New memorial to British Battalion members who fell at Jarama

Post date: 30/05/2023

A new memorial to International Brigade volunteers who died in the Battle of Jarama was unveiled by the Morata de Tajuña City Council on 29 April 2023. The unveiling follows researcher José María Olivera Marco’s rediscovery of the site of the first Jarama battlefield monument from 1937 and his campaign for a new memorial. An article about the discovery can be read here

This translated report of the Morata event is provided by the IBMT’s Spanish sister-organisation, the Madrid-based AABI.

Attendees gathered at the unveiling of the new Jarama memorial.

Thanks to diligent investigative work, researcher José María Olivera managed to discover the exact location of the monument that the British Battalion members of the 15th International Brigade dedicated to those who fell in the last days of the Battle of Jarama.

In collaboration with the Morata de Tajuña City Council, in which area the area is located, and with the support of the Association of Friends of the International Brigades (AABI), a new monument has been rebuilt at a point about 50 meters from its original location (to respect the planting zone). It was inaugurated on Saturday 29 April, on the anniversary of its original placement in 1937.

A large group of friends and supporters were in attendance, including the mayor and other representatives of the Morata City Council, and other figures such as as Iñigo Errejón, serving member of the Congress of Deputies for the progressive Más País political party, and Dmtry Sokolov, the Minister Counselor of the Russian Embassy in Spain.

The new monument was designed to recreate the appearance of the original, according to the photographs available. The plaque is also the same as the 1937 monument, with the addition of a QR code that leads to a website where the history of the battle and José María's research is explained. A video is also available, which superimposes images of the inauguration of the original monument with the current terrain, mapping and verifying the exact location of the site.

The inauguration began with Severiano Montero, a member of AABI, describing the final movements of the British Battalion and its relationship with that area, as well as the entry into combat in the previous days. He also explained to us that this situation of returning to the front, canceling a rest that they had been promised – which gave rise to the song ‘Jarama Valley', composed by the Scottish volunteer Alex McDade. With this introduction we sang that song in emotional memory of the British volunteers and the suffering they endured in the area.

Almudena Cros, president of the AABI, dedicated a few words to the value of the sacrifice of international volunteers in defence of a legitimate government against a fascist military uprising supported by Germany and Italy. We can never thank them enough for what they did, and this inauguration is just a small sample to pay back what we owe them, she said.

Finally, Mike Arnott, Scotland Secretary of the IBMT, spoke about the memory of these volunteers. He told us how, when he was elected youth secretary of the Dundee Communist League 40 years ago, he was told that his predecessor had fallen in Spain, writing ‘Long Live Dundee YCL’ on the ground with his blood. That Scottish volunteer was Willie McGuire, whose name is inscribed on the plaque. In reality, as he was able to discover later, McGuire was able to be evacuated and died the next day at the Tarancón hospital. There he was visited by Harry Pollitt, to whom he gave a note that read ‘Long live the YCL. Please give my watch to my mother.’

The event ended with a collective rendition of ‘The Internationale’, just as, adding to the sad atmosphere of the occasion, the first drops of a storm fell on those present.

Posted on 30 May 2023.

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