9-10 Abril Outfitting and Manning Pozo Rubio

9-10 April

Robert Merriman’s diary for the 9th and 10th of April 1937

John Hagileou

John Hagileou: (Evangelos Hadjilahus) Source: RGASPI Archive F.545, op.6 d:415, Moscow.  (Thanks to Kevin Buyers for locating this photo)

Merriman spends the next two days organizing the Officer’s base at Pozo Rubio and “goes shopping” in Albacete at the Guard Nationale which is the supply depot.  He meets with Lambert and Hagileou.   Hagileou was the Sergeant in the Mess at Albacete.   Lambert we have not met before.  The frustration with interpreting Merriman’s diary is that he notes people who may never have been discussed in texts on the Brigades.  The ALBA biographies which are being revised in 2014 by Christopher Brooks are extremely helpful in identifying Americans.  No similar lists exist for Canadians or British and finding those vets takes some sleuthing.   Even Mr. Lambert here could be French since Lambert is a French name.  However, Tamiment’s extensive microfilm collection of the Brigade archives has treasures everywhere.   This fragment was picked up in a scan of the archives in 2012 and who knew Mr. Lambert would be mentioned in Robert Merriman’s diary?


Salvo Conducto (a safe conduct pass) for Sergeant John Lambert who was in the Tarazona instruction base. This pass, from September 1937, gives him safe conduct to Murcia. Source:  Comintern Archives, Fond 545/Opus 3/Delo 256; Tamiment Library, NYU.

This now becomes our best bet of who Mr. Lambert was.  Jacob Epstein and Walsh (see April 5-6)  were approved to move.  Walsh ended in Company 3 of the Lincolns during the Spring and went to the Artillery later.

Merriman must have found a good mate in Pierre Lamotte who picked up a new mattress (it appears that this is the word) for Merriman’s arm and cast.  Merriman is clearly in a position to move people around and Arthur Olorenshaw had a transfer approved for him.  Olorenshaw is a member of the British Battalion and will by the end of his tour in Spain write reviews many senior members of the Brigade Staff for their “reliability”.

Merriman learned about the “requisitioning” process in Spain.  He says he “stole” a truck to get his materials back to Pozo Rubio. Brigadistas frequently told how they “organized” a truck when they needed one.

Lionel Edwards

Captain Lionel Edwards, Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, Source: Randall Collection ALBA PHOTO 11-1307, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman introduces us to Solomon Rose and Al Edwards.  Rose arrived in Spain on March 28, 1937.   Edwards is named by his first name in the diary and he will serve as a mechanic in the Republican Air Force.  There is another likely Edwards in the International Brigades at this point and this is Lionel Edwards, a Canadian who made Captain by 1938.

Merriman mentions James Harris’ “Polish Woman Doctor” again.   That story is difficult to flesh out.  Harris himself was Polish and we have been unable to determine his real name.  Perhaps figuring out this woman doctor (who was said to be in charge of the Pasionaria Hospital in Murcia when Merriman was there in March) will help in finding out more about James Harris.

John "Robbie" Robinson, November 1937.  Source ALBA PHOTO 11-0645, Tamiment Library, NYU.

John “Robbie” Robinson, November 1937. Source ALBA PHOTO 11-0645, Tamiment Library, NYU.

Edward Cecil-Smith

Major Edward Cecil-Smith, Commander of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, 1938, photo at Darmos, Spain. Source: Moscow Archive Photos ALBA PHOTO 177_187053, Tamiment Library, NYU

This diary segment ends with the election of the political commissar for the Pozo Rubio Officer’s School.  Names that Merriman mentions are “Robbie” (perhaps also Robbins), Crooks, and EC Smith.   Robbie is John Quigley Robinson, one of the more popular members of the Brigades, and EC Smith is Canadian Edward Cecil-Smith, who would become commander of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion by the end of the year. Crooks could be Jimmie Crooks of the Lincoln Battalion but Crooks was listed as coming to Spain in August 1937 so this will still need some research.  If the name in yellow were transcribed as “Robbins”, then the likely candidate is Al Robbins who arrived in Spain on March 17 and who would become a Lieutenant in the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.  Over the next month in the diary, the formation of the new battalions and their naming will become a frequent topic of Merriman’s conversation.

7-8 Abril ¡Salute Pozo Rubio!

7-8 April

Robert Merriman’s diary for the 7th and 8th of April, 1937

Over the next few months, Merriman will have difficulty squeezing all that he wants to remember into a diary with a half page per day.  His hand will become smaller and smaller and more difficult to read.

He finishes his report on being in Albacete and meeting with Vidal and Marty about the new camp at Pozo Rubio.  It is remarkable that Pozo Rubio is even mentioned in the diary since the location of the Officer’s School was a big secret at this time.   “Maximville”, a photo from the Tamiment’s Russian archive, is believed to be at Pozo Rubio.


“Maximville”, believed to be at Pozo Rubio, the Officer’s Training School. Source: ALBA Photo 177_178029, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman admits that the morale was low amongst the Brigadistas.  The leadership of Brodsky was a serious issue about this time and Merriman had to win over the respect of the men who were senior enough to be considered for Officer Training.   It appears that by the end of April 7, he had begun organization of the men.

Merriman mentions Peter Hampkins who stayed at the school for some time in 1937.  Hampkins’ photo was shown on the April 2 posting.  Another name, “Guiven”?, is not certain.   Walter Garland is also seen in the same photo with Hampkins.   It appears that Garland was made head of the Officer’s School and he probably reported to Merriman.  Colonel Jules Dumont, who had been the Commander of the Commune de Paris 14th Battalion,  was Commander of the Albacete training base in February.  He is mentioned in this essay by Bernard Knox.   And there is a film clip of Jules Dumont speaking to the CGT in 1938.   Jules Dumont was executed by the Nazis in France in 1943.

Merriman mentions Walsh again (who was head of the NCO school) and “Epstein”.   The only Epstein in Spain at this time was David Epstein.  He and Marion met again at Albacete and Merriman ate dinner with Jock Cunningham of the British Battalion.

5-6 Abril “Grumblings” about Merriman’s new job


Robert Merriman’s diary for the 5th and 6th of April 1937.

Robert Merriman is now settled back in the region of Albacete and will take on the role of Commander in the Officer’s School.  In this role, he will meet literally hundreds of “old” and “new” International Brigaders and he will note the name of nearly everyone he meets in his diary.  Interpreting who they are is often not easy and, it should be noted, the transcription is still a work in progress.  If we make mistakes, please comment below.  As noted on the previous diary page, Hans Amlie has taken over the Command of the American Training Base at Villanueva de la Jara.   It is 25 minutes by car  from there to Albacete.

Klaus Becker and Henry Winkler

Identified as Klaus Becker and Peter Winkler, summer 1937 (Photograph 177_175028 of the ALBA 177 Photo collection, NYU Tamiment Collection Digital Library, dlib.nyu.edu/alba-moscow/photos/177_175028.  We have come to believe that this is Peter Winkler (left) and Lucien Vidal (Vital Gayman), right.


Pierre Lamotte, officer in the Intendencia and later the Armorer for the Brigade. Lamotte will leave the Brigade in the summer of 1937 under suspicion of money theft. Source: RGASPI Archive, Moscow, 545/6/929.

Merriman meets with George Brodsky who is the Brigade Commissar at this point.  Brodsky warns Merriman that he will not be a popular choice as Commander amongst the men.   Merriman tries to land a position for Marion in the Cadres Service which is led by Peter Winkler, the Chief of Personnel in the Cadres Service.  This effectively is the Communist Party office where CP members from the various nations will check in at Albacete and be given assignments. We see that Marion is given the job and she will be an insider at Albacete until Fall of 1937.  She describes her new job:

As a member of the International Brigades myself, I was assigned to the headquarters in Albacete, where I took up office duties.  I rewrote stories for the daily newspaper published for the volunteers.  And I continued to help the men write letters home.  I also dealt with some of the letters that came to us.¹

Marion goes on in her book to share a letter sent by a worried mother to Commander Merriman, trying to get her son home.  Merriman refers to a letter that he transcribed on the November 1 page of the diary (this section of the diary will end in September and he starts writing in another diary book):


Robert Merriman’s diary. After September, Merriman used his diary as a notebook. This is a letter he received on April 5.

Merriman also meets with Samuel Stember and Pierre Lamotte, who apparently are both responsible for the Intendencia, the Brigades supply depot, food store, and mess hall.

Gordon and Begelman

Joe Gordon (Joseph Mendlowitz) and Elias Begelman in the Summer of 1938. Source Randall Photo Collection ALBA 11-0098 Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman starts dropping many names on us.  Jacobs, Hagileou, Begelman and Miller are all new to the diary.  Hagelos is probably John Hagileou who was the Mess Sergeant.  There are a large number of Millers in the Brigade and this could be anyone.  Elias Begelman will move up in ranks as an officer in the Spring of 1937.

Merriman says he met with Jock Cunningham of the British Battalion and tried to talk with a “Rochefort”.  French writer Christiane Rochefort‘s father was in Spain (all the online sources say “her father joined the International Brigades in Spain”, but never give his name).  Merriman met with Platone and notes the name of a Russian who is transcribed as Millukich.  Merriman met with Walsh who we take to be Joseph Martin Walsh, Jr., who was the head of the NCO School in February, and Walsh talks about Arturo Corona, who was a Cuban who supposedly commanded Company 2 at Jarama.   ALBA has the following on Corona:

Corona, Arturo. Cuban; Student; CP; Sailed January 16, 1937 aboard the Paris; Deserted (?); Had returned by April 1938; Corona was accused of stealing money from a fundraiser for the FALB; Article published in the Daily Worker states he deserted.
Source: Americans.

Merriman as Commander would have displicline cases landing in his lap for the next year and he did not reveal in his diary the details of these cases but just made notes for himself when they occurred.   “Fogarty and fake bills” is similarly cryptic.  Eugene Fogerty was a Canadian who served in the Medical Service.  Michael Petrou got to the bottom of this mystery in his book, Renegades:

Unlike Bethune, however, not all Canadian doctors had respectable careers in Spain.  Eugene Fogerty worked as a medical officer in the 17th Battalion at a hospital in Villaneuva de la Jara.  His personnel file lists his citizenship as Canadian and indicates that he claimed to have a degree, presumably in medicine, from McGill University in Montreal.  But reports on Fogarty conclude that he “is not a physician and did more harm than good”.  His file records numerous complaints aside from the most serious one of impersonating a doctor.  He reportedly worked privately but drew pay from the International Brigades, he married a local girl and charged his wedding expenses to the International Brigades, he made enough money from his fraud to live in comfort, and he was a drug addict and trafficked in narcotics.  Fogarty was dismissed from the International Brigades, but stayed on in Villaneuva de la Jara before disappearing sometime in the summer of 1937.  A search of records at McGill University revealed no trace of Fogarty ever having attended medical school there.²

The next sentence says that Merriman attended a high level meeting with Lucien Vidal and André Marty, whom we have met before.  The sentence appears to say that Merriman “was on the presidium” perhaps meaning the dais at the front.  It also could read “meeting on war on the presidium”, perhaps being more a serious discussion about the Comintern leadership battles themselves.  The rest of the paragraph would tend to support the lighter, first interpretation.

Merriman ends a long busy day by eating with Lou Wolf.   A Miss Arnold is introduced as his interpreter.  Lou Wolf is not on the Lincoln list nor is Ms Arnold.


¹ Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid., pp 123-4.

² Michael Petrou, Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, ibid., pp 166-167.

3-4 Abril At Madrigueras

3-4 April

Robert Merriman’s diary for the 3rd and 4th of April 1937

Robert Merriman will now settle into the routine of being an instructor at the training bases around Albacete (Villaneuva de la Jara, Madrigueras, Tarazona de la Mancha, Quintanar del Rey,  Pozo Rubio and others).   The diary for April 2 flows over onto this page and he finishes the story of André Marty questioning Marion on where she got her military greatcoat and reminding her of the “dress code”.  I am sure from the retort that Marion was impressed by Marty.


Hans Amlie (right) with David Doran and US Military Attaché Colonel Fuqua, at Quinto, October 1937. Source: ALBA photo 11-0843 of the Randall Collection, Tamiment Library, NYU

Burton, Amlie

Instructors at Tarazona de la Mancha in June 1937. From left to right: Peter Hampkins (British), Edward Cecil-Smith (Canadian), Wallace Burton (American), unknown, Walter Garland (American) and Hans Amlie (American). Photo from the Milly Bennett Collection, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Hans Amlie is now Commander of the Lincoln Battalion and Merriman will be working with Amlie until the Fall of 1937, with frequent chafing between their personalities.  Hans Amlie was a very interesting character and was the brother of Republican Congressman Tom Amlie of Wisconsin.  His biographies¹ say that he was a Socialist when he came to Spain but when the Eugene V. Debs Column of the American Socialist Party could only draw 25 volunteers, Amlie joined the Communist Party in Spain.  In an interesting confluence of personalities, the American reporter Milly Bennett lost her lover, Wallace Burton, in Spain as he was killed at Belchite.  Milly had spent some time in China with Wallace’s twin brother Wilbur Burton who wrote for the Baltimore Sun newspaper.  When Milly Bennett was the lead reporter for the Chang Mei news bureau in Peking (Beijing), Burton replaced her when she moved down to Hankow to be more in the action.   Her biography², “On Her Own” reads like a Dashell Hammett mystery story.  In Spain, after Wallace died,   Milly became the lover and then married Hans Amlie and when she returned to the US in the fall of 1937, she did so as Amlie’s wife.


Wally Tapsell, ALBA Photo 11-1292. Tamiment Library, NYU

11_0009s_Clyde Taylor, MacKenzie-Papineau_nov 37

Dr. Clyde Taylor. Photo 11-0009 of the Randall Collection, Tamiment Library, NYU

Three additional names are added to our cast in this installment: Commandant Clare, Dr. Clyde Donald Taylor and Dave Engels.   Dave Engels’ nickname was “Mooch”.  We have not posted a picture yet of Wally Tapsell of the British Battalion.  Commandant Clare is a mystery at this point.  There is a Jean Clerc in the 14th Battalion (French) but no connection is made to the leadership of the Brigade.  There was a “Clare” in the second company of the Lincolns at Jarama (Chris Brooks, private communication of a transcription of Sandor Voros’ diary).  No information about a promotion from the ranks is given for Clare.


¹ Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid. pp. 204-206.

² Milly Bennett (Mildred Mitchell), On Her Own:Journalistic Adventures from San Francisco to the Chinese Revolution, 1917-1927,  edited by Tom Grunfeld, M. E. Sharpe Publishers, Armonk, NY., 1993.

1-2 Abril “Hello Albacete Again”

1-2 April

Robert Merriman’s diary for the 1st and 2nd of April, 1937. Merriman had returned to Albacete by train from Murcia.

Robert and Marion Merriman returned to Albacete from Murcia after an overnight train ride.  They arrived before businesses opened and had to wait for the café to open and he says they ate with someone called “Larmore” if the writing can be deciphered.  He had already met Pierre Lamotte who ran the Armory in Albacete and perhaps Merriman mistook the name, having been away from Albacete for two months.

We have met the people that Merriman contacts and links will be given to the posts where they showed up previously.  Neumann, Stember, and Brodsky all were in the Brigade leadership at this point and Merriman had to check in with them and Vidal to get his next assignment.   It is believed that Neuman (or Newman) is Dr. Rudolf Neumann who was said to have co-founded the International Brigades.¹

James Harris pops up again briefly in this diary segment and the woman Polish doctor is probably the same woman that Merriman referred to as leading the La Pasionaria Hospital in Murcia.  She is now in Albacete.

In the afternoon, Merriman learns that he is to lead the Officers School in Pozo Rubio.  He mentions speaking again with Brodsky and Stember and then speaking to a Sam Winkelman.  Winkelman does not appear to be an American or Canadian.  He could be British or German.

Significant socializing took place on April 2 and Merriman notes that he landed a vehicle.  Marion, who had been about the town with James Harris, joined up with Robert and they met Wally Tapsell, who had taken over after Peter Kerrigan was wounded at Jarama.

Later they meet with Andre Marty (not Marti, error in the transcription) and “Rodman and Mike from Moscow”.  It is not known who Rodman is.  Mike is likely to be the reporter Michael Koltsov.  He appears to have known the Merrimans in Moscow, since Marion chatted with Mike for some time and, as we will find out on the next page, was likely being interrogated.


¹  Sugarman, Against Fascism – Jews who served in The International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, ibid. Accessed January 2014 at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/spanjews.pdf