Letters From Spain: Sidney Hotchkiss Lorraine

December 24, 2021
By

Photograph from The Volunteer, v1, no.3, 1978.

The picture of a young man in a jaunty hat and a big smile stared out of the 1978 issue of The Volunteer.[i] The photo was accompanied by a request for information about Sidney Lorraine who died in Spain during the course of The Retreats.  There is no evidence of any replies.

Sidney Hotchkiss Lorraine was born in 1914 and was the oldest of five children born to Walter Lorraine Hodgkiss (1871-1937), an English immigrant, and Delilah Victoria Mallard (1890-1970).[ii] Sidney was born while the family was living in Hugo, Oklahoma and grew up in Angleton, Texas.

Lorraine married Rosa Mosselle Simons in 1934 and their daughter Sylvia Faith Lorraine was born the following year.[iii] He was working as an organizer, likely in Houston, Texas and recently joined the Young Communist League when he volunteered to serve in Spain.[iv]

His one-way trip to Spain began after he received his passport on October 5, 1937.[v] Four days later Lorraine boarded the Vollendam. A month after receiving his passport he arrived in Spain and was sent to the XVth International Brigade, Battalion of Instruction.[vi] Lorraine spent most of the following five months in training.  He received specialized training on the Dikteroff machine gun.[vii] While in training, he wrote several letters home. These letters were intended to explain why he volunteered and highlighted the righteousness of the cause. Two letters survived. One letter was published in the local paper during WW II and the second was saved by his family.[viii]

Lorraine went to the front during the Nationalist offensive that cut Republican Spain in two.  “The Retreats” in March through April 1938 decimated the XVth Brigade.  During the Retreats the training base was emptied to make up for losses at the front. Lorraine was assigned to the Lincoln-Washington Battalion. He was reported missing in action on April 3, 1938.[ix]

Sidney Lorraine, passport photograph

FIRST LETTER

Angleton Boy, Fighting Against Fascism in Spain in 1937, In Last Letter Had Amazing Insight Into World Development By Bob Bray

Angleton—An Angleton boy, Sid Lorraine, missing in action since 1937 [1938], may have been the first casualty of the present “world slaughter,” which he predicted with amazing insight in the last letter sent to his mother Mrs. D. Lorraine, eight years ago. While causes for World War II may have had their roots in the peace terms of World War I, it is evident from Sid Lorraine’s letter that actual fighting of World War II began with the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

In his letter, which is being reprinted, Sid predicted with remarkable accuracy world developments since the writing of his letter and said that if Democracy stopped Fascism then (1937) it would forestall the impending world slaughter.” It is evident from his letter that Sid Lorraine left Angleton to join the Spanish People’s Army to fight for the world’s loftiest principles and not for any monetary gain. Angleton may take pride from the fact that this is his birthplace, that he attended school here and that she gave to the world a boy who had such high ideals and who, if need be, was willing to give up his life to bring them to fruition. We pray for his safe return.

Sid’s letter follows:

H. Lorraine

270 Plaza Del Altozona

Albacete, Spain

Dear Mother,

Another letter to you, but let me remind you that I haven’t received any mail from you and I am beginning to think you are not going to write. What is the trouble?

I received a letter from Paul a while back, but he didn’t have much to say; a few words about folks, nothing more, although I hope to hear from him again soon.[x] I haven’t heard from Mokie in months and I surely would like to hear all of you, especially my baby, also you, Alsace, Patsy, and Kathryn; also how their babies are getting along.[xi]

As for myself, I am feeling well and in excellent spirits and carrying on real well, learning all the military technique possible, really learning to be a soldier at present, although not officially confirmed yet, I am a junior officer in the Spanish People’s Army, a real army we are making of it, capable of defeating the Fascist butchers, Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini.

The power of our army was shown at Tervel [Teruel] in December when we defeated the Fascists and drove them back many miles, their forces suffered terrible losses, although the Americans suffered hardly any losses at all and in the entire 15 Brigade, made up of Americans, Canadians and English, we lost only 10 men,[xii] as one company of ours wiped out completely one battalion of Fascists in an hour or more of fighting. Any American can be proud of these boys here. They are wonderful boys, always in high spirits, great fighters, carrying on our great American traditions; they carry the banner of freedom and democracy gloriously on as did our great Washington, Payne, Lincoln and Jefferson, taking a stand against oppression and murder.

Here we are the advance guard of American Democracy; stopping the Fascist here in Spain keeps them from the shores of America which they have plotted to invade with the help of certain American financial powers such as _____ (here he names a famous auto manufacturer) who lends money and moral support to Franco here in Spain, and already the Fascist have invaded the Americas. Brazil in South America has a Fascist dictatorship, ruled from Berlin and Rome, also plotting revolution in Mexico for another Fascist state and stepping-stone to America or the States. For America there must be no Madrid, Valencia and Cuernica [Guernica] where Fascist bombers strafe and bomb children, hospitals, old men and women.

Fascism must be defeated here if the world is to go forward in happiness, culture and the general progress of humanity. We must not return to the dark days of feudal slavery and misery. Fascism plans the disintegration of humanity. Fascism breeds war for on wars alone can it survive and a defeat now of the Fascist States would bolster all the Democratic powers to forestall the impending world slaughter.

Also the defeat here of fascism would strengthen the progressive forces within the Fascist states, such as a Popular Front in Germany, of the churches, trade unions, communist, socialists, and democrats; all of these Hitler has driven underground, murdered their leaders, especially here lately have the churches been attacked by Hitler and he proclaiming a new order of religious Nazism or the equivalent to paganism, between the Fascist triple alliance – Germany, Italy and Japan, anyone can see their motives and realize they spare no country or people in their orgy of murder. Japan in China—here is an example of Japanese Fascism in their blood orgy, sinking the American gunboat, bombing civilians, destroying everything they can, so you can see the necessity of stopping them. Action must be taken against them. If Franco had been stopped here in Spain when the revolt broke out, by the democratic powers, Japan would never have invaded China, but Franco getting no opposition in Spain encouraged the Japanese Fascists in China, although I believe this year will be the end for them.

First, we have the army in Spain that is young and growing very powerful. All of our troubles of militia days are over, now we have a central command that is very strong. The government is in ___ ___ ___ complete unity in the people. Our army is nearly a million strong now, a war industry is functioning properly. Another advantage over last year is we are on the offensive and Franco is on the defensive. The lines may be compared to a dirt dam, we as water. In Tervel [Teruel] we trickled through the dam, forcing Franco to move other sections of his dam to plug this hole, weakening other sections of his lines where soon we will begin to pour through his lines all along and when you read of us taking positions along his entire line you can say the war will soon be over. The important and deciding battles will be fought this year. A word of warning: When you read of a great rebel victory in the papers quoting the Rebel General De Llano, you can bet everything is just the opposite, a victory for us. This same general broadcasted his sorrow to America because the Fascists wiped out the Americans. What a drunken liar he is! We lost only four men at Tevel [Teruel]. It just shows the Fascists fear us or they wouldn’t tell such lies.

Be sure and write soon because I am hungry for news about home, and if you see any of my friends, Oswald Elgin, for instance, tell him hello for me and it will be next winter before I can go to the bay for oysters with him, but I sure could use some here in Spain, as I’ve eaten beans and olive oil until everything smells and tastes like beans and olive oil, and these Spanish dishes [cigarettes] are stranger than smoking old tires. We call them ‘anti-tanks.’ If anyone asks where I am, tell them. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Also give them my address. Maybe they will write. Tell all the folks ‘Hello’ and give them my regards and love.

I remain as ever, your loving son,

Sid Lorraine

Salud mio madre!

P.S. I have learned to speak fairly ___ ___ ___ [good Spanish?].

SECOND LETTER

Don’t take this button el…. It is for my Mother.

Sidney H. Lorraine

Socorro Rojo Internacional

70 Plaza Del Altozona

Albacete, España

My Dear Mother,

It has been a long time since you have heard from me and seen me. I will write you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. It snowed a little the other day and has been very cold a number of days. Although the cold here is a little different than at Angleton or Houston it is more of a Maritime Climate here very damp.

I sure would like to talk to you, I sincerely believe I could convince you of my Political, Social and Economic beliefs “Socialism,” please don’t say as you have in the past, that I am a “Rebel” and dismiss the c..f..ict [conflict]. Never do I want to be classified with the Southern Rebels of Civil War days because here I fight against what they fought for, __ ___ ___ they fought a __ for __ them __ so they might still enslave a race of people and hold the South in a feudal state of society. Here we find a situation very similar a loyal election___ of the Spanish people that was and is and is carrying on a program to benefit the people. Workers and Farmers also anyone whom had something to help the people with It gave the people of Spain more freedom than they every had before, guaranteed them a living. And one and a half years ago a few Generals and Mussilini [sic], Hitler plotted the death and overthrow of the wishes of Spain with the help of world Capitalism and Capitalism’s bloody vanguard, ‘Fascism’ they started the fire of hell burning in Spain drenching its beautiful cities in blood betraying everything they possibly could their main targets women, children and Hospitals. Even today we had a signal for an air raid in taking up positions to fight there – one couldn’t help but notice the children are very brave for children, others crying you can understand these children when you see what they go through. Mothers and fathers blown to bits by bombs from Fascist planes. The Fascists are becoming very desperate now because our glorious army of liberty loving boys are smashing them at every battle. There is nothing inhumane and horrible they won’t do, the prisoners they take are murdered in cold blood. Whereas, we feed and clothe the prisoners we take very nicely also treat them as well as possible under present conditions. Franco has issued a proclamation saying he will start his push on Madrid. The 20__ also closing the Portuguese border to keep his troops from all deserting over the border. Franco’s soldiers are coming over to us in hundreds both Spanish and Italian. They tell of horrible conditions behind Fascist lines, German and Italian officers running everything on Fascist principals, the killing and raping of women and children, the Spanish men are tortured and killed for the smallest reason or to suit some drunk fascist officer. Franco has said he will turn over the brave women of Madrid to his Moors to rape and kill, but he will never take Madrid, NEVER.

Our International Brigade is made up of every walk of life and every race on earth, Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Italians, Americans, British, everything in human races even from Africa, Egypt, Turkey all have come here to defeat Fascism that their own countries may not suffer as Spain has and carry the banner of Freedom, and Democracy on, that humanity may live and prosper possible only under Democracy. The Internationals are some of the finest men alive. I am proud to be a Soldier.

[The remaining pages of this letter are missing]

 

[i] The Volunteer, v.1, no. 3, 1978, p. 12.

[ii] Ancestry.com; Oklahoma delayed birth certificate filled out by Sidney in order to obtain a passport. A sixth child Frank Lorraine (1913-1913) died as an infant.

[iii] Ancestry.com; Texas, Select County Marriage Records, 1837-2015, document 16575; Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997, Roll number 1935_0005.

[iv] Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States, Hearings Before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the committee of the Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate, Eighty-Fifth Congress, First Session on Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States, February 20, 1957, Appendix I, Part 23A, Washington, DC, United States Government Printing Office, 1957, A74; Cadre, Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (Центр хранения документов молодежных организаций), (hereafter RGASPI), Fond 545, Opis 6, Delo 846, ll. 35.

[v] Scope of Soviet Activity, A74.

[vi] Enviados A Albacete, HOJA No. 1, Noviembre 3, 1937; RGASPI Fond 545, Opis 6, Delos 35, ll. 102. Report on the name and nationality of the international volunteers arriving in Spain after crossing the Pyrenees mountains.

[vii] BN INS Co 6, RGASPI Fond 545, Opis 2, Delo 264, ll. 48; Co.2 March 19, 1938, Opis 3, Delo 453, ll. 83.

[viii] Letters Bob Bray, Angleton Boy, Fighting Against Fascism in Spain in 1937, In Last Letter Had Amazing Insight Into World Development, Clipping undated.; photocopies of handwritten letter Ancestry, and transcription from Scott Mallard. In one he indicates that he was selected to serve as an acting non-commissioned officer which may indicate he attended a non-commissioned officer class or was selected for officer training school.

[ix] BN 58, RGASPI Fond 545, Opis 6, Delo 51, ll. 30, (List of men killed or missing during the Retreats) and Opis 6, Delo 8521, ll. 9 (list of missing in action).

[x]  Refers to his brother Paul Stanley Lorraine (1915-1991).

[xi] Refers to his sisters Ruth Kathryn Lorraine (1917-2000), Alsace Lorraine (1918-2003), and Pat Elaine Lorraine (1920-2004).

[xii] The initial attack on Teruel was an entirely Spanish Operation.  The International Brigades were brought in to hold the city during the Nationalist counterattacks. The XV BDE losses were significantly higher than Sidney sites.

Share

Tags: ,

Leave a Comment