Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

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Komi
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Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Komi » 07 Jan 2021 15:27

A cursory glance at the wikipedia article Foreign Involvement in the Spanish Civil War showed a claim that "...volunteers from other nations served in the Nationalist forces, including Britons ... Welsh People ... Americans ... " The source given for this statement is Christopher Othen's book Franco's International Brigades: Foreign Volunteers and Fascist Dictators in the Spanish Civil War, of which I don't have a copy.

Can anyone elaborate on the subject of British and American volunteers for the Nationalist side? Any details on things like names, service history, numbers ... really any details at all? Also if there have been any books written which go into depth on British or American volunteers for the Nationalists, I'd appreciate a recommendation.

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Ironmachine
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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Ironmachine » 08 Jan 2021 08:17

Another book on the subject is Fighting For Franco: International Volunteers in Nationalist Spain During the Spanish Civil War, by Judith Keene. It includes a chapter on English-speaking volunteers.
There were at most a few tens of British and American volunteers in the National side during the SCW so their military significance was zero, regardless of how interesting their stories could be.
Perhaps the best known National British volunteer in the SCW is Peter Kemp, who fought first in a Requeté unit and later joined the Spanish Legion. He wrote a book about his experiences in the SCW titled Mine Were of Trouble.

Komi
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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Komi » 08 Jan 2021 11:06

Ironmachine wrote:
08 Jan 2021 08:17
Thanks for the reply, I'll add that book title to my list and also have a look for Kemp's story.

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lordgort
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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by lordgort » 14 Feb 2021 01:51

Hi all, I'm a long time reader of this forum but just recently joined! Just wanted to add to this thread that I have read Mine Were of Trouble and in my opinion it is the best account of the SCW from a British perspective.

Komi
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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Komi » 14 Feb 2021 12:12

lordgort wrote:
14 Feb 2021 01:51
Hi all, I'm a long time reader of this forum but just recently joined! Just wanted to add to this thread that I have read Mine Were of Trouble and in my opinion it is the best account of the SCW from a British perspective.
Thank you lordgort, it's in my wishlist!

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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Sid Guttridge » 14 Feb 2021 16:01

Hi Guys,

There was, for a brief time, an Irish Battalion. From memory, this proved to be a complete fiasco and was quickly disbanded. I guess it was the only foreign unit within the Spanish Nationalist forces.

My Aunt's husband, who I knew as a small child as Unky Finky (Uncle Findlay), was a medical orderly with the Royal Navy at Gibraltar in the second half of the 1930s. Within my cousins' family there is a story that he "deserted" to join the Nationalists during the civil war, but that this was as part of British intelligence gathering operations. In any event, he was back to being a naval medical orderly on Malta by 1940, where he met my Aunt.

Cheers,

Sid.

Komi
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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Komi » 14 Feb 2021 17:46

Sid Guttridge wrote:
14 Feb 2021 16:01
There was, for a brief time, an Irish Battalion. From memory, this proved to be a complete fiasco and was quickly disbanded. I guess it was the only foreign unit within the Spanish Nationalist forces.
Eoin O'Duffy's unit, no? He wrote a book about his experiences in Spain (although I can't vouch for how accurate it is) called 'Crusade in Spain'.

I had heard of the Irish Brigade before but not much about Americans or Britons, so that's why I posted here. For the Irish, I think the primary motivation to serve Franco was to defend the Catholic church from reports of atheism/blasphemy by the Spanish Republicans. For Protestant Brits or Americans though, there would not necessarily have been the same motivation, so I was curious to learn more about them. I assume that, like other foreign volunteers, anti-Communism would have been the primary push for British or Americans...

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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Sid Guttridge » 14 Feb 2021 19:01

Hi Komi,

I am not sure there was so much animus against Communism then, as it was still in the afterglow of its initial idealism. It is much more a post-WWII phenomenon.

Nor were predominantly Protestant countries such as the UK or USA likely to identify as strongly with the Catholicism of Franco's Nationalists or react so strongly about the persecution of the Catholic priesthood by Republicans.

I would guess that the tiny number of volunteers from these countries for Franco's forces were strong Catholics and this was their primary motivation.

Cheers,

Sid.

Komi
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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Komi » 14 Feb 2021 20:02

Sid Guttridge wrote:
14 Feb 2021 19:01
I am not sure there was so much animus against Communism then, as it was still in the afterglow of its initial idealism. It is much more a post-WWII phenomenon.
Well, we can see examples of "Red Scares" in countries like the USA as early as the 1910's, and by the 1930's there were certainly anti-Communists active from Eastern Europe. And in America there were figures like Father Charles Coughlin who were very critical of Communism before WWII.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Red_Scare

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Coughlin

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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by George Lepre » 20 Feb 2021 23:04

Hi Guys -

Sid and Komi have contributed interesting commentary here. Please allow me to suggest another factor: financial means. The Great Depression was in full swing in the United States during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The Soviet Comintern provided recruiting assistance and financial aid to the International Brigades. There was no similar organization on the right.

George

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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Sid Guttridge » 21 Feb 2021 01:38

Hi George,

There certainly was a well developed Left wing international solidarity movement that did not exist on the Nationalist side.

However, the disparity in numbers of volunteers is so great that this is not likely to be the main explanation.

Take Latin America. 2,615 volunteers from there joined the International Brigades. Hundreds of others served in the Republican forces. They mostly had to pay their own way and only began to arrive in numbers in early 1937. The number of traceable Latin American volunteers for the Nationalists I could find a few years ago was below a hundred. However, as there was no equivalent of the International Brigades they are probably more difficult to trace and I presume the real total is a bit higher.

In the specific case of Mexico, 464 are known to have joined the International Brigades and about 20 are known to have joined the Nationalists.

It is also worth noting that, when it invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Italy recruited 1,235 Latin Americans of Italian origin and rejected applications from 256 other Latin Americans not of Italian origin. Italian shipping lines carried them. So it was possible to organise a Right wing solidarity movement to facilitate mass volunteerism to match the Left, provided the demand was there. It just didn't happen for Nationalist Spain.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Ironmachine
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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Ironmachine » 21 Feb 2021 07:46

It didn't happen probably because there was no real interest. The Nationalists (sic) already had enough men, it was weapons that were lacking. On the other hand, that kind of volunteers adds little to the war effort, as you have to train them and provide the equipment for them, and in many cases the lenguaje is an additional problem. They have an already available source of somewhat better volunteers in Spanish Morocco, and they obtained "trained" and equipped "volunteers" from Italy in larger numbers than the Republican volunteers, so they have little incentive to obtain further volunteers.

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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Sid Guttridge » 21 Feb 2021 11:02

Hi Ironmachine,

The Nationalists were nevertheless outnumbered until near the end.

Furthermore, they took the Irish Battalion and any other foreign volunteers they got, so I doubt that there was reluctance on their part.

I think you are fundamentally correct that there was no real interest abroad. Being avowedly nationalist probably doesn't help much in recruiting abroad when fighting an opponent who was avowedly internationalist.

Cheers,

Sid

Komi
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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Komi » 21 Feb 2021 11:06

Ironmachine wrote:
21 Feb 2021 07:46
It didn't happen probably because there was no real interest. The Nationalists (sic) already had enough men, it was weapons that were lacking. On the other hand, that kind of volunteers adds little to the war effort, as you have to train them and provide the equipment for them, and in many cases the lenguaje is an additional problem. They have an already available source of somewhat better volunteers in Spanish Morocco, and they obtained "trained" and equipped "volunteers" from Italy in larger numbers than the Republican volunteers, so they have little incentive to obtain further volunteers.
This is a good point. I think the lower numbers of volunteers on the Nationalist side could not just be due to lack of interest from volunteers, but also from the Nationalists turning them away. For example, at least according to what I've read, Franco turned down a few proposals to form foreign volunteer units, including a proposal from White Russian exiles and from Belgians and Greeks.
(my source of that is the book 'The Spanish Civil War 1936–39: Nationalist Forces' by Alejandro de Quesada).

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Re: Britons and Americans in the Nationalist forces

Post by Sid Guttridge » 21 Feb 2021 11:12

Hi Guys,

The Nationalists had the Spanish Foreign Legion. How did it sustain its numbers in the Spanish Civil War?

Cheers,

Sid.

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