Book tells of Welsh he­roes who

Cynon Valley - - YOUR NEWS - MAR­CUS HUGHES mar­[email protected]­line.co.uk

EIGHTY years ago this month, hun­dreds of Welsh vol­un­teers who fought in the Span­ish Civil War re­turned home.

Be­tween 1936-39, at least 35,000 vol­un­teers from all over Europe fought along­side Span­ish Re­pub­li­cans against Franco’s fas­cist army in the In­ter­na­tional Bri­gades.

Of th­ese, ap­prox­i­mately 2,500 were British and re­searchers have iden­ti­fied al­most 200 Welsh peo­ple who vol­un­teered them­selves dur­ing the con­flict. On De­cem­ber 7, 1938, British vol­un­teers re­turned home to Vic­to­ria Sta­tion in Lon­don to great fan­fare. But at least 35 Welsh vol­un­teers who lost their lives dur­ing the bru­tal war would not re­turn home to their fam­i­lies.

The Span­ish Civil War was sparked af­ter a mil­i­tary coup led by con­ser­va­tive el­e­ments in the coun­try failed to win con­trol of the coun­try.

A bloody civil war en­sued, fought with great fe­roc­ity on both sides, with the Na­tion­al­ists re­ceiv­ing sup­port from Fas­cist Italy and Nazi Ger­many. The Re­pub­li­cans re­ceived aid from the Soviet Union, as well as from the In­ter­na­tional Bri­gades, which were com­posed of vol­un­teers from Europe and the United States.

Gov­ern­men­tal crises cul­mi­nated in elec­tions in Fe­bru­ary 16, 1936, which brought to power a pop­u­lar front govern­ment sup­ported by most of the par­ties on the left and op­posed by the par­ties on the right.

A well-planned mil­i­tary upris­ing be­gan on July 17, 1936, and by July 21, the Na­tion­al­ist rebels had achieved con­trol in Span­ish Morocco, the Ca­nary Is­lands, the Balearic Is­lands and parts of north­ern Spain.

See­ing them­selves as too weak to win a de­ci­sive early vic­tory, both the Na­tion­al­ist and Repub­li­can sides turned to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries for help.

Ger­many and Italy sent sol­diers and weaponry to aid the Na­tion­al­ists, while the Soviet Union con­trib­uted equip­ment and sup­plies to the Re­pub­li­cans.

In Au­gust 1936, France joined Bri­tain and a host of other coun­tries in sign­ing a non-in­ter­ven­tion agree­ment that would later be ig­nored by the Ger­mans, Ital­ians and Sovi­ets. But about 40,000 for­eign­ers did vol­un­teer to fight on the Repub­li­can side in what be­came known as the In­ter­na­tional Bri­gades.

Gra­ham Davies, from Cardiff, is the au­thor of You Are Leg­end, a re­cently pub­lished book de­tail­ing the story of some of the vol­un­teers from Wales who joined the In­ter­na­tional Bri­gades.

Ac­cord­ing to Gra­ham, the Welsh vol­un­teers played a dis­tinc­tive role in Spain, with many act­ing as com­pany com­man­ders and po­lit­i­cal com­mis­sars.

Their largely mil­i­tant coal­field back­ground, dig­ging ex­pe­ri­ence and singing also left their mark. By the end of 1936, the Na­tion­al­ists had ad­vanced to the bor­der of Madrid but a sub­se­quent siege was un­able to get be­yond the Univer­sity City area. The Basque north­ern prov­inces were cap­tured by the Na­tion­al­ists in 1937 and then As­turias, mean­ing the rebels con­trolled the whole north­ern coast. A war of at­tri­tion fol­lowed.

The Na­tion­al­ists even­tu­ally drove east­ward through Teruel, reach­ing the Mediter­ranean and split­ting the repub­lic in two in April 1938. By Fe­bru­ary the fol­low­ing year, 250,000 Repub­li­can sol­diers had fled across the bor­der into France, soon fol­lowed by the Repub­li­can govern­ment in March. Na­tion­al­ist forces en­tered Madrid on March 28, sig­nalling a de­ci­sive vic­tory for the rebels.

For Bri­tain and France, the con­flict rep­re­sented a new threat to the in­ter­na­tional equi­lib­rium. Af­ter strug­gling to con­tain the sit­u­a­tion, it even­tu­ally col­lapsed into the Sec­ond World War in 1939.

A farewell pa­rade was held in Barcelona in 1938, with Welsh­men present along­side the British Bat­tal­ion who were march­ing be­hind the Pres­i­den­tial Guard.

Jim Brewer, from Rhym­ney, was cho­sen to hold the Bat­tal­ion ban­ner while fighter planes cir­cled over­head to pro­tect the oc­ca­sion.

The men lined up on the city’s most im­por­tant av­enue, the Avin­guda Di­ag­o­nal, which was strewn with roses. Vol­un­teers were ad­dressed by Pres­i­dent Azana and Prime Min­is­ter Ne­grin. Please post me free & with­out obli­ga­tion full de­tails of the Alta2 Pro hear­ing aid. Tick if pen­sioner.

Ed­win Green­ing Leo Price Ge­of­frey Price

Bur­gos Pen­i­ten­tiary, which was used as a Fran­coist con­cen­tra­tion camp dur­ing the Span­ish Civil War

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