No action yet from Foreign Office

Post date: 03/04/2024

The British government has so far made no representations to the Spanish authorities about the potential disturbance of graves of British International Brigaders on a site where construction work is planned.

However, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) says it is aware of the plans by Madrid city council and will continue to monitor the situation.

Following representations by the IBMT and other International Brigade memorial groups, Madrid council has frozen plans to build a rubbish depot on top of the unmarked graves next to Fuencarral cemetery.

An archaeological survey of the site will now be undertaken in accordance with the requirements of Spain’s Law of Democratic Memory. 

The issue was raised in the House of Commons by Beth Winter, the Labour MP for Cynon Valley. She asked whether the Foreign Office had made representations to the Spanish government. 

Minister of State Leo Docherty told her in a written reply: ‘The FCDO are aware of this proposal and consider it to be a matter for the competent local Spanish authorities, who we understand have paused the project to investigate the land in question. We will continue to monitor developments.’

Among those believed to be buried at Fuencarral are the poet Julian Bell, Samuel Walsh, a cook from Newcastle, Arnold Jeans, a commercial traveller from Lancashire, and Edward Burke, from Croydon, a journalist and Unity Theatre actor. 

Along with hundreds of other international volunteers, they were properly buried at the cemetery during the Spanish Civil War, when Madrid remained in Republican hands. But their remains were dumped in a mass grave next to the cemetery in 1941.

The cemetery now has several memorials to the International Brigades.

For more information see this report.

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