Friday, 1 July 2011

Who fought in Spain and how many really fought?

Earlier this week, both I and the President of Tameside TUC, received the email below from Joe Bailey, a trade union activist and delegate from Manchester Trade Union Council on the Greater Manchester County Association of TUCs, declaring:

'More people from Britain and Ireland fought in the Spanish Civil War than previously thought, according to documents at the National Archive. James Cronan of the National Archive and Ken Loach, director of Land and Freedom, discuss[ed] (on Radio4) why Brits were so intent on fighting for the republic.'

In an interview on Radio4, Ken Loach said that he was not surprised that the figures of those going to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War had been underestimated because the authorities always do this on protests and demos. It may well be that the numbers have been underestimated, even by those who participated, but it may be worth considering the possibility of list inflation in some cases. A book written by Bernard Barry, published in 2009 by the Working Class Movement Library in Salford and entitled 'From Manchester to Spain' concluded with a Roll of Honour purporting to show those who fought in Spain in the 1930s. Several of those listed on that Roll of Honour were later found by Northern Voices to be listed elsewhere on an 'official list' as deserters, turn-coats, shirkers and unfit to serve. It may be that even these recently released National Archive documents and the MI5 files should be approached with some caution.

Brian Bamford: Secretary of Tameside Trade Union Council

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