Bob Peters

WALES’ last veteran of the Spanish Civil War has died.
Bob Peters, was the last surviving member of a brave generation of Welsh men, who volunteered to fight fascism in Spain in the 1930s.
He died on Monday, aged 92, after a brave battle with cancer.
Today First Minister Rhodri Morgan paid tribute to Mr Peters, saying Wales could “take pride in his memory”.
Mr Peters was born in Archer Terrace, Penarth, in 1914 and was the youngest of nine children.
He left Wales to find work in Canada when he was just 16 and was working as a deckhand when he learned about the war in Spain.
He volunteered to fight for the democratically-elected government against the military uprising led by General Franco and supported by Hitler. The volunteers were called the International Brigades and around 150 went from Wales.
However, in July 1937, he was badly wounded and transferred from the frontline. As casualties were so high in his former unit, Bob says if he had stayed on the battlefield he would have been killed.
For 70 years he kept quiet about his time in Spain. All that changed when in 2006 his remarkable story was recorded in a book called ‘A Bullet Saved My Life’ published by Warren and Pell.
“Maybe we were naive, I don’t know,” said Bob. “We thought we could help and that’s why we went.”We never considered we might be killed. Not until we got there.”
When Mr Peters was shot, medics could not at first remove the bullet as it was too near his spine.
However, he recovered to become a motorcycle despatch rider, taking messages to the frontline. While riding on rough roads the bullet moved and it was cut out. In October 1938, the International Brigades were withdrawn. Although the war was lost they were treated like heroes.
During the Second World War Mr Peters served in the British army in Sicily, Italy and Yugoslavia. He later settled in Kent where he worked as a fork-lift driver.
His wife Frances died in 1990 and Rodney, the eldest of their four sons, died last year.
First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: “Bob’s death is almost the closing page of the history of Wales and the Spanish Civil War – one of the great ideological dividing lines of the 1930s; his was a life charted not only by unemployment, hunger and the other necessities that guide working people everywhere but also by his commitment to fight for his socialist principles.
“We all take pride in his memory and pay our respects for his contribution, and send our strongest sympathies to his family.”

Brief details: A Bullet Saved My Life


A Bullet Saved My Life tells the remarkable story of Bob Peters, one of the last surviving veterans of the Spanish Civil War.
Penarth-born Bob left Wales to go to Canada during the Depression. He found work on the Great Lakes and also became interested in politics.
Early in 1937 he sailed from New York to France and was smuggled into Spain where he joined the International Brigades.
He went into battle against Franco’s armies at Brunete and was shot in the back while crawling through a trench.
The bullet was too near his spine to be removed.
Bob was transferred from the frontline to work as a motorcycle dispatch rider.
Incredibly, the bullet moved with the jarring impact of the rough roads and doctors could eventually cut it out.
As casualties were so high in his former unit, Bob says that if he had stayed on the battlefield he would have been killed.
The book features more than thirty photographs and fascinating reproductions of Bob’s membership, pay and safe passage documents relating to not only the International Brigades but the Socorro Rojo Internacional and the anarchist CNT union.
It features a foreword by First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan and a preface by the late Alun Menai Williams, another International Brigader.
The book is available from http://www.warrenandpellpublishing.co.uk/ and from Amazon.
: Further reading Western Mail & Western Telegraph

Dic Penderyn Commemoration


Good turn out for today’s Dic Penderyn Commemoration which took place at the entrance to Cardiff market where he was hanged in 1831.
The event honoured not only Penderyn, but the late Councillor Charlie Gale and Welsh volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, especially Alun Menai-Williams who died last month and Bob Peters.
The event was hosted by Eluned Morgan MEP and First Minister Rhodri Morgan, and the speakers included Sally Robert Jones and me! I waffled on about Alun and Bob.
: For those interested in Spain, my obituary of Alun Menai-Williams is in The Times today and the book on Bob Peters, A Bullet Saved My Life, is available now from Warren & Pell .

The Welsh in Spain


For those interested in Welsh links to the Spanish Civil War, there is an article on Alun Menai Williams in April’s Military History magazine which is now in all good bookshops (as they say).
I’m presently working with Alun on a book about the Battle of the Ebro. It’s a follow up to his engrossing memoir From The Rhondda To The Ebro.
Alun, who recently celebrated his 93rd birthday, is one of only two surviving Welsh International Brigaders. Until recently it was thought he was the only Welsh-born survivor.
However, during the last few months I’ve had the honour of meeting and interviewing Bob Peters, another Welshman who fought against Franco.
His story, A Bullet Saved My Life, is due to be published by Warren & Pell in July around the time of the 70th anniversary of the start of the civil war.