Monday, July 17, 2006

Extract from

Making Medical History circa 1946

By Dr Charles Brook (COHSE , GP, LCC member)

The other activity with which the Socialist Medical Association was so closely associated and which, without the help of the Association would never have achieved such success, was the establishment of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee. My friend, Arthur Peacock, has given an excellent account of
the development and the achievements of the Committee in his recently
published book "Yours Fraternally". Let me quote one paragraph.

“One afternoon in July I had a visit from Dr Charles Brook, General Practioner & L.C.C member who was Secretary of the Socialist Medical Association. “Do you think, Charles asked me “it would be a good idea if we Socialist Doctors sent some medical supplies to Spain as a gesture of sympathy and good fellowship”. I told him that I thought it would be magnificent and promised to let him have a room at the National trade Union Club on the following Saturday afternoon so that he and his friends might discuss the project”.

Actually it was at lunch-time on. Friday, July 31st that I discussed the matter with Clifford Troke, and immediately afterwards there was the conversation with Arthur Peacock. The meeting I convened for the following afternoon by hurriedly written postcards and by telephone calls, was very well attended despite the fact that it was the Saturday prior to August Bank Holiday. (SMAC established 1st August) , .

After I had made a statement setting out ray reasons for convening the meeting it was there and then decided to constitute "The Spanish Medical Aid Committee" and although I was hopeful that I might then be allowed to retire into the background the Honorary Secretaryship was thrust upon me.

The majority of the Committee were members of the S.M.A. Christopher
Addison was the president, H.B. Morgan as Chairman , and Somerville-Hastings the Vice-Chairman. Among the other medical members were Harry Boyde, Michael Elyan, J.A. Gillison LCC, D’Arcy Hart, Tudor Hart, S.W. Jeger, R.L. Worrall and Prof J. R. Marrack. Non-Medical members included Ellen Wilkinson,, Leah Manning, Isabel .Brown, Arthur Peacock, and the Joint-Treasurers, Viscount Churchill and Viscountess Hastings, (now the Hon. Mrs Wogan- Phillips). Lord Addison was not called upon to take a very active part in the work of the Committee, but he showed great courage when, contrary to the advice tendered by some people in high places, he presided at a great meeting at the Albert Hall in Support of the Work of the Committee.

As Chairman H. B. Morgan proved himself to be an extremely able and tactful negotiator. Being a roman catholic he was able to neutralise the powerful pro-Franco elements in his Church, while as Medical Adviser to the T.U.C. he was an invaluable go-between when certain awkward situations arose.

Somerville-Hastings, I was especially indebted. Many volunteers came into the Committees office to lend a hand, but it was impossible to check their bona-fides and as much of my correspondence was strictly confidential, I was in urgent need of a private secretary. When I put the position to Somerville Hastings, he immediately handed, me £25 on order help defray the cost, without it being a charge on the Committees funds.

Within a few day’s of the Committee being established, the public response was so generous and there were so many volunteers for service in Spain that my original idea of sending some medical supplies was replaced by a far more ambitious project the dispatching of a fully-equipped and adequately staffed Medical Unit to the battle front.

Soon after this project was agreed to, I made up my mind that the first-British Medical Unit had got to be ready to leave by Sunday, 23rd August 1936, and on that day thousands of Londoners were stirred by the sight of a procession of vehicles going from the Committee's Headquarters to Victoria Station, where in the presence of a vast crowd and many London Mayors, Arthur Greenwood and. Alan Findlay, then Chairman of the General Council of the T.U.C. delivered valedictory speeches.

This was just three weeks after the Spanish Medical Aid Committee had been constituted and it was the first real practical demonstration of support for the Spanish Republicans which sympathisers in the country had provided.

I remained as Honorary Secretary, of the Committee until the end of 1936 when George Jeger, now M.P. for Winchester, was appointed full-time Organising Secretary, I was able to relinquish my office,