Category Archives: Pozorubio

9-10 Junio School Days

June 9-10, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary for June 9 and 10, 1937

After the flurry of activity about the Washington Battalion mustering to Albacete for moving to the front, June 9 and 10 were training days for Merriman and the remaining IB’s in Tarazona.  Merriman was awakened by singing of “Franco’s Ranks we shall demolish”.  Mike Wild (son of British Brigadier Sam Wild) has identified this song as “White Army, Black Baron”, a Russian military folk song which has a chorus written by the British Battalion and sung by the American Battalion as:

“And we will Franco … his ranks demolish . . .the great Miaja leads us on … and on our rifles . . . depends our freedom … no pasaran, no pasaran!”¹

In a word that is written over Junio in the diary, it appears that Merriman goes out to the north field to watch Bob Thompson and Joe leading close order drill and Merriman gives them criticism.    Joe is probably Joe Dougher since Joe Dallet is mentioned separately on the next sentences.   Joe Dallet and Merriman go to Albacete to meet with Marcovics and discuss a soldier who cussed out Bob Thompson.  On June 11, Merriman will remove a soldier from duty and it may be this person who was drunk.

A soldier goes missing and Merriman believes that he was taken by Juan Corona who was with a Major and his Chief of Staff.  On June 6, Merriman noted a “Cross” who was with Corona.

Tadeusz Oppman

Tadeusz Oppman (also called Thaddée and François), Photo from attached web link, original text source not given.

Merriman catches a ride back to Pozo Rubio with Murray Schneider who was a driver.  Merriman serves as a monitor on the examination of Slav comrades by Tadeusz Oppman.  Oppman was a member of the French Communist party and had been trained as a lawyer in France.  He will go on to be Chief of Staff of the Dombrowski Brigade.  Here Merriman is not impressed with his training skills and says that Oppman is leading (like a lawyer) his men to answers to the examination they are being given.

Lucien Vidal and “Gomez” also came to Pozo Rubio.  General Gomez, who led the XIIIth Dombrowski Brigade, was Wilhelm Zaisser from Germany.   He returns with a car loaned to him by Vidal with Elliot Loomis still as the driver.  Merriman finds that Bill Lawrence has moved rooms and is now in Room 21.  Merriman has told us that Bob Minor is coming to Albacete and will get the Dodge car so it is possible that Minor stayed in Room 22 and Bill Lawrence moved.    Joseph Azar will leave for home and the orders² say that he is “needed by his father”.  “Papa” arrives with papers for his departure. This is an intriguing mix of sentences.   Mike Pappas was introduced during this week and that is a possible ID for Papa or that Azar will be going on orders from the American party.

Merriman says that Bill Lawrence’s new job is to represent the government with all the departing soldiers from all countries.  This would be the job of the Brigade Commissar and Merriman says this is the most important job of all.   Lawrence is indeed identified in late May in a list of Brigade Commissars in RGASPI.³   In a surprise, Merriman relates that Marion Merriman has been “brusquely” asked to join the Party and she did.  Marion Merriman Wachtel, in an taped interview with Sid Levine, says explicitly that she was never a member of the Party.  Perhaps if she joined the Spanish Communist Party, it was an association of convenience since her job in Albacete was to keep the registry of names for the Cadres’ Service.  It is likely that Party affiliation was expected for someone in a position of sensitive access to Brigadistas’ files.

On the 10th, Merriman’s duties appear to be largely clerical.  He set a night mission for the new Battalion and sent out Sid Levine and  Isadore Schrenzel to run the exercise.  It was a failure for the Battalion and it is not known whether Merriman is referring to “calling off the attack”  during the exercise because of lack of confirmation or something elsewhere.  There was to be an American attack at Jarama which did not occur.4


¹  Alvah Bessie, The Un-Americans, Cameron Associates, New York, NY, 1957 p. 229 (citation from a message posted by Geoff Lawes)

² RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 51, page 290.

³ RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 1/Delo 45, pp 41-42.

4 Nelson, American Radical, ibid.

5-6 Junio The new Washington Battalion moves out

June 5-6

Robert Merriman’s diary from June 5 and 6, 1937

Four very hectic days begin for Robert Merriman as the Washington Battalion finishes its training and is to move up to the front at Jarama.  In reality, the Washington Battalion did not go into the lines at Jarama as the Lincolns were relieved about this point and moved to Albares, east of Mondejar and north of Tarançon.  The British Battalion would be withdrawn to Mondejar.  The Washington Battalion would be held in reserve behind the lines.¹  But from the next four days of diary, we are informed that the Marcovics’ led battalion goes to Albacete and Merriman is ordered to Tarazona de la Mancha to start forming another battalion with men who did not go to Albacete.  This is the nascent Mackenzie-Papineau battalion and we can see a thread of Canadians being involved in these diary passages.

Merriman continues to be ill and he drags himself out of bed for a topography lesson.  Bill Lawrence arrives from Albacete to Pozorubio and it must have been urgent as he took a motorcycle for the trip rather than being driven in a staff car.  He took a fall on the way and showed up covered in mud.  Lawrence informs Merriman that the Battalion is now moving out and that there will be about 150 men left behind in Tarazona.  It is time to decide who will be the commander of that  new forming battalion (recall that it takes about 600 men to have a full formed battalion).  Lawrence tells Merriman and Dallet to get over to Tarazona to take charge or a French commander would be put in charge of the third battalion (one wonders if this might be a French Canadian considering the makeup of the new Battalion).  This Frenchman is unnamed.

After “organizing” a truck to Albacete, Merriman and Dallet go over to Tarazona and meet with Marcovics and Mates who are leading the Washington Battalion.   They find out that George Brodsky, John Givney and “10 trouble makers” are being left behind by Marcovics.  Merriman will inherit these problems again.

Dr. Telge

Dr. Oscar Telge (Tsvetan Kristanov) Source: Fredericka Martin Photo Archive ALBA 001: 1:1:31:1


Dr. Edward Barsky, RGASPI Archives Fond 545/Opus 6/Delo 861, Moscow

Merriman and Dallet drive back into Albacete to meet with Doctor Oscar Telge and Dr. Edward Barsky, clearly about issues of who will be leading the medical support for these battalions.  Merriman says it is decided that Mildred Pitts will lead one group and Doctor Barsky the other and that Barsky is scheduled to return to the US.  Barsky presumably would be going to recruit more support for the American Medical Bureau.

Thomas Hyde

Thomas Hyde, Jr. Photograph from the family collection of Richard Hyde, used with permission

Merriman introduces a new name, Tom Hyde, who is a problem for the Staff.  Hyde arrived in Spain on March 20, 1937.  Tom Hyde was a bookstore owner from New Jersey who had had some experience as a hospital administrator in the US.   Hyde was probably attached to the AMB because of this latter experience.  Hyde is working in Murcia as the administrator of the hospitals there.  Hyde mentions that he has problems stateside and review of his file at the Tamiment Library shows that his bookstore was in financial difficulty with a partner in the bookstore pulling out and leaving Mrs Hyde in serious difficulty in making ends meet.   Some of the letters from Hyde reached André Marty’s desk as Hyde was seeking repatriation to the US to take care of his business.  Here Bill Lawrence is unsympathetic and his skills don’t appear to be needed in the AMB so they tell him he will be going to the front with the new battalion “as a common soldier”.   Hyde’s disaffection will fester for months but he will be on the line in the attack on Belchite in September 1937 where he was injured in the foot by shrapnel.   Hyde returned to the US in the fall of 1938, much too late to deal with his financial issues.  He lost the bookstore (Richard Hyde, private communication).

Merriman says he met “Tommy” who was to take Hyde’s place in the First Aid Service.  At this point, we don’t know who Tommy is.   Merriman finishes an active day with discussions again with Telge and Barsky about the medical service and he goes off to find Hyde at First Aid (presumably to give him a decision) and does not find him.

On the 6th, Merriman rises and goes to meet a Cross and Juan Corona who is to be Chief of Staff of a new shock battalion (shock battalions are the name of front line troops who are thrown into the most difficult assault situations).   It was supposed to be an “honor” to be in a shock brigade although the service would be amongst the hardest faced in the war.  Merriman doesn’t believe this assignment of Corona, probably because of critical comments he made about him in February.   Donald Ellis Cross was in Spain at this time, but unlikely to be put into a leadership role.   Merriman does confirm that  Abe Harris will be Quartermaster for the new brigade.

Merriman says he meets with Roblet and finds he will go off to the 16th Brigade (a Spanish Brigade being formed in the Vth Army Corps) and he says it will include one old battalion and two new battalions.   There is an unreadable word in the diary and it may be the name of the new Brigade, if it could be deciphered.

Merriman meets with the Belgian Captain Jean Schalbroeck who is replacing Platone as Vidal’s deputy.  Merriman wants to review with the Brigade leadership whether the previous plan was going to be carried out, i.e. Merriman would command the third Battalion or be Marcovics adjutant in the Washingtons or whether Rollin Dart would be brought back from Cordoba to be Marcovics’ adjutant.  No answer is found here, but Merriman does not leave Tarazona.  The “en passant promotion” is indicated by the vehicles they drive, however, since Merriman and Lawrence get a permanent car, a permanent salvo conducto (to allow Lawrence to leave Tarazona and move around), and they go to the auto park to round up other transportation.   We find that Lamotte is now in the auto park and out of Albacete.  George Kaye, who is also in the Auto Park, Ed Bender, Bob Thompson, Lamotte and Merriman have a drink together.


Unknown man, Mike Pappas, Ed Bender, ALBA Photo 11 – 1574, July 1938, Tamiment Library, NYU

After gaining a vehicle, Lawrence and Merriman go back to Tarazona to meet with Marcovics and Dallet.   Givney came and Merriman met Mike Pappas.  Pappas will be a fixture in the Lincolns for much of 1937 and 1938.  He was in the Machine gun company, in the cocina, and finally was killed on the Ebro in 1938.   A highly recognizable vet because of his fine features and recognizable mustache, Pappas was spoken of often by later Lincoln leadership, such as Milt Wolff (Wolff would call him Nick Pappas or “Nick the Greek” on ALBA audiotapes made for Art Landis’ book¹). “Galli” is again mentioned and he came over from Pozorubio to Tarazona to help out in organizing the remaining men.  Merriman clearly respected Galli.


Larry Dukes, ALBA PHOTO 11-0034 from May 1938, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman returned to Albacete at the end of the day and in the car ride, they decided to place Larry Dukes, John Givney, George Brodsky, Abe Harris and Bob Thompson in the new battalion.

Returning up to Bill Lawrence’s room #22 in the hotel, they sent the chauffeur for the commissar (either named Dodge or driving a Dodge) to check on the guard at the Estado Mayor.  We find out that “Kaufman” will be going to Valencia.  This is likely Ruben “Ruby” Kaufman who will be in the Mac-Paps in 1937.   Merriman again meets Andrew Royce who is again drunk.  He  and Pete Hampkins decide that Isidore Schrenzel will go with Kaufman to Valencia.  This could possibly be a payroll run as pay would have to be distributed on June 10.

Merriman explains that they will be having a fiesta for the departing comrades since he needs to buy a goat for the feed.  Art Landis relates that this fiesta was held on June 14, 1937,¹ but the Washington Battalion will move out before that date.  His diary has two additional notations:   “Joe Dallet crossed with Bill Lawrence” and “Bob brought diary which had been read”.   Merriman’s diary was in Pozorubio and was brought into Albacete.  It clearly worried him that someone had opened the diary and read it.


¹ Landis, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid.

3-4 Junio Merriman returns to “camp”

June 3-4

Robert Merriman’s diary for June 3 and 4, 1937

The jockeying for leadership of the previous week has settled down and Merriman describes a full two days of training in bayonet drill and machine gun skills.  Merriman states that machine gun parts now have agreed upon names and instruction is being conducted in Spanish.  Sidney Levine led machine gun instruction and Levine would lead machine gun companies until the Lincolns are pulled out of Spain in 1938.   Sid Levine and Jack Cooper would remain in Pozorubio for machine gun instruction throughout the fall of 1937, although Levine will see action in Brunete and Quinto and the Second Belchite.

Merriman gives private instruction to Steve Nelson and Joe Dallet who would be political commissars in the battalions.  Merriman tells Nelson to pass some of the political information on to Marty Hourihan so he would be prepared for political instruction of the Lincolns as they are pulled out of the line.  Nelson would arrive at Jarama shortly before they were retired for the rest of the month of June to “Ibáñez”¹.   Alan Warren suggests that Nelson gave the town another name to protect the locals during the Franco era and that is was actually Albares, 30 miles east of Madrid.  Merriman relays the news about the bombing of the German Battleship Deutchland while it was in port in Mallorca.  Merriman knows already that the attack was protective cover for a shipment of weapons from the “old country” (i.e. Russia).  The Deutchland attack, while boosting the morale of the Brigades, provided an excuse for the Germans to bomb the port of Almería on May 31.  Merriman wishes Nelson “Good Luck!” in his new assignment.


Jack Mullinger, Chief of Scouts, ALBA Photo 11-0910, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman reveals that Honoré Galli, see June 1-2 posting  is a good volleyball player.   Merriman says that Levie Kaminsky (Edward Baker) and the Canadian Allan Knight had never played volleyball.  Merriman reveals that “Mullinger” who would become Chief of Scouts came from a very well off family.  R. Charles Mullinger  was really Cecil Merritt Cole and he would risk his inheritance.  “Jack” (H. Hoff, private communication)  Mullinger was killed on the Ebro in July 1938.

Merriman says he spent the evening reviewing Bob Thompson and Pete Hampkin’s leadership styles and Bob Thompson’s health.  Merriman gives the name of Lucien Tellier² of Montreal, Canada, who shouted “Mañana” at Roblet in training.  The Lincolns used Mañana as an epithet for the slow pace of activity in Spain.

On the 4th Arthur Olorenshaw is back in camp and leading the training again on signals.  Pete Hampkins is said to be “too mechanical”.  Roblet returns from Valencia and announces that he has rounded up 60 “Mexicans” (i.e. volunteers who have come from Russia — not necessarily Russian by nationality, but coming from the Soviet Union) to come and help in the training.  Roblet will be leaving to organize the Spanish brigades.   Merriman is ill at the time he was writing on June 4 and the entertainment which was to be given by the Commanders (the “stunt”) was cancelled again … Merriman was also ill at the last fiesta for the entertainment.  Merriman misses Vidal and Winkler who came to camp.


¹ Nelson, American Radical, ibid., pp 209-213.

² Petrou, Renegades, ibid., Table of Mac-Paps.

29-30 Mayo Marion Merriman goes on a mission

May 29-30

Robert Merriman’s diary for May 29 and 30, 1937

Merriman’s hand gets denser and denser.  He has a lot to remember from these days.  Merriman repeats the comment made at the meeting on 27 May  “Political commissars are civilians and not soldiers and representatives of the popular front government”.  This message is being beaten into the heads of the Brigade staff and the commissars.  Steve Nelson would become one of these commissars and that is not the message he heard:

The idea of political commissars has been around as far back as the Paris Commune, but when I was assigned to serve as one, I didn’t have a good conception of what that meant.  I asked around and got nebulous answers.  I was told a commissar must be one who is trusted by his men, that he must be able to explain every situation, to see that military decisions and objectives are understood and that the mens’ needs, physical and personal are taken care of.  The fellow who had been the Lincoln’s commissar at Jarama {George Brodsky} had been removed.  He didn’t do anything wrong — he just didn’t measure up to the situation.  I asked if I could meet someone who had served as a commissar and was taken to a hospital to talk to a man who had been the commissar for a French battalion until he was wounded at Jarama.  His head was completely bandaged, leaving only slits for the eyes, mouth, and nostrils.  Through my translator, he to me what the others had said: the commissar must be the most devoted and respected man in the unit.  I had come to Spain with the recommendations of the American Party but I knew that I still had to prove myself to the men with whom I would serve.¹

Many books on Spain leave the impression that the Commissars were completely political, Communist party hacks.  In fact, perhaps a quarter of the men who made Commissar in the Lincoln Brigade were not members of the Party and several were totally apolitical according to their exit papers.  The statement made by Merriman reiterated that the Commissars worked for the Popular Front Government, not for the Army.  This would have put many Commissars in a difficult conflict of interest.

Steve Nelson, Horowitz and Morrison stayed the  night at Pozorubio and Morrison would return to Albacete on the 29th. Lectures were given by Nelson and Merriman, Nelson’s was political education from his commissar’s role and Merriman’s was on tactics versus strategy.

Merriman's hat

Robert Merriman’s new hat (taken from Burt Overton). ALBA Photo 11 – 1278, Tamiment Library, NYU

After the training, Merriman returned to Albacete with Nelson and tried to locate Marion.  Instead he had an interview with Bert Overton and detailed the charges against him.  Overton apparently was never entitled to wear the stripes he wore at Jarama.  Overton must have known he was in serious trouble and was drinking heavily at this point.  Overton would be court martialled and convicted.  This was convenient for Merriman since he needed to trick out his garb and now that he had his new uniform, he needed the hat.   Merriman raised a ruckus (or in his terms, a “scandal”) and got his uniform at 6 pm sharp.  He will be talking about this uniform for days.

The order comes through to arrest Overton and Lamotte says he thinks Overton is in jail for drinking.  Merriman and Lamotte go to the jail and do not find Overton.  In fact, they find an empty jail with all the drunks broken out through a hole in the wall.   Merriman raises hell with the guards.  Likely they were drinking as well as Merriman has found French guards on duty drunk twice in the last few weeks.


Mutiny on the Bounty Video cover.

Merriman says that he ate with “Marcy”.   It is unlikely that he would misspell Marty and he was not fond enough of Marcovics to have a nickname for him.  It is not clear who that soldier is (it could easily be Leo Markowitz, shown on the diary description for May 25-26)  although he was political and Merriman talked with him about the European political situation.   Merriman finds Marion and they go to the movies seeing “The Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935) and a Spanish film “El ciento trece”.  The 113 was made in 1935 and released in the US in 1938.

Marion gets news from Arturo Fein that she is to go to Murcia to check out the two British women who are asking questions and are under suspicion.  Arturo Fine shows up in the records of Frederika Martin, a nurse there.  This episode should be told but only in Marion’s own words:

The other incident, which I did not share with Bob, nor with anyone else, was much worse.  …. Bob stayed in town with me that night because I was to be off on the special business the next day.  At eight o’clock in the morning on May 30, I left for Murcia with two pleasant Slav officers.  As we drove through the barren lands, I caught up on my diary, writing entries as we motored along.  We reached Murcia about noon, went on to Orihuela for lunch  then went for a swim, my first in the Mediterranean.  Later I jotted in my diary: “A sandy beach, warm caressing water.  Hold life, hold life so close”.

We had dinner the two officers and I, on a terrace overlooking a sleepy village caught on the arm of a cove.  We marveled at the rosy gray of the sea dotted with slow-moving fishing boats.  And, during dinner, I noted that the atmosphere, the swim, the moonlight, the pure beauty of where we were, seemed to give one of my companions romantic ideas.  In woman-less war, I’d seen the look before.  I dismissed it. 

That evening we checked into the hospital at Socorro Rojo.  Weary from the long, if enjoyable, day.  I fell quickly to sleep.  But, suddenly and sharply, I was wide awake.  The man whose “look” I’d noted at dinner was holding me down, one hand clamped over my mouth.  I fought him, clawing, kicking.  I couldn’t scream.  He raped me.  I kicked him away.  He fled the room.

I was stunned.  I sobbed, terrified.  I climbed from the bed, slowly, and pulled the blankets around me.  I ran down the hall to the bathroom.  There was no warm water.  I filled the bathtub with icy water.  I scrubbed and scrubbed, shivering from the cold and the fright.  Crying, shivering, I scrubbed for hours.  I couldn’t cleanse myself, however hard I tried.  I felt filthy, thoroughly filthy.  I washed and washed, and I cried into the cold, early morning darkness.

The next morning I didn’t know what to do.  What could I do?  Should I try to find a way back to Albacete?  Should I somehow get hold of Bob?  Should I try to reach Ed Bender?  What should I do? I had to calm myself.  This is war, I told myself.  Men are dying and maimed.  This is my burden.  As horrible as the rape was, the worst that could happen would be a pregnancy.  If that happened, I steeled myself, I would go to the hospital’s doctors or to Paris and have an abortion.

But should I tell Bob?  I asked myself, over and over.  I searched and searched for the answer and finally concluded: I must not hurt Bob with this.  If I tell him, I reasoned, Bob might kill the man.  Or one of the other Americans would, for sure.  There would be great trouble.  No this must be my secret burden.  I cannot tell anyone –ever.  What has been done cannot be undone.

I went down to the commissary where the two officers were eating breakfast.  One was, as always, cheerful and friendly.  He seemed confused when I didn’t sit with them.  The rapist was brazen, arrogant.  We continued the mission.  I ignored the rapist, but I could not get the rape off my mind.  But I went on with my work.  I interviewed the Englishwomen.  I memorized impressions and wrote notes.  When we returned to Albacete three days later, I reported to Bob about the Englishwomen’s efforts to distract the Americans.  I said nothing about the rape.  The war filled Bob’s mind.  I could not trouble him further, and I did not.

Nor was I pregnant.²

The man’s name has never been published.

Merriman wanted Marion at the celebration and says “Love in Bloom”  How I wanted you so!   One is left to imagine that this song might have been part of the “stunt” that the officers gave at the Celebration.

Winkler and Becker

Possibly Winkler (left) and Vidal (right) posing in front of a truck. ALBA Photo 177_175028, Tamiment Library, NYU

On the 30th, Merriman woke early and dressed for his “coming out” at Pozorubio and Tarazona in his new uniform and cap.  He showed them off at the 10 o’clock barrack inspection and at 10:30 parade where the Brigade said goodbye to Platone as he would go off to lead the Garabaldi battalion.  It must have been an impressive send off since a Communist Deputy from France came and all the Albacete commissars were mustered up.  Barthel, Winkler, Vidal and Carlos were there.   The photo on the right may be Winkler and Vidal.  Vidal informs Merriman that there will be a reorganization of the XVth Brigade and that he will be moving up.  For now, he will stay with the school until the “end of term” and then move to a command position.    Their entertainment must have gone well.

Merriman says that Steve Nelson, Walter Garland and Marion Greenspan (aka George Marion) came and in the session with “Marcy” or “Morry” they discussed the split between the PSOC and the Anarchists which occurred in the early part of May.  There are several possible Morry’s in the Brigades and this could be one of them.

We will find in the diary entry for May 31 that the Ciudad de Barcelona was sunk off the Catalan coast by a torpedo on May 30, 1937.  More on this in the next exciting installment.


¹  Steve Nelson James R. Barrett and Rob Ruck, An American Radical, University of Pittsburg Press, Pittsburgh, PA., 1981, pp 203-204.

² Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid, pp 147-149.

25-26 Mayo A Decision is made to name the Washington Battalion

May 25-26

Robert Merriman’s diary from May 25 and 26, 1937

Merriman is enough of a gentleman that he doesn’t name names when it comes to his friends.   From the post of the 24th, we know Bob Thompson and Joe Dallet picked up a nurse in Albacete and now we know they spent the night with her.  We find that she is trying to “replace women {in} battalion”.

The American Medical Bureau Team

From the Fredericka Martin Collection: (l-r) Fredericka Martin (head nurse), Dr. Eduardo Odio Perez, Dr. Alan Sorrell, Dr. Eddie Barsky (Chief Doctor), Mildred Rackley (interpreter, chief clerk), Anne Taft (R.N.), PHOTO 1:1:32:2, Tamiment Library, NYU

We have some possible suspects for this camarada.        Mildred Rackley was in charge of the recruiting of nurses and was in Spain about this time.  There was a sailing of a large number of nurses and doctors from the American Medical Bureau on the SS Normandie on May 19.  All evidence about Rackley being in Albacete is speculative.  Merriman (and presumably Marion as well since Bob stayed over with Marion) met the other three for breakfast and had a merry time.

Merriman goes to Room 22 in the hotel.  Room 22 clearly is one of the bigger suites.  Room 22 will be mentioned whenever Merriman goes to meet Party officials.  The meeting took some time and Robert Minor insists on a “milder” name for the second battalion than the “Tom Mooney Battalion”.   Tom Mooney was in San Quentin prison at this time and clearly “Washington or Jefferson” had less political baggage.  Minor wins out and the second Battalion becomes the “George Washington Battalion”.  Three out of the four Presidents on the monument being carved at this time in Keystone, South Dakota, were mentioned as names for Battalions.

After the meeting Minor and Harry Haywood depart for Jarama to visit the Lincoln Battalion on the lines.  Merriman says that Steve Nelson departs for Cordoba, probably to meet with the 60 or so “lost Lincolns” who are in the 20th Brigade at that point on the Cordoba front.  Those Lincolns will return to the XVth Brigade by July and clearly the intent is to put English speaking brigadistas in the XVth Brigade.

Merriman finds out the result of his X-ray of the 23rd and it is not good.  In addition to bone seepage, he still has a broken elbow which will need an operation to fix.   There is no evidence that Merriman actually had that operation and this note says that Merriman cannot straighten his arm.   In the photographs of Merriman for the next year, however, he is shown with his arm straight in some photographs so either he overcame the injury by exercise or the diagnosis here is wrong.   Knowing that Merriman has had a broken shoulder and a broken elbow may be of future use to forensic archeologists who may at some time come across Merriman’s remains in digs near Gandesa and Corbera in Spain.

Merriman goes to the Garde Nacionale and meets again with Pierre Lamotte, whose time in the Brigade obviously is shortening.  He says Lamotte was again fighting with people in the Intendencia and Merriman recognizes that his friend will have to leave this job.  Lamotte will shortly be arrested, charged with theft  and imprisoned for the length of the war.  He returned to the US in February 1939 under a questionable cloud.  Merriman says that “Stanley deserted”.  There is an Al Stanley in the Lincolns at this time but he went by the name Al Handler in Spain.  He was assigned to the Washington Battalion but there is nothing in his record on RGASPI that says he “deserted”.

The next sentence does not seem to follow and the closest parsing reads “Decision Maddry”, which could be Madrigueras. There was a decision needed on who would come from Madrigueras to Tarazona.  In another frenzied memo, Vidal chastises the Autopark for not providing enough transport to move 125 men from Madrigueras to Tarazona.  In any case, it is followed by some reference to party members being given jobs in “any place here”.

Merriman goes to check out the Ammo storage building that was sabotaged and finds it leveled.  His intent was to replace the guard on the building and realizes that there is nothing left to guard.  He pulls the guard off the wrecked building.  He returns to Pozorubio or Tarazona and says that he left Allan Knight in Albacete.

In a moment of “too much information”, Merriman must have been amused by Joe Dallet conducting his own “third arm inspection” (‘third arm’ or ‘short arm’  being military slang for an appendage which cannot be used to fire a gun) and washing his privates in the room.  At the time, Richard Baxell informs us of sanitary habits quoting from a letter from Australian Laurence Collier to Bill Alexander that resides in the International Brigades Archives at the Marx Memorial Library:

At this period of my life, I was 23, I was not very good at either love or sex, or shall we say love and sex.   There were a half a dozen young women I meant in the course of my service who attracted me, Angela H[aden] G[uest], Patience Darton, and a few Spanish ‘nurses’, etc.  I never got as far as to make a romantic suggestion, they all seemed out of reach (I was immature, or something).   When in Barcelona I visited a sort of red light district, and was rather appalled a a professional exhibiting herself outside a sort of booth which I suppose was a crude brothel.

I found a not unattractive ‘sensible looking’ woman of about 35 and suggested spending the night with her.  She said she was otherwise engaged but took me to a room where we had what can only be described as ‘surgical sex’, after which in a very business-like way she completed the ‘surgery’ by washing my parts with a solution of permanganate of potash.¹

The potassium permanganate or “Condy’s Crystals”  would have been a disinfectant.   While some men in the Brigades actually caught venereal diseases, there was enough knowledge at the time to reduce the potential for catching VD.

On the 26th of May, Merriman holds meetings with Ed O’Flaherty who went by the name Flaherty in Spain and Steve Daduk.  He meets with the camp commander and says he is “weak”.   A few days previously, Merriman was taken with the man who we now know is Tadeusz Oppman, a Polish lawyer who was the head of the Dombroski Battalion in the fall of 1936.   Merriman says that “Otero, a representative of Gallo” was inspecting the camp.   There is a memorandum sending Comrade Otero to the Albacete in the orders of the Command².

Merriman says that they had their first flag raising ceremony in camp with the Russians “Carlos” and “Roblet” there.  The flag went up upside down which must have been embarrassing.  During training Roblet read modifications to the Soviet military manual which had to do with tanks.  We are only left to guess what change was included other than, sarcastically, British driving tanks should drive on the right side of the road and not run over donkey carts.

Finally, Merriman finishes with Dr. Madan Mohan Lal Atal just saying that he is still suspicious of him.  Atal must be in Pozorubio and since this camp was top secret with open discussion of most political issues, Merriman was suspicious of Atal’s background.   As we said in previous postings, it is unlikely that Dr. Atal was a Communist Party member at this time.  We will hear no more of Dr. Atal in the diary.


¹ Richard Baxell, Unlikely Warriors, ibid. pg 251 and reference 55, therein.

²  RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 1/Delo 45/Pg 18  (May 14, 1937).