|The Spanish Civil War began in July 1936 when General Franco led an uprising
against the democratically elected Republican government and continued until his
army's eventual victory in March 1939. Many foreigners saw the war as part of
the general struggle against Fascism and journeyed to Spain to give support to
the Republican Army. A small number also volunteered to fight with Franco's
Nationalist Army. Under the non intervention agreement of February 1937,
the governments of Britain and other European nations attempted to prevent men
and women from their countries participating in the war in Spain. Despite this,
an estimated 50,000 volunteers made the clandestine journey mostly through
France and then by foot across the Pyrenees, to join the Republican brigades.
The majority of British Volunteers served with the International Brigade. They participated in major battles such as Jarama (Feb 1937), Brunete
(July 1937), Teruel (Dec 1937- Feb 1938) and the Ebro (July-Nov 1938) until
their withdrawal under the supervision of the League of Nations in October 1938.
The experiences of British International Brigaders form the backbone of
the Sound Archive's Oral History Collection on the Spanish Civil War.
A selection of extracts from these
conditions in Spain proved to be a challenge for volunteers
and the popular front government found it immensely difficult to obtain
sufficient weaponry for its fighting forces.
Walter Greenhalgh served with Number 1 Company, Marseillaise Battalion, 14th International Brigade and later with the 15th International Brigade.
Here he describes the assortment of antiquated weapons with
which they were provided. (Ref: 11187/9)
John Longstaff , who served with the British Battalion of the
15th International Brigade, on conditions in the front line. (Ref:
9299/13) text transcription
Bill Alexander served with the Anti-Tank battalion and as
commander of the British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade. Here he
recounts a botched attempt to occupy the Fascist trenches at Fuentes de Ebro in
October 1937. (Ref: 802/5)
Of the 2,300 Britons
who served with the International Brigade between 1936
and 1939, an estimated 526 were killed and 1,200 were wounded.
Greening, who served with the British Battalion of the 15th
International Brigade describes the death of his friend, Tom Howell Jones,
in a mortar attack. (Ref: 9855/7)
describes how he was wounded.
Some Britons were taken prisoner by the
Maurice Levitas, who served with the British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade was imprisoned
in San Sebastian and San Pedro de Cardenas. Here he recalls the camp authorities
attempts to force the prisoners to read Fascist pamphlets. (Ref:16358/5)
to Online Exhibitions