17-18 Enero Arrival at Albacete

January 17-18, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary from January 17 and 18, 1937

Edward Arthur Burroughs, the Bishop of Ripon in England, quoted a British seaman on war in Fight for the Future (1916):

“Months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror” : such is a description of life in the Navy which a naval lieutenant quotes as exactly fitting the facts.

Merriman’s diary is not difficult at all to understand for these two days in January but his diary is rarely filled by boredom.  Even when not in battle, Merriman kept extremely busy and we will have few breaks over the year with as little to explain as in these two days.

At the time of his arrival in Albacete, the base of the International Brigades, Merriman was not officially in the International Brigades and was trying to sign up.   Bob Merriman will spend a considerable amount of his next year in this area, leading the training base.  The “Cadres” office, mentioned in the Diary, was the Communist Party office in Albacete and the point of contact for those who were either sent by the Communist Party or who had a party card.  At this time, the Brigade Training was led by André Marty, Commander of the Base at Albacete,  and  Lucien Vidal of France¹, who was later to lead at Albacete.

Molly Murphy

Mrs. J. T. (Molly) Murphy

Mrs. J.T. Murphy was named Molly and there is a short biography here.  She served as a nurse in Spain.

We have not figured out who “e. R” is (although it is nearly certain that it is not Elizabeth Regina).

A tremendous resource for untangling these diaries should be mentioned here.  Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude wrote a memoir about Robert Merriman in 1985, American Commander in Spain¹.  Mrs. Wachtel’s reminiscences of the time are touching and give much greater insight into Merriman’s state of mind in going to Spain than does the diary.   Marion did not accompany Bob on his entry to Spain and they had had quite a row over his leaving to volunteer to fight in the Spanish Civil War.  Marion subsequently was ordered to leave Russia after Bob’s departure.  And we can see that Merriman let his emotion of the moment sneak into the diary with the line interposed between the paragraphs “Lonesome – fear!!”   His wife’s memoir fills in a lot of the true emotion he felt about himself and his comrades at the time.  It should be read along with this diary.

¹ Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, University of Nevada Press, Reno, 1986.