IBMT’s first permanent exhibition opens
A permanent exhibition about the International Brigades opened at Newhaven Fort in East Sussex on 28 May in a ceremony attended by family members of volunteers from Sussex and elsewhere.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is the British Battalion’s oldest surviving banner, which was brought back from Spain in December 1938.
Other displays include the “Antifascistas” exhibition that tells the story of the volunteers from Britain and Ireland, plus additional panels describing the impact on Sussex of the Spanish Civil War.
Mounted by the IBMT, the exhibition also features historic film footage of the return – via Newhaven – of the British Battalion and of a parade in Brighton in honour of local volunteers.
After the Spanish Civil War, the banner now in Newhaven was carried by International Brigade veterans at anti-Franco demonstrations in Britain. More recently it was displayed at the funerals of International Brigaders, where it was proudly draped over their coffins.
The exhibition was officially opened by Bill Thornycroft, aged 88, whose family, from nearby Worthing, was steeped in the cause of the Spanish Republic. Elder brother Chris served in the International Brigades, their mother, Dorothy, chaired the Worthing Basque Children’s Committee, elder sister Kate was its secretary and younger sister and artist Priscilla was active in the Artists International Association and campaigned vigorously for the Spanish Republic.
Speaking at the opening, IBMT Secretary Jim Jump, whose father, James R Jump, also from Worthing, was one of 20 volunteers from Sussex, said it was appropriate that the exhibition should be at Newhaven Fort, a Second World War museum and visitors’ centre on the cliffs above Newhaven. “The Spanish Civil War is regarded by many historians as a prelude to the Second World War, and the volunteers warned that a world war would follow unless the fascist powers were stopped in Spain.”
The IBMT’s Newhaven Fort Exhibition Project Leader, Mike Anderson, pointed out that another of the Sussex volunteers, Stan Hilton, the last known surviving British veteran of the Spanish Civil War, was coincidentally from Newhaven. Aged 96, he now lives in Australia.
“Newhaven was the gateway to Spain for many hundreds of volunteers who travelled to Spain from all parts of the British Isles,” he added.
Another of the exhibits is an inscribed Spanish Republican flag presented to British Battalion veteran David Lomon by the AABI Spanish International Brigades friendship group in 2012, only a few months before his death.
The IBMT also hopes to put on show the original plaque naming 90 members of the British Battalion who were killed at the Battle on the Ebro in 1938. Unveiled in 2005 in Catalonia’s Sierra de Pàndols, it was vandalised two years later by Spanish neo-fascists and broken into three pieces. A replica has since been unveiled, but the original has been shipped to Britain with the aim of it being mounted at Newhaven.
Open to the public from March to November, Newhaven Fort is a popular local attraction. It is also visited each year by nearly 10,000 schoolchildren studying Second World War themes.
A nine-minute film by Marshall Mateer showing highlights of the opening of the exhibition can be seen at: [www. youtube.com/watch?v=jwavty1eB_g]. Stills of the event can be viewed at [https://www.flickr.com/photos/ibmt].