Category Archives: Albacete

Days when Merriman was in Albacete Training Base

27-28 Junio “Frank discussion on naming of Battalion”

June 27-28

Robert Merriman’s diary for June 27 and 28, 1937

Dougher and Sabatini

Joseph Dougher (Commissar of the Mac-Paps), Albert (Abe) Harris (Intendencia) and Wally Sabatini (Mac-Paps). Harris is shown here without mustache that he carries in other photos. ALBA Photo 11-0728, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman continues his supervision of the training of the third North American battalion in Tarazona de la Mancha (which confusingly is named the 2nd Training Battalion, the Washington Battalion being the first).  He mentions Charles Regan who was reprimanded for drinking and took the “pledge”.  Regan and other Toledo veterans are mentioned in this newspaper feature found by Kevin Buyers. Merriman rode over to Madrigueras, the original British training base, and found that Matilda must have lost her home.  Merriman appeals to Captain André Clerc, who was Commander at the Madrigueras Training base, to intercede on her behalf but does not have the pull to change the order.  On the 26th of June, orders were being given to muster all the French in Madrigueras in preparation for a move to the Front.  It is probably that Matilda’s was requisitioned to billet these incoming Frenchmen.  The French were moved out at 04:30 on the morning of the 27th to rejoin the XII Brigade² and it is likely that this was the reason that Merriman went to Madrigueras to view their departure.  On the 29th, another group of Dutch and Austrians left Madrigueras to join the XIth Brigade.

On the 19th of June, there was an accounting of the number of men in the IB’s.  At Albacete’s Etat Major, there were two Chief Officers (Vidal and Schalbroeck), 38 Officers, 6 NCO’s, and 221 Soldiers.¹  An additional 107 troops were in the Political Section, 654 in hospital, 171 in the “Reinforcement Company”, 60 Engineers, 309 in the Autopark, with an additional 127 mechanics assigned to the auto park, 68 in the grenade factory, 372 in the Intendencia,  and 27 in the Armory.   For reference, there were 342 men in Pozorubio, 90 men in Mahora, 295 in Madrigueras, 224 under Merriman in Tarazona, 450 men in the artillery group in Almansa, and 36 in the antitank unit.   Subordinate to Vidal and Albacete base, there were 41 in Denia/Benisa, 24 in Barcelona at the IB Headquarters there with André Marty at the head, 9 in Valencia, 4 in Alicante, and 108 men in Madrid, including the press office and men who worked on the Volunteer for Liberty newspapers in all languages.   With only a few battalions at the front, many, many Brigadistas spent their tours in the rear.

Merriman returns to Tarazona and met Ernest Amatniek about his assignment. Joseph Dougher (who graduated from the OTS on June 14) was given a ride by Elliot Loomis back to Madrigueras where he had a date.   Merriman finished the evening drinking with Joe Lash and talking to Bob Thompson.

On the 28th, Merriman starts again with training, but meets later with George Wattis and Bill Lawrence and the members of the Non-Commissioned Officer’s school.  Wattis was likely an instructor there.  Lucien Vidal at Albacete is recommending Wattis to become an adjutant to Merriman at Tarazona.  Wattis is not sure.  Below the discussion indicates that this would not be Merriman’s preference, either.

The realignment of the brigade into two regiments of three battalions each (Lincolns-Washingtons- British in one – Dimitrov, French Sixth of February, and the Spanish 24th Battalion) and one other section (probably the International Cavalry Section).  Jock Cunningham, George Nathan and “1 American” (presumably Marty Hourihan) to lead.   There is a promise in the future that the Brigade would be split into an English-speaking only brigade.

Wally Sabatini

Wally Sabatini, Commissar in Company 3 of the Mac-Paps, September 1937. ALBA Photo 11-0602, Tamiment Library, NYU

In what looks like “Finally school Wattis”, Merriman appears to instruct Wattis in his new duties.  Merriman met with leading comrades and John Robinson.   Wally Sabatini is added to the Brigade to deal with the “Seaman’s machine gun company”.   Jack Carson is to school Sabatini. This group was made up of relatively tough men and Robinson and Sabatini were charged with leading them.  John Robinson had been a member of the Seafarer’s International Union and thus had their respect.

We finally learn that a decision has been made to name the Third Battalion after William Lyon Mackenzie (note that the “K” is not capitalized and this is a frequent mistake on the Tamiment site) and Louis-Joseph Papineau.  These Canadians were the Upper Canada (Ontario) and Quebec leaders of the 1837-38 rebellion which ultimately led to independence for Canada.   Merriman states that he was responsible for choosing the name and recommending it to Vidal and Bob Kerr in Albacete.   Canadians remember it somewhat differently:

All during June there had been many more Canadians arriving at the base, and about the time the Washington Battalion left to join the Brigade, a few of us decided on another visit to the base commander, to urge once more naming our battalion the Mackenzie-Papineau.

Liversedge

Ronald Liversedge, photo from his Book, © New Star Books, Toronto

Bob Merriman said: “You guys are sure persistent.  I can’t make the decision myself, but here’s what we’ll do.  I will grant you the right to form an all-Canadian company.  You, Liversedge, will take the rank of Teniente (company commander), unconfirmed as yet, and you will pick your Alfarez (second in command) and your sargentos, etc.  When you have formed your company, which will be Company Number one, you will supply me with the roster of your company.  After that we will await developments.  Can you do that comrade?”

I answered, “Yes, comrade Commandante, I have to do it”.  Merriman replied, also formally, “Bueno, comrade Teniente, and good luck”.

Bill Skinner

Bill Skinner, ALBA Photo 11-0675, Tamiment Library, NYU

We had made a break.  The maple leaf forever.  I got the Canadians together and made a short speech which the boys, being friends, took in good part.  I asked for their help.  This was a breakthrough; the first official recognition of Canada in Spain.  We organized our company, and this was the beginning of the Mac-Paps.  The company staff was Teniente Ron Liversedge, Alfarez Bill Skinner, Platoon Sergeants Bill Tough, Hugh McGregor, Pat O’Shea and Alex Melnychenko.  Bob Kerr came out to the base and congratulated us.³

An issue with Jock Cunningham was discussed and Wattis gave only the opinion that he had the men’s interests at heart.  This obviously set off Merriman who felt that Wattis and he were responsible for not standing up to the order of Copic and Klaus to go over on the  27th of February at Jarama.  The countermanding of Merriman on that day grinds with him throughout his diary and he is looking for support for those who were there to confirm his view of the front on the 27th.  Copic’s view was that Merriman showed cowardice in not ordering the Americans forward until Wattis came up from the Estado Mayor and led the charge which resulted in many Americans being cut down from enfilading machine gun fire.   The suggestion here that Wattis was to become Merriman’s adjutant must have been insulting to Merriman and is likely a result of the mini-revolt when Copic was suggested to be removed.  Merriman does not hedge on his opinion of Wattis.

On the 28th of June 1937, the attack on Brunete began.   This effort was designed to take pressure off the Asturian region and, if able to break the Nationalist supply lines to the outskirts of Madrid, could be a turning point in the war.   There will be a limited amount of discussion of Brunete and how it affected the XVth Brigade in Merriman’s diary, but the reader is warned:  Merriman did not go to Brunete and what he knew about the battle, he did not write in his diary.   For the history of Brunete, follow the AABI site and their memorial march which will be on the 28th of June near Villaneuva de Canada.

Brunete_2015

AABI announcement of the March at Brunete on Saturday June 27, 2015

 

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¹ RGASPI, Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 32, pg 57.

² RGASPI, Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo xx, pg 248.

³ Ron Liversedge, Mac-Pap: Memoir of a Canadian in the Spanish Civil War, New Star Books, Toronto, 2013, p73-74.

19-20 Junio Picnic, Politics and Fun and Games

June 19 - 20, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary for June 19 and June 20, 1937

Cunningham

Jock Cunningham of the British Battalion, Photo: 177_179053 of the Moscow Archive ALBA 177, Tamiment Library, New York University

Bender

Edward Bender, November 1937. ALBA Photo 11-0655, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman starts the day with logistical concerns on getting men and ammunition in Albacete for the new third battalion.  While on a run to get some new trousers for Frank Rogers, who needs an officer’s uniform, and locating some 200 pesetas, his vehicle (#149) conked out.  He got another vehicle (#5027) and it wasn’t much better since a spring was cracked on it.  Ed Bender and Jock Cunningham headed out to Tarazona with the new shipment of Lucky Strike cigarettes which had arrived on the 18th.   Mike Arnott has done a really nice job of giving a biography of Jock Cunningham (read the comments).   Merriman has meetings with Robert Traill who is back from the Cordoba front and Tom Wintringham, who now is taking over instruction at the Officer’s Training School in Pozorubio.  In a month, Robert Traill will be killed at Brunete.  

Merriman says that Honoré Galli is leaving.  It is possible that this may be the same comrade as Attilio Galli.  Fraser Ottanelli (private communication) informs us that he was born on December 28, 1907.  His parents Alfredo Galli and Angela Ferrari.  It is known that he was born in Aubonne (France) but was originally from Roccastrada in the Province of Grosseto. He was a member of Garibaldi Brigade in 1938 and he fought on Ebro.  Galli was sent to the Training Battalion at Tarazona by Vidal to help out in political instruction.    Merriman also says “Carlos better” and this is unclear whether Carlos (Vittorio Vitali) is better than Galli or recovering from illness.   We are leaning to the former interpretation that Carlos is a better instructor.

Following the story of the mutiny against Copic from the previous days diary pages, Merriman meets with Bill Lawrence and gets the “dope” on the results of the request for Copic to leave.  He finds out that Hans Klaus has been chosen as Brigade Commissar but that the British would have preferred Jock Cunningham in that role.

George Watt

George Watt, RGASPI Photo Fond 545/Opus 6/Delo 1009, Moscow

A sentence which has a bit of a scribble says that “Rudolph” and another soldier (unreadable name which looks like Mildred) have been accused of being Fascist spies.  Assignment of the new soldiers who have just arrived puts Frank Rogers with the third battalion for two weeks but he stays longer.  Joe Lash of the American Student Union will go back to Paris for a Student World Youth Congress and Dave Doran, the young YCL’er, will stay to take on a political role.   “Israel”, who was a writer for the Daily Worker, will stay on as a soldier but not be given a typewriter.  This is likely to be Israel Kwatt (George Watt) who started with the Mac-Paps and will rise through the ranks and become the last Lincoln Battalion Commissar by the end of the war.   Merriman finishes the day by telling the diary that Marion may return to Albacete to work for Bill Lawrence or Ed Bender in the Cadres Office.  During this time, Marion was working in Tarazona, described as a “mother hen” providing support for the incoming troops.  Marion will ultimately end up in the publications office with Sandor Voros who was being transferred at about this time from the Artillery in Almansa to the Communications Office in Albacete.

On the 20th, the battalion held a picnic outside of town, near the river.   There were several events celebrated on the 20th of June.  In Albacete, Vidal gave up to 1/4 of all battalions the day off to commemorate the foundation of a new Soldier’s Home for Children.   The Yugoslavs held a ceremony in Fortuna to commemorate a new stone memorial to Comrade Hurzig. It was important enough that Captain Gutensick of the Yugoslavs took Commandante Winkler and Captain Cazin of the hospital with him to the memorial (RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 51/pg 78).

In Tarazona, games were played.  Horseshoes were pitched. Food was had.   Ropes were swung, they had hikes, and a tug-of-war.  Merriman says that as prizes for the winners of the games were the Lucky Strikes that had been brought out to Tarazona by Jock Cunningham and Ed Bender.

Del Vayo

Largo Cabillero and Julio Antonio del Vayo, right. Source: Life Magazine, April 26, 1937. (Google Books)

Milly Bennett arrives with Bob Thompson from Albacete.  We find out that a number of correspondents had been brought to Albacete with Julio Alvarez del Vayo.  Milly would have been one of them. Del Vayo was the Republican Foreign Minister. This was one of the few cases where a major Republican Government official is seen in Albacete.  The woman on the very right of the photo above is not fully visible, however, Constancia de la Mora said in her memoir that she would accompany officials and correspondents on this type of visit and Connie was known for her hats. Connie de la Mora was placed in her position in the Foreign Press Office by del Vayo, himself. ¹   Milly Bennett worked for Constancia de la Mora.

A “Herman” was to return to the Soviet Union, and Bob Jensen and a “Roffler” were to return to the US.   Alan Herman was Ted Allan, the Canadian reporter who was part of this group in Valencia.   We believe that Roffler is Charles Roffeld who was shell-shocked from the sinking of the Ciudad de Barcelona.  He would work in the auto park and return to the US in September 1938.   Bob Jensen is unknown.

Merriman says that Milly Bennett will return soon to the US.  She relates that Liston Oak, who was a member of the Communist Party, is now suspected of being a “Trotskyist”.  Oak who was a friend of John Dos Passos was in Barcelona during the “May Days”.  He clearly lost his allegiance to communism and became a supporter of the POUM while there.   He wrote an article “Behind the Barricades” (The New Statesman, 15 May 1937) which can be found online at the link.   When his acquaintance and POUM Founder Andrés Nin was killed on June 20, 1937, Oak completed his metamorphosis to an anti-communist.

Zuehlke relates the end result of the May Days:

At 7:00  AM on June 16, 1937, William Krehm heard a fist hammering loudly on the door of the POUM house in Barcelona.  When one of the other foreign POUM loyalists unlocked and opened the door, he was sent sprawling, and the foyer immediately filled with heavily built plainclothesmen.  Half of these were obviously Russians from the dreaded NKVD secret police.  The rest were Spanish.  All of the men were yelling orders.

Krehm and the other POUMists were given no time to gather personal belongings.  They were shoved out the door and into waiting trucks.  Armed men stood guard next to the drop gate and throated to shoot anyone who tried to escape.

Somebody asked why they were being arrested, “Spies, Trotskyists, shouted one of the guards, Where were they being taken?  A brutal laugh was the only answer.²

Krehm would remain in jail until October 1937 when he was sent out to France.  Andrés Nin suffered a more dire fate.  George Orwell slipped the net and escaped to France.

On June 20, 1937, Bilbao fell to the fascists in the north ending the northern campaign and freeing up Franco’s forces to move into the Aragon.³   Over the next week, the Lincolns would be pestered by leaflets from Fascists planes saying the war was over and they should surrender.

Unaware of what was happening in Barcelona and Bilbao, in the bucolic area around Tarazona in the evening, Marion, Milly, Abe Harris, Joe Dallet and Merriman went for a swim and had a chance to wash up.  Marion Merriman Wachtel relates:

When I could break away from my duties, I went to Tarazona and stayed with him at Headquarters.

We swam in the Jucar River.  Occasionally, Bob and I swam alone.  Sometimes, a group gathered.  If Milly were visiting, she and I swam in our underwear, upstream from where the fellows swam.  In the evenings we gathered around and sang American songs.  The fellows imitated instruments, pretending to be an orchestra.  We laughed and sang and joked while there was yet still time.4

The picnic and swim must have been invigorating because Dallet, Thompson, Pete Hampkins and Merriman would have a bull session where they criticized each other.  Merriman rates Hampkins, Dallet bawls out Thompson, Thomson takes on Merriman and Dallet.   Merriman called it a “Bawl up”.  But the session must have had some positive resolution.   Merriman says that Bender and Jock Cunningham were “set” which indicates a decision was made on their roles in the Brigade.

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¹ Constancia de la Mora, In Place of Splendor, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1939

² Mark Zuehlke, The Gallant Cause, Wiley and Co., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, 2007, p. 155,.

³ Landis, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid., pg 176.

4 Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid. pg 153.

17-18 Junio “Cleared up much hazy atmosphere”

June 17-18

Robert Merriman’s diary for June 17 and 18, 1937

Merriman makes no entry in his diary on June 17.  On the 16th of June, Harry Haywood made a presentation to Vladimir Copic that Copic should resign.  Haywood, the Battalion Commissar, acted as the representative of the Americans  and took the brunt of Copic’s reaction to the suggestion and the others must have been busy trying to gain political support for this.   On the 18th, Merriman says he meets Marion and “clears up much hazy atmosphere”.  He reveals that Mirko Markovich° and Hans Klaus were part of the discussion at Morata de Tejuña.   Klaus was being proposed to replace Copic according to Lawrence. The British were promoting Jock Cunningham to take the leadership position.   In the end, it is believed that both Klaus and Markovich provided support for Copic.   Cecil Eby describes the event:

A mutiny did occur, but only within the officer caste, not the rank and file.  With Harry Haywood as spearhead, the top-ranking American Communists demanded that Copic be relieved as commander of the XVth Brigade because he had lost his men’s confidence.  The mutineers, who included Nelson, Johnson, Hourihan and Mates, sought to form a new brigade led by Americans.  Merriman, who suffered more than any other under Copic’s tenure, refused to join them.  The British had no affection for a martinet like Copic, but they interpreted this move as a signal that the Americans planned to take control of the brigade because of their numerical and financial superiority.  Men who, like George Aitken, brigade commissar; Major George Nathan, chief of operations and Major “Jock” Cunningham, the commander of the British battalion, had distinguished themselves as outstanding leaders from the first hours of the Jarama fighting had no intention of yielding to Johnny-come-latelies.  Markovicz {sic} refused to join the conspiracy, making it clear that he flew the flag of the Comintern not the CPUSA.  On learning that his own commissar had joined the mutineers, he gave Mates a tongue-lashing and forced a retraction.  Copic’s headquarters became the setting for the final act of this palace coup when Haywood entered to deliver his ultimatum.  {Eby repeats the diary segment presented on June 16 here}  ¹  

Hans Klaus would have been in a difficult position since he was adjutant in the Brigade at the time of Jarama.  The criticism of the Americans would have brought up whether it was Klaus or Copic who issued the demand that the Americans go over the top on the 27th of February.

Merriman says he took out the section leaders to review positions for the next few days training exercises.  Merriman finishes the day’s training and then goes into Albacete to meet Marion and a “Ruth” believed to be Ruth Davidow, a nurse who arrived on June 13, 1937.  He also meets with Lou Secundy and Pierre Lamotte from the Auto Parc.

The new men brought with them a treasure… a new shipment of Lucky Strike cigarettes from America.  Along with soap and fresh shoes or boots, there was little that was more desired by the Americans in Spain than American cigarettes.  Merriman takes the smokes with him to Tarazona, probably to put them under guard as he would for ammunition.   There appeared to have been some scramble for this shipment as Vidal left an Order² in the files that when two private vehicles show up with personal packages, the Intendencia should still take responsibility to see that they get to the correct soldiers.

Frank Rogers

Frank Rogers, ALBA Photo 177-188048, Tamiment Library, NYU

David Doran

David Doran, ALBA Photo 177-190027, Tamiment Library, NYU

Frank Rogers arrived with Ruth Davidow.  While Rogers was on  the May 29th sailing of the Britannic, he did not cross the border into Spain until June 13 via Massenet.   He and Davidow must have been quickly brought from Figueras to Tarazona, perhaps in the two vehicles carrying the cigarettes and personal packages. It is likely that as a nurse, Davidow could have gotten the cigarettes through as “medical supplies”.   Rogers, from Regina, Saskatchewan, and a Communist Party member since 1927,  would become the Commissar for the third battalion in the fall of 1937.  Rogers came to Albacete with Ed Bender and George Brodsky.   Also arriving was Joseph Lash who was the President of the American Students Union and David Doran who was a leader in the Young Communist League.   Doran would rise rapidly in the ranks and become XVth Brigade Commissar in 1938.  In the afternoon or evening, a fiesta was held for the arriving personnel and Hyde, Evans and Rushton performed a skit.  Harry Albert Rushton, from Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, was 45 years old at this point and was a long time Communist Party member in Canada.  He would go on to become a Commissar in the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.  Rushton would later become a Mackenzie-Papineau historian after the war.   Tom Hyde we have met on previous diary pages.  Hyde did not depart with the Washington’s medical group and is now in the third battalion.  Evans is likely to be Lloyd Evans of Regina Saskatchewan or Winnipeg, Manitoba.²

Merriman said that Read, Bradley and Walker were out of the Battalion.  This could be William Bradley from Vancouver who was arrested in June 1937 and deserted in July 1937.  He was arrested for drunkenness.³   Walker is probably Frederick Walker (a.k.a. Dan Wilson) who never deserted but Michael Petrou’s notes say “No {did not desert}, but discipline problem, detained at the ‘Maison de Prevention.’ drunk”³.   There is no Read in the Canadian list.  There is a Patrick Read who was in the Lincoln Battalion but it seems unlikely this reference is to him.  In another disciplinary case, Merriman visits what looks like a “Cross” in the prison in Guarda Nacionale.  Cross doesn’t show up as an American or Canadian brigadista.  We leave the name questionable as the scrawl may be a completely different name.

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º As a note in passing, we have discovered that Mirko Markovich spelled his own name (found on a signature) with a “vich” instead of “vics”.   We will subsequently use this spelling.   It will add some confusion to the interpretation of the diary as there are two other Markovich’s (Ruben and Leo) in the Lincoln Battalion.

¹ Cecil Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid., pp 173-174.

² RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 51, pg 60.

³ Michael Petrou, Table 1 (Mac-Pap List), private communication.

15-16 Junio “Something in Air”

June 15-16

Robert Merriman’s diary for June 15 and June 16, 1937

Merriman’s diary gives us some important hints about the Brigade on the 15th and 16th.  His day on the 15th begins with training at Tarazona under what looks like “Masten” or “Martin”.  This soldier’s name is not confirmed at this point but we suggested Raphael Fernandez Martin yesterday.  However, it would have been likely that Raphael would have gone by the matronymic Fernandez.

After criticizing the training session, Merriman hurries to Albacete for the departure of Tadeusz Oppman who will go to the 13th “Dombrosky” Brigade as Chief of Staff.  Oppman admits uncertainty about his ability to do the job.   Merriman had previously thought that Oppman was too much the lawyer (his occupation) and not a military leader.  At lunch, where champagne was served, Roblet spoke about the need to do 20 hours of preparation for a single 1 hour attack.  The Russian phrase пара слов (“para clov”) is translated as “a few words…”   The champagne must have been flowing as Roblet sends up Copic, sarcastically talking about the “General” who gave orders to attack.  This would have resonated with Merriman who never forgave Copic for his orders on the 27th of February.  More on this below.

Arriving back at Tarazona after lunch, Merriman looks for the machine gun company and doesn’t find them.  He says Wallach is a problem.  This must be Albert Wallach.  Harry Wallach was wounded at Jarama and would have been in hospital at this time.   Albert Wallach had a history of desertion throughout his time in Spain.

Joe Dallet gave a lecture which apparently met with Merriman’s approval.  Marion Merriman is also given a favorable report here.  An “Evans” (probably Canadian Lloyd Evans) tangled with Merriman and was moved out to the Armory.   Lloyd Evans would have an unfavorable biographical review which said that he was a “demoralized element” and had a “habit of taking sick every time there was active service”.  Evans would write a request for repatriation saying “I know that my staying here will not win the war.  And sending me home will save a lot of trouble.”¹

Merriman repeats a rumor that the Germans bombed Marseilles and that France was now entering the war.  This never happened, but hope reigns eternal.  This would have opened the border for men and equipment to come through France.

On the 16th,  Merriman stayed over in Tarazona and after inspection and giving orders for the day, he drove over to Pozo Rubio with Canadian Lucien Tellier, who was a driver in the Auto Park.  The maneuvers of the morning went “swell” and Merriman was pleased in the attack pattern.  He returned back to Tarazona with Ed Flaherty (who was supposed to have left Albacete on June 1 to return to the US).  Merriman meets with the Anti-tank company but crosses horns with Harry Katzin who was a new arrival in Spain and assigned to the anti-tanks on the 15th of June.  Katzin must have made a remark about being able to lead the Battalion which would not have set well with Merriman.  He lectured for the rest of the afternoon and in the evening made contact with Lou Secundy at the Auto Park about getting a vehicle.

There is a cryptic sentence about Perry having 157 passing him up at Tarancon.  We now believe that this person is Perrey who was an adjutant to Vidal in Albacete base.  There is a Raul Perrey who signed a carnet, but his nationality remains a mystery.

Copic

Vladimir Copic, ALBA Photo 177-177079, Tamiment Archive, NYU

Haywood

Harry Haywood, ALBA Photo 177-179056, Tamiment Archive, NYU

Merriman goes to Albacete and meets with Schalbroeck.   He gets settled that the Mac-Paps will not get the Anti-tank Company.  The Anti-Tank Company goes to the British Battalion.  In a confusing sentence he says that “car arranged for Bon et al.”  That could be an abbreviation for arranging for a car for the Battalion.

Bender and Brodsky go with him to the Autopark.  Returning he has a meeting with Ed Bender.  Allan Johnson phones and says something important.  Merriman calls Bill Lawrence.  He says “Something in Air”.  We know now that on the 16th of June, the American leadership presented a united front to Vladimir Copic telling him that he did not have the confidence of his soldiers. Copic was asked to consider resigning by Harry Haywood, who was a member of the Comintern, and probably with Lawrence were the highest ranking American communists in Albacete at the time.   This mini-coup is shown in the Spanish version of Copic’s own diary:

Copic's Diary

Vladimir Copic’s diary for June 18-25, 1937. The entry for the 18th is relevant to Merriman’s diary, Source: Comintern Record Fond 545/Opus 3/Delo 467, Tamiment Library, NYU

In this page (click on it to enlarge) Copic relates in Spanish that he met with “H” who is believed to be Harry Haywood who related to Copic that he does not have the confidence of the men.  Haywood says that whether the lack of confidence is warranted or not, the issue is that a Copic should self-critically examine whether he can continue to lead.  Copic figures it out quickly and threatens Haywood with arrest if he continues to talk about it with the men.   Copic will continue as Brigade Commander and the mini-revolt of the Americans is suppressed.  In a telling statement of Copic’s view of the Americans and English, he did not have this diary entry translated from Spanish into English.   In the English version it says “The XVth Brigade spends most of the month at rest”.   The passage translated above does appear in the German version of the diary in the Tamiment archive.

Returning to the remaining sentences of Merriman’s diary, he meets with Tom Wintringham who just spent five weeks with Kitty Bowler. Wintringham has arrived to take over the training at Pozorubio.  On the 15th Vidal will appoint Wintringham to Camp Pozorubio  and assign Merriman  the leadership of the third training battalion in Tarazona.

Merriman finishes the day meeting with Pierre Lamotte who now was serving as Armorer.  He attempts to get 7000 units of something which looks like “Austrian” but probably  refers to rifles or other munitions.

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¹ RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 6/Delo 547, pg 95.

13-14 Junio Merriman tries to get reliable transportation

June 13-14

Robert Merman’s diary for June 13 and 14th, 1937

Merriman is dealing with largely organizational issues over these two days of the diary.  He mentions Tom Hyde twice on these two days and he continues to be dealing with the issues of where to place him.  The fact that Hyde is mentioned in a sentence where Merriman says he “tried several comrades” seems to indicate that the issue has become a formal discipline case.  Tom Hyde was vocal about having to be repatriated because his business was going under at home and his wife could not handle the issues.  He was removed as Commissar of the Hospitals at Murcia and on the 15th of June he will be transferred to the training base at Tarazona, becoming Merriman’s problem.

He leaves Albacete for Pozo Rubio and then goes to Tarazona with Isadore Schrenzel.  Merriman talks about a Matilda whose home apparently is being confiscated after she has been in it 14 years.  Merriman promises to write a letter to intervene.  Matilda had pictures of British Brigadista Bert Overton.  Overton had been court-martialed by this point and was being assigned to a work battalion to carry ammunition to the front.  He would be killed in action at Brunete.

He mentions Bob and Joe in the diary.   This is certainly Bob Thompson who was promoted to Second Lieutenant on June 14 from a Base Order.  In addition, two Joes,  Dougher and Dallet, were also promoted, Dougher to Second Lieutenant at the training base in Tarazona and Dallet to the Commissar of the training base at Tarazona.  Other promotions, one for Si Podolin as political commissar to the Artillery Group at Almansa, Thomas Degnan as political commissar at the hospital at Murcia (replacing Tom Hyde), and Albert Harris was named “Sergent-Fourrier”¹, also came through on the 14th of June.   A scan of Wikipedia translates the latter position as the sub-officer in charge of an intendencia.

Merriman’s car problems continue and he complains about the camp Doctor and two Russians who tampered with a car.  The Doctor apparently broke the lock on the vehicle.   Previously in June we have seen that Lucien Vidal had to intervene with the doctors at Tarancon hospital because Dr. Gorian or Gorgan had terminated the American chofers of the ambulances there.  Vidal felt that those ambulances belonged to the XVth Brigade but the hospital felt that the ambulances should be assigned as needed to get wounded for any Brigade.  Vidal confiscated the ambulances and ordered them to the Brigade auto park along with the drivers.  Much of Merriman’s angst in these two days diaries had to do with those drivers and whether the vehicles would be available for his access.  Since the Washington Battalion had shipped out to the front, Albacete base staff and the third battalion were short of transportation at this point.

Merriman says after the meal he drove down to the river (presumably Rio Jùcar which was about five miles west of Tarazona de la Mancha).  He mentions a place which we cannot find on the map and which looks like Cuevas de la Petitas.  Merriman says that someone is in court (perhaps the cases he tried in the morning) who looks like “Lane” and a “Levy” is mentioned.  James L. Lane was in Spain at this time.   Israel Levy was shell shocked at Jarama and sought repatriation.

Carl Bradley

Carl Bradley, later Commander of the 24th Battalion. From September 1937. ALBA PHOTO 11 -0603, Tamiment Library NYU

Jack Mullinger

Jack Mullinger (real name Cecil Cole), Chief of Scouts, Tamiment Photo 11-0910, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman mentions here for the first time that “Seamen” were a problem.  Over the next several months, a group of Brigaders who were recruited from the Seaman’s Union would be outspoken and chafe against authority.  The issue will rise to a near rebellion after Belchite in September and a few of the most outspoken Seamen are identified then.      Merriman finishes the day revealing that Canadian Jack Mullinger and Carl Bradley were in camp.

Wheeler and Taylor

Bill Wheeler and Joe Taylor at March in July 1938, ALBA Photo 11-0472, Tamiment Library, NYU

On the 14th, Bill Wheeler was leading the training.  Wheeler went into Spain in the first group in December 1936 and came out in late 1938 having been with the Lincoln Machine Gun Company at Corbera on the last day of fighting.  Wheeler actually went home in 1938 and returned shortly thereafter with a group of six men prior to the Ebro Offensive.

Morris Stamm

Morris Stamm, RGASPI Photo Fond 545/Opus6/Delo994, Moscow.

Merriman returns to Albacete with someone that looks like “Masten”.  This name is repeated on the next diary pages and he is an instructor in Pozorubio.  On June 2, a Rafael Fernandez Martin who had been in charge of the “Companie de Renfort” (the reinforcement company) in Albacete was transferred to the training base at Madrigueras as an instructor and given the rank of Lieutenant.²  This could be the comrade discussed in this passage.

Merriman meets with Schalbroeck and Abe Harris who was denied leave, Elliot Loomis who was still driving cars, Morris Stamm and a “Karl Thompson”.   There is a known photo of Stamm but Thompson is a mystery.   Merriman has the car break down in a La Gineta, which is on the Albacete-Madrid road south of Tarragona de la Mancha. He eats with a poor Spanish peasant family, paying for his meal.  Trying to replace the vehicle, he pulls rank and gets Car 149 and said that Lou Secundy was helpful but that a French Comrade was less so.  At this time a Frenchman named François Billoux was Commissar at Albacete Base and he may have been the thorn in Merriman’s side.

On returning to Albacete, he picks up two women who were afraid that there were Fascists around.  He places a guard on the 14,000 rounds of ammo (this is about a Company’s allotment during active actions).   He speaks with Joe Dallet about his report on Dave Mates and says that Joe was a poor officer of the day with self-criticism.  This gives some insight into how Merriman managed even his friends in Tarazona as Dallet was expected to be self-critical in a “bolshevik” method of instruction.

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¹ RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 51, pg 402.

² RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 51, pg 60.