13-14 Enero Barcelona to Valencia

January 13-14, 1937
Robert Merriman’s diary from January 13 and 14, 1937

As we can see from the diary, Merriman remained in Barcelona until his train left for Valencia on the afternoon of the 13th.   The one marked Secord is believed to be his spelling of the name of American Volunteer Douglas Seacord but it would need confirmation that Seacord was in Barcelona at that time.

As a bit of background for those who don’t know the timeline of the war, between 13 and 16 July 1936, a number of Generals of the Spanish Army, including General Emilio Mola Vidal and Francisco Franco organized the Spanish Foreign Legion in Morocco to lead an “invasion” of Spain.  We cannot reproduce that history here but there are many excellent books on this uprising against the elected Republican Government of Spain.  We can recommend Hugh Thomas¹ , Anthony Beevor², and Paul Preston³ as three additional sources of the background and history of the war (we will be building up a reading list as we go along).  Preston’s book is particularly good to understand the major leaders of the Second Republic as well as the “forces of the invasion” as the Spanish called the Fascists. By late fall, International units from all over Europe had been mobilized to help the endangered Republic.  By November 1936, Franco had built two assaults on Madrid, one from the south and the other from the north by way of the Asturian coast.  The division of Spain is seen in a map from Thomas’ book.

Map 7 from Thomas1, showing the division of Spain at the uprising. Burgos became Franco’s capital during the war.

Madrid held in November 1936 with the mobilization of the Madrileños, fortifications on the west of Madrid and a major battle at University city in the northern suburbs.  Famous in IB history was the arrival of the German Thaelman Battalion to help.  The first group of 96 Americans to travel to Spain left New York the day after Christmas in 1936.  Douglas Seacord was one of that group.   “C.H.” and “Liston Oak” were baffling.  Alan Warren explained Liston Oak in a comment attached to this post. However,Charlotte Haldane was also in Barcelona in 1937. We will discuss her in coming diary entries.

Merriman talks of the bombing of a hospital in Barcelona in January with 10 dead.  We have yet to find the details of that event but there is an article by Laia Balcells in Reis from October-December 2011 (reference included in pdf) which describes the air war on Catalonia by the Franquistas.  La Vanguardia now allows access to their archive and we could find no record of a bombing of a ship in the harbor killing 10 people in that week’s papers.  There was a torpedo attack on the Ciudad de Barcelona reported on January 10 (it survived this attack) and the bombing of the English Embassy on January 15.

Jan 10 Bombing
Torpedo attack on two Spanish vessels including the Ciudad de Barcelona, which survived the attack.
British Embassy Bombing
Bombing of the British Embassy January 15, 1937 (La Vanguardia.com)



Merriman also speaks of meeting Tom Wintringham, a commander of the British Battalion.  Wintringham is shown below and his book4 describes his exploits in Spain.   We will come across him several times in the next six months.

Tom Winteringham (credit: www.marxists.org)

And thanks to Chris Brooks’ comment where he points out that Kitty B.  is Kitty Bowler and Chris provided a link to her story with Wintringham.

¹ Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, Harper, New York, 1961

² Anthony Beevor, The Battle for Spain, Orbis Publishing, London, 2006

³ Paul Preston,  ¡Comrades! Portraits from the Spanish Civil War. London, UK: HarperCollins, 1999.

Tom Wintringham, English Captain, Faber, 1939