Teesside Volunteers of the International Brigade

WhereGreat Broughton Village HallType of EventIllustrated Talk
WhenMonday 17th April 2023 at 7.30 pmTutorTony Fox

This lecture was delivered by Tony Fox.  Tony is a teacher of history and has researched this topic extensively.   The talk commenced with music-“The ballad of Johnny Longstaff”-a volunteer who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

Britain had a non-interventionist stance with regard to the civil war.  This led to recruitment of volunteers to fight on the Republican side of the conflict, mainly in the winter of 1936.  The recruitment to, and organisation of, the International Brigade was largely the activity of the French Communist Party.  Recruitment in Britain was largely by the British Communist Party, but not all recruits were members of the Party.  There was a consequence; Party members only appointed as officers.    On Teesside there were 21 volunteers recruited, of which 7 volunteers lost their lives.  All volunteers were repeatedly informed that there was no pressure to join and anyone was free to withdraw at any time.  The route to Spain was through France by train and then by bus in Spain.  Later, volunteers were smuggled into Spain.

All did not go well for the International Brigade.  We were told about the Battle of Jarama in February 1937.  Relatively untrained volunteers were against seasoned veteran soldiers.  A disaster.  The British Batallion of the International Brigade started with 650 volunteers and was left with 280 at the end.  There were other battles with similar results.  The International Brigade was disbanded and members left Spain.

There has been a lot of activity on Teesside.  Tony and his group have recovered a memorial and other memorabilia, and have plans to preserve the memories.

There was a good turnout.  Tony was an enthusiastic speaker and engaged the audience.  Interesting questions followed.  An enjoyable evening.

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