Category Archives: Pozorubio

11-12 Julio Dissatisfaction at the Officer’s School in Pozorubio

July 11-12

Robert Merriman’s Diary for July 11 and 12th, 1937

Men from Manchester

Photo of British Brigadistas from Manchester, UK.1 On the left with the pipe is George Westfield and next to him is William Benson. Others identified are Maurice Levine (centre) Eddie Swindells (first left kneeling) Jud Coleman and ‘Tony’ the Greek is Tony Theodopolis. Photo and Idenifications from Kevin Buyers

In a technical two days in camp, Merriman covers some issues of training and beefing.   This page shows that even the most banal appearing entries can have an intriguing story.  On the 11th, a delegation of Swinnerton, Harbocian, Benson and Westfield sent a letter to Vidal at Headquarters saying that there was favoritism in the Pozo Rubio training camp.  Merriman suspects that Tom Wintringham who was commanding the camp was behind the letter.  Bill Lawrence, the American Commissar, assures Merriman that the men (presumably the American instructors) don’t need Merriman to intervene.   Merriman doesn’t record (or doesn’t have) the offending letter.   George Westfield was identified as a British brigadista in Martin Sugarman’s manuscript.²   It appears that the Benson is William Benson of the British Battalion.   Kevin Buyers sent along this interesting photo from Albacete¹ with Benson and Westfield in it.  John Wainwright identified Swinnerton in yesterday’s diary pages.  Alan Warren pointed out that the third name is Canadian Nicolas Harbocian, a Rumanian by origin and coming to Spain from Windsor, Canada.  Harbocian was a member of the Canadian Commonwealth Youth federation.  Timing on this letter is tragic as Merriman speaks of it on July 11.  On July 9th or 10th, Michael Petrou noted that Harbocian was killed in the Battle of Brunete fighting for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

The RGASPI archives give more light into the problems at the school.  In a four page unsigned memorandum³ (which may have been written by Bill Lawrence or Merriman himself), the following observations were made about the school:

Conversations with Frank Rogers, the political commissar of the School, and Jack Karson, head of the Machine Gunners and others revealed  the existence of considerable dissatisfaction with the amount and  intensity of the training provided by the school.

There was general dissatisfaction due to the fact, that most of them entered school with the expectations of qualifying for leadership positions at the termination of  school.  Disappointed in the limitations of their training now they feel less confident in their fitness to assume command.

The main complaint is directed mostly against Captain W. T. Wintringham; former commander of the school; they blame him with incompetent organization of their training.  They claim that Wintringham gave them long theoretical lectures on strategy and tactics but provided little practical experience and they claim that the high quality of the student body deserved a far better and more advanced grade of instruction than they actually received.

James Prendergast 2

James Prendergast 2

Merriman talks to Jim Prendergast4 who would have understood the concern in the camp.   Merriman said they had to bribe him with cigarettes and chocolates to get him to come out to camp.   Merriman says that there is a comrade from the US in camp to write a history of the Brigades.  This probably was Sandor Voros who was working on the Book of the XVth Brigade about this time and who had just arrived in Spain on May 7, 1937.

Donowa

Dr. Arnold Donowa, Brigade Dentist, ALBA PHOTO 1:2:53:1, Tamiment Library, NYU

In the evening of the 11th there was a show from the “Cultural Commission” and it was apparently a hit.   Merriman says that the dentist is in camp and a ruckus occurred overnight between the Dentist and the guards about noise.   It is not clear if the dentist was previously arrested or the guard.   At this time, one of the Dentists for the Lincoln Brigade was Arnold Donowa but it is uncertain if this was the doctor in camp.

No new names are mentioned on the 12th of July and it seems to have been an unremarkable day of training.

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¹ Maurice Levine: From Cheetam to Cordova “The first organised Manchester group to arrive in Albacete, November 1936.”

² Martin Sugarman, Against Fascism – Jews who served in The International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/spanjews.pdf‎, Sourced: January 21, 2014.

³ RGASPI, Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 274, p 23-25.

4 Michael O’Riordan, Connolly Column – The Story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic 1936-1939, 1979.

 

1-2 Julio “Dozens of things happened at once”

July 1-2, 1937

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

In a very busy two days in the diary, Bob Merriman tells his diary much and holds back some things he must have known.  On July 2, the Lincoln and Washington Battalions were ordered up to the lines for the “push”, the Battle of Brunete.  Probably for security reasons, Merriman doesn’t write much about this in his diary.  Instead he deals with visitors to Tarazona de la Mancha.

July 1 was “Dominion Day” in Canada, now known as “Canada Day”, the Canadian national holiday.   To recognize this, the head of the Canadian Communist Party, Albert Alexander MacLeod, showed up in Tarazona to greet the men and lecture {Note that Victor Hoar makes a mistake and says that this was Allan Dowd, unless this is an alias}.¹   They formally announce that the new Battalion will be called the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion (Merriman misspells Mackenzie).  Merriman states that this is not a political unit but a military unit, probably to assuage the Americans would be in the new Battalion.  From the tone of the diary, it sounds like Joe Dallet, the Commissar, had to sell the idea of the name to the Battalion.  It is likely that the Canadians were excited about having recognition.   Ron Liversedge recalls the visit:

We did have one visitor to the base who was welcome, especially to us Canadians, and that was our own A. A. MacLeod.  MacLeod was sat that time the national secretary of the Canadian League Against War and Fascism, and was later to serve a couple of terms as a communist MPP in the Ontario Legislative Assembly.  I cannot recall the date of MacLeod’s visit, but I think it was early July, 1937.  At any rate it was of great importance to us, as it was this visit that finally and officially established the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion of the Fifteenth International Brigade.  MacLeod spoke to the massed personnel of the base for two hours.  He gave a history of the founding of Canada, brought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the defeat by the embattled Canadians of the new American republic’s attempted invasion of Canada, and finally the revolt of the early Canadians against the British Family Compact, led by Mackenzie and Papineau.  There was a standing ovation for MacLeod; the Americans had never heard anything like it before.  When MacLeod asked for an endorsement of a Mac-Pap Battalion, he got it one hundred per cent.  The name was confirmed a few days later by the Brigades and the Spanish Government, and Canada was officially recognized in Spain as participating in the war.  But not, of course, by the Canadian government.²

Anna Louise Strong

Anna Louise Strong, Source: wikipedia.org; Creative Commons License.

Another visitor, Anna Louise Strong, showed up in Tarazona.  Marion Merriman and Connie de la Mora both mention Anna Louise in their memoirs and she must have been a force of nature.  John Wainwright has pointed out that Anna Louise Strong’s manuscript is within the Milly Bennett papers at the Hoover Institute. In a visit in 2014, however, the author was unable to find Anna Louise’s manuscript on Spain.     Anna Louise would lecture several times over the next two days.  Strong was with Milly Bennett in China in the 1920’s and was editor at Moscow News in the 1930’s when Bennett was there.   Much of their shared experiences in China and Russia were covered in Strong’s biography “I Change Worlds”.  It was apparent that Marion Merriman was acquainted with Anna Louise before Spain.  Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude tell the story of the visit:

Anna Louise Strong arrived from America, having returned home from Russia earlier.  She planned to gather information for a book on the international volunteers.  We found her a room in Tarazona and caught up briefly with the news of America.  She was cheered about the program to aid the Spanish children, the most terrified victims of the war, and she wanted to talk to the American Volunteers.

Anna Louise wasn’t as trying and exhausting as usual, perhaps because she herself was exhausted.  She brought ten thousand dollars from an American philanthropist who wanted to buy boots for the Americans fighting in Spain.   It was difficult to find boots large enough for most of the Americans.  So Anna Louise set out tot find a Spanish shoe manufacturer who would make the larger-sized boots the Americans required.

After a couple of days of rest, Anna Louise summoned me, and we made the rounds of the squads and barracks so she could seek out the stories of the volunteers.  She was a good speaker with a strong voice, and she was forever talking as we moved about the men.  She was built like a pyramid, tall and heavily widening as her figure went earthward.  The men liked her because of her enthusiasm and the simplicity of her manner  The facility with which she could turn her charm on and off, almost like water from a tap, amazed me.³

Discipline still plagues Bob Merriman.   Two men appear to have “organized” a Studebaker touring car, and in going AWOL and in the process of getting out of Tarazona, crashed it into a tree near the bridge in town.  The car was totaled.   Merriman seems to be as concerned about the loss of the car as he is disciplining the “damned fool” driver.  “Frenchy” who is  French Canadian Amédée Grenier¹ came out from the Auto Parc to check out the vehicle.  He reported the loss of the vehicle and this would be a scandal for the new battalion who expected to get this car.  Merriman wanted this car.   Apparently one of the men was injured in the crash and was brought in.  No guard was left on the car and so a guard would be placed on it for the next 24 hours (after removing the plates) and on the 2nd Merriman removed the guard to say “forget it” since the car was a loss.

In this incident or a simultaneous one, Seaman William Edward Howe and Joseph Raymond Dione caused problems.  After taking abuse from these men, Merriman demanded and got an apology (at the threat of arrest).   Howe was noted for having want to leave the Battalion and the two incidents may be related.  Merriman says “Robbie” was looking for them.  Robbie is John Quigley Robinson who was brought in to manage the difficult, rough and tumble Seaman who arrived in June.

Joe Lash was in Tarazona and a party was held on the evening of the 1st.  Lash was “ambushed” and “much fun” was had.  Anna Louise Strong also spoke to the troops in the evening with Lash and Merriman.

On the 2nd of July, Merriman formally organized the leadership of the Canadian “company”.  Lieutenant Ron Liversedge is put in charge with Bill Skinner as his Alfarez.   By the end of the day, Liversedge has gone to Merriman to tell him that he is not the man for the job and he returns to the ranks.   In Liversedge’s memoir², he places this “stepping back” as much later in the summer, but clearly Merriman notes that it happened immediately.  Bill Skinner is put in charge of the Canadians and Irving Weissman, who arrived in Spain in June, is being encouraged to step up into leadership.    Hoar relates the story:

And what of Lt. Ronald Liversedge, the first officer of the original No. One Company?  Within a few days after the creation of the Mac-Paps, Liversedge had resigned his commission and returned to the ranks because he refused to adhere to Merriman’s admonition that all officers should eat in the officer’s mess.  Liversedge, said Merriman, was too democratic.¹

Merriman gets interviewed by Anna Louise Strong and focusses on the events of February 23 and 27.   It would be very interesting to see her notes on this interview.   Merriman continues to deal with the loss of the car.  “All is off now”.   This must have been a great disappointment to Merriman who was very peripatetic .    Walter Kolowsky has come back to be a trainer.

Rosenthal

Leon Rosenthal, Fond 545/Opus 6/Delo 566, RGASPI Archives, Moscow.

Merriman notes that the Lincoln Battalion and the Washington Battalion are moving out.  In a small hint of humor, Merriman gathers the men, including the men in Sanidad,  at 10 pm and tells them they are going to the “show”.  Recall that departures for the front typically happened in the middle of the night so the men may have inferred they, too, were going.   When he lets them know it is the movie show, We are from Kronstadt, there is cheering.   They at least would not be going to the front for now.   Ernie Amatniek, however, has been ordered up and he takes  Canadian Leon Rosenthal (whose residence was list as San Francisco) and Samuel Grossner with him to Albacete.

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¹ Victor Hoar, The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, ibid, pg 110-114.

² Ron Liversedge, Mac-Pap, ibid., pg 75-76.

³ Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid., pg 150.

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.

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.