Screenshot from Ernie Trory’s cine film regarding the homecoming of Anton Miles and Bill Sill on 12th December 1938 – location is the Old Steine, Brighton

Welcome to ‘Remembering the Sussex International Brigaders’ website, created with the support of the University of Brighton.  This website is under development but we hope to develop it in the coming weeks, months and years with the aim of remembering and commemorating those from Sussex who fought fascism during the Spanish Civil War through the International Brigades – the ‘Sussex Brigaders’.  We are campaigning for a local memorial in Brighton for the Sussex Brigaders, but are also interested in advancing wider public knowledge and understanding about the historic role played by activists from our region in respect to the anti-fascist struggle in Spain.  We have developed the following pages so far.

We are grateful to volunteers from Marea Granate for Spanish translations of many of the pages on this site.

Who were the Sussex Brigaders?

Why should we remember the Brigaders?

Franco’s Sussex Friends

Newhaven – Gateway to Spain

Wider Sussex solidarity with Spain

About the International Brigade Memorial Trust

About our local group



Bienvenido al sitio web “Recordando a los Brigadistas Internacionales de Sussex“, creado con el apoyo de la Universidad de Brighton. Este sitio web está en desarrollo, pero esperamos desarrollarlo en las próximas semanas, meses y años con el objetivo de recordar y conmemorar a aquellos de Sussex que lucharon contra el fascismo durante la Guerra Civil española a través de las Brigadas Internacionales: los ‘Brigadistas de Sussex’. Estamos haciendo campaña para un memorial local en Brighton para los Brigadistas de Sussex, pero también estamos interesados en promover un mayor conocimiento y comprensión del público sobre el papel histórico desempeñado por los activistas de nuestra región con respecto a la lucha antifascista en España. Hemos desarrollado las siguientes páginas hasta ahora:

¿Quiénes eran los Sussex Brigaders?

¿Por qué deberíamos recordar a los Brigaders?

Amigos de Franco en Sussex

Newhaven – Puerta de entrada a España

Solidaridad de Sussex con España

Acerca de International Brigade Memorial Trust

Sobre nuestro grupo local


Duende Flamenco – autumn tour in Sussex on Picasso

Duende Flamenco – Performances  



Picasso, his life and loves

Picasso, his life and loves

Our visually stunning new production on the life and loves of Picasso
Details coming soon!

Picasso: Saturday 14th September 2024
Hailsham Festival Hailsham

Picasso: Saturday 5th October 2024
All Saints Centre Lewes

Picasso: Sunday 20th October 2024
The Stag Sevenoaks

Picasso: Saturday 9th November 2024
Grove Theatre Eastbourne

Alfred John Smith/Patrick John Lynch: One man, two volunteers

Alfred John Smith/Patrick John Lynch: One man, two volunteers

Some people are described as ‘larger than life’. That description might be applied to Alfred John Smith, also known as Patrick John Lynch, and possibly A J Long, although there is no listing on the IBMT database for anyone of that name. A man with so many names warrants at least two entries in the IBMT volunteer database and so he has, with separate but identical cross-referenced entries for Alfred John Smith and Patrick John Lynch.

There is even uncertainty about when and where he was born. His year of birth may have been 1907 or 1914.  As Alfred James Smith, he gave an address with a Mrs Folkard, of Shelland Green, North Woolpit, and as Alfred John Smith, lived in Oxford and worked for Morris Motors. He joined the Labour Party in 1926 and was a member of the AWU.

He enlisted twice, firstly under his (probable) real name of Alfred John Smith on 2 August 1937, Brigade number 1226.  Only a month later, on 17 September 1937, he was listed by Special Branch as having returned from Spain.

On his return he was charged with breaking and entry and theft from an office in Portslade and bound over for 12 months by a court in Lewes. His wife’s address was given as 64 Cowper Road, Hove, which is where the Sussex connection comes in. A press report said: ‘He denied that he deserted from the International Brigade. He said he was sentenced to death, but escaped from the Spanish side.’ In fact, he was repatriated the first time as being ‘useless’. It added that he had applied for an assisted passage to Australia to join his father there.

It is thought that he used the alias of Patrick John Lynch, an asphalt layer, to return to Spain on 5 January 1938, and enlisted with the Mac-Paps, Brigade number 1551. He deserted in Aragon on 3 April 1938 and was arrested on the frontier. He was sent to jail either in Castelldefells, south of Barcelona, or in Figueras, on the border with France. When he was repatriated on 2 July 1938 he went under the name of Alfred John Smith. On this second occasion he was again arrested for ‘office breaking’. He was described in International Brigade records as being an: ‘Unpolitical rotter in the fullest sense’.

There the trail ends and we have no more idea when or where he died than on his entry into the world.

For further information on sources, see the entries on the IBMT volunteer database.




Alfred Thomas Henry Selmes – Sussex Brigader

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Alfred Thomas Henry Selmes (1911-1969) – Sussex Brigader

Alfred Thomas Henry Selmes was born in Brighton on 24th August 1911 and worked respectively as a labourer and as a waiter. He joined the Communist Party and gave two addresses in London, one of which may be where he was living when he volunteered for service with the International Brigades. His date of arrival in Spain is given as 7th January 1937. He deserted at Jarama and was arrested and jailed. Back in the British Battalion, he was badly wounded at Brunete in October 1937 and was repatriated on 5th November 1937. In December 1938 he received fourteen days hard labour following a demonstration against unemployment. In 1939 he was living in Holmby Street, Camberwell, London and in WW2 served in the Royal Artillery. He moved back to Brighton at some point as he was living at 77 Craven Road when he died on 18th August 1969.

The Petworth Pilot – Sydney Henry Holland

Sydney Henry Holland was born in Petworth, West Sussex on 17th March 1883, where his grandfather was rector. Some time later his address was given as Imperial House, Grovesnor Road, Victoria, London.

At the outbreak of World War One he volunteered to join the army and served with the Royal West Surreys. In 1917 he got married and joined the Royal Flying Corps as an observer and after training was posted in September to No.9 Squadron, attending No.1 Flying School in 1918. He flew patrols over north east Italy with No.139 Squadron and was promoted to Lieutenant.

Demobbed in March 1919 and tiring of war-weary Britain, he travelled to South America where he flew commercial aircraft in Argentina and Brazil, and produced an airmap of the city of Buenos Aires. He later flew aircraft across the Andes for the Paulista revolutionaries. When government forces defeated the Paulistas, Brazil was no longer a safe place for Sydney, who took ship to England ‘leaving his devoted wife to realise his assets in Rio and get most of the money out by sheer diplomacy.’ *

Back in Britain Sydney set up house with his wife and young family in Crawley, obtaining his private pilot’s licence at Surrey Aero Club in 1933, followed by his commercial pilot’s licence.

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Sydney showed an interest in ferrying war materiel to Spain but on August 19th 1936 the British Government imposed an embargo on this and threatened to suspend the licences of any pilots who tried to break it. Then Sydney and his friend and fellow pilot, Walter Scott Coates, heard that the Spanish government was looking for pilots to fly and fight in Spain. ‘The two mens’ love of adventure overcame the prudence of middle-age’ * and Sydney and Walter applied to fly under contract for the Spanish Republican Air Force. The pair flew via Paris to Barcelona
on an Imperial Airways flight with Vincent Doherty, a recruiting agent for the Spanish Air Force. ‘The Foreign Office had been made aware of their impending journey to Spain by the police, but noted that they “had no power to refuse them passports but they are committing an offence under the Foreign Enlistment Act”’

In Barcelona the foreign pilots received an enthusiastic reception and were then taken to Los Alcázares for flight tests before signing contracts. Hilaire du Berrier, who checked out the flyers’ ability, said: “I liked Holland at once. He was a small man with greyish hair, a quiet cold way about him, and turned out to be an inveterate gambler. Holland had brought his mandolin with him, and when not playing dominoes for a peseta a point he was playing it.” *

On 12th December 1936 Sydney piloted a Monospar ST-25 from its Sondica base on a mission with two other makeshift planes to bomb Lacua airfield at Vitoria. The bombers were escorted by a few Polikarpov I-15 Chato fighters, but they were spread across a distance of ten miles, making the job of escorting them extremely difficult. A flight of Condor Legion Heinkel He 51B fighters took off and one caught up with Sydney Holland just after he had dropped his bombs. The Monospar was shot down and almost completely destroyed in the crash that killed Sydney and the other two crew.

Pauline Fraser

Source: IBMT Volunteer Database, Surrey Comet 2nd January 1937 p16 “The Flyers”, by Brian Bridgeman. 1989 p87-97* Nottingham Evening Post – 15 December 1936 p1 West Sussex County Times – 18 December 1936 p7

Brighton International Brigaders Return from Spain – December 1938

Sussex People’s Scrapbook, 1938 Ernie Trory collection 

[Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton]
Screen Archive South East – Films from the Screen Archive South East collection
For some historical background to the footage here, below is an extract from Between the Wars: Recollections of a Communist Organiser (Crabtree Press, 1974) by Ernie Trory, p. 18.
‘On the 12 December [1938] we welcomed home Comrades Anton Miles and Bill Sill, both of whom had served a year with the International Brigade in Spain.  Several organisations including the Shop Assistants’ Union, Unity Theatre Club, the Communist Party, National Unemployed Workers’ Movement and Young Communist League took part in a march from the Labour Club to Brighton station to meet the returning Brigaders.  A deputation consisting of Councillor Briggs and Councillor Douglas of the Labour Party, the Sussex District Organiser of the Shop Assistants’ Union, the Brighton organiser of the [Communist] Party and myself met the Brigaders on the platform.  After being introduced to the delegates they made their appearance outside the station where the demonstration was awaiting them.  They were greeted with cheering and clapping.  Having shaken hands all down the line of the demonstrators, the Brigaders took up their position at the head of the march.  Many onlookers fell in to swell the procession behind the Spanish colours and red flags.  At the War Memorial [in Old Steine] the Brigaders laid a wreath with the inscription, “In memory of the Brighton and Sussex men who gave their lives in Spain that peace and democracy may live”.  A few days later we were proud to welcome back Comrade Arthur Hirst who had been driving a mobile hospital in Spain for over two yearts, and Comrade Jump of Worthing who had been mentioned in dispatches “for having fulfilled his duty especially as an interpreter in a number of meetings held under intense fire”.’

Julian Bell’s resting place preserved

From the IBMT e-Newsletter: 

Madrid suspends plans to build over mass grave site

An international outcry has forced the Madrid city authorities to freeze plans to build a large rubbish depot on top of the unmarked graves of British and other international volunteers who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

Among those believed to be buried there is the poet Julian Bell, a nephew of Virginia Woolf and member of the Bloomsbury Group. Bell’s death came while driving an ambulance on 17 July 1937 during fighting around Brunete, west of Madrid.

Madrid council’s decision came after protests from the IBMT and memorial groups in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Serbia and the US. These were coordinated by the Madrid-based AABI Friends of the International Brigades.

The IBMT has now been told by the Madrid city council, run by Spain’s right-wing Popular Party, that an archaeological survey of the site will take place before any work begins. As required under Spain’s Law of Democratic Memory, the aim will be to confirm whether it is a mass grave of victims of the civil war.

IBMT Chair Jim Jump welcomed the council’s positive response, noting that the remains of more than 500 British and Irish volunteers are scattered in unmarked and mass graves across Spain.

He added: ‘It is important for their dignity and to respect the cause of anti-fascism and democracy which took them to Spain that their resting places are identified and preserved.’

Return of British Battalion of International Brigade to Newhaven – 85th anniversary (7/12/1938-7/12/2023)

Members of the Sussex International Brigaders Remembered Group gathered at Newhaven Harbour Station to commemorate the 85th Anniversary of the British Battalion’s return from the Spanish Civil War.

The International Brigades were men and women from over fifty nations who fought in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), defending the elected Republican Government against General Franco’s rebels and his military backers Hitler and Mussolini. Two thousand five hundred men and women from Britain and Ireland volunteered to go to Spain, where over five hundred died fighting fascism.
Addressing the departing International Brigades in Barcelona, Republican Leader Dolores Ibarruri told the departing men and women, “You can go proudly. You are history. You are legend”.
The returning British Battalion sailed from Dieppe arriving at Newhaven in the late afternoon, before boarding a train to London at the Harbour Station. An enthusiastic crowd of over twenty thousand were at Victoria Station to welcome them home.

Pauline Fraser, daughter of International Brigade Volunteer Harry Fraser, laid flowers on the station platform, saying,

Group Treasurer, Mike Anderson, spoke about the example set by the International Brigaders. “As well as commemorating an important historical event, we are here because of the example set by these brave men and women. They continue to inspire us in our struggle against fascism and the far right.”