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Charity number 1094928

Into Aragon

Into Aragon

Returning to the front
British volunteers returning to the front from the hospital at Benecasim

In mid-August 1937 the 35th Division, including the British Battalion, was transferred to the Aragon front, as part of a Republican campaign aimed at capturing Saragossa, and diverting Franco's attention from the northern front where, following the bombing of Guernica and the capture of Bilbao, Santander was coming under threat from the Rebel forces.

The battalion helped capture the town of Quinto at the end of August 1937, but in the process suffered significant casualties, including the death of its commander, Peter Daly, and the wounding of Tom Wintringham, the captain of the battalion at Jarama, leading to his repatriation to Britain. Though the British continued to advance, fighting at Belchite and Mediana, Saragossa remained in Rebel hands and the Republican offensive ground to a halt.

During October, the battalion participated in a disastrously over-ambitious plan to capture the town of Fuentes de Ebro, within sight of Saragossa. Attempts to carry infantry on tanks were a lamentable failure and the battalion lost another commander killed, Harold Fry, the commander of the machine-gun company captured at Jarama, who was temporarily replacing Paddy O'Daire whilst O'Daire was away on officer training. With numbers badly depleted, the battalion were withdrawn for two months for some urgently needed rest.

In mid-December 1937, the Republicans launched another Aragon offensive, which spectacularly captured Teruel. However, by mid-January 1938, the Republican forces in Teruel were fighting desperately to contain a major Rebel counter-attack and the International Brigades were rushed up to the front to help the beleaguered Republican defending forces.

FURTHER READING

John Angus, With The International Brigade in Spain, Loughborough: Loughborough University, 1983.

Frank Graham, ed., Battles of Brunete and the Aragon, Newcastle: Frank Graham, 1999.

Walter Gregory, The Shallow Grave: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War, London: Victor Gollancz, 1986.