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Captured at Jarama

Prisoners of war captured at Jarama

Members of the British Machine-Gun Company captured at Jarama, 13th February 1937
Members of the British Machine-Gun Company captured at Jarama, 13th February 1937

The members of the machine-gun company captured at Jarama expected to be executed, for the belief was widespread that captured Internationals were shot on sight. Phil Elias, of Leeds, was shot when reaching for tobacco from his pocket and John Stevens, an engineer from Islington in London, was killed by the same burst of machine-gun fire. When Edward Dickenson, the company second in command, protested over the shooting, he was shot through the head with a pistol.

After interrogation and finger-printing, the surviving prisoners were taken to an old factory in Talavera de la Reina, where they stayed for three months, repairing roads and burying the bodies of executed Republican prisoners, with little food and the most basic living and sanitary facilities. Several prisoners were still carrying the wounds they had sustained at Jarama; many of the others fell ill from stomach and lung diseases.

In May 1937 the prisoners were moved to Salamanca, where they were all tried by a military court for ‘aiding a military rebellion’. Five were sentenced to death and the remainder sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. Following the show trial, the prisoners were moved to the Model Prison in Salamanca, where they remained until May 1937, when they were informed that Franco had pardoned them, and that they were to be exchanged for a similar number of Italians captured by Republican forces. Of the twenty-three released British prisoners, five were back in Spain fighting with the British Battalion within six weeks. A small number of prisoners were not released immediately, but were finally released in November 1937.

FURTHER READING

Bill Alexander, British Volunteers for Liberty, London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1982

Richard Baxell, British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Battalion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939, London, Routledge/Cañada Blanch Studies on Contemporary Spain, 2004