The Solidarity of the British People with Republican Spain
Repository: Warwick Digital Collections, University of Warwick, Coventry, England
Creator: Peacock, W. Arthur
Creator: Jeger, George
Contributor: Spanish Medical Aid Committee
Fond or Collection
Political Pamphlet Collection
JD 10.P6 PPC 2074
Repository and Location
Warwick Digital Collections, University of Warwick, Coventry, England
Date Created: 1938-12-28
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: London, England
In contrast to the Conservative government of Stanley Baldwin, which refused to support the Spanish Republic and promoted the policy of Non-Intervention that was so harmful to it, from the start of the war broad swathes of British society, mostly Labourites and other leftists but also liberals and conservatives, displayed their solidarity with the Republic. They saw it as the victim of fascism and the war in Spain as the first confrontation between democracy and fascism.
This solidarity took various forms. Some 2,000 volunteers, most of them working class, including the unemployed, ignored the express, legal prohibition imposed by their government and went to fight in Spain, either in British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade, or in party militia units and the Popular Army. W.H. Auden, George Orwell, John Cornford, Stephen Spender, and Christopher Cauldwell were only some of the writers whose work reflected their time fighting for the Republic.
Another source of solidarity were the innumerable committees to provide assistance to the Republic that were created, many promoted by the Communist Party, the Labour Party, miners’ unions, and religious groups like the Quakers. These organizations sent food and medical supplies, and money as well as organizing the reception of Spanish children who were evacuated to avoid Francoist aerial bombardments of the civilian population. There were also organizations like Spanish Medical Aid Committee created by the Socialist Medical Association that sent teams of doctors and nurses, like Patience Darton, who worked in field hospitals run by the Republic and non-governmental organizations.
As the war went on and it became absolutely clear that the fascist powers were aiding Franco, a group of well-known public figures including the Duchess of Atholl, scientist J.B.S. Haldane, publisher Victor Gollancz, politicians Violet Bonham Carter and Richard Stafford Cripps, feminist Margery Corbett-Ashby, and historian R.H. Tawney signed a letter to the Manchester Guardian on January 18, 1938 in which they demanded that Great Britain and France lift their embargo on selling arms to the Republic and start to support it. They were ignored.
Not all British solidarity was directed at the Republican side. A few volunteers, of whom the most famous example was writer Peter Kent, fought for the Francoists. There were also doctors and nurses such as Priscilla Scott Ellis.