Kingdom’s International Brigade heroes honoured

The memorial at Forth Avenue in Kirkcaldy.
The memorial at Forth Avenue in Kirkcaldy.

In July 1936 General Franco started a rebellion against the democratically elected Republican government of Spain.

The call went out for an International Brigade and workers from all over the world set out for Spain.

They had developed an idea of working class solidarity against oppression and Franco.

Men and women from across the world started going to help the defence of that Republic. Scotland’s contribution to the British Battalion was 476 volunteers.

And among them were more than 40 men and women from Fife, including Kirkcaldy, Buckhaven and Methil, who made their way to Spain to take up arms.

By February 1939, the British government officially recognised Franco and by April his victory was complete.

But the toll of the Spanish Civil War was evident.

More than 600,000 people had died – 320,000 were killed in action, 100,000 executed, 250,000 imprisoned for up to 30 years or more and 340,000 in exile.

Those who weren’t killed were crammed into Franco’s concentration camps, penal labour battalions or settled down to a hungry future.

Close to 250,000 houses were destroyed and 150 towns severely damaged. One-third of total livestock was lost and 700 bridges and 11 cathedrals were destroyed.

Many volunteers returned home to the Kingdom but others died fighting for the cause. And the names of those brave Fifers are preserved on a memorial stone dedicated to them, on Forth Avenue, Kirkcaldy.

The British Battalion of the International Brigade first saw action in February 1937. To mark the 80th anniversary, the Fife Trades Union Council is holding a commemorative event on Saturday, February 25.

Ian Waddell, FTUC chairman, said: “The volunteers from Fife and elsewhere recognised the importance of defending the Spanish Republic. Franco was backed by the military might of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

“The British Government pursued a policy of non-intervention. But the people realised that fascism had to be confronted.

“We are holding this event to remember the contribution made by those from Fife to that fight.”

He continued: “There have been a number of similar events here in the past. We want to carry on this tradition.

“In particular, now we would like to hear from any of the families of those who went to fight in Spain.

“They have an important contribution to make to this and possible future events.”

The ceremony will be held on Saturday, February 25, from 11am at the memorial stone in Forth Avenue, before proceeding to the Adam Smith Theatre.

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