The Brigades’ last stand: New Memorial to be unveiled

September 8, 2013
Corbera d'Ebre. Photo Makinal, CC BY 3.0.

Corbera d’Ebre. Photo Makinal, CC BY 3.0.

The last stand of the British Battalion in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 will be remembered on Tuesday 24 September 2013 with the unveiling of a memorial in the village close to where the final day’s action took place exactly 75 years ago.

The ceremony will be held at 12 noon in Corbera d’Ebre in southern Catalonia. The memorial stone and plaque (see attached image) in English, Spanish and Catalan will be unveiled by family members of International Brigade volunteers who took part in the fighting.

The new memorial is adjacent to the church in the old town of Corbera d’Ebre in the Sierra Caballs.

Twenty-three of the British Battalion’s volunteers were killed during those final three days of combat in the Battle of the Ebro and more than 150 were injured.

On 21 September 1938 the beleaguered Spanish Republic announced the repatriation of all foreign volunteers from its army. The move was a vain attempt to put international pressure on Hitler and Mussolini for the withdrawal of their troops and aircraft from General Franco’s rebel forces.

But the British Battalion elected to remain in its front-line positions until being stood down on 24 September.

Meanwhile, the British government’s policy of “non-intervention” in the Spanish Civil War gave the advantage to Franco’s rebellion against Spain’s democratic government.

The event in Corbera d’Ebre is being organised by the London-based International Brigade Memorial Trust. Its secretary, Jim Jump, said: “The Battle of the Ebro was the last great battle of the Spanish Civil War and has been called the first battle of the Second World War.”

He added: “Britain’s abject policy of appeasement encouraged the military aggression of the fascist powers and thus made world war inevitable. This is what the International Brigade volunteers predicted, and they were proved right.

“We owe them a debt of gratitude for helping to check the advance of fascism for nearly three years in Spain.”

Only one of the 2,500 volunteers from the British Isles who served in the Spanish Civil War is still alive. He is Stan Hilton, aged 95, from Newhaven, Sussex, who now lives in Yarrawonga, Australia.

Killed during the British Battalion’s final three days of action

Daniel Boyle (Belfast)

Norman Brookfield (Maidstone)

David Buffman (Leeds)

Alec Cummings (Cardiff)

Norman Drury-Fuller (Maidenhead)

Francis Durston (Wembley)

George Gorman (Folkestone)

George Green (Stockport)

James Harding (Stockton-on-Tees)

Ivor Hickman (Petersfield)

George Hobbs (Chelmsford)

Clifford Lacey (London)

John Lobban (Alexandria)

Henry McGrath (Belfast)

William McGregor (Dublin)

John McLennagan (Greenock)

Jack Nalty (Dublin)

Victor Robilliard (Dagenham)

Ernest Sim (Aberdeen)

Alwynne Skinner (Neath)

John Smith (Irvine)

Abraham Trauber (London)

Roy Watts (Leicester)



12 Responses to “ The Brigades’ last stand: New Memorial to be unveiled ”

  1. Jim McDaid on September 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Irvine & North Ayrshire Trades Union Council held a commemoration event on Friday in Irvine Library where a memorial plaque in memory of John Smith above is located on the 75th anniversary of his being killed in action fighting fascism. A second event took place at the local cemetery where a family memorial stone stands.

    No pasaran. Venceremos!

    Jim McDaid, Chairperson, Irvine & North Ayrshire TUC.

  2. Simon Twilley on September 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    George Fredrick Green was my great uncle. We are, by a long list of mishaps, touring Spain and Portugal. I decided for my mother to search out some information on her Uncle Judd who was killed during the Spanish Civil War on 23rd September 1938. I found your article this evening and could not believe that not only is he mentioned but on the 24th I am staying 100kms from the memorial. I would appreciate any information and if it is possible to visit the memorial. Regards Simon Twilley

  3. Jim Jump on September 16, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Simon, the unveiling of the memorial is a public event, so you are very welcome to attend. The memorial site next to the old church should not be difficult to find, as Corbera d’Ebre is a small place. The old church is in the ruined part of the village on top of the hill. Contact me ( if you want more information. I hope to see you there on 24 September.

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  9. Yvonne Buffman Cheyney on June 24, 2014 at 5:30 am

    Dave Buffman was my half-brother. He died 4 years before I was born, but I grew up being told of his brave efforts for freedom at the age of 20. Finally being recognized and the Spanish Government advising my sister Audrey Buffman Kneller with the information. Hoping to go and visit one day.

  10. Paris Thompson on March 25, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Hi Yvonne,

    I’m a student in Leeds, England, and I’m doing work on International Brigade volunteers from Leeds who fought in Spain. Dave Buffman is listed as being a resident of Leeds. Is this true? If so, would you, or any of your family, be willing to discuss Dave’s time in Spain with me?

  11. Yvonne Buffman Cheyney on October 6, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Hi Paris Thompson

    I have just re-entered this site and seen your comment about being a student. I am so sorry I did not see your comment sooner. Yes, my brother was a resident of Leeds. The only person that could have given you information passed away some years ago – Dave’s sister Rosa (my half-sister). She did discuss what she knew with me. She, her father (my father too) and her siblings (this was 3 years before her father met my mother)waited on the train station in 1938 when the last troupe train returned with the last remaining men from the fighting. They waited and waited and Dave did not come off. They were given a few personal effects by one of his mates who told them he had seen Dave killed. This was the only notification they ever received of his death. There is no death certificate.

    We knew nothing about our brother other than being told he died in battle in Spain.

    My sister Audrey in England had been trying to research through the Spanish Embassy in London and she was contacted by the small town of Ebre and invited to attend the memorial unveiling in 2013, but couldn’t attend. We are hoping to go and see this memorial in a couple of years – I will be coming from Southern California.

    Leeds Town Hall has a memorial plaque on one of their walls with Dave’s name on. There have also been several books published that list Dave’s name. We are sad we do not have a picture of him.

  12. Simon Lacey on July 18, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Clifford Lacey (London) was my father’s uncle. If anyone has any information regarding his time in Spain, I would be grateful. We did find one contemporary photo of him and have a copy of the death certificate, an affidavit by the Spanish authorities.