Stan Hilton (1918-2016)
Sadly, we have now reached the end of an era. With the death of 98-year old Stan Hilton, there are no longer any British veterans of the International Brigades who fought in the Spanish Civil war of 1936-1939 alive to tell their tale.
When 19-year-old Stan Hilton jumped ship in Alicante and volunteered to join the fight, he was convinced that “it was the right thing to do.” He was sent for military training at the British Battalion’s headquarters in the village of Madrigueras, just to the north of the main International Brigades headquarters at Albacete. His period of training (such as it was) completed, Stan joined the battalion in early 1938, as the British volunteers fought as part of the republican force desperately trying to hold on to the remote capital of Teruel.
With the republican army in disarray and communications having essentially broken down, Stan ended up having to undertake a dangerous swim across the fast-flowing Ebro river to evade being captured (or worse). Half-drowned, starving and exhausted, Stan decided that he had had enough of the Spanish war and headed for the Mediterranean coast. In March 1938, with the permission of the British ship’s captain, he boarded the SS Lake Lugano at Barcelona, and sailed for home.
During the Second World War, Stan served in the British Merchant Navy and, after demobilization, in 1956 he emigrated to Australia with his young family. He worked as a tiler in the building trade, living a quiet life, his presence long unknown to the UK’s International Brigade Memorial Trust. He died on October 21, 2016. Stan Hilton, tiler, merchant seaman and International Brigader, was the last of the last.
A longer version of this obituary appear in The Spain Report.