Book Reviews

5th February 2012

“THE LAST TO FALL. The Life and Letters of Ivor Hickman-an International Brigader in Spain” by John Wainwright.

Over the past couple of years I have been working with author and historian John  Wainwright, on his manuscript concerning the life and death of Ivor Hickman, a Brigader who tragically lost his life in the last battle of the British battalion of the XV International Brigade. On January 23rd, the book was at last published and the end result is, I feel, impressive. John has uncovered a wide variety of historical materiel to surround and understand the letters that Ivor sent to his wife, Juliet. From their courtship through to his last letter, their brief life together is movingly told. What is more, for the first time, John has written the most detailed account yet written of the actions of the British battalion during the Battle of the Ebro. Though Richard Baxell’s “British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War” (Warren & Pell, 2007) is THE book on the make up of the volunteers, the reasons why they went to Spain and the Battle of Jarama, sadly it only briefly covers the subsequent battles of the British battalion. Now, at last, John Wainwright’s book explains in great detail the Battle, using many first hand accounts. One slight criticism is that there is no map in the book to understand the landscape of the battle, but it is perhaps only when you visit the landscape and stand on the various positions described, does a more complete understanding become apparent to visitors. I heartily recommend this book to those who not only have an interest in the British Battalion in the Battle of the Ebro, but also to read a touching love story set against the turbulent backdrop of  the 1930s.  It is also an ideal gift for all those Spanish Civil War Widows (who I meet a lot of…) from their partners! Actually, maybe one could read this together in bed?

BUT WHERE CAN I GET THIS BOOK? You will probably see this book on Amazon. But it now seems to be unavailable as a first edition. However, a second edition has been produced by the author and so  if you do wish to receive a copy, signed by the author, please write directly to John Wainwright to purchase a copy. And if you plan this right, you may be able to have a copy signed to your partner as a gift, and once she has finished reading this very moving love story, you can hopefully read it? Well, I hope so! But seriously, this is a fascinating mixture of a personal story of love and also a much wider story of sacrifice and tragedy that deserves telling. It was also very moving to have discovered the photo of Ivor used on the bookcover, taken sometime during the Battle of the Ebro, from a selection of photographs of unidentified individuals from the Moscow Archives. And think of the brownie points you will get for giving a copy to your partner signed and dedicated!

To purchase a a second edition signed copy contact the author, John Wainwright, on



Direct from the author the book costs £10.99 plus £1.50 postage and packing in the UK


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