Wednesday, February 06, 2008

1937: Battle of Jarama Begins

On 6th February 1937, the Battle of Jarama began, between the Spanish Republic and the fascist forces of General Franco. During the three weeks of fighting, seventeen or eighteen Merseyside volunteers with the International Brigades would be killed – nearly two thirds of the region’s casualties from the entire war.

The Jarama river was strategically important, since it was very close to a major city, Madrid. Franco’s forces had failed to take the city by storm a few months earlier, and so the general planned to cut it off by crossing the river, and breaking a communication chain with the Republican capital, Valencia.

Volunteers from a claimed fifty-three nations formed the International Brigades. Those who signed up either sympathised with one or more of the radical groups trying to reorganise life in republican Spain, or were just acutely aware of the danger that the rise of fascism would pose for the whole world.

It is not known precisely when each of the Merseyside recruits were killed, but it seems likely that many met their end between the 12th and the 14th. On the morning of the 12th, under the command of Tom Wintringham, the British Battalion was moved up to the heights overlooking Jarama, at Arganda. Facing the superior weapons and training of the Army of Africa (fascist troops from Morocco), they sustained many casualties, especially on the 12th. However, a serious tactical error by the fascists allowed the International Brigades to reclaim the ground they lost on the 12th, and both sides were entrenched by the 14th. Though many anti-fascists were killed in the Jarama battle, they prevented a major advance by the fascist counterrevolution.

The Merseyside volunteers killed in the Battle of Jarama were:

R. Beadles (Birkenhead), L. Bibby (Birkenhead), W. Bogle (Liverpool), W. Giles (Liverpool), E. Jackman (Liverpool), T. Killick (Southport), R. Kirk (Liverpool), G. McEwen* (Liverpool), G. McKeown* (Liverpool), J. Newman (Liverpool), J. Norbury (Liverpool), F. Norton (Liverpool), T. O'Brien (Liverpool), J. Owens (Liverpool), Tommy Silcock (Liverpool), J. Stewart (Wallasey), J. Walsh (Liverpool)

* May be same person
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