3-4 Julio Men sleep in on Independence Day

July 3-4, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary for July 3 and 4, 1937

After the hectic beginning of the month, the next two days slowed down.  On the 3rd of July, men slept in because the bugle did not blow.  Michael Petrou relates the story:

The Mac-Pap tradition of beginning each day with an early morning bugle call was quickly ended when one of the soldiers in another battalion placed the offending instrument beneath the wheels of a truck, where it was soon run over and crushed – an incident which allowed everyone to sleep longer but also broke the ice between the Mac-Paps and the more experienced soldiers.¹  

Merriman saw off his visitors, Anna Louise Strong and Joe Lash, and continued evaluating maneuvers.   Merriman notes that Ruby Kaufman’s group left open a wide flank while retreating from the maneuver and he was left holding the sack, meaning that he was left in a bad position.  Bill Lawrence and Ed Bender returned to Tarazona from Albacete and told Merriman that the men were in the lines in the Casa del Campo near Madrid.  Actually the men were further northwest behind the lines at Valdemorillo, where in two days an offensive will be launched towards Brunete.  The Lincolns and Washingtons would be held in reserve until the 7th of July and then put to a greater test than they had at Jarama.

Colin Bradsworth

Dr. Colin Bradsworth (second right, standing) and the practicantes of the Mac-Pap Battalion, November 1937, ALBA Photo 11-0985, Tamiment Library, NYU

In the afternoon, the men unpacked the new supplies that arrived with a batch of new men (“Fine bunch”).   A mini-fiesta was held and “Izzie” was the master of ceremonies.  This would be Israel Schrenzel who was the Assistant Company Leader in Company 2 in training.   Izzie was joined in the festivities by Dr. Colin Bradworth, a British physician from Birmingham (and a member of the Birmingham Clarion Singers).  A good time was had as Joe Dallet had too much to drink and got out of hand.

Merriman finishes the day with another note that Tom Hyde is still having problems and this time with Willam Cantor, a Seaman.

Everyone slept in on the 4th of July, American Independence Day, and the celebration featured competitive marching for the Brigade Banner.  In the afternoon, sports were featured.   Bill Lawrence, Ed Bender, George Brodsky, and Phil Cooperman all attended the festivities.   Merriman appreciated Cooperman coming out since he was having difficulty managing the Canadians.  With the squashed bugle and Ron Liversedge refusing to eat in the officer’s mess, Merriman must have been trying to impose military discipline on men who had come from union and seaman’s backgrounds and were having little of the regimentation.

Merriman mentions one more name — Ramon, who has come with Roblet.  Hugh Thomas gives us a hint as to who Ramon might be:

Another Russian who directed sabotage and guerrilla war in Nationalist territory (under Orlov, according to  Orlov before the Congressional Subcommittee in 1957) was Etingon (also known as Kotov).  It was he who became the lover of the Barcelona Communist Caridad Mercader del Rio, and who picked out her son, Ramón as a useful agent — later being used to murder Trotsky.²

If Ramón is Ramón Mercader, this would be a significant link between Roblet and the Soviets.  As noted by Thomas, Ramón Mercader is reputed to have been the assassin of Leon Trotsky in Mexico City in 1940.

Another Ramón is Major General Ivan Trofimovich ‘Ramon’ Eremenko³, a pilot in the Spanish Republican Air Force.  He, too, would be a possible candidate for the visitor to the base on July 4.

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¹ Michael Petrou, Renegades, ibid.

² Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, ibid., p434f.

³ “Red Wings over Spain” website, http://jpgleize.perso.neuf.fr/aces/espurs.htm, accessed July 4, 2013.