13-14 Abril 50 New Americans Arrive at Albacete

13-14 April
Robert Merriman’s Diary for the 13th and 14th of April 1937

Between the 10th of March 1937 and the 10th of April 1937, the effort in the US to staff the Lincoln Battalion really took off.  Over that month, men came to Europe on the SS Queen Mary,  Washington, Ile de France, Berengeria, President Roosevelt, Manhattan, Amsterdam,  Paris, Ausonia, Vollendam, Aquitania, President Harding, Brittanic and Rotterdam.   The number of known Lincolns on the ship manifests went from 769 men to 1158 or nearly 390 men in one month (Chris Brooks, private communication).

Bob Merriman continued his effort to produce weapons and supplies for the OTS (Officer Training School) in Pozo Rubio.  They had set aside 800 pesetas  (about $50 US) for a radio transmitter.  He was able to get Chauchat Machine Guns.  These odd weapons from the First World War were known by that name because of the distinctive “Chau Chau” sound that the machine guns made when they were fired.  An excellent recent book on the Lost Battalions of World War I¹ describes how Chauchats were used to signal between units of the Pershing-led 77th New York Division because no other weapon made that sound when fired.

11_1068 Hernandez and Madden
Angel Hernandez Gallego and Arthur Madden, the shortest and tallest men in the Lincoln Brigades. Photo ALBA 11-1068. Thanks to Alvah Bessie and Dan Bessie for the identification of this photo. Tamiment Library, NYU
Edward William Petrie, British Battalion, RGASPI Archives Fond 545 Opus 6 Delo 184, Moscow

Merriman notes some new names here.  He says Jacobs went missing again and this is believed to be George Jacobs.  Arthur Madden, Edward William Petrie, Louis Suarez-Alvarez and Bodholt (this is perhaps Carl Bradley who had just arrived under the name Raphael P.  Bodkin) all had just arrived in Albacete.  Suarez was in Company 2, Section 2, Squad 3 at Jarama (from a list kept by Sandor Voros, Chris Brooks, private communication).  Petrie is a Scot who came from Vancouver, British Columbia.  Petrie became demoralized and did not have good ratings when withdrawn in October 1938. Madden had blown up at  André Marty about the needless deaths at Jarama.  As a reply

“{Jean} Barthel appointed Arthur Madden battalion commissar to share responsibilities with {Sam} Stember, whom he hated; the two would fight constantly until Madden was sent to officers’ school”.²

Madden as Commissar forced an enquiry into the behavior of George Wattis at Jarama.³  The enquiry led to Wattis being exonerated, but likely did not further Madden’s career.  He spent much of his time over the next year in the Autopark, and was killed in fighting on the Ebro.³

Merriman says that 50 new Americans showed up at Albacete on April 14.  The list of those men exists as RGASPI 545/6/838/113 and /114.  Notables in this group were Philip Detro, who would be a Lieutenant by the end of the year, Abraham Lewis, a party official who would become a “responsible” for the Americans, John Murra, who would contribute significantly to the recording of Brigade records,  and Louis Secundy who would become the head of the Autopark.

Felice Platone showed up to give lectures at Pozo Rubio with Albacete Base (Brigade) Political Commissar Kercher.   Merriman will lapse into the Russian he learned in Moscow as over the next few days he will spend time with Russian pilots and comrades who he knew in the Soviet Union.  The almost undecipherable “Kommuccyr” is his transliteration of the Russian word for Commissar.

Merriman dined and spent the night with Marion at the Hotel Regina in Albacete.


¹ Richard Slotkin, The Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality, Henry Holt and Co., 2005.

²  Carroll, Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid, p 112.

³ Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid., pg 87, pg 394.