17-18 Mayo Lamotte gets into trouble

17-18 May
Robert Merriman’s diary for the 17th and 18 of May, 1937

In a relatively quiet day, Merriman passes the day in Albacete and has the duty of making the introduction of George Brodsky to the staff at the Intendencia (supply depot).  Brodsky has clearly been appointed the supply officer now.  After visiting the Headquarters (Estado Major), Merriman needs to muster up a guard for Albacete from his troops.  An extra 50 men plus a machine gun are wanted for Albacete and on the 18th he relates that Joe Dallet expects trouble in Albacete.  Clearly, intelligence has warned them of potential sabotage.

His dining companions on the 17th are Marion Merriman, Steve Nelson, Bill Lawrence and Canadian Robert Kerr.  Nelson and Lawrence seem joined at the hip at this juncture of the preparation of the battalion.  Kerr, the Canadian political commissar,  arrived on April 21 and at this point was charged with the formation of the Canadian Battalion.  He and Lawrence would grab as many incoming Canadians as they could to direct to this new battalion.¹   Ron Liversedge, who was seconded to the Canadian Cadres Service, remembers:

But there were almost as many Canadians in other Brigades and outfits outside the Fifteenth Brigade. … A man would drop by, just in from Estramadura.  He was in town for mail, for pay for his outfit, to enquire about medical supplies, etc.  He was serving with a Balkan artillery battery.  Yes, he was a Canadian; yes, there were five more Canadians with the Battery.  We could get his particulars, ask him to try to get a list of the other Canadians to us as soon as possible, and help him complete his business in Albacete…. Thus is was that we gradually began to get a picture of who, and where, the Canadians were.  The thousand Canadians has certainly spread themselves around Spain.²

Costas Scarlettos, activist, May 1938. ALBA PHOTO 11-0192, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman finishes the day writing a story for an appeal for resources to be sent to America.  Jean Barthel returned to Valencia.  He mentions two new names, Pasurman and Scarletti.  There was a Daniel Scarletto who testified in 1952 to the Subversive Activities Control Board and was a paid FBI informant at the time.  The Brigades also had a Costas Scarlettos (shown right).  It is not clear if either of these men are the “Scarletti” mentioned in the diary.  “Pasurman” is unknown.

Things begin to go badly for Pierre Lamotte.  As head of the Intendencia, he was able to curry favor with Merriman who thought he was a “fine fellow”.  But at this point, Lamotte “lost Guerrero”.  This is probably Luis Guerrero who sailed to Spain on the Ile de France on February 20 and now is missing, presumably AWOL.  Guerrero will return and be on the paylists in June, but having someone at Albacete desert would not play well with the Brigade leadership and the commissar at the Base wants him removed.  Jean Barthel had been Base Commissar but at this point this may be Vidal or Gallo.  Having Brodsky available to take Lamotte’s place was convenient.  Lamotte is reported to have been charged with desertion and embezzlement and imprisoned in Valencia until he was released at the end of the war.² He returned to the US on February 9, 1939.

Alfred Harvey (Abe) Litwin, RGASPI Fond 545 Opus 6 Delo 935, Moscow
Unknown (left), unknown (rear) and Sterling Rochester(center), ALBA Photo 177-191070, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman mentions that he met with Abe Litwin, Steven Daduk and (probably) Charles O’Flaherty.  The latter two along with the Jarama-injured African-American Sterling Rochester are to be sent back to the US for fund raising and speaking tours.

Merriman returns to Pozo Rubio with Bill Lawrence, Joe Dallet, and Pete Hampkins and in a curiously worded sentence says “Commissar of Bill”, etc.   That may be an abbreviation for Commissariat, perhaps meaning that they were there for a meeting where the men would elect a new Commissar for the new Battalion.  The sentence is unclear.   Merriman lets us know that they rejected either George or Raymond Lee Peters (both of whom came over on the Queen Mary on March 20), either Michael or Patrick McLaughlin (likely the latter as he was in OTS at the time), and Anthony Theodoulou.   Merriman was interested (although he does not say he was pleased) with the response of the men to the naming of the Commissar.   Ultimately, Dave Mates would become the Commissar.

Merriman is still staffing up and sent word to Marcovics at Madrigueras that he wanted more men but was rebuffed.   He had a meeting that evening with Arthur Olorenshaw, Joe Dallet, Bob Thompson and William Reed Carroll, who had joined the OTS.  Merriman meets again with Andrew Royce and orders him to Transports.  Royce had deserted from Jarama but was identified  as shell-shocked and useless at the front.  Merriman clearly took responsibility for Royce and looked after him.


¹ Petrou, Renegades, ibid., p 28.

² Ron Liversedge, Map-Pap, Memoir of a Canadian in the Spanish Civil War, ed. David Yorke, New Star Books, 2013, p110-111 and p. 176.

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