13-14 Junio Merriman tries to get reliable transportation

June 13-14

Robert Merman’s diary for June 13 and 14th, 1937

Merriman is dealing with largely organizational issues over these two days of the diary.  He mentions Tom Hyde twice on these two days and he continues to be dealing with the issues of where to place him.  The fact that Hyde is mentioned in a sentence where Merriman says he “tried several comrades” seems to indicate that the issue has become a formal discipline case.  Tom Hyde was vocal about having to be repatriated because his business was going under at home and his wife could not handle the issues.  He was removed as Commissar of the Hospitals at Murcia and on the 15th of June he will be transferred to the training base at Tarazona, becoming Merriman’s problem.

He leaves Albacete for Pozo Rubio and then goes to Tarazona with Isadore Schrenzel.  Merriman talks about a Matilda whose home apparently is being confiscated after she has been in it 14 years.  Merriman promises to write a letter to intervene.  Matilda had pictures of British Brigadista Bert Overton.  Overton had been court-martialed by this point and was being assigned to a work battalion to carry ammunition to the front.  He would be killed in action at Brunete.

He mentions Bob and Joe in the diary.   This is certainly Bob Thompson who was promoted to Second Lieutenant on June 14 from a Base Order.  In addition, two Joes,  Dougher and Dallet, were also promoted, Dougher to Second Lieutenant at the training base in Tarazona and Dallet to the Commissar of the training base at Tarazona.  Other promotions, one for Si Podolin as political commissar to the Artillery Group at Almansa, Thomas Degnan as political commissar at the hospital at Murcia (replacing Tom Hyde), and Albert Harris was named “Sergent-Fourrier”¹, also came through on the 14th of June.   A scan of Wikipedia translates the latter position as the sub-officer in charge of an intendencia.

Merriman’s car problems continue and he complains about the camp Doctor and two Russians who tampered with a car.  The Doctor apparently broke the lock on the vehicle.   Previously in June we have seen that Lucien Vidal had to intervene with the doctors at Tarancon hospital because Dr. Gorian or Gorgan had terminated the American chofers of the ambulances there.  Vidal felt that those ambulances belonged to the XVth Brigade but the hospital felt that the ambulances should be assigned as needed to get wounded for any Brigade.  Vidal confiscated the ambulances and ordered them to the Brigade auto park along with the drivers.  Much of Merriman’s angst in these two days diaries had to do with those drivers and whether the vehicles would be available for his access.  Since the Washington Battalion had shipped out to the front, Albacete base staff and the third battalion were short of transportation at this point.

Merriman says after the meal he drove down to the river (presumably Rio Jùcar which was about five miles west of Tarazona de la Mancha).  He mentions a place which we cannot find on the map and which looks like Cuevas de la Petitas.  Merriman says that someone is in court (perhaps the cases he tried in the morning) who looks like “Lane” and a “Levy” is mentioned.  James L. Lane was in Spain at this time.   Israel Levy was shell shocked at Jarama and sought repatriation.

Carl Bradley

Carl Bradley, later Commander of the 24th Battalion. From September 1937. ALBA PHOTO 11 -0603, Tamiment Library NYU

Jack Mullinger

Jack Mullinger (real name Cecil Cole), Chief of Scouts, Tamiment Photo 11-0910, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman mentions here for the first time that “Seamen” were a problem.  Over the next several months, a group of Brigaders who were recruited from the Seaman’s Union would be outspoken and chafe against authority.  The issue will rise to a near rebellion after Belchite in September and a few of the most outspoken Seamen are identified then.      Merriman finishes the day revealing that Canadian Jack Mullinger and Carl Bradley were in camp.

Wheeler and Taylor

Bill Wheeler and Joe Taylor at March in July 1938, ALBA Photo 11-0472, Tamiment Library, NYU

On the 14th, Bill Wheeler was leading the training.  Wheeler went into Spain in the first group in December 1936 and came out in late 1938 having been with the Lincoln Machine Gun Company at Corbera on the last day of fighting.  Wheeler actually went home in 1938 and returned shortly thereafter with a group of six men prior to the Ebro Offensive.

Morris Stamm

Morris Stamm, RGASPI Photo Fond 545/Opus6/Delo994, Moscow.

Merriman returns to Albacete with someone that looks like “Masten”.  This name is repeated on the next diary pages and he is an instructor in Pozorubio.  On June 2, a Rafael Fernandez Martin who had been in charge of the “Companie de Renfort” (the reinforcement company) in Albacete was transferred to the training base at Madrigueras as an instructor and given the rank of Lieutenant.²  This could be the comrade discussed in this passage.

Merriman meets with Schalbroeck and Abe Harris who was denied leave, Elliot Loomis who was still driving cars, Morris Stamm and a “Karl Thompson”.   There is a known photo of Stamm but Thompson is a mystery.   Merriman has the car break down in a La Gineta, which is on the Albacete-Madrid road south of Tarragona de la Mancha. He eats with a poor Spanish peasant family, paying for his meal.  Trying to replace the vehicle, he pulls rank and gets Car 149 and said that Lou Secundy was helpful but that a French Comrade was less so.  At this time a Frenchman named François Billoux was Commissar at Albacete Base and he may have been the thorn in Merriman’s side.

On returning to Albacete, he picks up two women who were afraid that there were Fascists around.  He places a guard on the 14,000 rounds of ammo (this is about a Company’s allotment during active actions).   He speaks with Joe Dallet about his report on Dave Mates and says that Joe was a poor officer of the day with self-criticism.  This gives some insight into how Merriman managed even his friends in Tarazona as Dallet was expected to be self-critical in a “bolshevik” method of instruction.

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¹ RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 51, pg 402.

² RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 51, pg 60.