11-12 Abril Merriman continues to heal

11-12 April
Robert Merriman’s diary for April 11 and 12th 1937

Bob Merriman has settled into the routine of leading instruction at the Pozo Rubio Officer’s school.   Lambert was introduced in yesterday’s diary page and he is now training rifle skills (musketry, see a manual from WWI).  The discussion of the speech probably refers back to the speech given by André Marty given a few days previously.   We have met Brodsky, Stember, Vidal, Marty, Olorenshaw on previous diary pages.  As a reminder, to find these references, just enter the name in the search on the left panel.

After spending time on the range with his new pistol picked up from Vidal’s office, Merriman traveled down to Albacete to eat and meet with Marion, Sam Stember and George Brodsky at the Brigade command.  It is hard to guess who “Adolph from Murcia” is and Merriman makes a humorous remark that he met a “real” Mexican.  We recall that Russians were called Mexicans but this man must have been from Mexico.  The assumption that all “Mexicans” were Russian is also an error.  The RGASPI files reveal that many “Mexicans” were from Eastern Europe and just came from “Mexico” meaning that they had been in the Soviet Union prior to coming to Spain.   Vladimir Copic was called a “Mexican” on one list.

Dr. Telge
Dr. Oscar Telge (Tsvetan Kristanov) Source: Fredericka Martin Photo Archive ALBA 001: 1:1:31:1, Tamiment Library, NYU.

On the 12th, he got his shoulder x-rayed and he is healing.  Dr. Telge is shown on the photo from the Fredericka Martin Collection at Tamiment.  Dr. Telge is Tsvetan Angelovich Kristanov. Hugh Thomas writes:

Another Bulgarian Communist, Tsvetan Angelov Kristanov, who had long been an emigrant in Russia, ran the medical services of the International Brigades under the appealingly Scandanavian nom de guerre of Dr. Oskar Telge, with a staff of many nationalities under him, while Marty’s wife, Pauline, acted as inspector of the hospitals.¹

Telge was also listed in the RGASPI files as a “Mexican”.

The next sentence is a difficult scrawl and reads as if Merriman is setting a reminder that there will be a Court Marshal of a Mr. “Justas” or “Justar” and that Merriman has been advised to attend the court martial.   In Madrigueras, Englishman James Justice was court marshaled and returned to England.     Arthur Olorenshaw left the following report in Justice’s personnel file²:

Madrigueras, Feby-March ’37.  Pure adventurer.  Expelled from Spain in April after being degraded.  Had been made provisional Town Commandant at M. and there, was thoroughly disruptive in causing great deal of anti-French feeling which culminated in several fights.  Whether this activity was deliberate or not I am unable to say definitively.  He has served in the International Police Force in the SAAR Valley and was subject of an international incident when he discharged a revolver into a crowd of Germans when drunk, wounding several……

Alan Warren kindly passed a link to the same James Robinson Justice who later went on to be a character actor in movies.

Merriman clearly says here that Marion and he rode out to camp with Vidal and his wife.  This is the first indication that other members of the command had their families in Albacete.  Vidal lectured on a “problem” given to the students in the school.  Frequent references to these problems will be given over coming months and the technique was to set up a goal (reaching a bridge, finding locations on a map, digging a trench, infiltrating, laying down transmissions, etc.) and setting the companies loose on the problem. The lectures after would review their degree of success in accomplishing the task and often the results showed the problems set were not easy.


¹ Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, The Modern Library (paperback edition), pg 444.

² RGASPI, Fond 545/Opis 6/ Delo 156.  Moscow, Russia.