29-30 Junio “Asked First Big Favor”

June 29-30

Robert Merriman’s diary for June 29 and 30, 1937

Merriman’s diary is particularly dense on these two days.  He wakes to find that Dougher and Rogers probably are still not back from their “dates” at Madrigueras on the 28th.  He chews them out.   Bill Lawrence was in Tarazona to check to see if the Battalion was ready for the “Socialist Competition”.   Socialist Competition or Socialist Emulation was practiced in many collectives whereby workers would compete to meet the goals of production set for the society.  Typically placed on important holidays, it had a flavor of a sporting competition with, typically, badges or flags of a political nature being awarded.

Merriman and Marion and Joe Dallet left for Albacete to meet with Bill Lawrence who was leaving for the Cordoba front.   He meets with George Nathan who would be under Jock Cunningham and with Hourihan and Wattis.  What looks like “final drunk” may be a transcription error.   Merriman gets a side meeting with Vidal and Schalbroeck and asks his first big favor…. “Don’t give me Wattis”.  Clearly, there was no love lost between these men.

Merriman rounds up ammo and weapons.  He gains “tent telephones” and “1 central” (probably a switchboard with battery for the phones).  He picks up maps, binoculars,  Ross rifles.   He gets a secret memo for a Thibault.  Frenchman Raymond Thibault had been accused of desertion in May, 1937, and this may be the resolution of his case.  Merriman may have made a mistake (or else someone else made a mistake) and showed him a new Light and heavy machine gun combination.   Merriman really wanted one of those.  He gets a call from Pierre Lamotte who says he lost a weapon.  Merriman goes out to the Auto Parc and replaces it but is frustrated when he cannot get these new light machine guns.

Merriman drives out to La Roda which is on the Albacete – Madrid highway to the southwest of Madrigueras.  He looks for a “Marsly” or similar name who apparently is in communications.   He sees new rangefinders and periscopes there and wants some of those as well.  A long day in procuring supplies for the Battalion but he seems pleased with his bounty.

Mac-Pap Flag Presentation

Presentation of Brigade Flag by JSU to Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, ALBA Photo 177-187019, Tamiment Library, NYU

On the last day of June,  Merriman got the Battalion gathered early for an inspection by Clerc of the Madrigueras camp and two youth delegations who were out to see the Socialist Competition.  Company 1, with Bob Thompson as Commissar, stood out and won a new Battalion banner with the Mackenzie-Papineau name on it.   Even during the games, Merriman is dealing with complaints and in order to improve the food, he asks the men to kick back five pesetas each payday so that he can get better food and he adds another cook.

Merriman says that Louis Fischer contacted him.   Fischer was a writer for The Nation and apparently wished to join the brigades in some sort of position in the rear.   Fischer, 41 in 1937, was in the Soviet Union in the 1930’s and probably at the Lenin School.

Merriman is trading men with Pozo Rubio for them to attend the Officers and NCO schools.   In this group from Tarazona, Jack Cooper, Saul Wellman, Otto Reeves, John Skifstrom, Burt Jackson, Ernie Kozlowski, John Macrel, Canadian Hugh McGregor, Canadian Bill Skinner, Albert Wallach and Frank Rogers will go to the school.¹  Tom Winteringham came over from Pozo Rubio to lecture on maps.   Merriman has some difficulty with Harry Zeintz.   Merriman says that a Russian named “Ivanov” is in camp and Zeintz tells him his troubles.


¹ RGASPI, Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 52, page 255.