Category Archives: Madrigueras

1-2 Febrero Hunting for New Quarters

1 to 2 february pages

Robert Merriman’s Diary for February 1 and 2, 1937

Copeman and Meredith

Fred Copeman and perhaps Bill Meredith, ALBA PHOTO 177-178032, Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Fred Copeman in his autobiography Reason in Revolt refers indirectly to the tools related to his anti aircraft lecture as mentioned by Merriman:

lewis mg

Lewis machine gun similar to the ones described by Fred Copeman and used for anti aircraft defense.

I concentrated on the Lewis gun, easy to handle and very light, and I knew all about.  In the end, six of these guns were made serviceable, and either by design or by accident, I found myself in command of a small anti-aircraft unit….. The Lewis gun section soon became efficient. An old trick was to throw tin lids into the air from the trenches, the gunners having to hit them before they touched the ground. No small feat this, and yet every No.1 gunner within three weeks was able to hit the lids two at a time in the air

Merriman relates that he is shopping for new quarters for the Americans.  He looks at buildings presumably in Villaneuva de la Jara.  The size of the training battalion is having growing pains.

Merriman speaks of the feistiness of the men and the drinking which needed correction.  Since last year’s posting of this page, Barry McLoughlin has finished his work on the Irish in Spain and he relates:

As regards excessive drinking, there seems to have been a temporary ban on the sale of alcohol in the village {Madrigueras}, to which the men reacted by ordering café frio, a potent mixture of cold coffee liberally laced with rum.  Fred Copeman, in his chortling interview with the Imperial War Museum, mentions a “punch-up between the Irish and the English late at night …. sent to the guardhouse …. trivial stuff”, adding the erroneous comment that this was the reason that Frank Ryan took his men to the American Battalion.  In fact the very opposite was the case, but “old Fred”, for all his affability, was never a stickler for historical detail, neither in his memoir of the war (1948) nor in the interview he gave in 1978.²

Several men are reprimanded and one deserts.  “Cox” is very likely  Thomas Cox Jr..  He was born in Douglas, Alaska, and was a Native American.  Two weeks after Merriman wrote this page, Cox would be in one of two trucks that accidentally drove into the enemy lines on February 16, 1937, moving to the lines at Jarama. Fifteen Americans and one Canadian were killed, and only one wounded prisoner survived, but had his throat cut by a band of scavenging Moors that night. Cox arrived in Spain on January 23rd 1937.

“Givney” is John Givney, and who will continue to be a thorn in Merriman’s side all spring.   His transgression here is not detailed anywhere.


¹Fred Copeman.  Reason in Revolt. Blandford Press, 1948. p. 81.

² Barry McLoughlin, Fighting for Republican Spain,, ISBN 9781291968392, p. 58.

3-4 Abril At Madrigueras

3-4 April

Robert Merriman’s diary for the 3rd and 4th of April 1937

Robert Merriman will now settle into the routine of being an instructor at the training bases around Albacete (Villaneuva de la Jara, Madrigueras, Tarazona de la Mancha, Quintanar del Rey,  Pozo Rubio and others).   The diary for April 2 flows over onto this page and he finishes the story of André Marty questioning Marion on where she got her military greatcoat and reminding her of the “dress code”.  I am sure from the retort that Marion was impressed by Marty.


Hans Amlie (right) with David Doran and US Military Attaché Colonel Fuqua, at Quinto, October 1937. Source: ALBA photo 11-0843 of the Randall Collection, Tamiment Library, NYU

Burton, Amlie

Instructors at Tarazona de la Mancha in June 1937. From left to right: Peter Hampkins (British), Edward Cecil-Smith (Canadian), Wallace Burton (American), unknown, Walter Garland (American) and Hans Amlie (American). Photo from the Milly Bennett Collection, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Hans Amlie is now Commander of the Lincoln Battalion and Merriman will be working with Amlie until the Fall of 1937, with frequent chafing between their personalities.  Hans Amlie was a very interesting character and was the brother of Republican Congressman Tom Amlie of Wisconsin.  His biographies¹ say that he was a Socialist when he came to Spain but when the Eugene V. Debs Column of the American Socialist Party could only draw 25 volunteers, Amlie joined the Communist Party in Spain.  In an interesting confluence of personalities, the American reporter Milly Bennett lost her lover, Wallace Burton, in Spain as he was killed at Belchite.  Milly had spent some time in China with Wallace’s twin brother Wilbur Burton who wrote for the Baltimore Sun newspaper.  When Milly Bennett was the lead reporter for the Chang Mei news bureau in Peking (Beijing), Burton replaced her when she moved down to Hankow to be more in the action.   Her biography², “On Her Own” reads like a Dashell Hammett mystery story.  In Spain, after Wallace died,   Milly became the lover and then married Hans Amlie and when she returned to the US in the fall of 1937, she did so as Amlie’s wife.


Wally Tapsell, ALBA Photo 11-1292. Tamiment Library, NYU

11_0009s_Clyde Taylor, MacKenzie-Papineau_nov 37

Dr. Clyde Taylor. Photo 11-0009 of the Randall Collection, Tamiment Library, NYU

Three additional names are added to our cast in this installment: Commandant Clare, Dr. Clyde Donald Taylor and Dave Engels.   Dave Engels’ nickname was “Mooch”.  We have not posted a picture yet of Wally Tapsell of the British Battalion.  Commandant Clare is a mystery at this point.  There is a Jean Clerc in the 14th Battalion (French) but no connection is made to the leadership of the Brigade.  There was a “Clare” in the second company of the Lincolns at Jarama (Chris Brooks, private communication of a transcription of Sandor Voros’ diary).  No information about a promotion from the ranks is given for Clare.


¹ Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid. pp. 204-206.

² Milly Bennett (Mildred Mitchell), On Her Own:Journalistic Adventures from San Francisco to the Chinese Revolution, 1917-1927,  edited by Tom Grunfeld, M. E. Sharpe Publishers, Armonk, NY., 1993.