The Battle of Brunete, July 1937
The 15th International Brigade at Brunete, July 1937
July 1937 saw the British Battalion, now under the command of Fred Copeman, thrown once more into battle as part of a major Republican offensive designed to relieve pressure on the northern front and break through the rebels at their weakest point to the west of Madrid. On the 6th July, the British Battalion moved towards their objective, the heavily defended village of Villanueva de la Cañada, which Spanish Republican forces had been unable to secure. The battalion was pinned down by well-directed machine-gun fire, and forced to take cover, short of water and in temperatures of 40 degrees, and wait until nightfall. The village was captured eventually at midnight, though not before a number of volunteers were killed when Rebel soldiers attempted to escape by using civilians as human shields.
The following morning, almost a day behind schedule, the battalion moved forward towards their major objective, the heights overlooking the Guadarrama River, and the village of Boadilla del Monte, where British members of the Thaelmann and Commune de Paris Battalions had fought six months earlier. But weakened by fatigue, thirst and constant bombardment from the air, they could not advance sufficiently rapidly to capture the unoccupied heights and Rebel forces quickly took the opportunity to move into the position. Of the three hundred and thirty-one volunteers in the ranks of the British Battalion at the start of Brunete, only forty two still remained.
Fred Copeman, Reason in Revolt, London: Blandford Press, 1948.
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.