25-26 Junio American Leadership Arrives back from Gal’s Banquet

June 25-26
Robert Merriman’s diary for June 25 and 26, 1937

Between the time that Harry Haywood had his face to face meeting challenging Vladimir Copic to resign and the 25th, we know from Mirko Marcovic’s remembrances that General Gal threw a party at his Ambite villa.   Eby relates the story:

In an unusual obeisance to camaraderie among his inferiors, General Gal held a banquet for his staff and the six battalion commanders and commissars at his riverside dacha.  Having been briefed on the aborted mutiny, he poured healing glasses of vodka on troubled waters, outlined his expectations for the coming offensive, and received from his retainers toasts to his health and continued success.  He explained his 15th Division would also include the XIIIth Brigade, the Dombrowski, which was on the way from a hard campaign in the South.  The camaraderie ended with an abrupt explosion of epithets in Russian and Hungarian.  The general had just discovered that Lieutenant Colonel Hans Klaus, Copic’s second in command, had — for reasons never explained — boycotted the banquet.  Gal dispatched a messenger with an order for him to present himself at once.  Marcovicz recorded the embarrassing finale: “Throughout the banquet Klaus was put on the spot, General Gal berating him both directly and indirectly”.¹

This reference is probably more important in placing the Brigade commanders than the specific dust-up with Klaus. There are several very interesting photos in the Tamiment Library from this event.  The first which we dub “The Officer’s Photo” is a who’s-who of the leadership.Ambite Officers Photo

“The Ambite Officers” photo (Numbered) – This is photo ALBA 177_175034, Tamiment Library, NYU   — Known faces:   2- Egan Schmidt, 5 Hans Klaus, 6  Harry Haywood, 7 Vladimir Copic, 9 General Gal (Janucz Galicz), 10 George Aitken, 11 Adles Bebler, 14 Miklos Szalway (“Captain Chapayev”), 15 Gabriel Fort, 16 Tadeusz Oppman (tentative), 17 Max Milman, 18 Fred Copeman, 19 Bert Williams, 23 Steve Nelson, 24 Martin Hourihan, 25 Mirko Markovich, 26 David Mates.

Approximately a dozen important photos were taken at the event including Copic in a tete-a-tete with General Gal, the first photos of David Doran in Spain, and a very interesting photo of a number of the people on a log over the river:

The Log Photo
“The Log Photo” (numbered) This is ALBA Photo 177_175001.     The Caption has been translated to “Group photograph of the commander of the Vs (fifth) army corps H. Modesto, general Gall, Hans, and Walter (K. Sverchevskii), commander of the International Brigades’ base Vidal during inspection of the XVth Brigade – November 1937” (translation courtesy A. Zaks).   We believe, however, in the following ID:  2: Peter Winkler, 3: Hans Kahle, 5: Vladimir Copic, 6: George Aitken, 8: Lucien Vidal, 9: General Gal.  Others are not yet known.  Juan Modesto does not appear in this photograph.

This last photograph’s caption is clearly problematic as Vidal and Gal were no longer with the Brigade in November 1937, the weather does not look like November, and the people are the same as in the “Officer’s Photo”.  George Aitken who looks to be #6 in this photo was back in England in October 1937.  He also could not have been there on that date.  Untangling, these identifications in these two photos will help with some potential misidentifications in the Tamiment Archive.   These two photos are still, after 77 years, a work in progress.

Merriman’s diary is helpful with the dates of Gal’s party.  He says on the 25th, Marty Hourihan has returned to Tarazona and others in those photos have come back as well.   Winkler and the Chief of Staff of the 13th Brigade are among them.  Merriman says on the 23rd that men at the front sense that Gal has bawled out Hans Klaus.  This would tend to put this party on the 23rd or sooner.   Since on the previous diary page that the “men sense Gal bawled out Klaus”, it would indicated that the Ambite banquet was on the 23rd.

Merriman did not attend the party (nor did Dallet or Thompson or Allan Johnson).  He has Company 1 of the third battalion out on maneuvers and they get lost by going to a house where Merriman picks them up.  Meeting the residents, he finds a family who have been socialists for many years.

Paddy O'Daire
Paddy O’Daire, Mac-Pap commander August 1937 and British Battalion, November 1937. ALBA Photo 11-1277, Tamiment Library, NYU
Ryan and Robinson
Frank Ryan (left) and Robbie Robinson (right), October 1937, Quinto. ALBA Photo 11-0759, Tamiment Library, NYU

Back in Tarazona he meets with Winkler, the Chief of Staff of the 13th Dombrowski brigade and possibly with Sam Baron, who we last met in early May.    The last name is tentative and could also be read as “Visited barracks”. New men keep pouring in and Merriman mentions John Quigley Robinson and Steve Nelson who will train them.   He notes that there was a swap of Robinson for Frank Rogers in the Washington Battalion.

In increasing the staffing at the front, some more Americans and Canadians will be moving to the front.  There was a description of a “Canadian company” in the Washington Battalion during the upcoming battle of Brunete in July.  Beeching says that this Canadian “section” was led first by Canadians Paddy O’Neill then by Tom Traynor then by Bill Brennan and later by Paddy O’Daire.²  Bob Kerr, the Canadian in Albacete tasked with steering Canadians to Merriman’s third battalion said that in one Lincoln Company over half of the soldiers were Canadian and 30 Canadians were in one Washington company prior to Brunete.³  These partial companies caused a lot of confusion with historians who mixed them up with the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion which remained in Tarazona under Merriman for training.  Some Canadians will go to the front and others to the Officers’ School.  RGASPI’s archives help considerably in untangling this confusion.  The “2nd Instruction Battalion in Tarazona” has detailed lists of the companies and sections.  There is an American, a Canadian and a British company in Tarazona in July.   Men were pulled out of Tarazona to restock the Lincolns in late June and some of them were Canadians.  The 3rd Battalion will not be fully formed and trained until August.

The next morning the exercise was to protect Tarazona.  Ruby Kaufman is identified by Merriman as a problem because of a tendency to dominate the exercises.   Ed Bender, Marty Hourihan and Bill Lawrence got themselves an automobile which has been under the use of General Gal.   After a lecture and a hair cut, Merriman met with Ernest Amatniek.  Amatniek is likely sent back to Tarazona to train the Battalion in transmissions.  He will serve with the Mac-Paps.  After a grueling bridge game with Dallet and Mullinger against Marion and Bob Merriman, Merriman deals with Tom Hyde again who got a “permission” which allows him to stay with the Battalion and he requests to go to Officer Training School.   Marion Merriman says in “American Commander in Spain” that they often played bridge and that Merriman could not concentrate because he had other more pressing things on his mind.   That event could have been June 26.

Merriman says that there was an election in the camp and the best man did not win and he makes the notation (1st Co 2nd Section).  The leader of Company 1 Section 2 in July will be William Neure.4   It does not mean, however, that this is the man being discussed since the Company and Section leadership were fluid and unlikely to be retained for a full month.


¹  Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid., p. 174.

² William Beeching, Canadian Volunteers in Spain: 1936-1939, U. Regina Press, 1989, pp 44-63.

³ Michael Petrou, Renegades, ibid. pg 65.

4 RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 265, pg 13.

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