Music, vets, Preston at IB 75th anniversary in UK

June 27, 2011

Our friends at the International Brigade Memorial Trust across the pond send along their press release about the 75th anniversary celebration on July 2 in London:

75th anniversary tribute to Spanish Civil War volunteers

British volunteers of the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War will be remembered at 1pm on Saturday 2 July 2011 at the International Brigade Memorial, Jubilee Gardens, London SE1 (next to the London Eye).

Organisers hope that two of the surviving veterans will be present to lay wreaths in honour of their fallen and departed comrades.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of the legendary International Brigades in October 1936. The civil war itself began on 18 July of that year when General Francisco Franco and other army officers launched a coup against the Spanish Republic’s democratically elected Popular Front government.

The two veterans who plan to attend are David Lomon, who was captured with other members of the British Battalion during fighting in Aragón in the spring of 1938 and spent six months in the notorious prison camp of San Pedro de Cardeñas, near Burgos, and Thomas Watters, who served in the Madrid-based Scottish Ambulance Unit.

Among the speakers in Jubilee Gardens will be Paul Preston, regarded as the world’s foremost historian of the causes, course and consequences of the Spanish Civil War. He is also the biographer of Franco and King Juan Carlos.

Wreaths will be laid by, among others, representatives of the Spanish embassy and the Catalan government’s delegation in London.

There will be music from folk duo Na-mara and the cast of the forthcoming Spanish Civil War musical “Goodbye Barcelona”. The Strawberry Thieves choir will perform songs sung by the volunteers, including the British Battalion’s song “Valley of Jarama” and “The Internationale”.

This annual commemoration honours the 2,500 men and women from the British Isles who served in the International Brigades as soldiers or medics, of whom 526 were killed in Spain. They were among 35,000 volunteers from around the world who rallied to the Spanish Republic as it tried to put down the fascist-backed military revolt.

General Franco’s rebels received overwhelming help from Mussolini and Hitler in the form of troops, aircraft and armaments. Meanwhile, Britain and the other Western democracies enforced an arms embargo on the Spanish Republic, effectively condemning it to defeat. The war is regarded by many as the prelude to the Second World War.

Organised by the International Brigade Memorial Trust, the event will be followed by a social for families, friends and supporters at the Camel & Artichoke, Lower Marsh Street, London SE1. There will be more songs from “Goodbye Barcelona” and the IBMT’s exhibition “Antifascistas”, which tells the story of the volunteers from the British Isles, will be on display.