Ebro memorial unveiled
A plaque to the British Battalion’s last stand in southern Catalonia in September 1938 was unveiled on 24 September 2013 by family members of those who took part in the fighting. Erected by the IBMT, it stands next to the old church of Corbera d’Ebre, which was ruined during the Battle of the Ebro and itself has been preserved as a memorial. Among the speakers at the unveiling were Jordi Palou-Loverdos, Director of the Catalan government’s Memorial Democratic agency, IBMT representatives, local dignitaries and family members of International Brigade volunteers.
In English, Spanish and Catalan, the plaque explains that 23 of the British Battalion’s volunteers were killed during those final three days of combat in the Battle of the Ebro, along with 175 of their Spanish comrades in the battalion. On 21 September 1938 the beleaguered Spanish Republic announced the repatriation of all foreign volunteers from its army. The move was a vain attempt to put international pressure on Hitler and Mussolini for the withdrawal of their troops and aircraft from General Franco’s rebel forces. The British Battalion elected to remain in its front-line positions until being stood down three days later. At the unveiling ceremony IBMT Secretary Jim Jump said the new memorial would inform future generations of the heroism, suffering and sacrifice of the International Brigades and their Spanish comrades. He added: “Seventy-five years ago, in September 1938, these volunteers were defending democracy and shedding their blood for the cause. “Let’s not forget that in that very same month, September 1938, the governments of Britain and France were shamefully doing a deal with Hitler and Mussolini in Munich. “Britain and France had already abandoned the Spanish Republic to eventual defeat. At Munich they sacrificed another democracy – Czechoslovakia – and made world war inevitable.” Jump also thanked Duncan Longstaff, the IBMT Trustee who had organised the memorial, as well as fellow Trustee Mary Greening and IBMT Patron Rodney Bickerstaffe, who gave generous donations towards the cost of the project.
A message from Bickerstaffe was read out by Dolores Long, IBMT Chair and daughter of Sam Wild, commander of the British Battalion during the Battle of the Ebro, and translated into Spanish by his grandson, Gideon Long.
The message said: “My thoughts are with the many International Brigade volunteers that I’ve had the privilege to know over the years, all of them, sadly, now gone. Among them was my good friend Jack Jones… Those brave men and women are now gone – but their memory and the lessons they taught us live on – thanks in no small part to memorials like this.” A slideshow of photos of the unveiling can be viewed here.