Manchester commemorates the Battle of Jarama

Post date: 27/02/2023

Rob MacDonald, member of the IBMT and the affiliated North West International Brigade Memorial Group, reports on the annual Jarama commemoration in Manchester held on 11 February 2023.

Spanish group with replica Major Attlee Company flag in front of the Manchester International Brigade memorial plaque.

The North West International Brigade Memorial Group's Jarama commemoration was held at Manchester Central Library on 11 February, with a range of illustrated talks, songs, poems and speeches.

North West group member Chris Hall, a Manchester librarian and author, spoke about the lives and contributions of nurses Lillian Urmston and Madge Addy, who served with the Republican medical forces.

Chris Hall speaking about Madge Addy and Lillian Urmston.

Lillian Urmston had links to Stalybridge and Ashton, now part of the Tameside borough in Greater Manchester. Madge Addy had links to Salford and Manchester. Both served as nurses in Spain, showing great dedication and bravery in often dangerous environments. One image in his talk showed an ambulance covered with bullet holes.

After the civil war, Madge Addy became a spy for the Allies against the Nazis during the Second World War. She fought fascism in two wars, Chris emphasised. His book about Madge Addy, 'The Nurse Who Became A Spy', is published by Pen & Sword History.

Lisa Croft talking about the volunteers, including her grandfather AC Williams.

Lisa Croft, from Bolton, is one of a group of writers behind a new book, called 'Our Fathers Fought Franco' and recently published by Luath Press.

She described the treatment of British International Brigade volunteers who were taken prisoner by Franco's forces. Her grandfather, AC Williams from Scotland, was among them. Some prisoners were lined-up to be executed but were a given a reprieve when it was discovered they were British, she said. Instead, they were sent to labour. She described their reasons for joining the Brigade, the experiences of war and being prisoners, and their later lives.

The Bolton Clarion Choir sang a number of songs, upstairs in the library's event space and later in the lower floor where the Manchester International Brigade memorial is displayed.

Bolton Clarion Choir with fists raised singing 'The Internationale'.

A Spanish group from Madrid, led by Manchester man Lawrence Sudlow who has lived in Madrid for some years, sang a number of songs too. One paid tribute to Irish International Brigade volunteers. The Spanish group held up an International Brigade British Battalion Major Attlee Company flag as they sang by the memorial.

IBMT members Paul Ward and Stuart Walsh read the names of men from the North West who lost their lives, against a backdrop of their faces in photographs. There was also poetry from Manchester's Dave Puller and later a speech at the memorial from Alain Fissore, originally from Italy and who lives in Leeds.

Paul Ward and Stuart Walsh reading names of volunteers who died in Spain.
Young Spanish visitors with Hilary Jones (left) and Dolores Long (right).

The Manchester event attracted a good-sized audience. Guests included a young Spanish couple visiting Manchester Central Library who, by chance, discovered the Jarama event was taking place.

Posted on 27 February 2023.

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