Slideshow: The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Jarama
Over 300 people gathered in Madrid last weekend for a series of events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Jarama when, inadequately armed and in filthy weather, hundreds of volunteers to the XV International Brigade lost their lives in their efforts to defend the city against Franco’s fascist forces.
Unlike in February 1937 the sun shone and the smell of wild thyme filled the air as Irish and English visitors joined Spanish comrades for the 5th annual Jarama memorial walk. The three-hour procession, through olive groves and across scrubby terrain a few miles south-east of Madrid, halted at key spots close to Suicide Hill and the Sunken Road where over 150 members of the British Battalion were killed. Poems were recited and songs sung. The walk concluded at the ‘clenched hands’ monument to the International Brigades by one of Spain’s leading artists, Martin Chirino. A wreath was laid and two minute’s silence was held, broken by a rallying chorus of the Internationale.
As Spain increasingly engages with the memory of its civil conflict, so the wounds resurface in different ways: The plaque to the 2006 monument has been defaced. In the nearby town of Morata de Tajuña a new memorial statue was also unveiled. The human form was made by Goyo Salcedo from bullets and shrapnel painstakingly gathered from the battle site. It stands in an ad hoc museum to the conflict assembled by Salcedo in the basement of an apartment block.
At the ceremony, Nils Wintringham read Monument, the poem of August 1937 written by his grandfather Tom Wintringham, ‘English Captain’ of the British Battalion at Jarama. Spontaneously an elderly local pushed his way through the crowds to share his recollections. Meanwhile in the town square the Falangist flag flutters outside the party’s local offices.
Listen to Hugh Purcell talk about the Battle of Jarama, and read from Tom Wintringham's poem Monument, on the History Today Podcast
From The Archive
The British Battalion of the International Brigades, formed to defend the Spanish Republic against the forces of General Franco, first went into battle at Jarama in February 1937. It was the beginning of a bruising, often dispiriting campaign, as Christopher Farman explains.
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