Category Archives: Valencia

13-14 Enero Barcelona to Valencia

January 13-14, 1937
Robert Merriman’s diary from January 13 and 14, 1937

As we can see from the diary, Merriman remained in Barcelona until his train left for Valencia on the afternoon of the 13th.   The one marked Secord is believed to be his spelling of the name of American Volunteer Douglas Seacord but it would need confirmation that Seacord was in Barcelona at that time.

As a bit of background for those who don’t know the timeline of the war, between 13 and 16 July 1936, a number of Generals of the Spanish Army, including General Emilio Mola Vidal and Francisco Franco organized the Spanish Foreign Legion in Morocco to lead an “invasion” of Spain.  We cannot reproduce that history here but there are many excellent books on this uprising against the elected Republican Government of Spain.  We can recommend Hugh Thomas¹ , Anthony Beevor², and Paul Preston³ as three additional sources of the background and history of the war (we will be building up a reading list as we go along).  Preston’s book is particularly good to understand the major leaders of the Second Republic as well as the “forces of the invasion” as the Spanish called the Fascists. By late fall, International units from all over Europe had been mobilized to help the endangered Republic.  By November 1936, Franco had built two assaults on Madrid, one from the south and the other from the north by way of the Asturian coast.  The division of Spain is seen in a map from Thomas’ book.

Map7
Map 7 from Thomas1, showing the division of Spain at the uprising. Burgos became Franco’s capital during the war.

Madrid held in November 1936 with the mobilization of the Madrileños, fortifications on the west of Madrid and a major battle at University city in the northern suburbs.  Famous in IB history was the arrival of the German Thaelman Battalion to help.  The first group of 96 Americans to travel to Spain left New York the day after Christmas in 1936.  Douglas Seacord was one of that group.   “C.H.” and “Liston Oak” were baffling.  Alan Warren explained Liston Oak in a comment attached to this post. However,Charlotte Haldane was also in Barcelona in 1937. We will discuss her in coming diary entries.

Merriman talks of the bombing of a hospital in Barcelona in January with 10 dead.  We have yet to find the details of that event but there is an article by Laia Balcells in Reis from October-December 2011 (reference included in pdf) which describes the air war on Catalonia by the Franquistas.  La Vanguardia now allows access to their archive and we could find no record of a bombing of a ship in the harbor killing 10 people in that week’s papers.  There was a torpedo attack on the Ciudad de Barcelona reported on January 10 (it survived this attack) and the bombing of the English Embassy on January 15.

Jan 10 Bombing
Torpedo attack on two Spanish vessels including the Ciudad de Barcelona, which survived the attack.
British Embassy Bombing
Bombing of the British Embassy January 15, 1937 (La Vanguardia.com)

 

 

Merriman also speaks of meeting Tom Wintringham, a commander of the British Battalion.  Wintringham is shown below and his book4 describes his exploits in Spain.   We will come across him several times in the next six months.

Winteringham
Tom Winteringham (credit: www.marxists.org)

And thanks to Chris Brooks’ comment where he points out that Kitty B.  is Kitty Bowler and Chris provided a link to her story with Wintringham.

¹ Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, Harper, New York, 1961

² Anthony Beevor, The Battle for Spain, Orbis Publishing, London, 2006

³ Paul Preston,  ¡Comrades! Portraits from the Spanish Civil War. London, UK: HarperCollins, 1999.

Tom Wintringham, English Captain, Faber, 1939

22 Octobre Copic returns from Valencia and drops a bombshell

22_Octobre_122_Octobre_222_Octobre_3

October 22, 1937
Robert Merriman’s diary pages covering the 22nd and 23rd of October, 1937

The discussion with James Bourne about his separation from the military aspects of the Brigade carried over onto October 22 and Dave Doran must have gotten into a fight with Bourne.  Merriman was called in.   Merriman feels that Bourne is not telling him everything and that he may have to be moved out.  Bourne holds out for the isolation of the Party members from the Brigades and this will not set well with those on the front lines.  He said that Bourne is intimating that he is under orders from people who are much higher up.

Schmidt
Egon Schmidt, ALBA PHOTO 177-188016, Tamiment Library, NYU

Major Crespo, the 2nd Chief of Staff of the Brigade, did not agree with Merriman’s moves of the Estado Mayor.   Merriman appears to have moved the office staff up from Quinto to these tents which were behind the hill south of Fuentes and out of the range of the Nationalist Artillery.   Merriman says that the move has been effective in getting work done.  Crespo insults Egon Schmidt who would have been a Captain on the staff at that point.    Crespo says Schmidt is only tolerated because they can’t find anyone else to do his job.   Merriman is looking to “clean the office” which seems doubtful will be done with a broom.

Bernard Singer who has returned from Hospital was sent on errands by Copic and he returned with all types of loot.  Merriman appears to be furious.  Rings were purchased which cost 800 pesetas each, Copic gets himself a double sized bathtub,  Merriman gets a piece of candy.   Merriman says Singer will be liquidated.  Sapir suggests that a check be done of Singer’s rank to see whether he is holding himself out at a level above what was formally approved at Albacete.  In September 1938, Bernard Singer, a soldado, was killed on the Ebro.  Merriman says he was like a “Country Boy being turned loose”.

Merriman gets “Gibbs” a new cook for the Kitchen.   This is possibly Theodore Gibbs, although he is not listed on the kitchen staff in the Brigades, he is listed as an ambulance driver.  Merriman has mentioned a negro on the previous pages as a writer who came up and wanted to be a Lieutenant and drive ambulance.   In any case, Gibbs crosses Copic by not getting him enough hot water so he can enjoy his large, new bathtub.  Copic has him arrested.   Later Dave Doran intervenes and has him released, but Merriman sides with Copic in that an order was given and not followed.  The personal dynamics between Doran and Merriman are illuminating here.

Langston Hughes and Crawford Morgan
Langston Hughes chatting with Crawford Morgan at Fuentes de Ebro front, October 1937. ALBA PHOTO 11-1347, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman takes Eric DeWitt Parker and Langston Hughes up to the lines but gets called back to Quinto to have a meeting with Copic and Jim Bourne.   Copic explains what happened in Valencia at the Comintern meeting.   “Alfredo” and Andre Marty came to Albacete and apparently nothing was decided whether the British would get their six month repatriation decision.   Copic’s suggestion that an army corp made up of the International Brigades was rejected.  General Walter may not stay with them at all as the Army Corps that they are in at this point, the 12th, is being disbanded.   Merriman says that Copic returned to Valencia and met with Comrade Maximoff and Bob Minor and others.  He was informed that a new Battalion might be formed and that his own “personal problem” was solved.  Copic had used terms like being stateless and having nowhere to go, it is possible that this personal problem was his future career in the Party.

Hans Klaus
Photo of Hans Klaus (identified as Klaus Becker in many ALBA photos but believed to be Colonel Klaus or Claus), ALBA PHOTO 177-177038, Tamiment Library, NYU

Then Copic drops the bombshell that he himself has been removed as Commander of the XVth International Brigade for the failure at Fuentes de Ebro.   Copic suggests that Hans Klaus will replace him and it is possible Copic will move up to command a Division.  Copic says he suggested Merriman become commander of the XVth Brigade. Whether any of this story has real substance is hearsay, since none of it actually happened.  Instead Dave Doran and Merriman write a letter to Valencia (presumably to Bob Minor) to object to this change and to see if they could stop it.   Copic makes a remark that if he were a professional soldier, this would “break his heart” but Merriman doesn’t buy it.  He thinks Copic is actually relieved to be able to move out.   Merriman talks to Denner (still have not located this person but he would have been with Cuerpo) and gets himself a salvo conducto to go to Valencia and make the case to keep Copic.    Merriman and Doran wonder if Bill Lawrence, the American responsible in Albacete, was behind the move to get rid of Copic.  Lawrence might have seen enough of the friction when he was at the front just before the attack on Fuentes de Ebro.   It is interesting that after all the attempts to move Copic out, now Merriman and Doran are loyally trying to save him.

Doran and Robinson
David Doran and John Robinson, September 1937, ALBA PHOTO 11-0753, Tamiment Library, NYU

In a final note for this day, Merriman says that John Quigley Robinson would be leaving to go to Valencia and then on to Moscow as part of the delegation of American Communists attending a Politburo meeting there.   Merriman would have liked to go.

17-18 Agosto The XVth Brigade Leaves for Aragon

August 17-18
Robert Merriman’s diary for the 17th and 18th of August 1937

The pace will pick up rapidly over the next month as the XVth Brigade now goes into repetitive action.   Merriman says that “Marceau” arrives to discuss his plan for the upcoming offensive.  We are checking but Marceau is not spoken of previously in the diary and if he is the planner for the Aragon Offensive, he should be well known.   Bill Lawrence is off to Morata to check on the Intendencia and auto park there.   Morata was the staging area for Jarama and men will begin to move away from that front towards the Aragon.   General Gal comes to tell Merriman that he will lose the Dimitroff Battalion and they will not go with the International Brigades on the offensive.   Since the Brigade should be 3000 men (5 battalions in strength), this means Spanish troops have to be added to the XVth Brigade.   Gal further tells Merriman he will get 10 new trucks and new guns if he turns in the old ones.   Merriman discusses the last action (Brunete) with Gal and the cooperation (or lack of it) between units.

Merriman says that a “Comrade” is here to check on the Russian anti-tank guns.  One can imagine that this is a Russian technical expert.   Merriman leaves after lunch and goes to Albares to discuss the preparedness of the Lincoln Battalion and Carl Bradley.  The diary reads “Nesler” returns from AWOL and one wonders if this is actually Frank Chesler who was in trouble previously in the auto park.  There is no Nesler in the American or Canadian lists.   Merriman also says that Samuel Gonshak wants to come back which indicates that he was under discipline for some time.

Paddy O'Daire
Paddy O’Daire, Mac-Pap commander August 1937 and British Battalion, November 1937. ALBA Photo 11-1277, Tamiment Library, NYU

Carl Bradley goes to the British Battalion.  “MacDougal” visited the British troops and Frank Ryan and George Wattis meet with them to discuss Paddy O’Daire and Peter Daly.   The issue of leaves is still being discussed on the eve of shipping out for the front.   It is apparent that Merriman is sounding out morale and who will be ready to fight in a few days.   Merriman talks with Jim Bourne to get feedback on Joe Dallet and whether the attitude in Albares (where the Americans were based) towards Dallet would be a problem.   “Let down, etc.” may indicate morale problems in the school after the lack of complete success at Brunete.

Merriman returns at 10 pm with Captain (note the emphasis) Wattis.   He was able to get a promotion through Copic.  Arthur Olerenshaw must have had to turn around and go back to get his bags, having mixed them up when he first came.  Steve Nelson returned from Morata and says that the Americans sent to the 24th Battalion (Spanish) were integrating well.

At 3 AM on the 18th, Merriman gets the orders to move.  He prepared orders for all companies and starts to pack up for the Front.  A Doctor named Martinez checked out the health of the men in Ambite.   Interestingly, there was a Doctor Eduardo Martinez Alonso who worked in this area about this time and was written about by Nicholas Coni.  It is not clear if this is the same “Martinez” but Martinez Alonso would desert the Republican side in 1938 and go over to minister to the Rebels.

The Brigade would go first to Valencia on the 18th and then take a train towards the train station in Hijar.   The convoy from the 18th would bring troops from Perales led by Vandenberg, Ambite/Albares led by Marcovics, and from Mondejar led by George Wattis.   Copic did not come back for the move (he would run on ahead to scout positions for the battalions), but General Gal came to see the Brigade off.  He tells Merriman that their target is Teruel.   Teruel fell to the Fascists in 1937 and that would be a target of attack later in 1937, but the direction was a deception, probably to divert the Fascists if the soldiers leaked where they were going.  The actual target would be Quinto.

The muster must have been impressive with 120 trucks involved and they also had to retrieve 250 men who were on leave in Madrid.  At 30 men to a truck, the whole Brigade would move on the 18th.  Bill Lawrence, Ed Bender and Joe Dallet arrive from Albacete to help with the move.  They brought news that Largo Caballero who was removed during May Days was reported to be working with the Anarchists to overthrow the Government.  The Communist International line was that the Brigade would go to the front to hold off the Fascists while other troops would clean up the Anarchists in the rear.  There is mention of an “Imperialist Division”, but that is not clear.

Bill Lawrence was not happy with some personnel decisions made by Steve Nelson and Merriman.  Joe Dallet must have gotten disciplined about the lack of support of the troops.  Dallet was accused of being “the most hated man in the brigade” by Seaman Oliver.   Joe Dallet, however, is known to have been liked by both Nelson and Merriman, so this may have been in the nature of an “attitude adjustment” that Dallet needed to make.  Dallet struggled with his “rank and file” attitude and yet he was in a leadership position.  It appears that Dallet or Merriman made comments against Rollin Dart.   Merriman is leaving but worries that Tom Wintringham was not going to be able to effectively lead the school. He says for another time that “Wintringham is not right” and Wintringham is removed from the Officer’s Training School.   Recall that Copic has purged most of the British Officers over the previous few weeks and this continues his purge of the British.   Canadian Bill Wheeler will go into the school at this point.  Wheeler will be back on the front lines in October so this leadership position in the school is short-lived.

General Gal’s battle with Ralph Bates did not end when Bates left Spain.  Now Bill Lawrence goes to Gal and tells him to fight the order that the Dimitroff Battalion will not go with the Brigade.   Gal says that he only takes orders from the Ministry of War.   Ignoring the senior political commissar in the American Battalion forces the issue to the top.  Lawrence says that the Dimitroffs either go with the Brigade or Gal will go.   In the end, Gal will go, but the Dimitroffs don’t move up.

Merriman eats in Tarancon with “the Rose of Tarancon”.   We had previously interpreted this as Sol Rose, but this may not in fact be the right person.   Merriman sends Marion a note that he is disappointed not to be able to get to see her in Albacete and says “next time”.

Perales-Valencia
Today’s route from Perales to Valencia (315 km). Flying in 55 minutes was not available to the International Brigades

The map above gives a scale of the move on the 18th of August.  Tarancon is a crossroads for two routes to Valencia.  Perales is near Morata de Tajuna where the Jarama Battles were staged.  The rest positions of Ambite, Albares and Mondejar are northwest of Tarancon.

 

 

15-16 Mayo The Merrimans return to Albacete and will go to Tarazona

15-16 May
Robert Merriman’s diary from May 15 and May 16, 1937
Almansa Map
Map of route followed by the Merrimans from Valencia to Albacete through Almansa. Source: Google Maps
Castillo Almansa
The Castillo Almansa. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

The Merrimans return to Albacete from Valencia with Jan Kurske.  On the way back, they do a little sightseeing at Almansa.  The map on the left shows the relationship between Albacete, Almansa and Valencia.  A current day photo of the Moorish Castle at Almansa is shown on the right.

Merriman reveals that the artillery training is in Almansa.

Upon his return to Albacete, he checks back in with Vidal, Platone, and Schallrock at Brigade HQ.  Schallrock or Schallroch was bypassed on the April 23 diary page.  Schallrock will have been in the Auto Park or Intendencia but he is not listed as a Lincoln Brigader, a Mac-Pap or British.  Schallroch will move up in June to replace Platone in the Brigade Staff.   At this point, we have been unable to identify Schallrock in the literature.

Merriman meets with Steve Nelson, Bill Lawrence and Jock Cunningham.  Cunningham, who was the English speaking Regimental Commander at this point, “got started”.   Merriman uses coded words to remind himself that conversations were heated and Cunningham was not one to use Oxford language.  He also says that Hans Amlie and, it is believed, Paul White also came and made “statements”.  Statements is also a code word for expressing their opinion that Merriman probably does not agree with.   “Statements rank & filism” is interesting because accusations were made about officers who took a proletarian posture and acted like a “shop steward” instead of a military leader.  Rank & filism in Merriman’s mind is a derogatory description of someone who is not tough enough on his men and doesn’t believe in command structure, someone who takes the rank and file position on issues.  About this time, debates were being held about saluting superiors.  This debate continued into the fall of 1937 and as the Brigades moved more and more towards integration in the Spanish Army, the pressure to look more and more like a traditional military organization was felt.  It is possible that the suppression of the anarchists and POUM in Barcelona was leading to pressure from the Soviets and Spanish commanders to bring the International Brigaders into a disciplined structure.  One is left to wonder what form this “discussion” took, but Merriman will continue to push the leadership to a more traditional military command look.

Ralph Bates
Ralph Bates lecturing to the Regiment de Tren, probably July 21, 1937, prior to going to Quinto. ALBA Photo 177-178037, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman notes that Ralph Bates is in Madrid to speak.  Bate lectured to the troops in Jarama on the events in Barcelona on May 14.  Bates giving a lecture to the Regiment de Tren is shown on the right.

On the 16th,  Merriman, James Harris and Bob Thompson went to pick up “Atal” who is Dr. M. Atal, the doctor in one of the training camps.    Dr. Atal is Indian by nationality¹, from Allahbad, and later will lead an Indian military mission to China during the Chinese War of Resistance.  Merriman reported earlier that the Doctor in the Villaneuva de la Jara was incompetent and this is likely to be Atal.

Merriman speaks to  a woman doctor and that she has been demoted.   Likelihood is that this is James Harris’ “Polish Woman Doctor”.   Harris is also Polish so they may have been just comrades but clearly they stuck together through March-April-May.  Merriman holds the interview in Pozo Rubio which would indicate to the Doctor that she will be examined out of public view.

Merriman takes the car and drives over to Madrigueras, the British training base, where he meets with Amlie and Marcovics, Dave Mates, Walter Garland and either Robbins or Ribley.  Merriman is there because in the afternoon, the Americans are being pulled out to form another American Battalion in Tarazona de la Mancha.  Tarazona will be the American base for the rest of the war and is about two miles west of Madrigueras.  Apparently, they expected resistance from the men or officers about this reorganization, but it happened.  Marion Merriman Wachtel says that Merriman was the commander of the Washington Battalion until this new third battalion was formed and that Merriman was in Tarazona in April.²  Eby states that the Washington Battalion was officially formed between April 1-6 and that its formation at Tarazona was at the insistence of Marcovics.³   The Battalion did not have a name until later when the men under Marcovics suggested the Tom Mooney Battalion.  That would be overruled and the name “Washington Battalion” was suggested by Robert Minor and officially was approved by the Communist Party offices in the US by June.   The diary seems to indicate that the second battalion was actually formed in mid-May and the third battalion even later in May.  Clearly, there were enough English speaking North Americans in Spain for three battalions and Marcovics would become the Commander and  Dave Mates would become the Commissar of the Washington Battalion. Merriman’s role as commander of the OTS and the NCO school is only briefly discussed in Wachtel and Lerude. Merriman would become the Commander of the third battalion in June and Joe Dallet would become its Commissar.

Merriman looped back past Pozo Rubio to pick up Marcovics and Joe Dallet and went on to Albacete to eat.  He met again in the evening with Nelson, Dallet and Bill Lawrence.  He ran the car out of gas in Albacete so he had to stay overnight.   Merriman mentions that he spoke with George Brodsky about the job as head of the Intendencia as supply officer.  This would have been a significant demotion for Brodsky but it was a way of offering Brodsky a job.   Brodsky has dropped from Battalion Commissar to a Battalion supply officer in a little over a month and this is consistent to reporting that Brodsky was not an effective commissarand the men resented him.

Merriman notes in the diary that the Largo Caballero government has now fallen.   The historical date that the government fell was May 17 and Juan Negrin took over as Prime Minister on the appointment of President Manuel Azaña.   Negrin would be Prime Minister until the Republic fell in 1939.  “May Days” is now over in Barcelona and the repercussions would be felt for another two months as the government will mop up opposition to the Negrin government.

Poster
Poster of the movie “Ruggles of Red Gap” Source: fulcrumgallery.com

The mysterious Mr. “Cleman” (previously read as Cleaver, Cleven, Clewes) will be going to Valencia.  It is not clear if he was recruited but Jean Barthel also is returning to Valencia so it is possible this is an assignment to the new SIM.   Merriman finishes the day by meeting with Arthur Olorenshaw and going to see two movies, Ruggles of Red Gap (a full length feature with Charles Laughton) and “Joaquin Murrieta” (an MGM short documentary on the Mexican revolutionary.

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¹ Shrinivas Tilak, Understanding Karma: In Light of Paul Ricoeur’s Philosophical Anthroplogy & HemeneuticsInternational Centre for Cultural Studies, 2006 – Hermeneutics – p329.  (page read online, no guarantee of this reference).

² Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid., p140.

³ Cecil Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid., pg 158.

 

13-14 Mayo The Road Trip Continues and Merriman Gets the Straight Dope

13-14 May
Robert Merriman’s Diary from the 13th and 14th of May, 1937

While Merriman clearly was on a rest and relaxation trip, he continued to work over the next few days.  He gained significant information for the Brigades in these discussions.

Becker and Barthel
Klaus Becker (left), a Spanish Nationalist Prisoner (center) and Jean Barthel (right), ALBA PHOTO 177-189039, Tamiment Archive, NYU

Upon awakening Merriman meets Jean Barthel (not to be confused with Jan Kurske, also mentioned).  “Bartel” who is Jean Chaintron (nom de guerre Jean Barthel)¹,², Commissar of the XVth Brigade.  Barthel is later shown in a photo with Klaus Becker of the Brigade with a prisoner and his uniform would indicate he is in SIM (Servicio de Investigación Militar, also unfondly referred to as the ‘checa‘, which was modeled on the Soviet NKVD¹).  SIM was formed in early May 1937 to respond to the uprising in Barcelona.   Merriman says that Jan Kurske also will go back to Albacete with them.  Stepanovich, the Yugoslavian photographer, was also in Valencia and Merriman looked for him without success.

The R&R continued later in the morning as they grabbed the car and Milly Bennett and headed off to Sagunto where they saw the Roman ruins.  Merriman confuses us with the Hotel Continental reference which is not in Sagunto but rather Valencia.  It is not clear if the “commandant” of the hotel in Valencia just got them a permiso to eat at Sagunto or if Merriman is mashing up the times.

Castillo de Sagunto
Castillo de Sagunto, Source: Wikipedia Commons

In the evening he says Milly Bennett wants to write a story about Joe Streisand.  We discussed before the death of Robert Pick and Streisand at Jarama while they were sent to mark the position of the enemy by placing an aviation signal and clearly Merriman thinks this is a heroic tale worth telling to America.

While working on the story with Milly Bennett, the news came through of the explosion on the HMS Hunter (H35) when it struck a mine while on “non-intervention” patrol.  The excitement would have been due to the hope that British ships being attacked could get the British government to rethink its non-intervention policy.  At the very least, Merriman would have thought the explosion to be schadenfreude.

On the last day of leave, Merriman again went to the beach with Milly Bennett (and presumably Marion).  He says they ate at Marellinar (which was previously thought to be La Marcelina).  If there was a restaurant by that name at the beach in Barcelona, it is not obvious now.  He says he saw Robert Minor and James Ford again, presumably at the restaurant not at the beach.

In the first reference in the diary to the “May Day” events in Barcelona, he meets with Luis Rubio Hidalgo, the head of the Spanish Foreign Ministry Press and Propaganda Department.  A new book has come out by our friend Amanda Vaill which gives a visual picture of Rubio when he met newspaperman Arturo Barea who is one of the subjects of Amanda’s new book, Hotel Florida:

Mije had a proposition for him.  The inclusion of Communists in the government has given him some patronage power, and he might be able to suggest Barea for a post a the Foreign Ministry– that is, if he had any fluency in English.  Although Barea’s other language was French, he read English well enough, and translate [sic] it; so within minutes he was being hustled off to the Foreign Ministry, where a harried young assistant ushered him into the crepuscular office of Luis Rubio Hidalgo, the newly appointed chief of the ministry’s Press and Propaganda Department.  Pale, bald as an egg, with a thin mustache on his upper lip and lash less eyes peering from behind round tinted lenses, Rubio sat impassively in the cone of light cast by his solitary desk lamp, his white hands folded in front of him, while Barea described his qualifications.  Then he asked Barea if he would like to join the Propaganda Department as a nighttime censor for the foreign press – an important job, since most journalists wrote and wired their stories from Madrid at night in order to catch the morning editions of their newspapers in Europe and America.

The moment the words were out of Rubio’s mouth, Barea knew they were what he was waiting to hear.  Although he was personally repelled by his prospective chief, the work the man was describing was essential and interesting.³

Merriman learns from Rubio the number of dead and wounded in Barcelona from the fighting there, information that the leadership of the Brigades in Albacete would want to hear from an authoritative source.  Merriman speaks again with the mysterious Mr. or Miss Griffiths.

Milly Bennett  wants to send a wire from Mr. “Herman” to the S. S. Berengaria left Cherbourg on May 13, 1937, and is making a voyage to the US from France (the Berengaria would sail from New York back to Europe with another group of 28 Americans on the 20th of May).  We believe that our mysterious “Mr. Herman” is actually Canadian Alan Herman who wrote under the name Ted Allan and would become close to Gerda Taro.  Ted Allan is also discussed in detail in Hotel Florida:

Allan was twenty-one, a dark, curly-headed youth who had volunteered for the International Brigades but had been drafted away from combat to be the political commissar of the mobile blood transfusion unit whose work Geza Karpathi {n.b., later a highly recognizable character actor who went by the name Charles Korvin} was filming.  He was also a romantic and deeply impressionable young man, and his first site of the two photographers, their cameras around their necks, still dusty from their drive to Madrid, struck him forcibly.  Capa, “black eyed, handsome,” and “already famous”, seemed impossibly glamorous to Allan, who was also an aspiring journalist, writing for Canadian leftist newspapers and broadcasting over the Madrid radio; but it was Gerda, with her short blond hair and bewitching smile, who took his breath away.³

The young and handsome Ted Allan was likely the “Herman” who had thoughts about Milly Bennett a couple of days before.  Marion Merriman likely was Milly’s chaperone who kept them apart as they Milly and Marion were sharing a room in Valencia.

We don’t know the subject of the wire that Ted Allan wanted to get to the Berengaria or who it was sent to.  The ship list is accessible on Ancestry.com and it is interesting that Angus_Lewis_Macdonald, Premier of Nova Scotia, Canada, was aboard the vessel.  Also aboard were about a dozen foreign nationals who were sponsored in their visit to the US by the Chicago Tribune, some were academics.  Also on board was Maxine Darrell, a Ziegfield Follies dancer, but it is unlikely that she would be the target of this wire.   Harry Langdon, the comedy actor was also on the Berengaria.  The US Citizens were not required to reveal their occupations so if a fellow reporter were on board, the name would have to be known to figure this mystery out.   Amanda Vaill has explained in an email that she believed that John Dos Passos was on the Berengaria on this sailing.  An Ancestry search shows that John Dos Passos sailed to the US on May 19, 1937, from Le Havre and Southhampton on the SS Paris.  Perhaps Ted Allan and Milly Bennett thought that Dos Passos would make the Berengaria sailing and were looking to send him a story.

Merriman again talks to Constancia de la Mora and discusses her husband Ignacio Hildalgo de Cisneros, who is head of the Air Force and importantly, reports directly to Indalecio Prieto, who within the next week will move from Minister of Finance to  Minister of Defense in the new Negrin government.  He finishes the evening with another discussion with Milly Bennett, ending a very long two days of the diary.

 

 

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¹ Thomas, Spanish Civil War, ibid. p 376, p493.  Note Thomas spells the nom-de-guerre as “Bethel” but this is incorrect.

² Richard Baxell, British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Battalion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939, Routledge/Canada Blanch Studies on Contemporary Spain, London, 2004, p. 66.

³ Amanda Vaill, Hotel Florida, Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War, Ferrar, Stratus and Giroux, New York, USA, 2014.  pp 52-53.