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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

 

Bienvenidos 

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

 

Reginald Saxton – Sussex Brigader

Dr Reginald Saxton (1911 – 2004) – doctor and Sussex Brigader

Dr. Reginald Soames Saxton was born in Cape Town, South Africa, where his father was a university lecturer in botany, on 13th July 1911. The family moved to India, where Reg was sent to boarding school. He told me of the horrific punishments inflicted on boys who escaped from such barbaric conditions. He was later sent to Repton public school in England, which he also thoroughly disliked, before going on to Cambridge, where he switched studies from sciences to medicine, having wanted to be a doctor from an early age.

He completed his medical training at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London and became a member of the Inter-Hospital Socialist Society. His decision to join the Communist Party was prompted after buying a copy of the Daily Worker on Paddington Station during his daily commute from Reading. “Here’s common sense”, he thought. After visiting the Soviet Union in 1935, Reg became a general practitioner in Reading.

Reg was one of the first volunteers to serve with the Spanish Medical Aid Committee (SMAC) and arrived in Spain on 15th September 1936. Later, as a member of the unit, he joined the 35th Division Medical Division Unit, or Sanidad, attached to XIV Division (French) of the International Brigade.

Reg left a contemporary statement about his reasons for volunteering to help in Spain: “We are going to help the wounded of both sides…We cannot of course park on both sides, so we shall go out on the side of the Government, with whom we have sympathy as the democratically elected Government of Spain.”

Reg sent detailed accounts of his time in Spain to his mother, who prepared them for publication in the local press in Reading.

Reg set up an operating and classifying centre in a temporary hospital in Villarejo de Salvanés during the Jarama battle. In collaboration with Doctors Norman Bethune of Canada, and Frederic Duran-Jorda of Spain, he made a great contribution to the development of the Blood Transfusion Service in Spain, developing new methods for storage and transport of blood at the front. He had six weeks’ home leave after Jarama and saw the Paris Exhibition, where he doubtless saw Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ in the Spanish Pavilion, on his way back. He also served at Segovia and the Aragón front.

During the Second World War Reg joined the British Army Transfusion Service where he was posted to Burma. He was mentioned in dispatches for bravery and given the rank of Major.

After the war Reg practised as a GP in Brighton where he met his wife Betty, who was a great support to him, particularly when they moved to Wales to work with Dr. Julian Tudor-Hart, son of Dr. Alexander Tudor-Hart, a medical comrade in Spain. In 1976 Saxton retired to Ripe in East Sussex.

Reg continued to play an active part in politics, particularly in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) where he took his young children on the Aldermaston marches, campaigning on behalf of Cuba, and vociferously opposing the war in Iraq.

While in Spain, Reg Saxton had met Rosaleen Smythe, who worked as a hospital administrator and the two fell in love. After the war they went to live in Brighton together and made plans to marry, but after objections from Reg’s family, Rosaleen went to live in Canada, where she married Allan Ross, a former International Brigader, whom she later divorced.

In 1996 Rosaleen and Reg met again at the 1996 Homenaje in Spain to the International Brigades. After the death of his his wife Betty in 1998, Reg went to live with Rosaleen in Canada. They returned to live in Sussex in 2002. Dr. Saxton died in Worthing on 27th March 2004 and his body was donated to medical science. After the memorial meeting for Reg, Rosaleen returned to her home in Vancouver, where I spent an enjoyable week with her in 2008 after attending the unveiling of the ALBA national memorial in San Francisco.

Pauline Fraser

*****

Acknowledgements: We Cannot Park on Both Sides – Reading Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39 by Mike Cooper and Ray Parkes (Reading International Brigades Memorial Committee, 2000); Salud: British Volunteers in the Republican Medical Service during the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Linda Palfreeman (Sussex Academic Press, 2012); Reg Saxton’s obituary published in Issue eight/July 2004 issue of the IBMT newsletter.

****

Brighton and Hove buses dedicated a bus to Dr Reginald Saxton

Harry (Henry Balfour) Fraser – Sussex Brigader

Harry (Henry Balfour) Fraser – Sussex Brigader

(13.02.1906 – 10.09.1998)

Harry Fraser was born on 13th February 1906 near Holloway Road, Islington, North London. When he was thirteen and a half, Harry, an only child, was taken out of school as the family moved to Glasgow where Harry’s father had accepted a job. Unfortunately, after less than a year, Mr. Fraser senior lost his job as the whole of Glasgow ground to a halt when the great shipping strike took place. The family moved back to London, but things were no better. “We had a really thin time,” Harry told the Imperial War Museum interviewer in 1976. “I could quite understand the feelings of people made homeless.”

Back in London, aged fifteen, Harry got his first job at a wholesale chemists called Gales. The pay was very poor and Harry joined the chemical workers’ union, determined to get some improvement, but instead, at the age of twenty one, he got the sack. After that he did various jobs but was never out of work for long.

Harry set his sights on getting work in the electrical industry and to equip himself with the necessary skills, he attended evening classes, mainly in mathematics, science, engineering and electronics. He remained a lifelong learner, attending his last OU course in mathematics at the age of 89.

In his spare time, Harry was a keen swimmer and springboard diver. He worked for a while as a lifeguard at Hackney swimming baths and was proud of his lifesaving medal.

By the time Harry was sacked from his first job,  he had begun to take an interest in politics, asking himself: “Why should things be this awful?”  When the General Strike took place, he played a small part in it, and a fortnight later, joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. He was to remain a loyal Communist for the rest of his days.

In November or December 1936 Harry applied to join the International Brigades. He was interviewed at 16 King Street, the central London office of the Communist Party, by Robbie Robson, a member of the Communist Party Executive. With his record, Harry thought there would be no doubt that he would be accepted.

Robson asked: “Have you had any military experience?” Harry said: “No”. Robson said: “Do you drive a heavy lorry?” Harry said: “No”. He asked if Harry had any medical experience. Harry said: “No, I’ve got a lot of clerical experience if that might help”. “Oh, we’ve got hundreds of people who can do that. You’re no good to us. Don’t bother.” So Harry left, thinking: “You’re a fine comrade, I don’t think.”

After that disappointment, Harry saw a recruitment advertisement for the Royal Air Force, applied and was accepted. One of the questions he was asked was: “Are you a member of the Communist Party”, to which Harry answered with a forthright: “No”. After three months square bashing, and taking part in the Passing Out Parade, Harry waited eagerly for his leave and when it came, he went to see Dave Springhall, who was on the District Committee of the Communist Party.  When Harry told Springhall what had happened at the interview with Robson, Springhall said that Robson didn’t know what he was talking about, signed a paper and told him to take it to King Street. He explained that Harry would get his fares and his ticket and must get a friend to post his RAF uniform back. Harry was asked to go with another volunteer, who he knew, and then they were asked to take a third, who neither of them knew. Harry only had the clothes he stood up in and eight shillings. The Party had given them thirty shillings between them.

They spent three days in Paris, during which they visited the Paris Exhibition, where the Spanish Pavilion showed Picasso’s masterwork, ‘Guernica’. Then they were called to the Place du Combat, Headquarters of the French Communist Party. There the trio were given their instructions: “Go to Gare St. Lazare, take the 9.20pm train to Béziers, do NOT take the train that stops at Nimes.” They got on the right train, but it stopped at Nimes. The volunteers were very worried, but to their relief, the train pulled out of Nimes and trundled on to Béziers, where they had been told to identify a contact from certain details he was wearing, but were not to speak to him and must remain sixty yards behind. It was real cloak-and-dagger stuff! They did as they were told and finally they arrived at a hotel where they had to stay quiet upstairs.

Several days later they were told to board a coach which took them to the foothills of the Pyrenees. This first attempt had to be abandoned and the volunteers were taken back to Béziers. On the second attempt they were guided across the Pyrenees by a smuggler who knew the route well.  After an exhausting eleven or twelve mile route march at breakneck speed, stumbling up mountainsides and splashing through streams, in one of which Harry lost his treasured Parker pen, they arrived at the frontier as dawn rose  – the mountains fell away and they were in Spain. Harry’s official date of entry into Spain is given as 27 August 1937, Brigade number 1264.

They were taken in trucks to the Castle of Figueres, a vast and impregnable 18th century fortress, where they stayed for four days. Then they were driven to Barcelona and on by train to Valencia where they passed some enjoyable hours waiting for the Madrid train. There was a holiday atmosphere, with melons and cognac on sale and Harry fell in with a bunch of heavy-drinking Scottish steelworkers.

Their destination was Tarazona, an ancient market town not far from Albacete, the HQ of the International Brigades. At parade, there was a call for volunteers for the machine guns. Harry volunteered with half a dozen others. Some stayed back as they wanted to go to officer training school. “We didn’t want to go as officers,” Harry explained to the IWM interviewer, “we just wanted to go and fight.” In the course of training, a bet was made as to how quickly a machine-gun could be reassembled and Harry was proud to have done it in 44 seconds, timed on a stopwatch. After a month’s training, Harry was enrolled as a member of No.2 Machine Gun Company of the British Battalion.

The newly-trained recruits were moved up to Fuentes de Ebro by night. They were issued with five rounds of ammunition each and told that was all they would get. They came under rifle fire and were told to duck down and get into a shallow trench. Then they were given the grim news that British Battalion Commander Captain Harold Fry and the Battalion Commissar had been killed. After ten days they were withdrawn from the line and taken to Mondejar where they met up with comrades from No.1 Machine Gun Company.

In January 1938 the Company was taken up to Teruel by lorry, but the vehicle kept slipping back in the snow so they had to get out and walk. Harry and his comrades came under shellfire for the first time on Sugar Loaf Hill. The shells were coming over at the rate of about 120 a minute according to Battalion Commander Captain Sam Wild. This continued all day from 8am until dark, about 6pm. The enemy were trying to knock out the machine gun post, but they kept missing. Barney Shields, a veteran of the First World War, stayed on the gun all day.

Harry relates that this was the day that Thomas Moore was killed. Harry mistakenly refers to him as ‘young George Moore’ on the IWM tape, but correct first name was Thomas as recorded on the Roll of Honour. The machine gun company were in a dugout watching the battle. About half a mile away, some enemy soldiers attempted to run up the trench, but the gun was turned on them and they retreated.

Sam Wild asked Harry and two others to go over to assist the carabineros. There was a Spanish officer, clearly an enemy, waving his gun around. Harry felt he could have ‘got him’ with the machine-gun – as he rated himself quite a good shot – but the officer in command told the men to hold their fire as ‘it might have been one of ours’. Harry said that couldn’t have been the case as the officer had got round from the other side of Sugar Loaf Hill.

Sam Wild gave Harry and two others a message to take to the Russian commander. They passed by two dead volunteers, one of whom had had his leg blown off and his entrails were falling out. When they delivered the message, which was a request to advance, the big, fat Russian commander told them to go back to their captain and tell him: “He could understand their enthusiasm, he could understand their captain’s enthusiasm, but they should go back to Captain Wild and tell him that he was in charge!”

They could see the town where they had blown up the prominent hill known as El Muleton to the north of Teruel. In one incident six of the Machine Gun Company were sitting down taking a rest, when a tracer bullet came right through the middle of them, just missing all of them. Harry commented that there were many near misses like that during the war.

The battalion lost a third of its number at Teruel, according to Richard Baxell (‘British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War’). It was the coldest winter that century: apart from casualties of war, volunteers also suffered from frostbite and some died of hypothermia, while rifles and other matériel froze. The Battalion was a month at Teruel before being withdrawn to Mondejar for an all too brief period of rest.  Then they were taken by train back to Quinto where there had been a second battle. The enemy were forced to retreat because they had been without water for five days. Then the Battalion advanced to Belchite.

Harry remembers seeing former Battalion Commander Paddy O’Daire when they were at the Estado Mayor (HQ). He was a captain then but later further promoted.

Harry escaped injury, but was twice hospitalised due to illness. The first time was before Teruel when he got jaundice. He was kept in hospital for a fortnight and ordered to rest. After Teruel, Harry got a leg infection, possibly caused by shrapnel and couldn’t walk, so he was sent to hospital for a second time.

During the last six weeks of fighting on the Ebro, Sam Wild appointed Harry postman for the Battalion. He was nicknamed: ‘Harry the Post’ and so on. Harry thought it was rather demeaning and prevaricated, but Sam Wild said: “That’s an order”.

It was there that Harry caught a glimpse of George Green who he had met previously. He thought he would like to have a chat with him and asked Sam Wild where he was. “He’s dead,” said Sam bluntly. Years later Harry visited a Scots volunteer in hospital in Uxbridge who explained the circumstances in which George had been killed. He was sitting on one side of a boulder and George was on the other, when a bomb came down on George’s side and killed him.

When the Brigades were withdrawn, the surviving members of the British Battalion were sent to Ripol, near the border with France, to await repatriation. Below the town on the Ripol River were a number of textile mills, all English-owned. They turned out the ‘Gents’ natty suiting’ that the Barcelona office workers wore. The British influence must have started following the defeat of Napoleon in the Peninsular Wars, Harry thought.

The returning volunteers were taken from Ripol to Puigcerda and from there in cattle trucks on a train the short distance into France. The French police, in their smart uniforms, served them omelette, nice French bread and butter – something they hadn’t seen for a couple of years – but they weren’t allowed out of the station. Perhaps the French authorities feared there would be a massive demonstration of support to bid them farewell. Then they got back in the train and were taken all the way back home arriving to a heroes’ welcome at Victoria Station on 7th December 1938.

After his return, Harry gave himself up to the RAF. He was court martialled and sentenced to a week or two in RAF Halton’s ‘glasshouse’, or prison. One of the top brass at the station asked Harry why he had gone to Spain. He replied that he wanted to stop the spread of fascism across Europe and the officer said that he liked a man with the courage of his convictions.

Back in civvy street, Harry landed a job at Plesseys electronics company in Ilford, Essex. While staying in Ilford he met Con Harvey and they married in October 1940.

During the Second World War, Harry worked on radar, under an essential work order, for Cossors, one of the firms that developed the Chain Home early warning radar network for the RAF. He continued to work for electrical and electronics firms until his retirement in 1971.

In 1978 Harry and Con moved to Brighton, where Harry attended local Communist Party and other left-wing meetings and continued his studies in maths.

Harry and Con in the doorway of 16 Carlyle Street, Brighton

Harry and Con celebrated their Golden Wedding in October 1980.

One of Harry’s hobbies was photography. Looking for the perfect shot, he aimed for quality rather than quantity. Perhaps this reflected a lifetime spent struggling for a better society.

 

Pauline Fraser, with thanks to Margaret A. Brooks, the Imperial War Museum interviewer of Harry

Ethel Mannin and John McNair speak on fascism in Spain in Hastings, April 1938

If George Orwell was the most famous of those who volunteered with the Independent Labour Party (ILP) to go and fight in Spain, he was not the only one. John McNair for example ran the ILP’s office out in Barcelona, until the suppression of the POUM, when like Orwell he returned to Britain. In April 1938, McNair spoke about his experiences in Spain at an ILP meeting in Hastings.

John McNair

The socialist novelist Ethel Mannin and her partner, the anti-imperialist writer Reginald Reynolds also spoke at the meeting in Hastings. Mannin had thrown herself into rallying solidarity from her base in Britain during the Spanish Civil War from 1937 onwards with the return to UK from Emma Goldman, while Reginald Reynolds had helped Basque children refugees settle in Britain after 4000 arrived in Southampton, getting them housed at Stoneham.  Mannin alongside the American anarchist Emma Goldman worked closely with Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista to try and build support in Britain for the POUM and the Spanish anarchists who they felt were bearing the brunt of Stalinist repression in Spain.  Mannin spoke alongside Reginald Reynolds at many public meetings with Emma Goldman in this period and also met George Orwell after his return from fighting with the POUM, and contributed to collections such as Spain and Us (with J.B. Priestley, Rebecca West, Stephen Spender, Francis Meynell, Louis Golding, T. F. Powys, J. Langdon-Davies, Catherine Carswell) (1936) and Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War (1937).

Ethel Mannin chairing a London meeting in support of the Spanish Anarchist CNT. Jack White, the Irish anarchist from Antrim is on the left, Emma Goldman is standing on the right

On Wednesday 27 April 1938, the Eastbourne Gazette reported the following meeting that took place at the ‘Red House’ pub in Hastings on Sunday 24 April 1938:

‘Women and Fascism: Miss Ethel Mannin at Red House’
Eastbourne Gazette, 27 April 1938.

‘Disclaiming any ability as a speaker, Miss Ethel Mannin, the famous novelist, was content to occupy the chair at an Independent Labour Party meeting which was held at the Red House on Sunday evening.

In simple language she gave her reasons for urging women to take a keener interest in politics.  Stressing the lessons to be learnt from events in Europe Miss Mannin declared that if Fascism came to England in any form it would be the end of whatever liberty we enjoyed today.

‘For instance’ she said ‘women today please themselves how many children they have.  Under Fascism they would have to bear as many children as the State required.  English mothers today complain of the amount of militarism in schools, but under Fascism the teaching of militarism to the children would be intensified.’

To combat the threat of fascism it was not enough for women to link up with feminist movements.  It was necessary for them to ally themselves with the whole working class movement, and fight alongside their husbands, sweethearts and brothers for liberty.

Urging women to carry political thinking to its logical conclusion, Miss Mannin pressed the case of the Independent Labour Party, which she described as the only surviving revolutionary Socialist party.

The principal speaker at the meeting was Mr John McNair, who has had first hand experience of the war in Spain.  On this subject he spoke of the indescribable horror of the air raids on Madrid and Barcelona.  He said that the damage done by the aerial torpedoes far surpassed in death and destruction the bombs dropped by Zeppelins on London during the Great War.  One of these torpedoes was sufficient to reduce a seven or eight storey block of flats to a shambles of bricks and mortar, in which would be found mangled fragments of women and children who had thus been murdered in their beds.

The problem that faced us today, the speaker declared, was how to save what remained of civilisation.  The civilisations of Greece and Rome perished, and there was the possibility that Western civilisation would follow suit, with a reversion to barbarism.  The ancient civilisations decayed because they were built on the backs of slaves, and in all essentials, the workers today were slaves today because it was impossible for them to live unless they accepted the conditions laid down by the governing classes. This form of slavery would persist until the workers were economically free.

He went onto describe how in the past five years a wind of violence, passion and brutality had swept across Europe, destroying all the decent things in life.  He denied that there was any inherent difference between our form of democratic capitalism and Fascism, and that wherever capitalism was threatened the owning classes set up a dictator to defend and perpetuate the capitalistic system.  British capitalism had not yet needed Fascism, but if it were needed – and the portents indicated that the time might not be remote – they would not hesitate to institute some form of Fascism in this country.

Mr Reginald Reynolds, who also spoke, declared that Parliamentary democracy in this country had always been a farce because it was controlled by the ruling class.

The extraordinary life and times of Margaret Finley … and a connection to Sussex

The extraordinary life and times of Margaret Finley by Alan Lloyd, first published in the IBMT Newsletter, Spring 2012 

Nurse Margaret Finley on a fundraising mission to Nottingham in February 1939-she’s the woman on the left front.

 

Our thanks to Alan Lloyd for allowing us to reproduce this on this site.  One connection of Margaret Finley (1913-2003) to Sussex has been uncovered by Mike Anderson with the help of Alan Lloyd.  Margaret’s stepmother Elizabeth North was living and working in the Haddon Hall Hotel, Devonshire Place, Eastbourne in 1921. Margaret’s mother died in 1922 and her father married Elizabeth Hall in 1933 and by 1939 they were living in Hastings.  In September 1938 the Eastbourne Chronicle published this letter from ‘Margaret’, an ‘Eastbourne girl in Barcelona’ about conditions in Spain…

Letter to Eastbourne Chronicle from ‘Margaret’ in September 1938

Christopher Thornycroft – Sussex Brigader

Christopher Hamo Thornycroft (1915-2001)

Born in Hendon, London, in 1915, second of five children, the family later moved to West Sussex. Chris Thornycroft left his engineering degree course at Oxford University to volunteer for Spain. He was enrolled into the International Brigades on 12th September 1936, some months before the British Battalion was formed. He became armourer of the Thaelmann Battalion of German anti fascists in Spain.

A trained pilot, Chris Thornycroft had initially tried unsuccessfully to join the Republican Air Force, but Thornycroft’s ability to repair weapons and engineer new parts made him a priceless asset with the Brigades. He served at Teruel and rigged up the lighting in the cave hospital near Falset, where Dr Reg Saxton worked alongside nurse Penny Feiwel.

Chris Thorneycroft featured in the Daily Express on 12 March 1937

According to niece Anna Cordon, younger brother Bill Thornycroft said he caught pneumonia and was invalided back to England in 1938. Anna also understands that he may have been wounded and then hidden by local people somewhere inland from Tarragona.

Interviewed in 2000, a year before his passing in 2001, 85 year old Thornycroft said that he thought the pro-Republic Movement made a crucial psychological difference to the outcome of the confrontation with Nazism.

“It helped develop a spirit when the spirit of countries was being trampled underfoot. We could have had concentration camps all over this country quite easily. And it didn’t happen.”

See the Guardian obituary of him here

Ernest Osbourne – Sussex Brigader

Ernest Osbourne

Ernest Osbourne – Sussex Brigader

Born in 1901 in Walsall, Osbourne was a painter and decorator living at 31 Hazelwick Road, Three Bridges, Crawley when he volunteered for Spain. A member of the Transport & General Workers Union (now part of UNITE), and a member of the Communist Party, Osbourne attended the International Lenin School in Moscow before joining the International Brigade, arriving in Spain on 6th January 1937. Osbourne enlisted in No. 4 Company and was responsible for the kitchen and was reportedly “painstaking” in his work and that it was “mainly under his guidance that the kitchen developed into the sound organisation that was the envy and example to all battalions.” Osbourne achieved the rank of Platoon Sergeant and was wounded at Hijar in the retreat from Belchite in March 1938. He was repatriated with the rest of the British Battalion in December 1938.

Anton Miles – Sussex Brigader

Anton Miles (1911-1992) – Sussex Brigader

Born in London in 1911, Miles was a Brighton Communist Party member, and a laboratory assistant and insurance clerk who served with the International Brigade Medical Services.

Banner depicting Anton Miles on Brighton seafront in Sussex Peoples March of History, 1939

Bill Sill, Ernie Trory and Anton Miles at Brighton station on 12 December 1938 homecoming

After the Second World War, in which he served as a soldier in Cairo, Egypt, he cut all links with the Communist Party and travelled to India to train as a sadhu (holy man), and then trekked penniless, around south-east Asia, before becoming initiated as a Buddhist monk in Bhutan. By 1961 Miles claimed to be Australia’s head warlock! At the time of his death in 1992, he was no longer known as Anton Miles, having become His Holiness Shri Paramahamsha Mahendranth (Dadaji) chief guru of the Adinathas.

Alan Gilchrist – Teacher and Sussex Brigader

Alan William Gilchrist (1913-1981) – Teacher and Sussex Brigader

Alan Gilchrist

Brighton born Alan Gilchrist was 25 when he arrived in Spain in May 1937. A schoolteacher and member of the National Union of Teachers (now part of the National Education Union), he was initially posted to the British Anti-Tank Battery, serving as their Political Commissar from January to April 1938 when the Unit was disbanded.

Gilchrist saw action in many of the major battles fought by the British Battalion – Jarama, Brunete, Teruel and the Ebro. He contracted malaria after Brunete but recovered to attend the Officer Training School. Commended for his bravery at Corbera on the Ebro front, Gilchrist was wounded in the chest in July 1938 and arrived back in England in December 1938.

Gilchrist was active in the International Brigade Association serving as its Vice President. He returned to teaching and in the early 50’s taught English at Hanley Castle Grammar School in Worcestershire. Alan Gilchrist died in 1981 and his ashes were scattered on Hill 481 by Christopher Smith, a close friend and fellow Anti-Tank Battery member. Hill 481 was a heavily fortified and strategic Fascist stronghold on the Ebro front overlooking Gandesa which the British Battalion had attempted to capture to great cost.

In 2012, Mike Slater of Malvern, a former pupil of Alan Gilchrist paid this tribute to his onetime English teacher.

“He (Alan) had a significant influence to the good on my life and many others. At school he was a tall imposing character, well respected by all. As pupils we were in awe of him-we knew he had been in the Spanish Civil War, but he never spoke about it and we were too fearful to ask.”