The International Brigade
A range of plaques commemorating trade unionists and labour movement heroes who fought & in many cases gave their lives in the International Brigade against Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War 1936 - 1939.
Tommy James in Rotherham
There is a memorial seat and stone obelisk in the Peace Garden in Rotherham to Tommy James. (1898 -1971) This was erected on the corner of Wharncliffe Street and Doncaster Road by Rotherham Community College and Wortley Hall in the mid 80s.
Tommy James, who was a conscript in the trenches during World War I, was a Rotherham man who fought in the Spanish Civil War and shortly after his return in 1939 he wrote down his recollections. These appear, along with tales of James’ 50-year fight in support of the poor and unemployed, in the book TOMMY JAMES: A LION OF A MAN; POUNDED EARTH.
James was one of four Rotherham volunteers who fought for democracy in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War between 1936-1939 and Rotherham Friends of the International Brigade are raising money for a permanent memorial to be erected in their honour and as part of the ongoing fight against fascism.
On 10 March 2017, a number of people, including the ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan and President Tosh McDonald, helped to mark the taking of photos of the memorial seat and stone obelisk for Rebel Road. It has now been agreed to make this a regular annual event.
To buy TOMMY JAMES: A LION OF A MAN; POUNDED EARTH.
To help fund a permanent Rotherham memorial
For more information on South Yorkshire IB volunteers see: http://www.thestar.co.uk/whats-on/out-and-about/freedom-fighters-in-war-on-fascism-1-3158090 and http://spartacus-educational.com/SPcunningham.htm
Ralph Winston Fox (30-03-1900 to 27-12-1936)
There is a memorial bench for Ralph Fox (30-03-1900 to 27-12-1936) in his hometown of Halifax. It is located in the Piece Hall, around five minutes walk from the train station. The journalist, novelist and historian was killed fighting Franco’s forces in Spanish Civil War. He was a well-known member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and wrote biographies of the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as well as Genghis Khan.
Fox studied modern languages at Oxford University, where he was drafted into an officers’ cadet regiment only for the First World War to end before he saw active service. On his return he became active in efforts to half the British blockade to overthrow (Lenin’s) Bolshevik government which had assumed power following the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 1920, Fox travelled to the Soviet Union and returned convinced of the need to overthrow capitalism. After successfully completing his studies he later began work for the CPGB and completed his first major book. He later worked for the Daily Worker as a columnist and wrote several books for the Communist press.
In 1936, Fox joined the International Brigades in order to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. These were military units composed of volunteers from different countries and who travelled to Spain to help defend the Second Spanish Republic between 1936 and 1939. The Brigades base was in Albacete and where Fox received training before being assigned to the XIV Brigade. He was sent to the front during one of the first operations in which the Brigades were involved and died at the Battle of Lopera in the province of Jaen in late December 1936. For Unite members interested in finding out more about Ralph Fox see:-
Jack Brent (1912 - 1951)
Under the name of Jack Brent, George Dickie fought in the International Brigades in Spain against General Franco’s fascist forces. He was badly wounded at the battle of Jarama. Despite his horrific wounds leaving him with crippling pain he subsequently became national secretary of the International Brigade Association and in which capacity he assisted Brigaders imprisoned across Europe after the Spanish civil war ended.
As prominent member of the Communist Party in Chalk Farm, London, Jack was heavily involved in successful campaigns to permit Londoners to gain access to the Underground during the Blitz in World War Two. Having never recovered from his injuries, Jack later returned home and died at aged 39. Located on a butcher’s shop where he worked as an assistant, a memorial to him was unveiled in Whithorn, Dumfries and Galloway in 2006. This was not without controversy with some local residents criticising his politics.
A memorial to three local volunteers killed in the Spanish Civil War is located at Blantyre Miners’ Welfare Club. This was erected by East Kilbride and South Lanarkshire Trades Union Council on 24 October 2009.
Thomas Brannan, William Fox and Thomas Fleck were part of a larger group from Lanarkshire who joined the International Brigades to fight in support of the elected Spanish government against the military coup of General Franco, who enjoyed the military backing of German and Italian fascist leaders, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini respectively.
The bronze sculpture was designed by Hamilton man Frank Casey who at the time of the unveiling said: “In these days of bogus celebrity there has never been a greater need to commemorate those true heroes who had the foresight to see that another world war was not inevitable and that the threat to civilisation known as fascism could be buried in Spain.
“They were neither dupes nor adventurers, but courageous men. Fleck in particular knew all about the horrors of modern mechanised warfare. Having won the Military Medal in France, he still felt it necessary to take up arms again in defence of the Spanish people. “This work came about through the generous support of the local community and the South Lanarkshire Trades Council.”
Unite would like Jim Arnott, secretary of Dundee Trades Union Council, for the photograph of the sculpture.
Prestonpans Spanish Civil War Memorial, East Lothian
There is a little bronze plaque on the east side of the Prestonpans War Memorial in Civic Square that is ‘Dedicated to the memory of those who laid down their lives in the defence of democracy. Spain 1936-39.’ It also includes a quote from the poet Byron: “They never fail who die in a great cause.”
Local man John ‘Jock’ Gilmour was killed at the Battle of Jarama on 12 February 1937. After a meeting at Ayres Wynd, the common meeting place in the centre of Prestonpans, he volunteered along with Jimmy Kempton and George Watters. The latter told his story in the book edited by Ian MacDougall called VOICES from the Spanish Civil War and in which he recalls how Jock Gilmour was killed.
Many thanks to Mike Arnott for this photograph.
Kircaldy Spanish Civil War Memorial, Scotland
There is a plaque and a memorial on Forth Avenue, Kirkcaldy which commemorates local fighters in the Spanish Civil War. This was erected by Kirkcaldy District Council and Friends of the International Brigades, May 1980 and September 1986. It was rededicated 4 April 2009. The inscription on the plaque reads, somewhat poetically, as follows:
"To honour the memory of those who went from The Lothians and Fife to serve in the war in Spain, 1936 - 1939."
"Not to a fanfare of trumpets
Nor even the skirl o' the pipes
Not for the off'r of a shilling
Nor to see their names up in lights
Their call was a cry of anguish
From the hearts of the people of Spain
Some paid with their lives it is true
Their sacrifice was not in vain"
(The International Brigade Association)
The names on the memorial are as follows:-
G Adamson, H Archibald, L Ballinghall, T Bloomfield, F Cairns, W Campbell, G Carr, J Collier, M Conway, G Cornwallis, F Crombie, C Cunningham, J Donald (Methihill), J Donald (Methil), J Farmer, J Fisher, J Gillespie, S Glencraig, J Haig, R Henderon, A Henderson. A Hillock, T Howie, G Jackson, J Jarvis, A Knight, W Leggie, E Louden, W Mackie, W.F. McCartney, H McCaskill Hill, J McCormack, C McCormack, W McDougall, A McKay, J McPherson-Murray, J Penman, G Robbison, H Sloan, R Smith, G Smith, H Smith, M Sneddon, G Stewart, J.L. Walker, Sister Wilson.
Tommy Bloomfield’s Spanish Civil War recollections appear in VOICES from the Spanish Civil War book edited by Ian MacDougall.
Jack Harris, William Morris, Brazell Thomas, Evan Jones.
There is a grey plaque outside the Llanelli Plaid Cymru offices, 11 John Street that commemorates the local volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War with the International Brigade in the struggle against fascism.
Jack Harris, William Morris and Brazell Thomas were killed at Jarama, Brunete and Ebro respectively. Evan Jones was wounded at Ebro. The plaque was unveiled on 14 October 2000 by Lance Rogers – an International Brigadier from Cefn-Coed near Merthyr.
Enoch Collins, an industrial comrade of 26-year-old Brazell Thomas, 57 Coronation Road, Llanelli later produced a short piece of work of the dead man:-
Brazell Thomas, son of Mr and Mrs D. Thomas, 57 Coronation Road, Llanelly, born 9 October 1912 was killed in the Ebro Battle of Spain on 2 August 1938. He volunteered for the International Brigade on 17 February 1938. (The consciousness of this job was well understood by him)
He was employed as a second helper at the Burry Tinplate Works; was a committee member of that Branch of the B.I.S.A.K.A.T.A; also delegate to various Bodies; was student at both W.E.A and N.C.L.C classes at Llanelly; was also a past member of the Labour League of Youth, later joining the Young Communist League. In 1936, he joined the Llanelly Branch Communist Party, and was secretary of the newly organised branch when he left as a volunteer to Spain; was also leader of behinders and second helpers’ movement for revised rates of wages. His death is a blow to all these organisations.
In expressing our working-class feeling with the loss of Comrade Brazell Thomas, there is a unanimous feeling of pride in his loyalty to his class principles. With him it was in real terms: “Better death than dishonour.’ As one who watched his development in working-class activity and understanding, I state very frankly that never did I know such a young comrade so eager to understand the meaning of class struggle. His eyes were glittering with pride once had clarity. He would at once turn his knowledge into action with his young comrades. His death has been a big blow to the young workers in the Tinplate Industry, especially at the works he was employed – the Burry Tinplate. I watched him from the time he started attending W.E.A. classes, eagerly coming to work the next day, and place pointed questions on various subjects.
He was soon convinced that the only way out of capitalism was through the policy of the Communist Party. From then on he lived and died for his Party principles. He was a worthy leader of the Party. His action in industry, trade unionism, political work, both here and abroad, has proved this in every task he undertook.
Brazell’s work for Spain dates since the War of Franco. He played an active part with other young Communists of Llanelly in collecting food for the Spanish foodship, in which they sent on 6 cwts – a very creditable task. We miss him in work, in the union meeting, and also in all work of our class. Spain and Llanelly have shared his loss. We are proud of his sacrifice. May his place be filled by like comrades. Comrade Brazell! In life we followed you; in death, we salute you; and may the cause you died for, soon bear fruit: A victorious Democratic Government of Spain, the abolition of Fascism, and a Socialist Britain.
Unite would like to thank Rhydwyn Ifan, secretary of Plaid Cymru, Llanelli for his work in tracking down the information on Brazell Thomas.
Aberdeen Spanish Civil War plaque
There is a plaque in the XV Brigade Memorial Library, Aberdeen Unemployed Centre, Frederick Street, Aberdeen. This was provided in 1989 by volunteers and the Aberdeen Trades Union Council. There is also a plaque in the Concert Hall to Aberdeen Volunteers. This was erected by Aberdeen City Council and contains the following names: D Anderson, R Cooper, G Portes, A Reid, W Bruce, C Downie, R Simpson, C Watt, R Cooney, W Dunbar, J Londragan and J Watson.
Many thanks to Nathan Morrison, Unite member and Labour Councillor for the photograph.
John Londragan (1911 - 1993)
Aberdeen Trades Union Council offices are named after John Londragan and the premises at 22a Adelphi have a plaque which states: John Londragan House: Communist, International Brigadier and Life Long Trade Unionist, 1911-1993. The plaque was erected in 1993. An article by John Landragan appears in the book Voices from the Spanish Civil War: personal recollections of Scottish Volunteers in Republican Spain 1936-39, edited by Ian MacDougall. The railway worker describes his motivation for risking his life: ‘Being a member of the Communist Party and being an anti-Fascist I though it was my duty to go and help the people in Spain.
‘And the fight, whether it be here in Aberdeen against the British Union of Fascists or against Hitler and Mussolini in Spain, was exactly the same to me, no difference at all.’
The Scotsman served in the Anti-Tank Unit of the XVth International Brigade at Jarama, which is south-east of Madrid, before being sent to Brunette, which is where he got wounded in the leg and arm. This finished his career on the military side but when he came out of hospital he was employed on the organisational side of the Brigade. Londragan later served – again in an Anti-Tank Unit - in the British Army during the Second World War.
John Londragan (left) and a fellow International Brigader with the two young daughters of a Spanish family they befriended
Writing in 1986, the Aberdeen man wrote: ‘ Looking back, there isn’t a thing changed since 1936 as regards my views…..When I went to Spain I thought I was trying to halt Hitler and Mussolini and their exploitation of Europe……..so when we went to war in 1939 I did exactly the same job…… Both were anti-Fascist wars.’
Many thanks to Nathan Morrison, Unite member and Labour Councillor for the photograph.
Fred Sykes, Jack Watson and Roy Watts, Leicester volunteers
There is a memorial plaque in Peace Walk, Victoria Park, University Road, Leicester to Fred Sykes, Jack Watson and Roy Watts. All three Leicester volunteers were killed in the Spanish Civil War fighting for democracy and against the rise of fascism. The plaque was erected by Leicester Socialist Centre, 15 February 1993.
For more information on this go to:-
Many thanks to Ross Galbraith for taking the photograph. In 1989, Ross and Gary Sherriff, both TGWU members, refused to work on a contract that their employer, Granby Plastics Limited, had accepted from South Africa. They were sacked for standing up to apartheid and for the next three years toured the UK and Ireland speaking about the need for workers to take direct action to disrupt British trade with South Africa.
Stoke volunteers plaque
Spanish Civil War volunteers from Stoke - including three men who sadly lost their lives - are commemorated on a memorial plaque in the main entrance to Stoke Town Hall, Glebe Street, Stoke ST4 1HH. Erected by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, this was unveiled by Council leader Ronald Southern on 7 September 1989.
Many thanks to UNITE member and Labour Councillor Andy Platt for sending in the photograph of the plaque. If anyone has any information concerning the five men listed then it would be appreciated if they could make contact so we can add it to this site.
The International Brigade Memorial Trust keeps alive the memory and spirit of the men and women from Britain, Ireland and elsewhere who fought for democracy in Spain in the 1930s. To find out more go to:-
To find out more on events in Spain also take a look at:-
International Brigade memorial plaque, Perth
The memorial plaque on Perth’s North Inch Close is was erected and unveiled by Perthshire International Brigade Memorial Fund on 5 June 2010. Ten volunteers from Perthshire – Eddie Brown, William Gilmour, John Gordon, Hugh MacKay, Robert Malcolm, James Moir, Annie Murray, George Murray, Tom Murray, and George Steele – volunteered to serve with the International Brigades in Spain.
UNITE played a significant role in ensuring the original plan to mount a magnificent piece of artwork was successful.
The inscription on the plaque is words by poet and son of Perth, William Soutar:
“Even as blossoms fall circling about a tree our deeds within our world define our world.”
For more information see: -
Many thanks to Tippermuir Books Limited for sending in the photograph of the plaque.
In the album photographs below
The Merseyside plaque, top left is located in the Unite Jack Jones house building. The CASA club plaques, middle top, are located in the Community Advice Service Association at 29 Hope Street, Liverpool L1 9BQ.
The Ralph Fox plaque is in Halifax and the Durham plaque is in the NUM area offices, Red Hill, Durham. The Jack Brent plaque is in Whithorn, Dumfries & Galloway. The Blantyre Memorial is in South Lanarkshire. The Prestonpans memorial is in East Lothian. The Kircaldy memorial is in Fife. The Lanelli plaque is outside the Plaid Cymru offices, The Aberdeen plaque is in the memorial library. John Londragan (left) and a fellow International Brigader with the two young daughters of a Spanish family they befriended. The Leicester volunteers plaque is in Peace Walk, Victoria Park, University Road, Leicester. The Stoke volunteers plaque is in the main entrance to Stoke Town Hall, Glebe Street, Stoke ST4 1HH. The International Brigade memorial plaque, Perth is on North Inch Close.