The Segre Front. March to December 1938

22nd May 2011.


Igor & Chris in front of a T26 tank at Vilanova de la Barca 

On May 13thI had the pleasure of taking  two Australians Igor Demianenko and his partner Chris on a five day tour of various places connected with the Spanish Civil War. We headed west from Barcelona to visit the Escola Militar at Tudela de Segre, passing the T26 tank at Vilanova de la Barca (above). We also visited the reconstructed trench network at El Merengue near the Balaguer River.

Alan & Chris at the entrance to the Escola Militar with Sara Hamill, our guide, in the doorway

Propaganda Wall Art at the Escola Militar at Tudela de Segre…

….and Wall Lesson Plans for Chemical Warfare!

A bomb casing acts as a bell for the village church

Alan & Chris in the reconstructed trenches at nearby El Merengue. It was here in May 1938 that the Quinta de Biberons of the 122nd and 123rd Brigada Mixtas of the 27th Division (Baby bottle troops) many aged only 16 and 17 years old, were ordered to take this hill with the officer shouting: “Come on, boys! We will take this hill as if we were eating a merengue!” Over 500 of them were killed…..


Santuario de Nuestra Señora de  de Magallón near Lecineña

A scenic tour north towards Tremp and then down to Lecineña to stay overnight in a reformed monastery (and in which the manager, Javier, kindly showed us bits of hidden Nationalist graffiti hidden in the building) took us most of the day, but on the 14th we visited a number of sites connected with the Ruta Orwell around Robres and Alcubierre. The excellent Interpretation Centre on the Spanish Civil War in Robres aswell as the reconstructed trenches at Monte Irazo (Monte Trazo as written by Orwell in Homage to Catalonia. Maybe a typographical error?) close by and the trenches and observation point at the Hermitage of Santa Quiteria above Tardienta make this a fascinating yet quite unknown place to visit concerning the Spanish Civil War, the early militia columns and, of course, Orwell.

Reconstructed trenches at the Ruta Orwell near Alcubierre

Chris & Alan beside a 75mm Trubia artillery piece outside the Spanish Civil War Interpretation Centre in Robres.

Detail of the artillery piece


Our particular mission was to locate the Hospital at Poleñino where Australian nurse Agnes Hodgson was stationed in 1937. We were not disappointed. The Last Mile to Huesca by Judith Keene (New South Wales University Press, 1988) analyses the diaries of Agnes Hodgson when she was stationed first at a hospital at Grañen (now demolished) and later at Poleñino. We were able to identify the Casa Launa as the hospital and were pleased to see that repairs are being done on the building. It was easy to imagine the place in 1937.

March 1937. Back row:Dr Pila y Plá, Dr González Aguiló, Patience Darton, Margaret Powell, Paolino, Fábregas, Patingón, Masillo. Front row: Marcelino, Anne Murray, Antonino.

The Hospital in Poleñino

The Hospital today

The  original photos below were taken from the balcony above


Doctor González Aguiló June 1937

Agnes & Patience Darton playing handball on the terrace

(I have just been told that by Alfonso Lopez, curator of the International Brigade graffiti at Castelledfels that they are actually playing badminton!)

For a glimpse at what is at Castelledfels go to: 

Back row: Margaret Powell, Susan Murray, Anne Murray, Patience Darton. Front row: Agnes Hodgson & Mary Slater.



Igor and I were able to locate the photo below which has men from the Thaelmann Centuria below the impressive aqueduct that runs past Tardienta in 1936. The photo above is sadly not George Orwell, but also of the Thaelmann Centuria in the late summer of 1936 in the same area.


View of Tardienta from the reconstructed trenches at Santa Quiteria.


In November 1937 the XI International Brigade was based for a time near Huesca in reserve. Jo Stein Moen, author of  Tusen Dagen. Norge og den Spanske Borgerkrigen 1936-1939 (Glydendal, Oslo, 2009),visited the village of Torralba de Aragon last year with a relation of a Norwegian Brigader for the purposes of a television programme following in the footsteps of her relation. Jo had mentioned that they had been shown some wall propaganda still visible in one of the barns. We easily found it (but one has to drag a pallet across to see it behind the barn door) and we felt very pleased with ourselves.

However, as we drove back into the village from the barn I had a sudden feeling of déjà vu and took the photo below. To my great surprise they correspond with two photos from Brigadistas : el archivo fotográfico del General Walter by Jesús González de Miguel, Gabriel Jackson & Ángel Rojo Rincón (Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales. 2005).

General Walter was standing on the extreme left hand balcony of the cream coloured building.

These two photographs of General Walter (Karol Swierczewski), Commander of the 35th Division were taken in Torralba de Aragon at the XI Brigade Estado Mayor on 7th November 1937. It seems that this was the day when the XI International Brigade flags that were presented at the Calderon Theatre in Madrid on 31st October was presented to the Brigade. It was a bitterly cold day with a strong wind and the new flags fluttering from the Staff Building. But at the “Klubhaus”in the village later, wine and beer were given at a party with a gramophone playing the “Himno de Riego” and the Catalan hymn “Els Segadors”. It was not going to be long before the XI Brigade would be thrown in to the maelstrom of Teruel at El Muleton. A number of other places on this tour were located, but it would not be fair to give you too much in one go. Please have patience. But just to intrigue you, here is Len who joined us on Monday 16th May. Can you guess why he is looking so pleased? More soon…..


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