British media reflect on MI5 SCW files

June 30, 2011

The British media are considering the ramifications of the information contained in the MI5 files on the Spanish Civil War and International Brigades that were released two days ago. Here is a piece in the Guardian by SCW scholar Tom Buchanan; here a segment on the topic from Channel 4 news with Richard Baxell; here a piece on Jewish participants in the IB. Buchanan cautions:

The release of MI5’s records on British volunteers during the Spanish civil war is a fascinating new source and an invaluable addition to the available archival information. However, claims in the media that these figures show that many more Britons volunteered than had previously been thought should be treated with caution.

The new sources apparently suggest that some 4,000 Britons departed for Spain (compared with the standard figure of 2,500 or less) – a number that even exceeds the 2,762 that emerged from research in Spanish archives during the 1960s and 70s (at a time when the Franco regime, which had always sought to inflate the number of foreigners fighting in Spain, was still in power). At first sight, therefore, it seems unlikely that there was a phantom regiment of some 1,500 additional British volunteers in Spain.