Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Return of the International Brigade 1938

The Return of the International Brigade

70 years ago ( 7th December 1938) remnants of the International Brigade returned to London after fighting fascism in Spain for two years.

Those that fought or nursed in the International Brigade knew why they went to Spain, they went to fight the evil of fascism and the consequences for Britain if fascism triumphed.

A consequence paid for heavily by the British people during the Second World War.

We must never forget that the British Conservative Government and Winston Churchill colluded with German and Italian fascism to ensure the democratic progressive Spanish Government was defeated by Franco.

At Victoria Railway Station

Wednesday 7th December 1938

From News Chronicle, December 8 1938

When it was all over and the station was almost quiet again, the oldest porter to be found was asked if he had ever seen anything like this. "No", he said, "I saw nothing like it even at the end of the last war" Replying to speeches of welcome to the returning Brigadiers, Sam Wild, Commander of the British Battalion said:

"We intend to keep the promise we made to the Spanish people before we left — that we would only change our front and continue to fight in Britain for the assistance of Spain "These extracts from "newspapers of the time convey the atmosphere as the Brigadiers returned home:

From the Daily Worker, December 8, 1938

At last the train steamed into Victoria Station;, and from its windows there waved the flags of fifty-two nations. Even before it stopped, mothers and sons, wives and husbands were re-united.

As they left the train, headed by Battalion Commander Sam Wild, Political Commissar Bob Cooney and Quartermaster "Hookey" Walker, they were welcomed by Mr Attlee, leader of the Labour Party. With him were Will Lawther of the Miners Federation, Mr William Gallacher, M.P., of the Communist Party, Mr J. R. Squance, Railmen's Union Leader, Sir Norman Angell, Lord Strabolgi, Sir Stafford Cripps and Tom Mann."

From the evening paper Star December 8 1938.

Led proudly by their wounded comrades, the men marched into London. With them marched the spirit of Byron, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists, Keir Hardie ... Britain's bravest fighters for liberty through the centuries. Behind and around them marched twenty thousand British democrats- Men as well as women wept and cheered alternately; It was no political affair for all parties were represented, both on the platform and in the crowd. It was British democracy spontaneously expressing its abhorrence of Fascism and its appreciation of bravery.

These men have made history, by forming part of the greatest international democratic army the world has ever known. They have inspired the world by their example.

Something of this seemed to enter into everyone who was at Victoria last night, and the memory of it will never be eradicated"

Sam Wild commander of the British Battalion of the International Brigade, was quoted as saying:

"The British Battalion is prepared to carry on the work begun here to see to it that our 500 comrades who sleep for ever beneath Spanish soil shall serve as an example to the entire British people in the struggle against fascism.

Those who were killed included member of the nursing and ambulance volunteers sent by the Spanish Medical Aid Committee (SMAC) established 1st August 1936.

The following SMAC personnel died in Spain.

Percy Batson: Ambulance Driver - Feb 1938

Julian Bell: Ambulance Driver July 1937

Anthony Carritt: Ambulance Driver July 1937

George de Groode: Ambulance Driver July 1937

George Green: Ambulance Driver/Orderly Sept 1938

Vincent Hunt: Ambulance Driver July 1937

Emmanuel Julius: Hospital Stores Oct 1936

Issie Kupchik: Ambulance Driver June 1937

Ruth Ormesby: Nurse April 1938

E. Petrie: Ambulance Driver July 1937

Randall Sollenberger: Doctor July 1937

Halcrow Verstage: Ambulance Driver 1937


Below video of
Maxine Peake reading the "
Farewell to the International Brigade " given originally by Dolores Ibarruri in 1938