9-10 Agosto Merriman is moved up further

August 9-10, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary from August 9 and 10, 1937

Robert Merriman assumed that when he went to the “front” that he would be with the Americans.  His involvement with the Lincolns will be short lived.   As the Americans are in Albares on rest, many of the men are in Madrid on R&R.   Merriman also is in Madrid and talks to Ed Rolfe about trouble in the 5th Regiment du Tren, when the repatriation policy is overstated.  The rumors about repatriation will echo through the ranks of all the International Brigades and rumors of policy changes on the length of service were rife over the summer of 1937.

Luigi Gallo was not available at the time and Merriman says “Galli” helped them find food.  That is probably Humberto Galliani.   Marion Greenspan and Merriman leave for Ambite where the Brigade is based and they still missed Gallo who was moving fast.  He was with a Brigadista named “Franz” (unknown).   Gallo was working on issues with the Medical Service and the XIth and XIIth Brigades during this week and he has a memo to him from Dr. Franek of the Medical Service.   We believe that Franz may be Dr. Franek.   Gallo was in Madrid, Albacete and later Valencia during this week so he was really on the move.

Merriman says that Klaus explained his actions against Marcovics and threatened anyone who told Marcovics what he said with court martial.   This must have been a very awkward position for Merriman to be in, knowing that Marcovics and he were not close, but that Nelson and other Americans must have told him Marcovics’ side of the story.  Marcovic’s error was to stand up to Colonel Klaus and refuse to send the Americans back into battle in late July at Brunete when the Americans had been decimated.   Jock Cunningham and Aitken had flatly refused to send the British back in and Aitken told Marcovics and Nelson that they were crazy to accept the order since the men would not follow them.   Nelson did mobilize the Americans to go back but they were reprieved from a likely demise by the Spanish who plugged the lines on the 24th of July.    The resistance of Marcovics, Aitken and Cunningham to Klaus’ orders would shortly work against them.

In a rush to get back to Albacete with Joe Dallet, Merriman stops in Tarançon and meets with Al Stone (Albert Gottlieb) and “Rose” (probably Solomon Rose, who would have been in hospital from injuries at Brunete).  Apparently there was a woman from San Francisco who knew Merriman’s family as he says that he has a message from Abbie and Fay.  Fay is Fay Cook Merriman, his mother, and Abbie is Abbie Cook, Fay’s mother and Merriman’s grandmother.

Ralph Bates

Ralph Bates lecturing to the Regiment de Tren, probably July 21, 1937, prior to going to Quinto. ALBA Photo 177-178037, Tamiment Library, NYU

11-1322 Begelman, Copic, Max, Galliani, and Dunbar

Elias Begelman (left), Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Copic, Comrade Max (likely Maximov, a Russian advisor), Humberto Galliani, and Malcolm Dunbar, at Ambite Mill, likely on July 21, 1937. ALBA Photo 11-1322, Tamiment Library, NYU.

 

He tears back to Tarazona for a meeting and the next day reveals the reason.   Robert Merriman’s diary is unique in unraveling the machinations of the leadership adjustments in August 1937.  While Merriman was talking about an American going to the Staff level of the Brigade in his August 7-8 diary pages, that adjustment took exactly two days.  In a flurry of activity that involved the rotation out of a number of British and Americans who had been in Spain from the beginning, Luigi Gallo, Ralph Bates and Vladimir Copic returned to the Brigade and shook things up.  On the 10th of August, Merriman is told he is to be the Chief of Staff to Copic.   The French were not pleased with the Americanization of the Brigades and one recalls that Lucien Vidal was recently removed from Albacete base command.   Vidal would say in the concluding page of his memoir¹ that he found that the infighting between the French and Germans was bad but that the inability of the British and Americans to accept French (or international) leadership over their battalions was a major cause of the failing of the Brigades.   He particularly called out the Americans and British as a problem in having a truly international collaboration in the Base of the Brigades.

Merriman speaks with Copic about recommendations for comrades who fought in Brunete.  He includes Marcovics in that list.  Merriman has clearly sided with the American view that Colonel Klaus was unreasonable in his orders and that Marcovics was correct in resisting them.   Merriman says that he has permission to “clean Albacete”.  The feeling at this point was that Albacete had become a dumping ground for “inaptes”, men who were useless at the front because of inability, incapacity or just being shell-shocked.  One can imagine Merriman viewing  these men as consuming food and supplies, goods that should have gone to men at the front.  The drain on supplies could be staunched if they repatriated these non-combatants home.

In another unreadable word, he has a session with a comrade who looks like “Fernando”.   Spanish nicknames were often taken for Russian advisors.  Merriman solidifies Lou Secundy’s placement in Transports.  Secundy did a good job in getting the Battalion to Albares on previous days.

Nelson spoke at Pozo Rubio and Tom Wintringham was viewed as weak.  The training at the school is noted as “slow”.   Another new name “Seegar” appears and he will go to Madrigueras from Pozo Rubio.  Unfortunately, the name list for Pozorubio does not reveal this name in August and we are still searching for him. We have found that George Fletcher, a Briton, was sent from Madrigueras to Tarazona on August 13 so it is possible that “Seegar” was a Briton being sent to Madrigueras in exchange.  Merriman speaks with the men at Pozo Rubio and explains what happened with Vincent Usera and Mirko Markovics at the front.  Merriman’s sympathy for their actions is apparent and quite nonjudgmental.

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¹  RGASPI, Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 32, p 454.