7-8 Julio “Boys deserted from the Lincolns and brought news of Hourihan”

July 7-8, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary for July 7 and 8, 1937

Merriman’s matter of fact tone throughout the diary rarely gives a view into his real feelings.   The diary oscillates between news about the war and trivia about Marion buying a dress.   Merriman must have still have been on R&R this morning in Villaneuva de la Jara because he woke late at 11 am.   He met with the Mayor and his cousin who was blind and played the mandolin.   Merriman gives  a hint of why they made the loop through Iniesta on the prior days:  Suarez and Delgado got two girls in trouble and he was looking for an accredited doctor who could end the pregnancy.   In Catholic Spain this was no small matter.  Delgado is believed to be Emilio Delgado Mariano.   Suarez is believed to be Julius Ruiz Suarez or Luis Suarez Pineiro.   Both are Cubans.

Merriman says that the officials in Cuenca turned over rifles to him and shells.   Whether this was to reduce the possibility of fifth columnists getting weapons or just to provide more support to the internationals is not known.  The town of Cuenca is some 90 km north of Villaneuva de la Jara.

Merriman says he has a lazy afternoon, playing dominoes.

Oliver Law

Oliver Law

Later on the 7th, Merriman returned to Albacete and met with Lawrence, Schalbroeck (typo in transcription) and Briton Robert Traill.  Settling some questions and still fighting over getting a Staff car, which would be black not green,  Merriman gets some news of the offensive that started the day before and says that 30 battalions (about 20000 – 30000 men) had advanced 11-12 miles. This is the Battle of Brunete which began the first week of July 1937.   It is telling that Merriman knows nothing of the offensive until he is told on July 7.  The offensive was well concealed from anyone who might leak this information to the Fascists.  The initial advance would take the Brigades from Valdemorillo to the vicinity of Villanueva de la Cañada where the offensive stalled for a day and the Lincoln and Washington Battalions were taken from reserve and thrown into action to take the town.  In bitter fighting, we find the next day that Marty Hourihan was wounded and is out of the line.   This puts Oliver Law in charge of the Lincoln Battalion.

Merriman finds out that Vidal is on the warpath over some artillery pieces which were taken off by the Spanish Battalions.   Vidal threatens to pull the Americans out of Almansa where the artillery groups trained.   The International Brigades never fielded a significant artillery unit although Canadians and Americans served in batteries such as the John Brown Battery and the 45th Brigade.   Somehow two Colonels did not get absorbed into the new units and went off with the artillery.   Bill Lawrence will have to take the issue up at Brigade Headquarters.     Merriman meets with Bender, Lawrence, Thompson and Traill in the evening.  He misses Vidal and hints that Vidal was trying to round up supplies for the front.  Merriman would keep his grenades.  One should recall that Vidal was directly responsible for the Artillery group in Almansa and his difficulties in maintaining control of a group who felt that they were spinning their wheels without artillery to train on must have been difficult.

Merriman literally goes shopping for telephones and supplies.  Marion looks for a dress.  Merriman again talks with “Marsly” to get “regulations”, which may mean regulation issue from the Intendencia.   There is no Marsly in the British, Canadian, American or French ranks.  There is a Paul Marsaillaz who was in the 50th Battalion of the 13th Brigade but  the connection to him is unlikely and speculative.   Merriman obtains a heliograph for communications and some wire to go with his telephones.   The town of La Roda appears to be a headquarters for the Transmiciones unit.

Merriman lets us know that he will go to Madrid on the 9th of July to get shoes for the men.   As mentioned on previous pages, Anna Louise Strong arrived with nearly $10,000 in cash so that the Americans could be outfitted with real boots, instead of Alparagatas (the rope soled sandals).  This would be a shopping trip to get these supplies.  Merriman says that there already is an ambulance in Madrid loaded with supplies.   With the Battle of Brunete on at this point, a spare ambulance is a real luxury for the training battalions.  Merriman relates to his diary that he will leave Bob Thompson in charge.