15-16 Enero – In Valencia

January 15 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary from January 15, 1937

To travel from your posting to another required a “salvo conducto” or a safe-conduct pass.  Frequent references will be made to these important passes throughout the diary and many IB soldiers generated a lot of trouble for themselves when they did not have one.  Desertion could be the charge and the penalties severe.

Merriman met several people on these two days in Valencia.  “Met M. Greenspan at M.” could be “Marion Greenspan at Milly’s”.   We believe that M. Greenspan is George Marion (a.k.a. Marion Greenspan husband of Celia Greenspan).  Celia Greenspan was the subject, along with Martha Gellhorn, of the documentary, “Into the Fire: American Women in the Spanish Civil War”.


Celia Greenspan clip from promotional materials on “Into the Fire” (Credit: Intothefirefilm.com)

The New York University’s Tamiment Library has excellent holdings on the Spanish Civil War from the Abraham Lincoln Brigades Archives.  We are pleased that Tamiment is supporting us in this discussion of Merriman’s Diary and we will shortly be providing a link on the left sidebar for donations to the library to keep the holdings active and available.  Tamiment’s finding aid on the George Marion papers discusses Celia Greenspan and her role as a nurse with Norman Bethune and later in Murcia hospital. 

Adrienne Clarkson, the previous Governor General of Canada, mentions Celia Seborer Greenspan in her book “Norman Bethune”.¹

Merriman says he met L.O. who was the Liston Oak with whom he shared a room with the previous night.  He also says he met with writers for Der Tag.

Cober is an homophone of Cockburn (pronounced Coburn), who was a writer for the Daily Worker (DW) in London (thanks to Alan Warren for this brilliant association of names).  Claud Cockburn (aka Frank Pitcairn) reported throughout the war and there is a Gerda Taro photograph of him and Fred Copeman (we will meet him later) at Brunete.


Fred Pitcairn (left, aka Claud Cockburn) of the Daily Worker and Fred Copeman (photo by Gerda Taro with attribution in the image)

Griffiths who wrote for the Associated Press is still a bit of a mystery.   Later in the year, Merriman will speak of Eric “Pinky” Griffiths, a New Zealander who worked as a pilot.

Alan Warren was able to pin down the other two other names which were mentioned. Rubio Hildalgo (Luis Rubio Hildalgo) was Chief of the Foreign Press and Mikael Kolstov (Koltsov) was an advisor to Stalin.

At the end of the 16th, Merriman has caught a train for Albacete.  Albacete was the training base of the International Brigades.  The diary flows over onto the next page and we will pick it up in two days.


¹ Adrienne Clarkson, Norman Bethune, Penguin Canada, 2009.