27-28 Abril Back in Albacete and in Training

27-28 April
Robert Merriman’s Diary from the 27th and 28th of April, 1937
Elias Begelman, Image Source: RGASPI Archives, Moscow, Fond 545 Opus 6 Delo 862.

Merriman’s short sojourn in Madrid ended and he returned to Pozo Rubio to resume his teaching at the Officer Training School.  He found Elias Begelman had been wearing a stripe that he was not entitled to and he needed to reprimand him.  The infringement was not serious enough and Merriman was able to say that he had confidence in Begelman who would move up to deserve those stripes by June 1937.  Merriman finds from Al Robbins that the school is still not running smoothly and that reorganization into sections was necessary.

Merriman returns from Pozo Rubio to Albacete to see the doctor about his arm.  He is informed that there is no point rebreaking the injured arm.  That must have been comforting and discomforting at the same time.  In subsequent photos, however, Merriman is shown with his left arm in all kinds of positions so he must have regained full range of motion of his shoulder.

Merriman mentions that Rosenstein stayed all evening.  He confirms on this page that the Stone discussion previously is Joe Stone (Sheer Isaac Hershkowitz).  Merriman shows that rank has privilege by throwing a German captain out of his room at Albacete and “organizing” it.  Mess Sgt. John Hagileou and “Pete” (probably Peter Hampkins) helped him get the room.  Merriman drinks with Stone and Bob Thompson in the evening.

Richard Baxell has noted that April 28, 1937, was an important day for the XVth International Brigade.  On that date, they were replaced on the line by the XIVth Brigade (French) in Jarama and taken to Morata de Tajuña where they would rest.   Baxell notes:

Before leaving, an ‘impressive memorial service’ for the members of the battalion killed at Jarama and a stone memorial, in the shape of a five-pointed star, was erected.¹

The British Battalion was pulled back further to Alcala de Heneres and subsequently would base their training in Mondejar, both east of Madrid and south of Guadalajara.  The Brigade Estado Major would be based at Ambite, also a few kilometers away.  General Gal would have a villa outside Ambite where he would direct activities for much of the rest of the year.  The Americans would later be based close by at Albares.

Baxell’s book (which is now available in paperback) points out that the relief gave the Brigades time to deal with issues that arose in Jarama and one was the accusation that Bert Overton’s actions included a “self-promotion” and a possible defection of his unit from a battle situation.  The result of the investigation was the removal of Overton’s stripes and a court-martial.   He was sentenced to a labor battalion and then sent back to the front where he was ‘killed by a shell while carrying munitions to a forward position.’¹

Overton’s removal will be discussed by Merriman in the diary in a posting in late May which may put the actual court-martial and removal at a somewhat later date.


¹ Richard Baxell, Unlikely Warriors:  The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle Against Fascism,  Aurum Library,  London, 2012. pp 171-2.