19-20 Septiembre Merriman’s first diary comes to a close

September 19
Robert Merriman’s last pages in his first diary. September 19 was the last entry in this diary, except for notes added in the remaining pages from the fall months.

Merriman finishes his thought from the previous page.   He and Copic have words over Merriman’s plan to send James Bourne to Albacete to deal with the British unrest.   Richard Baxell says “On September 4, 1937,   Will Paynter wrote Harry Pollitt, advising him that yet again the battalion was in a perilous state, with only sixty active volunteers, and complaining that ‘for the last three months there has only been a trickle of volunteers coming in'”.¹     A major policy shakeup will occur on 23 September where the International Brigades are formally integrated into the Spanish Army and where 50% of the soldiers in each Battalion should be Spaniards.  Much of the unrest revolves around the XVth Brigade losing its identity as an English speaking and Anglo-American led unit.   Steve Nelson’s angry letter back to Merriman can also be viewed in that light.    Antony Beevor asserts that volunteers who arrive in Albacete during September could be  literally shanghaied into other units.²   The conspiracy theory of how the Brigades were integrated into the Spanish Army, however, is contradicted by the reality that after September 1, 1937, 320 more Americans would arrive in Spain (including the writer’s father) and would end up in the XVth Brigade. Merriman sends Bourne off to Albacete to argue the case for the XVth.

Chapayev (Yugoslav Commander) and Fred Copeman of the British Battalion.  Source: Moscow Archive Photo 177_177024.  Tamiment Library, NYU
Chapayev (Yugoslav Commander) and Fred Copeman of the British Battalion. Source: Moscow Archive Photo 177_177024. Tamiment Library, NYU

Fred Copeman was quoted by Richard Baxell as actually being in favor of strict militarization of the XVth Brigade.  Copeman said:

I was determined that in future an advance would be under the strict discipline of capable officers.  An officers’ mess was organized, with its own cookhouse and other amenities.  All men, from section leader upwards, had meals with the battalion commander.  Men were expected to salute all officers.  This at first was a knotty problem.  I decided the best way to overcome it was to start saluting every man myself, irrespective of rank, whom I met in the village.  It was surprising how quickly the lads took this up and, with few exceptions, came to make a point of getting their salute in first”.¹

Doran, Merrimans, Gerlach, Stepanovich
David Doran, Marion Merriman, Bob Merriman, John Gerlach (Comrade Ivan), and possibly Stepanovich, ALBA PHOTO 177-177027, Tamiment Library, NYU

Both Merrimans are still in Almochuel and Milly Bennett arrives with “KoKo” (probably Connie de la Mora).   Merriman says that she has been talking with Hans Amlie and Bill Halliwell about the death of her erstwhile lover, Wallace Burton.   Milly Bennett will marry Hans Amlie.

Bradley and Smrcka
Carl Bradley (l) and Radomir Smrcka (r), ALBA PHOTO 11_0730, Tamiment Library, NYU

Milly is working for Ernest Hemingway, getting material on the battles of Quinto and Belchite.  She has interviewed most of the senior staff including Copic, Radomir Smrcka, Carl Bradley, Phil Detro and others.   Merriman says that they drove over to Belchite to see the city and this could be the point described by Marion Merriman (and quoted previously here).   Stepanovich goes along.

Hugh Slater and the British are going to Lerida.

Merriman says that there was an arrest in Moscow in the Foreign Department.   No details are forthcoming.

This page ends Diary #1 and the remaining pages in the diary are notes and fragments from earlier in the year.   Merriman will begin a new Diary #2 on September 29.


¹  Richard Baxell, Unlikely Warriors, ibid., p 313-314.

² Antony Beevor, The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, ibid.