Ireland and the Spanish Civil War - Waterford Fighter Writes from Spain, April 37


Irish Democrat 24th April 1937

Waterford Fighter Writes from Spain

Tribute to Comrade's Gallantry

Writing from the Madrid Front to his brother, Peter O'Connor of Waterford, pays tribute to the gallantry of his comrades and to their determination to achieve victory. Here are extracts from the letter written by this young soldier of the International Brigades.

The first Irish contingent which Frank Ryan commanded left for the front a day before I arrived in Spain. In the last three months, it set the example for the Irishmen to follow of being in the forefront of the struggle against Fascism, and also of being in the lead in the actual fight in which their Brigade was taking part, I can vouch the same for the Irishmen connected with the 'Lincoln Battalion.' They have shown marvellous heroism and endurance and have not disgraced the name we bear here of 'The Fighting Irish.'

Frank Ryan in speaking to us before we left for the front in February was full of praise for the heroism of Frank Edwards (of whom we are all proud) in the trenches of Madrid. While wounded seriously, from shrapnel in the side and leg, he encouraged his comrades fighting near him by his coolness and he went for a stretcher for one of his comrades. When he got his message through, he collapsed himself. It was only then that they found he was wounded himself. But now he is well again. Two others whom I knew well from Dublin, Donal O'Reilly, who went out in the Rising with his father in 1916 at the age of 15 years, and Jack Nalty, were also wounded. Of all the Irishmen in Spain, Kit Conway will go down in history as the bravest that ever lived, and also for his masterly handling of his comrades in arms.

Maurice Quinlan, (Roddy) was near me in another Battalion here. I was lying on one side of a hill one night, in the darkness, while a company of men filed past me. I recognised in one of them the figure of 'Roddy' in spite of his uniform and trench helmet. I called after him several times but he did not answer. That was the last I saw of him, I made several attempts to get in touch but it was only last Thursday that I met a Belfast chap who was in his Company and he told me that (Roddy) was in the front lines only a day when he was killed. Shot through the head by a sniper.

The 'James Connolly Unit,' attached to the Lincoln Battalion,' has suffered very heavy losses. Apart from minor engagements with the Fascists forces, they have been engaged in two major operations. The Irish have been in the forefront of both attacks on the Fascist lines and have rendered a good account of themselves. Our Company Commanders could be heard shouting above the din of artillery and rifle fire and the rattle of machine guns. 'Come on the Irish.' We would answer with the cry of 'Remember James Connolly, down with the Fascists dogs.'

I want you, especially in the trade union movement, to watch every little thing, every little stir that you see afoot. (it is the little things that count), make sure that the seed of fascism is not in it. If it is, throw your whole weight against it until it is rooted out. You know as well as I do that there are fascist creepers and fascist tendencies within the trade union movement in Ireland., Some of these creepers pretend to be disciples of James Connolly. Until the Trade Union Movement is rid of them we have no hope for the future.

I send on behalf of my comrades of the IRA and Republican Congress fighting here side by side in the International Brigade, Revolutionary greetings to our comrades of the IRA and Cumann na mBan, and hope that they are carrying forward the struggle for freedom in Ireland.

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