Former Member Of International Brigade Tells What He Saw In Spain
One of the tragedies of the Spanish war is the wasting of the lives of young English, Irish, and Scottish youths, who, often with the purest of intentions, volunteered, or were lured out to Spain to fight for democracy. Many of these men are now finding their way back home as stowaways from Barcelona, or deserters over the Erenth frontier.
Below, we publish the story of one of them, a volunteer who has returned disgusted with what he has seen and experienced.
His first-hand account of the treatment the English battalion suffered, and of the signs, or lack of signs, of the religious life of the Spaniards in Government Spain, will be of interest.
From ALFRED SWAN Former member of the International Brigade My introduction to the International Brigade was casual, even haphazard.
Overhearing talk about fighting in Spain, I enquired how one went about joining in, and one of the two talkers took me straight to an office in a side street off Covent Garden.
There I was asked why I wished to fight in Spain. My reply, " To help the working-class people," was approved and arrangements were made for me to start from Victoria on the following Saturday. At Victoria I joined up with a party of twelve, and we were given money for a week-end ticket to Paris. No passports are required for week-end visits.
We trained to Perpignan, motor-coached it to the foot of the Pyrenees, which we crossed on foot. When we reached Albacete, we were greeted by a large brass band and speeches and then drafted to one of the companies of the International Brigade.
That was the beginning of seventeen months of hard soldiering, because the International Brigade was in the thick of the fighting.
Though most of us speedily became disillusioned, the English Battalion did good work for the Spanish Government, as we were used as shock troops.
That is why the casualties of the English Battalion were disproportionately high.
My view is that the morale of the Government troops was low and without the stiffening of the International Brigade the fronts would have broken much earlier. In my opinion, the state of tension between the various political parties in the Government ranks also made for a lessening of resistance.
This was not universal throughout the army, as two of the specialist companies I met with were good material, well disciplined, and with a contempt for the riffraff with which they were brigaded.
Bombing of Barcelona Most of the bombing of Barcelona is directed against the post and surroundings and the civil population are left alone.
Government and Churches
My experience points to a definite policy of church-destruction on the part of the Government forces.
In Quint° there were two churches which were totally destroyed by Government troops, who seemed to lose all decency in their attacks on the buildings. As I saw with my own eyes, everything was smashed. Altars were pulled down and statues destroyed by soldiers acting like maniacs.
In Belchite there were four churches which had been treated worse, if possible, than those in Quint°.
Barcelona has only one church left standing, and this is stated to be in use for ceremonies such as marriages and baptisms.
I was in sonic twenty towns altogether, and in every one churches had been rendered unfit for use.
In all these towns I saw no priests except in Barcelona, where I saw three.