15-16 Septiembre After all the pressure on the leadership, Merriman’s health suffers

September 15-16, 1937
Robert Merriman’s diary of September 15 and 16, 1937

Merriman is flowing the diary from page to page at this point as he knows he needs to stop by 21 September and move to another diary.   The end of the previous page said “Next day the order came from Walter to move back where we came from.  Luckily it came after the storm had passed and so it was not too” difficult.

Merriman is listening to the troops (and perhaps to Dave Doran who has been speaking with the men) and more meetings are held where he explained the decisions about Belchite.   Merriman gave it to the “chronic beefers”.   He mentions either Leo (of the Mac-Paps) or Joe (Chauffer in the Brigade Commissariat) Hecht.  He does not name Louis Oliver, with whom he has been fighting since spring.   The men were put on notice that they may have to move again.

Merriman meets with the British as well and there is a core group of 18 Britons who still refuse to take orders.  Copic is forced to come and speak with them and he explains how bad it would be for the Brigades if this early volunteer unit now quits.   He leaves open the option that he will just transfer them to Spanish Battalions.  Fred Copeman, in an aural history interview with the Imperial War Museum mentions this discussion with Copic.¹

Merriman mentions a “Feny” or possibly “Ferry” from Army Corps who comes to explain the political situation.  Finding this brigadista proved to be quite a hunt. There are no Feny’s or Ferry’s amongst the known British, Canadians or Americans.  There were four or five Ferry’s in the French contingent including a Jeanne Ferry who was a cultural commissar for the French Medical Bureau and was attached to the 35th Division.   But this message and discussion is at the highest level of decision making and Merriman mentions the moving of the Dimitrovs is a Party decision.   A possible name for this visitor is Gustave Fein², the Serbian Communist Central Committee responsible in Albacete.  But, finally, there was also a Polish officer who was the 5th Army Commissar in February 1938 named Alexandre Ferry.³   Ferry had been a Commissar in the XIIIth Brigade and would be able to explain this adjustment which was caused by the termination of the XIIIth Brigade and reassignment of units to fill the hole it left.

Lieutenant Abad Garcia (left) and Jose Varela (right) of the 24th Battalion, ALBA Photo 11-1787, Tamiment Library, NYU
11_0273 David Doran and Juan Abad Garcia
Enlargement of photo 11-0723 in the Randall Collection in Tamiment Library. The officer in the cap on the right is Juan Garcia Marquez and he was clearly involved deeply in the dealing with the rebellion of the American troops in the 24th Battalion.

The incorporation of secretaries in each unit is required and Captain Luis Garcia Marquez of the division staff (from Merriman’s orders of the day RGASPI 545/3/499/pg 56) needs to be consulted frequently.  This is a different Garcia than identified in the photo to the left from Tamiment who is identified as Lieutenant Abad Garcia.  This needs resolution.  Clearly he is badged as a Captain, not a Lieutenant.   This demand for consultation reflects the control being exercised by the Spanish 5th Army Corps.

Merriman finishes his day with his second favorite sport… swimming in the moonlight.   His favorite sport involved tossing grenades.

Bill Wimmer from Transports arrives and brings a letter from Steve Nelson who is in Valencia.  Nelson is irate about the treatment of the Americans who are in the 24th Battalion and English Battalion who were removed to other units.   Merriman says that this is a party decision and only the party can reverse it, not the command structure.  Merriman probably got this from the discussions with Gustave Fein above.

Kibby Goodman returned from Albacete or Valencia without the payroll.  The issue was that the paylists were not correct.  Merriman says that this is related to the Dimitrov affair where Albacete wanted to move the Dimitrovs to the 45th Brigade and Copic wanted to keep them in the XVth Brigade.   Albacete was sending Copic a message. Every two weeks the paylists had to have each soldier listed by rank (since the pay was related to rank) and each soldier must sign for their pay.   The Brigade, being in battle, did not spend any time keeping the playlists current and might not have put that little “x” next to those soldiers who would no longer be drawing pay.   Merriman knows that they need to fix this but he has worn down and is now sick.   It appears that he has intestinal problems since he is not eating and can’t keep food down.  Typhoid became epidemic in the Brigades during October 1937.   General Walter later said 1000 men in two Brigades got typhoid.  Other diseases such as “dirt fever”, a bacterial infection of the lungs which is common in agricultural regions, and yellow jaundice (hepatitis) were widespread amongst the troops.  Merriman realizes that the paylists are problem but he says the {Albacete} Base is wrong not to send the money since they were in combat for this pay period (Sept 1 – Sept 10).

Mirko Markovics is in camp and is lobbying for movement of the Dimitrovs to the 45th.  Copic is infuriated by this and orders Markovics not to talk to troops in the XVth.   He says he will have him arrested.

Alfred Harvey Litwin, RGASPI photo Fond 545/Opus6/Delo935, Moscow
Bill Wimmer
Bella William (Bill) Wimmer, WWII photograph, Ancestry.com

Merriman also is supposed to have completed the promotion lists to fill in behind those injured at Belchite.  His original suggestions appear to pass.   Alfred Litwin and Wimmer spend the day exchanging money.  This would indicate that the Brigade had resources in American dollars and needed to convert them to pesetas so that Merriman would not default on payroll for September 10.

Copic and Merriman are still deciding who should go to Albacete to make the case for keeping the Dimitrov Battalion.   Merriman stalls on the decision.   Copic writes a letter to “цика Party” and Moise Sapir will be the courier of the letter.  цика  is the name of the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party in Moscow.  Copic is taking this question all the way to Stalin.


¹ http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80000788, accessed September 2015.

²  RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 6/Delo 33/ pg 2,  RGASPI online archives, Moscow, Russia

³ RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 6/Delo 221 /pg 20, RGASPI online archives, Moscow, Russia.

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