Category Archives: Fuentes de Ebro

14 October After the battle at Fuentes, the Estado Mayor is invaded… by Russians.

14 Oct 114 Oct 214 Oct 3

14 Oct 4

Four pages from Robert Merriman’s second diary covering the second day of the Battle of Fuentes del Ebro, October 14, 1937

Merriman continues his description of the evening of the first day of Fuentes de Ebro and the second day.  Merriman said on the previous page that the Americans and British returned in the dark to the staging position which was a couple of kilometers south of Fuentes de Ebro.  The Fascist troops were heard that evening celebrating what they believed was a victory over the Republican tanks and given the number killed in the first assault, one can accept their assessment of the day.   The fact that the Americans and British left the lines indicates that they believed the assault was done.   Merriman sent them back to their positions.   Merriman continues here by saying that the Mac-Paps were successful in advancing on the left flank.  On the right flank, however, British Captain Harold Fry was killed.  Fry had been injured and captured in an assault on the British machine gun  company in February.   He returned to the Brigade and led the British again at Fuentes.

Merriman says that “Wally” was also killed.  This is believed to be Eric Whalley of Edinburgh who was killed on October 13 at Fuentes de Ebro.  The third name man listed as killed was Louis Argites.

Commander Aguila of the 24th Battalion

Commander Aguila of the 24th Battalion, ALBA PHOTO 177_183039, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman says that 500 men of the engineering (“genie”) battalion were thrown into the trenches at the front to improve the protection of the troops in at the front.   This would have carried them up to the 15th with minimal action.   Merriman says that Kondratyev, the armored Battalion commander, was distraught about losing 25 tanks.  Given that 25 new BT5 Russian tanks were used in this action for the first time, this loss was devastating for the tank corps.  Merriman says that some of the tanks bypassed Fuentes but still did not return.  The 24th Battalion which had ridden in on the tanks was also wiped out with its commander Aguila wounded.

Merriman mentions two Russian names, “Laputin” and “Kruschen”, who were likely to be tank commanders.   The Brigade political commissars held a 12 hour meeting to discuss what to tell the men.  It was led by the chief political commissar of the 5th Army Corps, a Spaniard named Vidal, not to be confused with Lucien Vidal (Vital Gayman), who had been commander of the Albacete Base in the Spring of 1937.  Merriman thinks highly of Commissar Vidal.

Merriman says that he and Copic went to visit Casada Army Corps.  He probably meant Segismundo Casado who was the head of one of the five army corps and was a chief strategist in the Aragon Battles.   Merriman does not get much out of the meeting, even in the way of supplies.  He again comments negatively about Major Crespo who was the 2nd Chief of Staff of the Brigade and Merriman says that Crespo just stays in the rear.

Merriman says that another plan of attack is made designed to go rescue the stranded tanks.  This could be read that it would be on October 15 at noon.   The plan was to take 25 of the remaining tanks to fire into the front lines of the Fascists and the 6th Brigade (Merriman describes as running away at Mediana) would assault the lines.   Again, everything was delayed and the tanks ran out of ammunition before the troops were ready to go over.  The tanks had to return to reload and the assault started at 4:50 in the afternoon.  The tanks never got back in position to take down the wire and the assault stopped.  Another poorly coordinated action and light failed before anything could be achieved.

Milt Wolff continued in his recall of the Fuentes de Ebro action and told Art Landis a story that Landis had never heard:

Dan Groden

Dan Groden (left), Lionel Levick and Tom McNulty, Officers, Lincoln-Washington Battalion, Company 1, ALBA PHOTO 11-0748, Tamiment Library, NYU

And I remember one other attack at Fuentes de Ebro that Danny Groden was involved in.    Another attack, an infantry attack and this is the only attack that the Lincoln-Washingtons participated in.  We had found, right off the Machine-Gun Company right flank, a gully going down into that valley where the fascists were.  And they went down into this gully, they went all the way down, maybe 4 or 500 yards without being seen.   And, ah, at some prearranged signal we were supposed to open up with our guns, the artillery and planes were supposed to come over and all that stuff.  Fuentes de Ebro.  And nothing happened.  These guys went over out of the gully and they got caught.  And as a matter of fact, this is where Danny got hit.  Yeah, you might want to talk to Danny about that.  And I think that is where Harold Smith got hit, too.  Do you remember that?”¹

{Landis and Wolff then get off track arguing about whether Harold Smith was hit or not.  Harold Smith became an active VALB  member after the war and was an editor of the Volunteer.  But there were three Harold Smiths in Spain and it is likely that Wolff and Landis were arguing about different men.}

This assault did not recover the tanks and overnight the Estado Mayor of the Brigade was overrun with irate Russian tankers who expected to get their tanks back, with the help of the XVth Brigade infantry.   Merriman lets the scouts go forward to have the 25 tanks help take down the wire and he just goes to bed and lets them shout.   The Russians retreat from the Estado Mayor as well as from the field at Fuentes de Ebro.  The ground battle is nearly over at Fuentes.

The air war, unfortunately continues.

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¹ Milt Wolff to Art Landis,  ALBA AUDIO 66, ibid.

 

13 Octobre The International Brigades attack Fuentes del Ebro

 

13 October 1

October 13 1937

Two pages from Robert Merriman’s second diary covering the attack on Fuentes del Ebro of October 13, 1937

Dallet

Joseph Dallet, Quinto, September 1937. ALBA Photo 11_0639, Tamiment Library, NYU

Dougher and Bradley

Joe Dougher and Carl Bradley, October 1937,
ALBA PHOTO 11-0726, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman doesn’t write much about the initial assault of the 13th of October at Fuentes.  He says that the Lincolns and Mac-Paps moved into line late and were held up.  The attack of the Tanks stalled and was not effective.  The Mac-Paps were congratulated by Walter for making the assault on Fuentes and the British were chastised for not advancing on the town.   Merriman says the losses were not too great although Joe Dallet (left) was killed, Bill Neure, Joe Dougher (right) and Rubin Kaufman were injured.   He doesn’t mention other leading comrades such as Milton Herndon who also fell.  He then starts to talk about the evening of the first day when the British and Americans returned to the jump off positions and Merriman says he had to send them back to the lines.

Copic and Merriman

Vladimir Copic (left) and Robert Merriman (right) at the Estado Mayor viewing post, Fuentes de Ebro, ALBA PHOTO 11-0258, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman’s diary really should be read with the American aphorism “Putting lipstick on a pig”.   The day was a total disaster and nothing worked as planned.  There are hundreds of pages written in Brigade literature about this day and a few excerpts give a more realistic appraisal of the Fuentes attack.  In a favorite photo of mine, the body language of Vladimir Copic and Bob Merriman make you wonder who would take the blame for this mess.

Richard Baxell relates the morning from the British viewpoint:

Hugh Sloan, Bill Alexander’s runner, saw the disaster unfold.  When the operation was launched in the early morning of 13 October, he counted forty-seven Republican tanks and watched as they sped forward full tilt, throwing off the troops who were trying to cling on and leaving them far behind to be shot to pieces.   The tanks themselves fared little better, for ‘the Fascists were ready for them — they’d got bottles of petrol and a number of the Russian tanks were set alight’.   Timing was vital, but ‘the Fascists were alerted, the planes bombed too early, the artillery bombed too early and the tanks were late’.  Insufficient Republican artillery and air supper trade matters immeasurably worse.  It was, thought Sloan, ‘[a] ridiculous charge like the charge of the Light Brigade — a gallant effort but a stupid effort’.¹

The British Battalion was on the very right flank.  An image of the positions from Landis is shown below.²   The current approximate positions are superimposed on a Google Earth image.

Fuentes de Ebro

Positions at Fuentes de Ebro, Source: Landis.

Fuentes de Ebro

Current approximate positions of the Mac-Pacs companies 1, 2, 3 (in red), the Lincolns on the railroad (dark blue) and the British (light blue).

While the British reached their trenches before dawn on the 13th, a massive traffic jam on the Quinto – Fuentes road kept the Americans and Canadians from getting into position before daylight.   Many Americans were pinned down immediately after leaving the staging positions at Km 28-29 on the road.   Company 3 (in which my Father had just been assigned four days previously) was pinned down by machine gun fire and those who were not shot spent much of the day face down short of the trenches.   Milt Wolff recalled³ that his machine gun company (#4) did set up enfilading and supporting fire for the Mac-Paps, but most of the guys were just cut up trying to make the trenches.  Philip Detro showed significant bravery going back and guiding the Lincolns into their position on the railway line.

The British were in soft soil in the fields and with heavy rain on October 11-12 night.  Movement was difficult.   Wolff³ said at least 10 of the tanks went over the top of the Lincoln trenches, nearly crushing the men under them.   Many of the 24th Battalion, riding on the tanks, saw the Lincolns in the trenches and thinking they were Fascists, fired on them.

Niilo Makela

Niilo Makela, as Commissar of the Mac-Paps, 1938. ALBA Photo 11-1281, Tamiment Library, NYU

Niilo (Milo) Makela, commander of the Mac-Pap machine gun company, wrote of the Mac-Pap experience that day:

We received our first taste of fire at dawn, while entering a shallow communication trench leading us to our position.  The enemy machine gunners spotted our movements, and in the fire one man was killed and a few wounded, including our comrade Hitchcock {Robert Colver}, our Battalion Secretary.  He was hit in the leg while cutting a strand of barbed wire at the mouth of the communication trench….

The attack started at 1:40 pm.  When our tanks went over and the order was given to advance, the Battalion, including its Staff, went over the top like one man.  Joe Dallet, Battalion Commissar went over with No. 1 Company on the left flank, where the fire was heaviest.  He was leading the advance when he fell, mortally wounded.  He behaved heroically until the very end, refusing to permit the First Aid men to come over to him in his exposed position. {Dallet was killed while on the ground wounded, when a machine gun opened up on him}.

Volumes could be written about acts of individual heroism, acts performed by men in the ranks as well by men high in leadership.  Space will not allow for that.  I want to mention, however, comrades like Bill Neure, Commander of No. 1 Company, who was fatally wounded; “Izzie” Schrenzel, who was seriously wounded, died later; that outstanding Negro comrade, Milton Herndon, leader of the Third Section of the Machine Gun Company who was killed together with Ben Smith, when they were trying to assist the wounded on the field.4

Dr. Julius Hene called out for valor Sergeant James V. Black and Earl Rose, two First Aid men in No. 1 company.4

Ron Liversedge of Vancouver was there that day:

… But our journey to Fuentes was behind schedule.  The road seemed to be clogged with traffic, and there was some confusion.  It was already daylight as we started to file into a series of very narrow, very dirty, and not overly deep trenches, leading off from each side of the road.  It seemed uncanny that we were being allowed to file into the trenches unmolested.  I had a mental picture of the enemy unhurriedly finishing their coffee and then flexing their muscles.

I think that more than three-quarters of the Brigade were off the road, and sidling up the narrow trenches to their positions, when the fascists opened up.  There was no warming up, but in a split second, dozens of machine-guns started a terrific crescendo of firing.  We received our first casualties amongst the men who were still on the road.

…. Our Company commander (I’ve forgotten his name {Neure}) was a young German American.  The second in command was Bill Whitehead {Whitehead does not appear on the Canadian muster roles and his editor David Yorke thinks Liversedge’s memory is at fault here.}, a Canadian, and Joe Dallet, the Battalion’s political commissar was going over with our company.  With our Company also were Ed Rolfe, the American writer who was our historian, and Irving Weissmann, another American.  The rest of our company were Canadians.

…  At one thirty we heard the tanks roaring towards us from behind; they were coming at a good lick, seventy-five of them {actually, 42 tanks took the field that day}.  They roared over the top of our trenches, nearly crushing one of our men who, thinking the tanks would break down the trench walls and bury us, jumped out onto the parapet and was pulled back in, just a split second before the tanks rolled over.

We were amazed to see twelve men of the 24th Spanish Battalion riding on the top of each tank.  It was said afterwards that somebody on Brigade staff had seen this stunt in a film, but unfortunately this wasn’t Hollywood.  There were very very few of the 24th who came back.

The Mac-Paps scrambled out of the trenches to follow behind the tanks.  The Lincoln were on our right, and the British on their right: the whole Brigade spread in a long line right across the plain.  The tanks spread out in line and started for the town at about forty miles an hour; at the same time, the fascists opened up with hundreds of machine-guns and mortars and artillery.

Of course we could not keep up with the tanks, and immediately we ran into murderous fire.  There was no cover.  Men started to drop all around.  In less than fifteen minutes our company strength was reduced by half.  Our company commander was down.  Just to my right, Joe Dallet, walking along, smoking his curved pipe, a little smile on his face, was hit.  I heard the bullet smack into him; he gave a little grunt and I knew he was dead before he hit the ground.  Then three of the ammunition carriers in my machine-gun squad went down.  To the right and ahead a little I saw Milt Herndon, a negro and his pal Smithy, both of the second company, go down.  One of our stretcher bearers, Issac Schatz from Toronto, crawled over to see if he could help, and as he rolled Herndon over, Schatz got one through the shoulder.

….Ahead of us we saw our tanks grinding to a halt close to the ravine in front of the town.  Twenty-five of them on fire; we could see the tank men jumping out of the burning tanks and being shot as they jumped out  Bill Kardash from Winnipeg was one of them, and he received the wound there that cost him one leg.   We could also see what men were left of the 24th, trying to hide behind the burning tanks.5

Bill Kardash of Winnipeg, mentioned above, was quoted by Michael Petrou:

“Things did not go as planned,” Kardash recalled years later.  They received orders to attack late in the morning and knew nothing about the terrain the tanks were expected to cross.  Some got stuck in gullies on the approach to Fuentes de Ebro.  Kardash’s tank rolled towards the nationalist trenches very slowly.  Any Spaniards clinging to the sides of his tank were shot and fell to the ground.  They cross the first line of nationalist trenches and almost immediately Kardash and his crew were hit by a Molotov cocktail.  “The first thing, the motor stopped.  The wires burnt .. So we couldn’t move.  So long as we had ammunition, we kept firing,” Kardash said “I gave orders for the driver to get out because the fire began to get closer to the turret”.

Kardash watched as his driver and gunner fled the burning tank and were gunned down.  Kardash looked certain to meet the same fate if he ran, but flames inside the tank were spreading and left him with little choice.  He bolted from the tank while shots rang out all around him.  As he ran towards a highway that linked Quinto and Fuentes de Ebro, a grenade knocked him down and filled his legs with shrapnel.  He looked up and saw that another tank had broken through the nationalist defenses and was still operational.  Kardash waved the tank over to where he lay and climbed on top.  Somehow he managed to cling to the tank while it sped back over the nationalist lines to the safety of republican positions.

Kardash would spend until May 1938 in a Madrid hospital with gangrene in both legs.  One was amputated right away.  The thigh of his other leg was almost blown off and the pain was so bad that Kardash begged doctors to remove it as well.  His remaining limb was saved, however, and Kardash eventually made it safely back home to Canada.6

Bill Kardash can be heard speaking at the 1:15 mark of part IV of Los Canadianses, a Canadian National Film Board six part documentary on the Mac-Paps.

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¹ Richard Baxell, Unlikely Warriors, ibid. , p 315-316.

² Art Landis, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid.,

³ Milt Wolff to Art Landis, ALBA AUDIO 66.

4 Niilo (Milo) Makela, The Book of the XVth Brigade, “The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion in Action”, ibid, p. 291-2.

5 Ron Liversedge,Mac-Pap: Memoirs of a Canadian in the Spanish Civil War, ibid., pp 88-92.

6 Michael Petrou, Renegades, ibid., pg 76.

12 Octobre The XVth Brigade moves up 3 km from Fuentes del Ebro

 

12 Oct 112 Oct 212 Oct 3

12 Oct 4

Four pages from Robert Merriman’s diary (dated October 19) but covering the events on October 12 before going into action at Fuentes del Ebro

Merriman starts in again entering information in his diary on October 19.  The first lines describe the long meeting held with Bob Minor and Hans Amlie where they discussed Joe Dallet’s leadership as Commissar of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.   Merriman says that Bill Lawrence and others who were visiting the Brigade have left for their trip to Moscow.   Merriman is reviewing history here so he makes the sad comment that the admissions of Dallet were like a “last confession”.   On October 13th, Joe Dallet would be killed in action.   Minor spoke with Dallet who appeared to take the criticism well.  Minor also spoke with Vladimir Copic but the details of that discussion are not given.

Col S. Fuqua

(l-r) Hans Amlie, Bob Merriman, Bob Thompson (Commander of the Mac-Paps), David Doran (Brigade Commissar), Malcolm Dunbar (Commander of the British Battalion, and U.S. Army Colonel Stephen Fuqua, speaking to the troops at Quinto. Probably on October 12, 1937. ALBA Photo 11-0811, Tamiment Library, NYU

Fuqua

Colonel Stephen Fuqua, David Doran and Hans Amlie in the trenches at Fuentes de Ebro, ALBA Photo 11-0843, Tamiment Library, NYU

A representative of the US Army is at Quinto to visit.  This is Colonel Stephen Fuqua and he was seen in many photos reviewing positions and being shepherded around by Hans Amlie.  Fuqua was a military attaché in the US Embassy and Claude Bowers, the US Ambassador, was getting situation reports from him.¹   Merriman believes that Amlie has loose lips and is likely to tell Fuqua too much.    Amlie was openly criticizing the Communist leadership of the International Brigades and did not agree with the increased military protocols adopted by the Lincolns since Belchite (saluting, etc.).   Bob Minor refused to remove Amlie since he had been injured in Belchite but Vladimir Copic was disposed to having him arrested (which did not happen).   Bob Minor was going to speak to Amlie about his dissatisfaction but the unsanitary conditions of the camps led Minor to agree that the men had legitimate gripes and that perhaps instead they should try to clean up the camps.  As we saw in Senes, even Merriman got the “fever” (possibly typhoid) and the condition of the troops may have been discussed between Doran, Fuqua, Minor and Amlie.

Mark Straus and Bob Merriman

Dr Mark Straus and Robert Merriman at the Estado Mayor of the Brigade at Fuentes de Ebro, probably on October 12, 1937. Merriman still shows the effects of his fever of the previous week. ALBA Photo 11-0766, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman calls in Dr. Mark Straus for a discussion of this health problem and Merriman blames Straus for “poor work”.  This discussion with Straus spread to include Malcolm Dunbar, Battalion Commander of the British Battalion and Rollin Dart, who was with the Lincolns.

Moshe (Moise) Sapir

Moise Sapir and David Doran at the Estado Mayor, Fuentes de Ebro, October 1937. ALBA Photo 11-0764, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman meets with Moise Sapir again and discusses how to deal with the Second Chief of Staff Major Crespo.   Sapir wants to set boundaries (spheres) of who will be responsible for what.   Sapir is likely to be Merriman’s go between with the Base at Albacete to better define these staff roles.

Merriman doesn’t sound like he is willing to share any responsibility with Crespo but before this is resolved, they get orders to move up at 10 pm.   They are to be in the trenches at between Kilometer 28 and 29 on the Fuentes-Quinto road by morning.   The location of Kilometer 28 and 29 is seen on a contemporary map of Fuentes from 1937 below.  Also included is an image from Google Earth showing these positions today which parallel the industrial zone of of Fuentes southwest of the town.  This area is on a broad flat plain which drops off rapidly on the north and east as Fuentes de Ebro is below the level of the plain and in the broad fertile Ebro valley.

Fuentes_de_Ebro_Positions_28_29

Fuentes de Ebro

Location of the positions to be occupied by the International Brigades on the early morning of October 13, 1937. The top image is from the Instituto de Cartographic y Geologic de Cataluna. The bottom is from Google Earth.  The red line on the road is the approximate locations of Kilometer 28 and 29.

Merriman reveals that one Battalion (the Mac-Paps) would be left of the highway on the high flat ground and two on the right (the Lincoln’s between the highway and the railroad tracks) and the British to their right along the railroad tracks and in the agricultural area.   The British would bog down in the soggy ground of these fields.

In the planning for the next day, the extensive use of the new BT5 tanks from Russia were discussed with Colonel Pavel Kondratyev (aka Pablo Otez) who would command the tank battalion.  25 new tanks and 15 older smaller ones would be used.   The Spanish 24th Battalion was to ride into battle on the back of these tanks and drop off into action after the tanks had smashed the wires and breached the trenches of the front line Fascist defenders of the town.  If the plan went ahead, the tanks would continue through to take the road to the north of Fuentes and keep moving towards Zaragoza.  The plan was ambitious if not downright foolhardy.

Merriman says that the tanks rolled by and they were marvelous things.   In 24 hours, his opinion of them might have changed some in real life, but on October 19, 1937, as he wrote this in retrospect, he was still impressed with them.

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¹ Claude Bowers, My Mission to Spain, ibid., p xxx.

 

11 Octobre The International Brigades prepare for Fuentes del Ebro

 

11 October 1

11 October 2

Two pages from Robert Merriman’s second diary covering events on October 11, 1937

Merriman will only make a short entry for the 11th of October before he takes nearly a week off from writing in his diary.  October 13 was the first day of the battle for Fuentes de Ebro, a small town about half way between Quinto, which the Brigades took at the end of August and the ultimate target of Zaragoza which was another 44 kilometers further northwest.   Since mid-August, the Republican Armies had made an intense push on Zaragoza but never got closer than about 3 km.   The Mediana and Fuentes de Ebro front lines of the Fascists were holding up any significant push on Zaragoza from the south.  The International Brigades were recalled back to the Fuentes front on October 10 from their bivouac in Senes, northeast of Zaragoza, and 160 km by road  back to Quinto to try to finally break this impasse.  Over the next week, we will post Merriman’s descriptions of the fighting at Fuentes that were entered in the diary on October 19.  We will attempt to place the descriptions on the correct days but they are not noted in the diary and are approximate reconstructions from historical accounts of the fighting.

On the morning of the 11th, a Party meeting was held in Quinto.  Bill Lawrence met with Copic and Bob Minor spoke with Dave Doran.  Later Bill Lawrence met with Merriman and finally Copic and Merriman met.   This ambassadorial negotiation clearly was designed to gain a workable compromise between Merriman and Copic.   Merriman says later in the day that much of the air was cleared between Copic and him.    Bill Lawrence scared Copic by saying that he was going to Moscow and Copic obviously read this as a threat to him if he did not work out his differences with the Americans.

The air, however, was thick with airplanes.   Merriman doesn’t say if these planes are Republican or Fascist airplanes but it is apparent that preparations for the upcoming battle are being made.

Milton Wolff told Art Landis in his oral interview¹ that he was at this Party meeting on the 11th.   He said that the plan of attack was laid out for everyone and he found the upcoming use of tanks and men going in with the tanks to be odd.

Wolff said “Now, this is the meeting you’re talking about.  We went to this meeting and at this meeting they told us, that these guys were going to go in with these bloody tanks, these troops, and they were going to go in and they were going to go all the way to Zaragoza and all we had to do is to follow them and clean up.  They weren’t going to stop.”

Landis responds: “If they had only known that right across the way, {General} Sáenz de Buruaga had moved the entire 150th Division, the entire Guadarama Division, right on the path.”  He chuckles.  “They were the finest fucking troops that Franco had.   And they met those tanks and they did it classically.  They let the tanks go through and then they had them.”¹

Later we will see that this is a singular characteristic of the battle of Fuentes that will remain in the minds of the Brigadistas many years later.  In Wolff’s words “Ah, this was a screwed up operation from the word ‘go'”.¹

Merriman’s description of the meeting is antiseptic and he only mentions a potential opening of a front in Castillon by landing troops from the Mediterranean.  This offensive never occurred.  He listens to a report from Robert Minor and finds the meeting informative.

Nathan Weisenfeld

Nathan Weisenfeld (Neil Wesson, left), Robert Merriman and Alfredo Balsa, ALBA PHOTO 11-1328, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman says that Nathan Weisenfeld will clean up the barracks in Quinto so that the men can build fires in the hearths in the homes where they were billeted.   Nathan Weisenfeld was also known as Neil Wesson and there are quite  a few photographs of him in the Tamiment ALBA Photo Archive.   Wesson will become Chief of Runners for the Brigade in the Spring of 1938.

_________________________________

¹ Wolff to Landis, ibid.

24 Octobre The Spanish leave their trenches and soon will be playing football

24_Octobre_1

October 24, 1937

Robert Merriman’s second diary on October 24, 1937

Lt. Abad Garcia

Lieutenant Abad Garcia (left) of the 24th Battalion with Jose Varela (right), ALBA PHOTO 11-1787, Tamiment Library NYU

The end of Merriman’s October 22 diary pages starts “Just before Copic left – order came thru for us to withdraw from the line into” and finishes “Quinto to be replaced by the 143rd Brigade”.   The 143rd Brigade was led by Captain Nicanor Felipe Martinez and is described on the “Guide to the Mixed Brigades”, a wonderful website for determining the leadership of the Brigades.  The Aragon Front was settling down and both sides seemed happy to leave only minimal troops in the cold trenches.  The 143rd was offering up one company and one section, probably 130 men, to man a 10 kilometer wide front.  Merriman thinks this is ridiculous and protests.  He leaves the 24th Battalion (what is left of it after reinforcements were brought in) into a second line position, in case the 143rd is overrun.  In an iconic story of the front, the Spanish Battalion’s commissar, with some men from the 24th and 143rd, went over the trenches and met with the Spanish fascist troops and exchanged gifts.  At this time, it is believed that Captain Abad Garcia was the commissar of the 24th Battalion and he would have been arrested for this contact and fraternization with the enemy.

Merriman finally got 210 troops of the 143rd to come into the trenches after they first refused to join.   Merriman says that they only have two machine guns and some light weapons to guard the five mile wide front that the Mac-Paps and Lincolns held.  Merriman reveals that the contact with the enemy showed that the Italians were now gone from the front and since the Internationals were being pulled out, the front had only Spanish troops who worked out a local cease fire and truce where the whole battalion went over and met with the enemy.  One can imagine how frustrating this was for the International Brigades who were just decimated at Fuentes de Ebro.   Art Landis points out how ironic it was that on October 21, the Italians would lead an attack and take Gijon.¹   It is not likely that this would be the same Italian divisions.

Merriman says that the short stay in Quinto is coming to an end and they are awaiting orders to pull out by train, back to the Center Front.   During this period, from the Effectives List of Company 3 up to November 5, one can determine that many of the Lincolns were given leave to Madrid.

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¹  Art Landis, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid.