Westonian Killed in Spanish War

Mr A L Doran Dies in Defence of Madrid
Former Sidcot School Rugby Player
"The Best Pal a man ever had"

Weston Mercury and Somerset Herald, June 12, 1937

The blood-drenched Hand of War has stretched out and plucked a young Weston man from the very threshold of life. Several weeks ago, in a shell-ridden, semi-ruined Madrid, where the Spanish ‘Reds’ were making a desperate fight in defence of a sector of the city, Mr Archibald Lester Doran, aged 23, crouched grimly behind a smoking machine-gun pumping bullets at the advancing Insurgents. Suddenly the clatter of his gun ceased, his body slumped forward over the weapon, and Captain and Mrs W A Doran of ‘The Lawn’, Locking Road East, in this town, had lost their eldest son.

He had been in Spain since the beginning of the year, leaving England after spending Christmas with his parents. He was drawn to the scene of the conflict partly because by the spirit of adventure and partially because he felt he would be assisting the Cause of Liberty. He originally intended to drive a motor ambulance, but shortly after his arrival in Spain he became a member of the International Brigade and went into active service. The International Brigade is, of course, composed of volunteers from all parts of the world, and it fights on the side of the Government. In his letters home, Mr Doran frequently spoke of the extreme kindness of the Spanish people, and he seemed quite happy in the country although, pathetically enough in the last communication his parents received from him – it was dated February 19th – he concluded: “I wouldn’t mind getting back to England soon.”

Educated at Sidcot

The deceased parent’s formerly lived at Harristown, Ardee, County Louth, where their son was born. Capt. Doran being chairman of Louth County Council. The father served for about two and a half years with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on the Somme and around Kermel in the Great War but after sustaining a breakdown in health, and after spending a year in Winchester, England, the family went to Tasmania for a period. Returning to this country they settled at Winscombe, and their sons completed their education at Sidcot School. Mr A L Doran was a keen Rugby player and figured prominently in the School’s XV, whilst he later played for the Old Boys. On leaving school he entered the employ of Messrs Clark, Son and Moreland, of Street, and was later transferred to a Leicester factory for a year’s training as a machinist-surveyor. He then joined the RAF but was subsequently discharged on account of defective sight, and entered the employ of a London firm where he remained until his departure for Spain. Capt. And Mrs Doran came to live in Weston in September of last year.

Speaking of her son to a Mercury reporter, Mrs Doran said he found business life very arduous inasmuch as he loved the open air and possessed an adventurous spirit. “He also met some Spanish students when he was in London”, she said, “and his sympathies were with them. He felt that his life home here was worth so little compared with what it would be out there fighting, as he saw it, for the Cause of Liberty.”

Section Commander’s Tribute

Mr Doran was stationed first at Albacete, where the International Brigade received its training. Towards the end of February the company moved up to take part in what proved to be the last defence of the southern section of the city, and here it was that he was killed. His section commander, a Canadian with whom he had become very friendly, sent home the news of his death, stating in the letter that Mr Doran had died instantaneously but ‘fighting to the last’. He ended by saying ‘he was the best pal a man ever had.’ The letter was received last weekend.

The following extracts from letters received from Mr Doran whilst he was at Albacete speak eloquently of the kindness of the Spanish people, whilst there is also pathos in one or two of the remarks which refer to his home-coming. Shortly after going out he wrote: “I cannot give much news as all letters are censored. I am fitter than ever, and it is a marvellous country – a bright sun every day, and the people are very friendly. We haven’t received any cash, but you don’t really need any here, the people are only too pleased to give you grapes, etc. and everyone eats about six oranges a day…..I intend to try and wrote a book when I get back if I can manage it at the end of the year…”

Then on January 30th he wrote: “I am just out of bed having had a very sore throat and a bit of a temperature. It is very wet here as this is the rainy seson – one month a year. However, the life is not too bad, and most of the chaps are wonderful, always joking about their troubles. The people are as kind as ever and one family brought me hot milk while I was in bed….The majority of the women spend their time drawing water from two slow trickles on the plaza. The way they plough here is on the same primitive scale, the men having to guide the plough and keep it pressed hard down at the same time. The ordinary roads are very bad although there are metalled surfaces in some parts…..If you don’t hear from me for long intervals don’t get alarmed….We met Professor Haldane – he is in England now as no doubt you have seen in the papers…”

”I wouldn’t mind getting back”

The last letter from him was dated February 19th and in it he said: “everything is going well and the language is gradually coming to me. It is a nice country and you never met anything like the hospitality of the people. We are invited out to meals every day of the week, and given gifts of cakes, wine, grapes, etc…Every night I manage to purchase a few eggs and fry them in the billet with toast. The great deficiency is the lack of milk and decent tobacco in any form….I wouldn’t mind getting back to England soon.”

After that communication came silence, culminating in the sad news of a few days ago. Naturally Mr Doran was not well-known in Weston, but there are many in the district who will remember him, for he was always very popular. His death has been a sad blow to his parents, and for them and the other relatives, sincere sympathy is felt. A younger brother is in the RAF, and is now stationed in the East, whilst a younger sister is training to be a Hospital nurse at Epsom.