Hospitals and Medical support for the Spanish Republic

The International Brigade Hospitals at Tarancon and Villa Paz. Thursday  October 20th  2011

With the help of Ernesto Vinas of the Research Group Brunete en la Memoria (www.bruneteenlamemoria.com) and Maximo Molina of ARMH Cuenca (www.armhcuenca.org/armh.html), we arranged a visit to “El Hospitalillo” in Tarancon, which is in danger of being knocked down and redeveloped. With the presence of a group of family and friends of  American brigaders, we discussed the possibility of the alcadesa supporting the plans of ARMH Cuenca to preserve the building as a place of memory and interpretation concerning the Francoist repression and also the International Brigade contribution  to the Medical Services in Spain. Interviews were made with the local Television channel and some videos have also appeared of a “Guerrilla” Public Art show on the gates of “El Hospitalillo” later in the evening which was a great success.

Ernesto Vinas and Angel Rodriguez of Brunete en la Memoria being interviewed by Tarancon television after the meeting with the alcadesa to ask for her help to save “El Hospitalillo”.

Lise Vogel, daughter of Dr Sydney Vogel, who served in the American Medical Services in Spain being interviewed by Tarancon Television.

 They can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDnFq5PMXTs&feature=share

And here is another video concerning the visit earlier in October by Allan Craig with Mike Arnott to place an olive tree in memory of his father, who was wounded at Jarama and subsequently died at Tarancon hospital. A very moving event was held in the cemetery that weekend.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxxRauuRYPU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

David Boyd leaves flowers at the memorial to Scottish Brigader Allan Craig who was buried in Tarancon cemetery at the memorial unveiled earlier in October by Allan Craig, Allan’s son.

The memorial to Allan Craig and the Scottish brigaders who died in Spain, set up by Maximo Molina and ARMH Cuenca on 9th October 2011

Ernesto,  Angel and Maximo at the memorial to Allan Craig

Thank you to Maximo for organising both of these  events. If you wish to visit Tarancon then please contact Maximo on armhcuenca@yahoo.es  ______________________________________________________

Villa Paz American Hospital No. 1 near Saelices. Thursday 20th October 2011.

James Neugass was at Villa Paz on 6th December 1937 and wrote in his recently published book War is Beautiful:

Menu at Villa Paz. Breakfast       

1. Coffee, tasting of chicory and parched wheat, sweetened by condensed milk.                        

2. Army bread in measured amounts. The oval flat bread loaves lack the tase of flour or yeast and shortening. Tasteless even when fresh. I wonder how it could grow stale.                        

3. Wateryacid-tasting orange peel jam.  

Lunch.            

1. Bread.                        

2. Soup, flavoured by potatoes and tomato.                        

3. Garbanzos. These are dried chick peas, mostly imported from Mexico. They are the size and shape of chicken’s brains. When boiled they develop a thick velvety skin. Salt and pepper, small amounts of onion and of tomato paste heighten their nutty flavour.                        

4. Coffee  

Dinner.           

1. Bread.                        

2. Garbanzos thinned out into soup.                        

3. Boiled mule-ribs flavoured by potatoes.                        

4. Vino. Good, rich Spanish red wine, slightly cut.

Menu for the patients.

The same as above, with the addition of condensed milk and small amounts of eggs, breakfast cereals, vegetable essences imported from the States and oranges. Some of us remember that there was cheese for breakfast and eggs for the staff. I believe that during the early days someone ate ham. If there was ever butter, it has been forgotten. There is no officer’s mess. Our officials eat with us. Dishes, cups and utensils are of tin. There  are no table cloths or napkins. Second servings are not given. After dinner much of the hospital staff drifted into the hall near the offices. The generators had again failed. By candlelight, chofers and officers cleaned their pistols. The victrola was played, and a couple listlessly danced in the half dark, between tables and chairs. Some of the sparse talk was of the Cordoba expedition. We had sent a surgical team to that front. They had seen little action. At eight thirty the lights again turned on, and it was possible to carry through the trials of two patients, for drunkenness. Ambulatory patients and staff members to the number of some eighty assembled in the dining hall. The Commissario, about whose duties I must soon write many pages, presided. One of the criminals was a young Frenchman. His arm was held at the height of his neck by a special sort of wire splint. Thick black hair, burning blue eyes, thin white face with cheek bones made more prominent by vivid color, and wavy, untilited mouth gave him an almost girl-like look. The other criminal was a tough looking Belgian whose neck was in a plaster cast. Patients who had been in action with the two wounded Internationals testified. The records were good. ….. Both men had decent political and trade union histories in the countries from which they had come. The French youth spoke. He said that his arm did not pain him, that he was tired of waiting for it to get well, that he was fed up with listening to Toulouse over the radio. The Belgian seemed apt to defend drinking as a natural part of every man’s life. He denied that he had been drunk. Man after man from the Belgian’s ward then testified that the comrade’s ravings had kept them awake many a night…… Speaker after speaker, each infected by the other’s oratory, took the floor. Each address began with statements of devotion to the Spanish republic, to democracy, to the People’s Army and to the world wide working class movements. The interpreter who had conscientiously rendered every word spoken into Spanish and English began to be disregarded. The Belgian, still insisting that he had never drunk since he had come to Spain, broke out into a throbbing mixture of German, French and Dutch which someone told us was Walloonish. For the second time that evening the Commissario spoke, in Brooklyn English. He asked the patient who had admitted his guilt to sentence himself. The Frenchman rose, and in the dead silence which had come over us swore that he would never get drunk again. To show that he meant this, he asked that his next ten day’s pay be turned over to the Spanish Red Cross. The Belgian then had his chance. “But I wasn’t drunk,” he insisted. “And now I’m going to show you that I’m as faithful a proletarian as any man or woman in this room. I sentence myself to the loss of twenty days’ pay, all to be turned over to the Socorro Rojo.” While the dining hall still rocked with applause, the Commissario took the vote. Not quite unanimously, the self-sentences were accepted. After the local secretary had made a special appeal for funds to but and electric light generator which would not break down and after the liberal collection had been taken, the meeting ended. That night the French youth again got drunk. He had too many friends, too much pain and too light a head. There is almost one staff member for every patient, not because we are overstaffed, but because of the policy of giving easy work to the light-wounded.

The eight members of the guard who man the sentry box at the archway are all unfit for service at the front. Cockney John Milly, the sergeant of the Guard, is a TB suspect. Bregman, a radio mechanic from Pittsburgh, “folded up after driving as truck too long.” Steve Tandrik, Jugoslav responsable of transport, who books, loads, inspects and dispatches all cars, has insomnia. “I haven’t slept for years,” he explains. “I sit in bed and think all night and when I collapse I sleep a little but my eyes stay open.” Steve has a nervous stomach. Joe Young, West Coast seaman and storekeeper, got a lung wound out of Brunete. Night after night, arguments about the Brunete campaign of last August surge up and down the wards. “The war only lasted five minutes for me,” says Moe Fishman, a frail twenty year old Brooklyn boy with the look of a rabbinical student. “Marty (this was Captain Martin Hourihan, of New Orleans and the United States Army) orders us up Mosquito Hill. I got to the top and pulled back my breech bolt. I picked out a big greasy Moor for myself, but before I had a chance to fire, they drilled me.” Moe is all plaster of paris from the waist down.  

Through Ernesto Vinas’ hard work we were invited to visit the American Hospital No 1 at Villa Paz close to Saelices. We had met the alcadesa earlier in the summer and through her kindness we were invited by the owners to visit the Hospital. We were kindly welcomed  into the massive building and with the help of various letters from American nurses, James Neugass’ book “War is Beautiful” as described above aswell as Jason Gurney’s description from his book “Crusade in Spain” which describes the same hospital after he was wounded, made the place come alive.

Villa Paz American Hospital No. 1.

The interior of Villa Paz courtyard  where the ambulances dropped off wounded for treatment.

However, the biggest surprise still awaited us. The owners asked us if we would like to see the Hospital Library. I quietly assumed that it was the place where the Library was once situated. But to our astonishment, we were shown a whole wall with between 300 to 400 books that were once the Hospital Library for the patients!

Some of the Library shelves…

and just some of the many books!

 We were amazed to see this and spent a great deal of time taking out and studying the many different titles. The majority were in English with some German books and a wide variety of inscriptions and book stamps from the various groups who donated books to the cause. The name “Sarah L. Kee” (the African American nurse, whose name, I thought was Salaria Kea?) was written in one book and other names popped out as we studied them.

And in this book…..

…..is the name “Sarah L. Kee”.

(Photo courtesy of Angel Rodriguez)

Salaria Kea assisting Dr. Albert Byrne with an operation at Villa Paz

I was particularly taken by a copy of G.A. Henty’s “Under Wellington’s Command”. I just hope that the Brigaders who read that book whilst in Villa Paz were not inspired to emulate Wellington’s strategies in Spain in 1937!

A Boys’ Own “Ripping Yarn” by G.A. Henty!

 But seriously, whilst this property is in private ownership, we have now made contact with the owners and after discussion with Ernesto Vinas and Angel Rodriguez, I would like to propose a project to record and catalogue this collection of books. And to whet your appetite, here are just a few examples of what we have found so far:

(Photo courtesy of Angel Rodriguez)

(Photo courtesy of Angel Rodriguez)

(Photo courtesy of Angel Rodriguez)

(Photo courtesy of Angel Rodriguez)

A close up of James Wright’s dedication. From the inscription, this book was originally given to the “Hospital Inglese” at Huete and found its way, perhaps by way of an “inter-library” exchange, to Villa Paz.

(Photo courtesy of Angel Rodriguez)

(Photo courtesy of Angel Rodriguez)

(Photo courtesy of Angel Rodriguez)

(Photo courtesy of Angel Rodriguez)

 

Just a small sample of the books  at Villa Paz…..

 If you would be willing to help us by contributing to such a project, for American donors I can pass on details of a trusted American to receive payments, and for British donors, I can ask one of the IBMT committee members to take in any kind donations too. Please write to me at hill705@gmail.com if you are willing to help and I will pass on contact details of the people who will collect any donations. And to start this Project I am putting up 50 euros as an initial donation to the Project. I hope that others will be good enough to help support this project over time. Thank you. I hope that some of you will be able to assist us in this exciting project. And to show you what we found I have put up some rather poor quality photographs that I took. Many thanks to Angel Rodriguez for providing the better quality photographs above. . On another point, the owners were also able to identify shots from the Henri Cartier Bresson film “Victoire de la Vie” taken in the Hospital. To our intense surprise, we also saw in the film Moe Fishman in the hospital losing a game of chess! And here for your pleasure is the film “Victoire de la Vie” by Henri Cartier Bresson. In the first part go to 8’36” to 14’04” for the clips of Villa Paz. I am sorry it is in French, but you will see  Moe Fishman at 12’16” playing chess aswell as Salaria Kea at work at 13’01”.  The doctor working with Salaria is Dr. Justin Byrne

and

Sorry. I cannot find the first part of this film! The children’s Fiesta held at nearbye El Castillejo is in the second section above from 1’41” to 6’27”. The alcadesa of Saelices showed this film recently to the villagers at a public meeting and many could identify their family as children at the Fiesta! The ruined castle is quite charming and one can easily identify the castle in the background of the film where the fiesta took place.

El Castillejo ruins

But El Castillejo is another story…. Though here is a taster for you!

Linie de Vries writes about El Castillejo in her autobiography Up from the Cellar:

I was notified that Dr Barsky wished to see me in his office. I wondered what on  earth the problem was. I had never been called to his office before. I soon found out. He told me to take Modesta-who had joined us now- and take over at Castillejo. The hospital there had fifty patients and a Dutch doctor in charge, “I want you to get Castillejo organised so that it can handle three hundred convalescent patients. Two hundred and fifty cots will be delivered soon. You will also need hospital supplies. I am counting on you to handle all the rest- feeding, laundry, care, and so forth- for a potential three hundred patients,” Dr Barsky said very calmly…… Down the hill, past the tumbling trout stream alongside the ruins of an old Moorish castle, Modesta and I rode on a small truck, carrying our clothing and supplies for Castillejo. When we entered the patio, I saw that it was even larger than Villa Paz. Two beautiful Great Danes (Franco and Bruno) guarded the entrance and barked furiously at us. I wondered if they had been left behind by royalty. Modesta and I braved the dogs as we entered the patio in search of the doctor. We found him in the kitchen, sterilising instruments. I told him that I had been assigned to help. Dr Theo van Reemst seemed to know all about it. Jokingly he said, “Let’s hang up the Dutch flag, seeing that a de Vries will be working with a van Reemst.” He continued in a more serious vein, “I have one right-hand man, peter. Let him show you about, find you a room, and then see what you can do about converting this into a three hundred bed hospital.”

There is a lot more to do here and any letters from nurses or doctors who served here, especially from the Mildred Rackley Archives and Doctor Edward Barsky Archives at the Tamiment Library concerned with these hospital would be gratefully received and acknowledged as we plan to publish a book on this hospital aswell as other Hospitals served by the American Medical Services in Spain. We have found the places and are making good contacts with the people who live here, but to make the places come alive for future visitors, we would be grateful for the memories of the Americans who served there. At present we have only a small amount from books and other Spanish archives including listings of wounded held in the various hospitals, but with help from American friends who have access to the Tamiment Library we can make it more understandable by the exchange of information from here in Spainand in the USA. Please contact either Ernesto Vinas on evcos37@yahoo.es or Alan Warren on hill705@gmail.com

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A visit to the  Jarama Battlefield  and Tarancon Hospital with the son of Scottish Brigader Allan Craig. 6th to 11th October, 2011

Here at last are some photographs of Allan Craig with IBMT committee member Mike Arnott, visiting the memorial to his father, Scottish Brigader Allan Craig, who was wounded at Jarama and later died at Tarancon Hospital in February 1937. It was a very moving occasion and hopefully other activities can take place in Tarancon if our joint efforts in the Campaign to save “El Hospitalillo”, which was used as one of the IB hospitals during the Spanish Civil War. Ernesto Vinas of Brunete en la Memoria (www.bruneteenlamemoria.com) has been collating a lot of information about the wounded and dead  from Brunete and other hospitals and is a gold mine of information for family researching their history in the International Brigades. Contact Ernesto on evcos37@yahoo.es

Fernando Rovetta, coordinator of CEDOBI, with Allan Craig and Mike Arnott at the memorial to the International Brigades in the grounds of the University of Castille la Mancha in Albacete.

Allan and Mike in front of the Albacete bullring

The memorial

Allan at the memorial to his father in Tarancon cemetery

Some of those who attended the commemoration

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30th March 2011

Tarancon Hospital to be knocked down?????

“El Hospitalillo” in Tarancon

As mentioned earlier in this blog (22nd to 25th February)  a group of us had the pleasure of visiting Tarancon just east of Madrid where three American Hospitals were based  during the War. The main hospital had been knocked down, the second in good condition but inaccessible and the third, Hospital Santa Emilia or locally known as “El Hospitalillo”, a sad ruin inside and out.

left to right: Jesus,  Alan Warren, Harry Owens,  Jesus Garrido Gallego & Geoff Cowling outside the hospital in Tarancon, 23rd February 2011

Last week we heard from the Municipal Archivist Jesus Garrido Gallego (jesus23460@hotmail.com) that the Hospital was going to be demolished and to ask for letters asking the Ajuntamiento to reconsider the plan. The meeting to present this was on Tuesday evening and we were only told over the weekend! Admittedly the plan is to demolish the building and to build there a Home for Old People, which is to be applauded, but some people in the town feel that the building could be preserved and used as a museum or other function to present and remember the history of the town.

View of the front gardens of the hospital

Thanks to the internet we were able to hurriedly pass round a letter to be presented to the Ajuntamiento and a number of e mails were sent to the ajuntamiento before the meeting.. Thanks to Ernesto Vinas of www.brunetenlamemoria.com (e mail evcos37@yahoo.es) and Seve Montero of AABI (seve.montero@gmail.com) we were able present a letter asking the ajuntamiento to reconsider the plan.  Many thanks to Paul Preston and other academics who supported the letter so that we now have a breathing space to allow the local groups to present a proposal for the preservation of the hospital. This is a project for the townspeople of Tarancon, but the International interest and support has helped allow them time to have time to decide what to do. And many thanks to all who wrote. This newspaper article appeared on Wednesday in ABC: http://www.abc.es/agencias/noticia.asp?noticia=752857 Further details of our visit (in Spanish) can be found on Ernesto Vinas’ excellent website on the battle of Brunete at http://www.bruneteenlamemoria.com/tarancon.htm

Sadly, squatters had used the building until recently

As of yesterday there has been a reaction and debate in the local newspaper, and the owners of “El Hospitalillo”, the Fundacion Lozano, have made a response to our request. The Fundacion Lozano considers that their remit does not include the use of the building for cultural purposes, but to stand by their purpose of “To care”.   Understandably the presence of the International Brigade hospital for only three years out of its hundred year history is also a valid argument against using this as a request by us to preserve the building, but perhaps all the more reason to celebrate and remember it’s history( and that of the town)  during its hundred years there by preserving the building,  perhaps.  Certainly the building needs to be used as it has just been left to crumble.  The Fundacion Lozano state that current building regulations make it impossible to keep the original facade and build behind. However, Fundacion Lozano have offered the groups in Tarancon to present a counter proposal which is a move in the right direction. Below is the communique released by Fundacion Lozano which I leave in its original Spanish so as to avoid any misunderstandings in its translation. Those curious enough can google translate the piece below to get a very rough translation if needed.

Tarancón, 30 de marzo de 2011

El Patronato de la Fundación Lozano reitera su voluntad unánime de construir una nueva residencia de ancianos

Los miembros de esta entidad privada sin ánimo de lucro han manifestado a través de su Presidente que la Fundación no puede contradecir la voluntad de su creador ubicando en las instalaciones un museo o dependencias culturales, como han pedido varios investigadores de las Brigadas Internacionales. Los fines contemplados en los estatutos, señala el Presidente de esta institución, “Son asistenciales” El Patronato de la Fundación Lozano ha querido manifestarse hoy públicamente ante los últimos acontecimientos informativos que ha habido con respecto a la construcción de una residencia en el antiguo “Hospital Santa Emilia”, conocido popularmente como “Hospitalillo”. Varios de sus miembros han realizado declaraciones esta mañana en un medio de comunicación local, y su totalidad, los seis, han hablado a lo largo de hoy con el Alcalde para seguir retirándose en su postura unánime, manifestada hace algunos días por Raúl Amores, miembro y presidente de esta institución de ámbito privada. Recordemos que el Patronato está formado por los tres principales empresarios de la ciudad (Emilio Loriente, Francisco Manzanares y Librado Loriente); por el Párroco de Tarancón, Alberto Paños; y por el médico que atendía a los ancianos que estaban en el “Hospitalillo” durante sus últimos años como residencia, Enrique Blanch. Raúl Amores ha comparecido como representante del Patronato de la Fundación Lozano para aclarar diversas cuestiones que se han hecho públicas a través de la iniciativa de diferentes personas que reclamaban que el edificio se convirtiera en un espacio cultural. En primer lugar Amores ha respondido a Alan Warren que la fundación Lozano tiene la obligación de velar por su patrimonio en las condiciones que contempló su creador, el Doctor Jesús Lozano Soria, y que han sido plasmadas en los estatutos de la organización. “No figura en ningún lado que el edificio tenga fines culturales”, como solicitaba Warren, sino “asistenciales”, ha explicado el Presidente del Patronato. En cuanto a los estudiosos que se han pronunciado sobre la construcción de una residencia en el Hospital Santa Emilia, el Presidente de la Fundación Lozano ha querido dejar claro que “No desmerecemos la capacidad intelectual de todos lo que quieren investigar. Más aún, los hemos recibido con atención y cariño en nuestra localidad. Les hemos permitido como Presidente del Patronato el acceso a su espacio físico, que es el Hospitalillo. Además, les aportaremos la documentación que necesiten, pero magnificar que esto fue un gran centro de atención durante el periodo de la Guerra Civil de las Brigadas Internacionales, es una exageración y una injerencia sobre la propiedad privada que tiene la Fundación”. El Patronato lamenta que se magnifique un episodio de la historia del Hospital Santa Emilia que duró tres años, eclipsando el resto de su existencia, que se acerca al siglo de vida. “Hacer de este edificio un estandarte de las Brigadas Internacionales durante la campaña bélica, es querer hacer un símbolo sesgado de lo que ha sido este edificio, maximizar su importancia e ignorar otros lugares que hubo en Tarancón para la atención a los enfermos y heridos de guerra, así como olvidar los verdaderos emplazamientos referentes de evacuados de guerra”, ha señalado el presidente de la entidad. En el escrito remetido al Ayuntamiento Warren pedía textualmente que el patrimonio de la Fundación “Se dedique a un uso cultural, y de paso se pueda evitar perder un elemento de la memoria común que vincula a Tarancón con Europa, USA y otros centros sanitarios similares”. Esta afirmación es “Un brindis al sol”, dice el Patronato, ya que “no es Tarancón el referente de atención principal de esos heridos a lo largo de la ruta Valenciana. Recordamos el libro titulado La sanidad en las Brigadas Internacionales, editado por Manuel Requena y Rosa María Sepúlveda, donde Hans Landauer nos indicaba que en Tarancón había un “pequeño hospital de evacuación de las Brigadas Internacionales” y que en La guerra Civil española y las brigadas internacionales, de Manuel Espada y Manuel Requena (Universidad de Castilla-La mancha, 1998), no aparece citado en ningún momento”, añadía Raúl Amores. La pretensión de convertir el Hospital Santa Emilia en un museo o dependencias destinadas a la cultura o la historia, continuaba el Presidente del Patronato, “Es una injerencia sobre la Fundación, toda vez que como decimos, ni figura en sus Estatutos ni fue el objetivo de su fundador”. La Fundación Lozano emplaza a los colectivos que se han manifestado en contra de la construcción de una residencia de ancianos en ese espacio a que presenten un proyecto alternativo real y factible, acompañado por su correspondiente financiación, que permita salvaguardar el edificio tal cual está sin variar los fines que el Patronato está obligado a cumplir en virtud de los estatutos. Los miembros del Patronato de la Fundación Lozano también han querido responder a un escrito que Jesús Garrido, Presidente de la Asociación Manuel de la Ossa para la defensa del patrimonio, les envió por iniciativa personal, aunque firmando en representación del colectivo. Según Amores, no convocó la Asamblea preceptiva en la que se le debería haber dado cabida a la opinión del resto de los miembros. Para poder escuchar más puntos de vista de la asociación, el Presidente del Patronato de la Fundación Lozano se reunió ayer con Garrido, pero también con más miembros de “Manuel de la Ossa”. Entre esos socios se encuentran el propio Raúl Amores como miembro fundador de la asociación, y el concejal José Antonio Magro. “En el escrito que previamente manda Jesús Garrido de mutuo propio nos indica que le gustaría que fuese posible respetar el edificio y que en la parte de atrás se hiciera la residencia”, ha contado Raúl Amores. El Presidente del Patronato ha  mostrado el plano del solar en el que se ubica el “Hospitalillo”, de 2.500 metros cuadrados, cuya edificación actual se extiende en la mitad del mismo, dejando libres 1.200 metros cuadrados. Como la residencia de ancianos necesita una superficie de 5.000 metros cuadrados para dar cabida a sus 120 plazas y cumplir con la normativa actual, la propuesta de Garrido “Es un imposible, tendríamos que tener al menos seis alturas. Primero, no nos lo permite la norma, y es una aberración que sobre un edificio que tenemos aquí de tres alturas detrás tengamos una pared de seis”, explicaba Raúl Amores. El Presidente del Patronato comunicó ayer a los miembros de la asociación Manuel de la Ossa que “Le hemos exigido a quien va a construir la residencia que la fachada sea igual que la que tiene el hospitalillo. Más aún, que los patios conserven una estética castellana y que nos quedemos con baja y dos alturas, que es lo que tiene la edificación actual. El patronato quiere mantener su patrimonio y su finalidad, y esta es asistencial y no cultural”. Raúl Amores ha asegurado que “Queremos mantener el apoyo a los que más lo necesitan”, en este caso se hará a través de una residencia de ancianos. En este mismo sentido se ha manifestado un miembro de la asociación Manuel de la Ossa esta misma mañana en un medio de comunicación local al ser preguntado por el tema, al igual que han hecho tres Patronos de la Fundación Lozano. El Presidente del Patronato de la Fundación Lozano ha señalado que cuando la empresa que compró el edificio de los Padres Somascos para hacer otra residencia propuso su derrumbe completo, y su posterior reconstrucción siguiendo el modelo original, Jesús Garrido en nombre de la Asociación Manuel de la Ossa se mostró a favor del proyecto. Por eso ahora los miembros de la Fundación Lozano se han sorprendido al comprobar la respuesta contraria a hacer lo mismo en el edificio del Hospital Santa Emilia. Las instalaciones “No tienen más que el valor sentimental, que no es poco”, pero la construcción de la residencia no lo mermará, sino que hará que perdure, dicen los Patronos de la Fundación Lozano, por su fachada, que será igual, y porque volverá a ser habitado por mayores que por fin podrán quedarse en su municipio gracias a que se ha construido una residencia. Sobre investigadores internacionales que algunos medios han asegurado que piden al Patronato que no se derribe el edificio, los patronos dicen que tras ver el escrito no queda nada claro que los nombres que aparecen al final de documento, sin firmas, lo hagan como muestra de su apoyo a su punto de vista o sean solo meras referencias.

I hope that an appropriate solution can be made by the groups in Tarancon. Perhaps the air raid shelter can be conserved as a place to visit in connection with the bombing of  civilian targets and maybe also an appropriate memorial remembering the International Brigade Hospital could also be plaved in the El Hospitalillo’s grounds? Let us hope that something good comes out of the discussion and debate.

The Infectious Diseases building (post war)  to the side and front of the hospital

The rear of the hospital

The garden to the rear

Entrance to the Air Raid shelter in the back garden on the Hospital

There is a great deal to explore in this area concerning the International Brigade hospitals at Saelices/Villa Paz, el Casillejo, Huete and Ucles nearbye. Huete is already visitable with advanced notice with a book soon to be published in English on the beautifully situated Hospital in the old monastery of Santa Merced. El Castillejo and Villa Paz (which the alcadesa of Saelices has kindly offered to arrange  visits to in the future) aswell as  the quiet village of Saelices which are both  shown on the Cartier Bresson film “Victoire de Vie” are also silent but beautiful witnesses to this time. The tourism potential for this area of Cuenca close to visit by car  from Madrid in a day has great possibilities

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5th March 2011

Benicassim/Benicasim

Proposed street plaque on display at the Benicassim Event (but the road will not be ready in time for October 2011)

On Friday 4th March I had great pleasure in attending the 2nd Annual Weekend remembering the International Brigade Hospital and Villas at Benicassim.

Historian Guillem Casañ in front of Villa del Mar

The tour of the villas was led by historian Guillem Casañ, the expert on the Spanish Civil War history of the coastal resort. He began by showing the 40 or so people who came on the evening walk some of the villas on the sea front and recounting the names of each villa.

Villa Ralph Fox

In total over 50 villas were used by over 7000 International Brigaders between December 1936 and April 1938.

Domingo Casañ recounting his memories of the Brigaders at Benicassim. Hotel Voramar can be seen in the background.

Amogst those attending the event were Jean Paul and Soledina Chantereau from the French International Brigade group ACER. A discussion took place later in the evening at dinner hosted by the deputy alcalde Sebastián Esparducer Gargallo, about the possibility of the planned Madrid to Barcelona trip in October 2011 to include a night at Benicassim to be shown the villas.

Villa Thaelmann

A short prototype film with clips from the Henri Cartier Bresson film Victoire de la Vieof Benicasim and a booklet on the hospitals for the event in English and Spanish were also considered. Finally the proposal for a music and poetry evening with contributions from the various national groups to take turns singing and reading poetry was also discussed (One of the locals can remember at a function which began with recitals and songs in all languages that the lights suddenly went out and  a black man appeared with an incredible voice. The singer was  Paul Robeson)

Villa Garibaldi

BENICASIM by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Here for a little we pause. The air is heavy with sun and salt and colour. On palm and lemon-tree, on cactus and oleander a dust of dust and salt and pollen lies. And the bright villas sit in a row like perched macaws, and rigid and immediate yonder the mountains rise. And it seems to me we have come into a bright-painted landscape of Acheron. For along the strand in bleached cotton pyjamas, on rope-soled tread, wander the risen-from-the-dead, the wounded, the maimed, the halt. Or they lay bare their hazarded flesh to the salt air, the recaptured sun, or bathe in the tideless sea, or sit fingering the sand. But narrow is this place, narrow is this space of garlanded sun and leisure and colour, of return to life and release from living. Turn (Turn not!) sight inland: there, rigid as death and unforgiving, stand the mountains-and  close at hand.

From “Poems from Spain” edited by Jim Jump and published by Lawrence & Wishart (www.lwbooks.co.uk)

The poem “Benicasim” read in Spanish  by Victoria Montoliu

BENICÁSIM  by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Aquí descansamos un momento. El aire está cargando de sol y sal y color. Sobre la palmera y el limonero, sobre el cactus y la adelfa reposo un polvo con polvo y sal y polen. Y las briliantes casitas en fila como papagayos posados, y allá, rígida e inmediate, se cierne la montaña. Y me da la sensación de que hemos venido a un paisaje del Aqueronte luminosamente pintado. A lo largo de la playa con descoloridos pijamas de algodón, en alpagartas, deambulan los que se han levantado de la muerte, los heridos, los mutilados, los tullidos. O descansan desnudos, sus arriesgadas carnes al aire salado, al recobrado sol, o se bañan en este mar sin mareas, o se sientan a tocar le arena. Pero este lugar es estrecho, estrecho en este espacio engalanado de sol y ocio y calor, de regreso a la vida y al consuelo de los vivos. Tuerce (¡No tuerzas!) la vista hacia el interior: allí. Rígidas como la muerte e implacables, se alzan las montañas-y alcance de la mano.

From “Hablando de leyendas. Poemas para España” by Jim Jump, Antonio Díez y David González. Ediciones Baile del Sol. (www.bailedesol.org)

From Guillem Casañ’s research, a total of 59 people died in the Hospital up till April 8 1938, 30 of which were foreign. By nationality, the largest group was French (5), German (4), Polish (4), Italian (3), English (1), Scottish (1), Irish (1), Austrian (1), Belgian (1), Czechoslovakian (1), Danish (1), Finnish (1), Swedish (1), Dutch (1) and Lithuanian (1). Three were of unknown nationality.

The International Brigade memorial in Benicassim cemetery

Bodek, Joaquin, 43 years old, German, died 06/26/1937 Neuman, Erich, 27 years old, German, died 29/10/1937 Laschet, Franz, 29 years old, German, died 02/04/1938 Nordheim, Gimter, 29 years old, German, died 12/11/1937 Zuwetler, Josep, 23 years old,  Austrian, died 02/18/1937 Elipome, Francois, 28 years old, Belgian, died 26/12/1937 Neveska, Francois, 45 years old, Czechoslovakian, died 07/26/1937 Hendriksen, Otto, 32 years old, Danish, died 09/09/1937 Wihela, Werner, no age, Finnish, died 9/3/1938 Ponteilla, Joan, 32 years old, French, died 03/11/1937 Bunel, Marcel Felix Eugene, 29 years old, French, died 19/08/1937 Rouge, Gabriel, 21 years old, French, died 27/01/1938 Bougade, Louis, 34 years old, French, died 03/29/1938 Lacombe, Fernand, no age, French, died 01/04/1938 Braut, Albert, 21 years old, Dutch, died 01/24/1938 Daly, Peter, no age, Irish, died 09/05/1937 Donaldson, William, aged 27, Scottish, died 27/01/1938 Batson, Percy, age 23, English, died 02/07/1938 Puggioni, Mario Giovanni, 30 years old, Italian, died 03/04/1937 Bini, André, 30 years old, Italian, died 28.6.1937 Noto, Luciano, 29 years old, Italian, 01/03/1938 Grogorovic, Frank, 34 years old, Lithuanian, 03.22.1938 Maggioni, Jean, 34 years old, no nationality, died 12/07/1937 Jusi, no age, no nationality, died 09/26/1937 Freber, Eric, 29 years old, no nationality, died 11/10/1937 Matuchosky, Andre, 43years old, Polish, died 29/07/1937 Chamrol, Leon, no age, Polish, died 11/07/1937 Sufco, Nicolas, 37 years old, Polish, died 03/25/1938 Zige, Stanislao, 32-year-old Polish, died 03/11/1937 Hendler, Max, no age, Swedish, died 09/23/1937

In March 1937 the hospital was made up of just 10 villas and the Hotel Voramar (the hospital)  was then called General Miaja. The Henri Barbusse theatre was the present garage of the Hotel Voramar. The present Villa Beutel was the Club Azaña which had a library and coffee facilities. The Hospital library was located at the Maxim Gorky House of Culture (now the Villa Victoria) with more than 2,000 books in 15 languages. The number of occupants in each villa varied, depending on the size, but usually between 14 and 27 occupants, and their names were changed relative to each of the Brigades, such as Villa André Marty, Garibaldi, Largo Caballero and Passionaria, Ralph Fox and Thaelmann. French commissar Elie Duguet wrote: “I’ve never lived in such a beautiful place. A villa by the sea where I could sleep, lulled by the sound of the waves. I lay in my pyjamas. It was a luxury for me. My clothes were washed, ironed and the bed made every day.” All in all a productive and fascinating visit.

I hope that the Madrid to Barcelona trip between October 21st and 28th later this year visits Benicassim. Many thanks to Guillem Casañ for providing the information above.

Alan Warren & Guillem Casañ

____________________________________________________________

A TRIP AROUND MADRID.

22nd to 25th February 2011

The week before the Fourth Jarama march, Geoff Cowling, Harry Owens and myself made a journey of discovery to locate and identify two American hospitals east of Madrid- Tarancon and Villa Paz. We had been invited by Tarancon and Saelices ajuntamientos and our experiences there exceeded our expectations. Our final visit was Huete to explore the Hospital Inglese.

TARANCON. 

“In a hospital in Tarancon, I saw a lovely Spanish girl, about twenty years of age, who had been struck by a fragment of such a bomb. It had cut off her right arm and breast as clean as a whistle. She lay there smiling, and the American doctor, Bush (sic. Dr. Irving Busch), told me that nothing could damp her ardour against Franco.”

From “Pollitt visits Spain”, 1938. The American Hospital at Tarancon was in fact three hospitals,

Una Wilson wrote on June 10th 1937, “Today, Theodore, one of the male nurses and I went astrolling about the village. First we visited  Number 1 Hospital (the largest surgical and main hospital),  No. 2 (medical) and No. 3 (infections).”

On the morning of Tuesday 22ndFebruary we met historians Ernesto Vinas and Angel Rodriguez (www.bruneteenlamemoria.com) with film cameraman David Fonfria.

Geoff Cowling, Maximo Molina & Harry Owens outside Tarancon ajuntamiento.

We were welcomed by Maximo Molina, President of the Group Memoria Historica of Tarancon. He mentioned in passing that the son of Scotsman Allan Craig had visited the town some years ago trying to find where his father was buried. Records show that Allan Craig was wounded at Jarama and died at Tarancon on 22nd February 1937. We were met by the Town Archivist Jesus Garrido Gallego who gave us copies of Archive material connected to the the hospital but none connected with the International Brigade Hospital. We were then introduced to the alcalde of Tarancon, Raul Amores and councillor Jose Antonio Magro Bovilla. After this we were taken to one of the Hospitals. This was Hospital Number 3 (?) but was deserted and in a very sorry state. It had been abandoned in the 1970s and until recently had been occupied by squatters. We were also shown one of the air raid shelters behind the building which could hold 100 people. Ernesto and Angel went up into the attic and came down with two original pairs of bedsteads from the period of the American occupation!

The Infection Hospital No. 3( ?)

Ernesto with one pair of Spanish Civil War period bedsteads that he discovered in the hospital attic! Note the Falangist graffiti on the wall behind him

We were then shown where Hospital No. 1 (?) was situated. Called by locals “The Stone Hospital”, a new building now occupies the site. Hospital No. 2 is around the corner and is in good shape but not open to the public.

The “Stone Hospital” (No. 1?) on the right below the crane)

Hospital No. 2

Finally we were taken down one of the five air raid shelters of the town  near the railway station. Tarancon had enough shelter for its pre war population of 5,000, but with refugees the population had increased to over 10,000. Mention was made of a forgotten store of ammunition in the town exploding in July 1949 causing many civilian casualties.

Geoff Cowling bravely entering the Air Raid shelter beside Tarancon Railway Station.

Inside the Air Raid shelter

Remains of the lighting system in the Shelter

Rose Freed wrote: It is March 27th (1937) now, at 11.a.m.. I just got off duty and was told to go to the post office to get your registered letter. It made my morning pleasant. Last night it was Dr. Goland’s birthday. We made a party at the American Casa. I made rounds and came to see how things were going at the party. We were drinking champagne and had just given Dr. Goland his birthday present, which consisted of one dozen toothbrushes each in the center of a cupcake with the bristles exposed and blue ribbon bows tied to each other, when at twelve midnight the lights went out. We heard the roar of planes. There was a long silence in the room. I spoke. I said I was going to the hospital. Dr. Bloom shouted, “If you think anything of your life don’t go.” Dr. Barsky said he was going to the hospital 3 (?) on the Valencia Road, Dr. Barsky to hospital 1 and Dr. Odio to hospital 2. I stayed outside the door of the hospital searching the brilliantly studded starry sky for a sight of the planes, but they were too high and had no lights. They circled overhead many times, they came lower and lower and the sound of the motors became louder and louder. I ran into the hospital only to find some of the enfermos (patients) in hysterics. They could not be blamed, they who so many times have been terrorised by the lousy tactics of the fascists……They clung to me with an almost deadly grip, kissed me and dried their tears. The crash you cannot- never can anyone realise the horror of what seems like earth opening beneath you. The light of the magnesium flare bomb to see if it struck right- and then eight more crashes- then silence, too long, and the shrapnel flying in all directions. I ran to hospital 1, then to hospital 2, then back to my post where I found all crying silently………

Rose Freed with Langston Hughes (ALBA)

Rose’s letter confuses the Hospital numbers. It would make greater sense to number the Main Hospital on the Valencia Road Number 1, but she has it as Number 3. Close by was a derelict railway station building that had been built during the Second Republic. Sadly it is due to be demolished. Ernesto made the comment that if it had been in Britain it would have been made into a railway museum!

After lunch we were interviewed by Cuenca Television and that evening appeared in the local newspaper and the ajuntamiento’s publicity.

Ernesto Vinas being interviewed by Cuenca TV

Below are two links to newspaper articles about our visit in Spanish:

http://www.tarancon.es/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2039:raul-amores-se-reune-con-varios-investigadores-de-la-batalla-de-brunete&catid=37:cultura

http://eldiadigital.es/not/14831/el_patrimonio_historico_de_la_guerra_civil_objeto_de_estudio/

We then drove to Saelices, the village close to the American Hospital at Villa Paz.

SAELICES

(Letter from Rose Freed to her brother Lou. Villa Paz Hospital, January 19th 1938)

“I think the saddest experience I suffered in the year I’ve been in Spain, was the death of Abe Schwartz. Abe died of Typhoid malignant malaria, military tuberculosis, and Lobar pneumonia…On Yom Kippur day he died. He was buried next day in Salacies (sic). I went to his funeral as most others did. Many Spanish villagers were present too, for Abe had endeared himself to all who met him…. Before the coffin was lowered, the Political Commissar spoke touchingly of his anti-fascist work. As the coffin was lowered the Spaniards sang the “Internationale” as I have never heard it sung before. Don’t ask me to describe the feeling with which they sang it, for I feel weepy when it comes back to me. As we turned away it started to rain. But it was hard leaving even though it was raining. It was an Anti-Fascists fighter, who had left his family and future 3000 miles behind to fight a battle here for Democracy that he might spare America the terrors and misery of the battle tomorrow. It rained heavier, and at last the few of us left were forced to go. Even the elements knew of our loss and sorrowed with us. It rained heavily all that day.”

Saelices Church

We were eventually met by Esperansa Rubio Huelamo, the alcadesa of Saelices and Julian Sanchez Paris at the Ajuntamiento. We explained the reason for our journey and the alcadesa kindly allowed us to examine the registry of deaths from the hospital. Abe Schwartz’ death certificate was there aswell as 24 other deaths. We showed a short clip of film taken by Henri Cartier Bresson “Victoire de Vie”” of the Hospital at Villa Paz and a children’s fiesta which was held at Castillejo to celebrate the first anniversary of the opeing of the Hospital. Their ears pricked up when they saw this!

David Fonfria, Alcadesa Esperansa Rubio Huelamo, Harry Owens & Julian Sanchez Paris outside Saelices Ajuntamiento

After saying thanks to Esperansa and Julian we drove to the ruined castle and could easily spot the castle in the background of the film where the fiesta took place.

The Castillejo between Saelices and Villa Paz  which is shown in the Henri Cartier Bresson film “Victoire de Vie”. The children’s fiesta was held at this spot to celebrate the first anniversary of the hospital being set up at Villa Paz.

In a quiet and beautiful spot we were able to imagine the scene over seventy years ago. Julian mentioned that his father had gone to this fiesta and they wish to show the clip to the village at a later date to try and identify the many children in the film. We were able to identify one clip in the village of Saelices when the village cryer  rings his cymbal to shout out the invitation to the village.

The same spot in Henri Cartier Bresson’s film “Victoire de Vie” where the village cryer announces the children’s fiesta.

A Spanish version of the 2 dvd set with “Victoire de Vie”” on it costs 20 euros from Avalon Productions under the title “Henri Cartier Bresson”. Originally in French with Spanish subtitles.

And here is the complete film on YouTube:

As twilight fell Ernesto, Angel and David returned to Madrid whilst Geoff, Harry and I made our way to Huete.

Angel, Alan & Ernesto at Castillejo near Villa Paz (David Fonfria)

THE HOSPITAL INGLESE AT HUETE

Huete

“If I’m wounded again, I hope I’m taken to Huete.” It was a soldier who had been wounded at Brunete who was talking to me. He was well again and driving an ambulance. “Why?” I asked, never having been to Huete. “I like the spirit of the place,” he replied, “the comradeship is good. It’s big and there’s something fine about being there amongst so many men of all nationalities.”

From the Frederika Martin Papers, Tamiment Library, New York University.

Nan Green wrote: My destination was already arranged. Next morning I was given a salvo conducto, a sheet of paper entitling me to travel to it. Travel, how? At all exits to Barcelona there were guard posts which stopped every vehicle leaving the city and loaded them with passengers to wherever they were going – a kind of military hitch-hiking. After an hour or so of waiting, I was shoved on to an open lorry with about twenty others and we set off. After spending the night at the convalescent hospital in Benicassim, where I met Angela Guest. I went through the same process next morning and later in the same day found myself at Huete, in what was called `the English hospital’. To my profound astonishment. I found George there. Now, George had left for Spain with the firm intention of joining the International Brigade as soon as he had delivered his lorry, and I had only a vague idea that he was still retained in the medical service. (Letters were censored, and one sent the replies to a code address which did not indicate where the writer was). He had sent me some carefully guarded accounts of battles in which he had participated, of the death of Julian Bell and that of Izzy Kupchik and others we knew and a vivid though typically understated account of his first experience of aerial bombardment (`strafing’) in which he described how he lay in a ditch and experienced a sudden fondness’ for his hands – the hands. don’t forget, of a cellist. A little while before my arrival he had burned the skin of one arm by getting under his ambulance to examine a choked feed of petrol on a mountain road, and freezing petrol had run down his arm, taking off an area of skin. He had been sent to Huete for treatment and was almost recovered. Meanwhile he was appointed Political Commissar of the Hospital. It was pure chance and good fortune that brought us together now. I had not had the ridiculous idea that I was going to Spain to ‘join my husband’ and, though I had a deep-down hope that we would meet. I had no expectation of this incredible bonus. It was sheer unadulterated joy. George was a good Commissar. I shall later recount a couple of typical incidents to illustrate his qualities. Part of his job was to promote the welfare of patients and staff, and on this day lie had arranged a concert for such patients as could walk or be carried to the large ‘recreation hall’ – formerly, perhaps, a chapel in what had been a monastery. He had bought himself a cello; a Bavarian lad (Wille Remmel) with an injured leg played the violin (by ear), the village plumber was an excellent guitarist, though equally illiterate musically, and a Catalan patient, also with a leg injury, played the bandurrión (a sort of mandolin). George taught them tunes, and they already had quite a credible repertoire. A departing patient had left behind an accordion. Early in the afternoon George showed me this and said that I should play it with his orchestra that evening. ‘But I can’t play the accordion!’ I protested. `You will, by tonight,’ he replied firmly. The keyboard side was of course easy, since I had had piano lessons as a child. I learned a dozen or so chords during the afternoon and dutifully took my place in the orchestra that evening (it must have sounded dreadful).

George & Nan Green, Willi Remmel,  Vladimiro Migullan & Valentin Munoz Sirodey (IWM)

The same place today

Next day I was introduced to my job: Assistant Secretary. The Chief Administrator was British, as were the surgeon in change, theatre sisters, ward sisters (who included three New Zealand nurses) and one or two ambulance drivers. Somewhat to my disillusionment, I found that there were wheels within political wheels, colouring the relations and actions of this collection of people.

“The three New Zealand nurses“:  Millicent Sharples, Rene Shadbolt & Isabel Dodds in Huete.

“Nurse” Cowling in the same spot

The nurse’s accommodation in Huete

The anti-Communism of the Conservatives and the Labour leadership had its reflection here, and I came to suspect (though never to prove) that the Foreign Office had its long finger in this and other pies. Nevertheless, tremendously devoted work was done and the Spanish people (patients – mostly peasants, staff and the villagers of Huete) were a glorious example and lesson to all. The training of village girls as nurses and wardmaids was speeded by their eagerness to learn and their devotion to the work, far out-running the expectations of our nurses. Like Cromwell’s men, they knew what they were fighting for, and loved what they knew. I have never forgotten an old grandmother to whose cave­house (half of Huete’s houses consisted of caves hollowed out of the hillside in the village) I went, trying to recruit women for the hospital laundry and linen room. Her daughter; for whom I was searching, was out and she was surrounded by several grandchildren, one or two of whom were of school age. On the whitewashed wall of the cave were stuck some children’s drawings, done in coloured crayons. ‘Look,’ she said pointing proudly to there, ‘before the Republic there wasn’t a pencil in this village, and now  all the children go to school. YES, My daughter will come and help! Those wounded men are fighting so that our children can learn.’ My principal workmate was Pere Barat, a gaunt, frail-looking Catalan about thirty years old who had TB. Like many Catalans he spoke French and Castilian as well as his mother tongue, which is to some extent a mixture of the other two. In the scanty intervals of our work of keeping the hospital records, he patiently taught me Castilian (using French, which at that time I knew better). For my first lessons in what later became almost a second language to me and contributed to my subsequent history, I thank Pere (Pedro) for the kind, patient, persistent, thorough grounding he gave me, supplemented by study of a huge Jesperson Grammar.”‘ I don’t want to exaggerate the political undercurrents. The British nurses were absolute models of efficiency and devotion and most of thorn entirely ‘non-political’, caring only for their healing mission. 1 shall never forget, as a single example, Dorothy Lowe, a sister who had served most of her nursing career in the British Army, who received in her ward three injured men who, because of negligence in another hospital, were near to death. through sheer nursing she brought all three back to life and health, cleaning up their disgraceful bedsores, tending their wounds, supervising their diet and scarcely leaving them day or night. And all this, remember, before antibiotics had been heard of, before M & B had emerged from the laboratories, in a chronic shortage of medical supplies of all kinds, when soap and water was often the only antiseptic available and even the supply of soap was terribly short. A history of the achievements of the British medical units in Spain is long overdue. I hope someone will write it. This is a chronicle of small beer. I can only tell what I saw and experienced. Here is the  tale of some of the day to day problems wlich George, as Political Commissar, had to cope with. Our patients, reflecting the composition of the Spanish People’s Army, were mainly peasants. Their experience of hospitals had, in the main, been limited to such hospitals as were run by the Catholic Church, manned (or womaned) by nuns, who in the main  (and in the old days) were more concerned with saving souls than with saving bodies. Rightly or wrongly, a good number of our patients were afraid of  nuns. Now, some of the British nurses cherished, as was natural, their status, which was often indicated by details of their uniform (as it is today in such institutions as St Thomas’s Hospital where the difference between a blue belt and a white one is a Step in an upward direction). These nurses, having been Sisters at home, were proud to wear headgear consisting of a white square, folded into a triangle with the point hanging clown their backs. This head-dress terrified some of the patients, resembling as it did that of some nursing orders. It fell to George to persuade these British Sisters to forego their status symbols. It was difficult, but he succeeded. I watched him one day trying to shift an enormous cupboard with the aid of two very young stretcher-bearers, Spaniards. They pushed, pulled and heaved without making any difference. It is impossible, George,’ said one of the lads. `To Communists nothing is impossible,’ George replied. One more heave, and the cupboard moved … One night, someone came running for George. The hospital guard, an Irishman, had managed to get drunk and was behaving violently. I ran, with George, to the guard post. George looked on for a few moments and then said in his quiet voice: `Well, sorry Paddy, old man!’ and with one well-calculated punch to the jaw, laid him out and carried him carefully away. A fiesta was planned, I think it was to commemorate the October Revolution, in which the hospital invited the entire village to participate. In preparation for this, a bar was set up in what had been the crypt of the monastery and was now the garage for ambulances. To make an inspection pit, some flagstones had been removed, uncovering some human bones. An American artist  (Edward Bowers), one of our patients, devised a banner to hang at the back of the bar, depicting caricatures of France, Hitler and Mussolini and, to point the lesson, had hung some of the hones beneath the banner.

Other artwork by Edward Bowers in the Hospital dining room (IWM).

The same room today

The point was raised, might this not antagonise the villagers, to whose ancestors maybe the bones belonged? In the aftermath of my personal repudiation of the Christian religion, I was vehemently in favour of leaving the bones there. `I don’t like finding myself on the opposite side to my wife,’ said George, and proceeded to remind us of the meaning of the Popular Front. The bones were taken down and re-interred, and I swallowed my lesson without too much difficulty. During that month (November 1937) George experienced a musical triumph. An invitation came to bring his ‘orchestra’ to Madrid and broadcast some music for England, as accompaniment to an appeal for medical supplies. George was to make the appeal. We rehearsed and rehearsed, and set off for Madrid in a truck belonging to the hospital. The old fontanero, the village plumber/guitarist, who had been there once before in his life, croaked sadly and repeatedly as we drove through the darkened streets: ‘Madrid is not Madrid without lights!’ In an extremely Heath Rohinson sort of studio we played our tunes, gritting our teeth lest Bavarian Willi, as was his ineradicable habit, introduced an extra beat into his bar to the confusion of the rest. All went well to our enormous gratification, and we were visited early next morning by two chaps from the Radio, proposing that we should stay another night and make a world broadcast. Alas, our truck had to get back to Huete and we had to go with it.

Extract from “A Chronicle of Small Beer” by Nan Green.pp 72 to 77.  Trent Editions, 2004. ISBN9 781842 331057.

Alan,  Maria & Harry after the interview

Maria examinng & identifying people in  the photographs in the new book. Geoff sat on the floor in front listening to her incredible stories from over seventy years ago.

Huete monastery is the largest building in Cuenca

A strange sight appeared while we were in Huete. Flocks of storks returning to Europe flew over us. A beautiful sight and something I have never seen before. Quite enchanting to behold.

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