Category Archives: Timeline

17-18 Enero Arrival at Albacete

January 17-18, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary from January 17 and 18, 1937

Edward Arthur Burroughs, the Bishop of Ripon in England, quoted a British seaman on war in Fight for the Future (1916):

“Months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror” : such is a description of life in the Navy which a naval lieutenant quotes as exactly fitting the facts.

Merriman’s diary is not difficult at all to understand for these two days in January but his diary is rarely filled by boredom.  Even when not in battle, Merriman kept extremely busy and we will have few breaks over the year with as little to explain as in these two days.

At the time of his arrival in Albacete, the base of the International Brigades, Merriman was not officially in the International Brigades and was trying to sign up.   Bob Merriman will spend a considerable amount of his next year in this area, leading the training base.  The “Cadres” office, mentioned in the Diary, was the Communist Party office in Albacete and the point of contact for those who were either sent by the Communist Party or who had a party card.  At this time, the Brigade Training was led by André Marty, Commander of the Base at Albacete,  and  Lucien Vidal of France¹, who was later to lead at Albacete.

Molly Murphy

Mrs. J. T. (Molly) Murphy

Mrs. J.T. Murphy was named Molly and there is a short biography here.  She served as a nurse in Spain.

We have not figured out who “e. R” is (although it is nearly certain that it is not Elizabeth Regina).

A tremendous resource for untangling these diaries should be mentioned here.  Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude wrote a memoir about Robert Merriman in 1985, American Commander in Spain¹.  Mrs. Wachtel’s reminiscences of the time are touching and give much greater insight into Merriman’s state of mind in going to Spain than does the diary.   Marion did not accompany Bob on his entry to Spain and they had had quite a row over his leaving to volunteer to fight in the Spanish Civil War.  Marion subsequently was ordered to leave Russia after Bob’s departure.  And we can see that Merriman let his emotion of the moment sneak into the diary with the line interposed between the paragraphs “Lonesome – fear!!”   His wife’s memoir fills in a lot of the true emotion he felt about himself and his comrades at the time.  It should be read along with this diary.

¹ Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, University of Nevada Press, Reno, 1986.

11-12 Enero Salud España!

January 11-12, 1937

Robert Merriman’s Diary for January 11 and 12, 1937

On January 11, 1937, Robert Merriman crossed into Spain by train and began the journey of his lifetime. The first few diary pages are from his impressions of Barcelona and Valencia as he moved southward to the Albacete training base of the International Brigades.

His traveling partner was Milly Bennett (Mildred Mitchell) who he joined up with in Paris.  Mildred was writing for a Russian newspaper at the time, but had been a reporter with the Daily News in San Francisco with wild experiences in China in the 1921.  Her own exploits were written up in a book “On Her Own: Journalistic Adventures from San Francisco to the Chinese Revolution, 1917-1927.”   Milly Bennett had been in China with William Burton, brother of another Lincoln Vet Wallace Burton, and they were in Spain, her as a reporter and Wallace to fight.  More on Wallace Burton later in the year.


Milly Bennett’s autobiography of her time in China with the only photo found of her at this time. (Courtesy: Matt White, web source)

Peter Carroll¹ describes their meeting in Paris:

“When Millie Bennett, correspondent for the Moscow News, entered Brentano’s bookshop on the rue Operá in Paris in early January 1937 in search of a Spanish dictionary, she was surprised to see her old Moscow drinking buddy, Robert Merriman, snatching books about Spain by the fistful…. Soon the two Californians were charging around Paris to buy a revolver, cartridges, and (with memories of the World War) gas masks to fit over their horn rimmed glasses”

The sentence starting the Diary was “From Paris with Milly Mitchell unusual united front” meaning that they two of them were an unusual united front.   We have been unable to decipher who “A.E., A.W” were.

As an example of the excitement that Merriman had for his experience in Barcelona, in the earlier diary pages from January 1 to 11, he had taken notes of the posters he had seen.  Here are two pages:

January 3-4

Pages from Robert Merriman’s diary describing signs he saw in Barcelona

January 5-6

More signs seen in Barcelona and Valencia


¹ Peter Carroll, The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, Stanford University Press, 1994.

An Introduction to the Merriman Diaries

Welcome to Jorgensen Sites.  Rickard Jorgensen has graciously agreed to host this blog.  The site  is dedicated to the Robert Hale Merriman and the diaries he wrote while in Spain during the Spanish Civil War (January 1937 – April 1938).   We hope that readers of these diaries will understand more about the man and the nearly 2700 Americans who fought in Spain under the banner of the XVth International Brigade and particularly the Lincoln and Washington Battalions of the Brigade.

This project will replay Robert Merriman’s two diaries at the pace they were written.  The diaries are handwritten in an approximately 3.5″ x 5.6″ bound book which you can see the cover of below.  As Bob Merriman’s handwriting was dense and changed much over the year that it was written, we provide a transcription, which is a work in progress at this time.   You may disagree with our transcription.  You may be able to figure out what that strange word is and help us out.  If you are not familiar with the history of the Lincoln Brigade, much of what is written will be cryptic and need explanation.   To that end, Rickard has formed a team of about six people who have transcribed the diary and will provide a commentary for each of the postings.  In that way, we hope you will learn about Spain, about this war, about the Americans involvement in fighting fascism and understand why we believe this diary is an important historical document that needs preservation and exposure to the public.

We hope you will follow our project and enjoy reading Bob Merriman, in his own hand.

Diary Cover

Robert Merriman’s First Diary

We make the following suggested path for new users…. start below by clicking on “Next Post” and it will take you forward in time from posting to posting.  When you get tired, mark down the day you stopped at and then return using the Calendar on the left. A warning, though, when you return using the single date archive, it does not offer the “Previous Page” “Next Page” navigation button. To again read multiple pages, click on the Monthly Archive, i.e. “Jan” or “Feb” in the bottom corners of the calendar. Navigation through the month will be available at the bottom of that page.

Or just join us where we are now and follow Merriman’s footsteps in Spain in 1937.

En Espanol (traducido por Jaime Cinca):

Bienvenido a sitios Jorgensen. Rickard Jorgensen ha accedido amablemente a acoger este blog. El sitio está dedicado a Robert Hale Merriman y los diarios que escribió mientras estuvo en España durante la Guerra Civil Española (desde enero de 1937 hasta abril de 1938). Esperamos que los lectores de estos diarios comprendan mejor al hombre y a los casi 2.700 norteamericanos que lucharon en España bajo la bandera de la XV Brigada Internacional, y en particular de los batallones Lincoln y Washington de dicha brigada.
En este proyecto se vuelven a reproducir dos diarios de Robert Merriman, al ritmo en que fueron escritos. Los diarios están escritos a mano, en un libro de aproximadamente 3.5 “x 5.6 “, del que se puede ver la portada más abajo. Como la letra de Bob Merriman era densa y cambió mucho a lo largo del año en que fue escrito, le ofrecemos una transcripción, que es un trabajo actualmente en proceso. Usted puede estar en desacuerdo con nuestra transcripción. Quizá usted sea capaz de averiguar lo que dice esa palabra extraña y ayudarnos. Si usted no está familiarizado con la historia de la Brigada Lincoln, gran parte de lo que está escrito será un enigma y necesitará una explicación. Con ese fin, Rickard ha formado un equipo, de unas seis personas, que han transcrito el diario y le proporcionaran una explicación para cada una de las publicaciones. De esta manera, esperamos que usted aprenda acerca de España, sobre esa guerra y sobre la participación de estadounidenses en la lucha contra el fascismo, y entienda por qué creemos que este diario es un importante documento histórico que necesita ser conservado y expuesto públicamente.

Esperamos que siga nuestro proyecto y que disfrute con su lectura, de la propia mano de Bob Merriman.

Consejos de navegación en este Sitio para nuevos usuarios: vaya a la parte de abajo de este artículo y haga clic sobre “Next Post” (siguiente artículo). De esta manera podrá ir pasando de artículo en artículo cronológicamente.

Cuando tenga que abandonar este Sitio, anote en qué fecha lo deja (la fecha puede verla siempre en el título o en la primera línea de cada artículo), así cuando le interese  retomar dicha fecha podrá hacerlo usando el calendario que hay en la columna izquierda. En ese calendario también puede seleccionar cualquier otra fecha que le interese y verá lo que Robert Merriman escribió ese mismo día de 1937 en su agenda, y el correspondiente artículo que ilustra aquellos hechos.

En la traducció al català per Marisa Biosca

Benvinguts i benvingudes a

Rickard Jorgensen ha acceptat amablement mantenir aquest blog. Aquest espai està dedicat a Robert Hale Merriman i els diaris que va escriure a Espanya durant la guerra civil española. Esperem que els lectors i lectores  d’aquests diaris puguin arribar a saber més i conèixer millor a Robert Merriman i els gairebé 2.700 americans pertanyents als batallons Lincoln i Washington, que van lluitar a Espanya sota la bandera de la XV Brigada Internacional.

Aquest projecte torna a situar els diaris personals de Robert Merriman al lloc on van ser escrits. Escrits en un llibrets enquadernats de 3’5 per 5’6 polzades que podeu veure a la part de baix. Com la lletra de Bob Merriman era molt petita i va canviar molt durant el temps que va escriure el diari, nosaltres hem facilitat una transcripció, que actualment està en procés. Podeu no estar d’acord amb la transcripció, però també podreu imaginar la dificultat per comprendre algunes paraules, així que la vostra ajuda serà benvinguda.

Si no esteu familiaritzats amb la història de la Brigada Lincoln, gran part del que s’ha escrit serà un misteri per a vosaltres, i per això ha de ser explicat.

Amb aquesta finalitat, Rickard ha format a un equip de sis persones per transcriure el diari, i que també comentaran cadascun dels registres. En aquest sentit, esperem que conegueu una mica més sobre la guerra civil espanyola i de la participació dels americans en la lluita contra el feixisme, i fer-vos comprendre per què aquest diari és un document històric rellevant que necessita conservar-se i al mateix temps donar-ho a conèixer al públic.

Us suggerim que seguiu les indicacions per als nous usuaris. Començar baix clicant en “següent registre”, i podreu anar avant en el temps d’un registre a un altre. Quan estigueu cansats, podeu marcar l’últim registre del dia que heu llegit i torneu al calendari de l’esquerra. Un petit advertiment, encara que podeu tornar cap a arrere usant solament la data de registre, de moment no és possible utilitzar-la per a anar al registre anterior o registre següent. Així que per a poder llegir diverses pàgines, clica en ” arxiu mensual”, per exemple, “gener” o ” feb” clicant de nou en les cantonades del calendari. Així  dons, mitgançant el mes podreu moure-us o navegar al peu de página.

Esperem que seguiu el nostre projecte i que gaudiu llegint els diaris personals que Bob Merriman va escriure de pròpia mà, i potser, si ho desitgeu, també podeu unir-vos a nosaltres i seguir els passos del professor i comandant Bob Merriman durant la guerra civil espanyola en 1937.