Supporters of the International Brigades gathered at Newhaven Fort at noon on Saturday 29 October to honour the memory of Stan Hilton, the last surviving member of the British Battalion of the XV International Brigade, who died on 21 October, aged 98 in a nursing home in Melbourne, Australia.
Flowers were laid at the International Brigade memorial bench overlooking the harbour through which many volunteers passed on the way to and from Spain.
Mike Anderson, a former IBMT Treasurer, who organised the commemoration, spoke of the young merchant seaman from Newhaven who jumped ship in Alicante because “the Spanish people needed help”. During World War Two, Stan resumed his career in the merchant navy, in constant danger from Nazi torpedoes. He emigrated to Australia in the 1950s, where he settled and raised a family.
Mike Anderson (second from right) and Pauline Fraser (front row centre) at Newheven Fort.
Speaking on behalf of the IBMT, Executive Committee member Pauline Fraser said that, with the death of Stan Hilton, the direct link with the more than 2,500 men and women from Britain and Ireland who volunteered to defend democracy and fight fascism in Spain between 1936 and 1939 had been lost. The baton had been passed on by that heroic generation and it was now the responsibility of the IBMT to ‘keep alive the memory and spirit of the International Brigades’, she said.
Mike Anderson and Pauline Fraser both agreed that we must be vigilant in defending the name of the International Brigades, citing, for example, when then Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn had attempted to enlist the memory of the volunteers to justify British bombing of Syria.
Fraser ended by reading some lines from the poem ‘The Volunteer’ by Cecil Day Lewis.
Posted on 30 October 2016.