Bookshop in Stockton, and can be ordered online by making a donation (suggested £8) to the Stockton International Brigade Memorial fundraiser

Tony Fox with his book at the recently unveiled Stockton International Brigade Memorial.

Readers may well have seen the show ‘The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff’ by The Young'uns, a musical account of the life of the Stockton Hunger Marcher and International Brigader of that name. The success of that show stimulated a campaign for a memorial to the Stockton and Thornaby men who served with the International Brigade in Spain. Tony Fox's book is the history of those volunteers and it is produced to raise funds for their memorial.

The account in ‘I Sing of my Comrades’ makes good use of the resources that have become available for historians of the International Brigade in recent years. These include not just the digitisation of local newspapers but the archive of recorded interviews with veterans held at the Imperial War Museum; also the Comintern material housed at the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI). This archive contains the records of the British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade and it is available online. In addition the major published works about the British in Spain are used, alongside memoirs and information from Brigaders' relatives. The result is the most comprehensive account to date of the volunteers from the North East, the contribution they made, and what happened to them. Twenty-two men from Teesside volunteered and eight of them were killed.

The book also covers the activities of the survivors after their return from Spain. This included continued political activity in some cases, and in several, for example Johnny Longstaff, distinguished service in the armed forces or the merchant navy during the Second World War. The story is brought up to date with an account of how the British and other International Brigaders returned to and were honoured in democratic Spain, and of the commemorative memorials that have been erected there and in the North East. ‘I Sing of my Comrades’ is well-produced and illustrated by contemporary photographs, artwork and poetry. It is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the North East and the International Brigade.

Posted on 15 November 2022.

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