17-18 Mayo Pierre Lamotte gets in trouble

May 17-18
Robert Merriman’s diary for May 17 and 18th, 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 had been made a second Lieutenant in the Etat Major of the  Battalion of Instruction at Tarazona de la Mancha  on the 17th of May¹.  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.

Merriman also mentions that the men are to form a funeral guard.  In orders of the day from Albacete, Lucien Vidal informs us that Lieutenant René Rochefort who worked in Albacete died and was buried on the 19th of May.  Rochefort was said to have been unable to serve at the front because of his injuries and ultimately died from them.

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.²   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.4

Merriman finishes the day writing a story for an appeal for resources to be sent to America.  Jan Kurske returned to Valencia.  He mentions a new name, possibly Pasurman, who was in Albacete secretly.

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 currency”.   Demands for Lamotte’s removal are made by the IB leadership.  A commission who investigated the “disinterest” in the leadership of the Intendencia concluded that three men, Favette, Lamotte and Francesco, should be removed.²  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.³ He returned to the US on February 9, 1939.  Having Brodsky available to take Lamotte’s place was convenient.

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 as a “Commission”.  They were sent to investigate some issue.  In the next sentence,  Merriman lets us know that they rejected  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 on May 145.  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 RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 50/Page 90.

² Petrou, Renegades, ibid., p 28.

³ RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 50/Page 136.

4 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.

5 RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 50/Page 127.

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