Morning Star, February 14, 2007

70 years on in Jarama

Alan Warren reports on the commemoration of one of the great battles of the Spanish civil war

On the cold, sunny morning of February 10, a large group of Spanish, Catalan, Irish and English people gathered on a bare hill to pay their respects to the men of the British Battalion of the XV International Brigade who died in the battalion's first engagement of the Spanish civil war.

On Suicide Hill, where Kit Conway was mortally wounded on February 12 while commanding no 1 company, fellow Irishman Bob Doyle paid tribute to his good friend Kit and almost half of the 600-strong battalion who were killed or wounded in the battle to defend Madrid from General Franco's forces.

As the tune of Red River Valley was played on a simple tin whistle, the well-known words originally written in the trenches at the time by Alex McDade were sung beneath the International Brigade Memorial Trust's banner.

Accompanying Mr Doyle were members from Dungannon Council, County Tyrone, including Deputy Mayor Michelle O'Neill.

Along with members from the Charles Donnelly Winter School in County Tyrone, they had come to pay their respects to Dungannon poet Charles Donnelly, who was killed on February 27 at a spot further down the hill while serving with the Abraham Lincoln battalion.

A simple plaque and stone cairn was added to by those present after a minutes silence was given in his memory and the song Viva la XV Brigada was sung.

Finally, the group met at the impressive International Brigades memorial, which was unveiled last October in the presence of 30 surviving members of the Brigades.

Visible from the memorial is the position of the Brigade headquarters and below the cookhouse where the shattered remains of the battalion were rallied by Frank Ryan and Jock Cunningham at a vital moment in the battle.

Bob at the 2007 Jarama ceremony.

Mr Doyle gave a moving speech and, as the ceremony ended, the Internationale was sung in both Spanish and English almost 70 years to the day from when it was sung to rally the demoralised battalion in order to return to the fight and hold the line to save Madrid from encirclement.

A meal was held at Meson El Cid in Morata de Tajuna and the day closed with a meeting at the Garcia Lorca cultural centre in Rivas Vacia Madrid to a packed audience of both young and old.

Councillor O'Neill gave an address to the packed audience of young and old in which she promised closer connections and the sharing of ideas and activities between the two municipalities of Dungannon and Rivas Vacia Madrid.

A film concerning the Battle of Jarama was shown and the commemoration of the Seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Jarama came to an end.

The memorial trust can be reached at

The 2008 Jarama Commemorations had 2 Irish groups in attendance. Here's a report.