Defying the Government to fight in Spain

Posted: July 1, 2011 in History
Tags: , , ,

A Bullet Saved My Life

Seventy-five years ago this month a group of military officers led a coup in Spain.

But when the cities of Madrid and Barcelona held firm, the failed coup d’etat became a bloody civil war which would last from 1936 until 1939.

The far-right governments of Germany and Italy supported the right wing rebels of General Franco, but the Spanish government had foreign support too.

Thousands of volunteers went to Spain to fight as part of the International Brigades.

This week, the National Archives released newly-discovered documents which revealed that many more people from Britain and Ireland volunteered than was previously thought.

The volunteers defied the British government’s official policy of non-intervention in the war. In doing so, they came to the attention of the British Security Service, MI5.

The National Archives’ documents show that MI5 was tracking the movements of around 4,000 people it believed were trying to travel to Spain to fight with the International Brigades.

It was previously thought that there were around 2,500 British volunteers.

This was believed to have included around 180 people from Wales – more than 30 of whom would die on Spanish battlefields.

This week the Western Mail asked whether that figure might now be revised upwards.

Among the volunteers listed in the 200 pages of MI5 files is “Robert Peters”, of Penarth, who was to return home on December 7, 1938.

On their return the men were monitored by the security services and, at first, were banned from joining the British armed forces.

That changed soon after as Hitler’s Blitzkrieg swept through Western Europe.

  • Bob Peters’ story is told in the book ‘A Bullet Saved My Life’. The book is priced £10 including p&p and is available by emailing greg_lewis@hotmail.co.uk
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Comments
  1. Greg says:

    For film buffs.

    Someone just suggested on another blog that James Robertson Justice, Sir Lancelot Spratt in the ‘Doctor’ films starring Dirk Bogarde in the 1950s, served in the Spanish Civil War.

    I scanned through the newly-released MI5 files.

    They list a Captain James Justice having returned from Spain in July 1938. Could this be him?

  2. […] from Rhosllanerchrugog, Denbighshire, travelled to Spain in 1937 to fight for the International Brigades. He was wounded during the fierce battle on the River Ebro, in July 1938, and captured by […]

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