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.
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