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Last updated:10 May 2018

Spanish Civil War collection

Between 1936 and 1939, around 2,000 British volunteers fought in the 15th International Brigade in Spain. This was the English-speaking section of the international force mobilised to defend the Republican government against the Fascist army of General Franco.

Material on the period, much of it archival, forms one of the most extensive and interesting collections in the Library. This short bibliography represents only a fraction of the collection and is limited mainly to material relating directly to the International Brigade itself. 

The collection consists of books, pamphlets, journals, archival material, artefacts and tape recordings. 

The Library also holds an impressive archive of letters written by men from the Greater Manchester area some of whom, sadly, lost their lives in what is regarded by many as the first battle of the Second World War. Included in this archive are letters from:

  • Joe Lees of Oldham. Killed at Brunete, July 1937.
  • Ken Bradbury of Oldham. Killed at Teruel, January, 1938 aged 17.
  • Albert Charlesworth, also of Oldham and Jud Coleman of Cheetham, both of whom returned when the Brigade was finally withdrawn in October, 1938.
  • Joe Fillingham of Bury. Killed at Teruel, January 1938.
  • Ralph Cantor of Cheetham. Killed at Brunete, July 1937.

Click here to find out more about the letters.

We also hold the Diary kept by Ralph Cantor whilst in Spain and his pistol, which was presented to the Library by his nephew Ralph Helman, has been donated to Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

Loading a lorry with goods for Aid to Spain

Aid to Spain

The International Brigade represented part of an extensive Aid For Spain Movement in Britain which was responsible for sending medical equipment and staff (a number of women served with the Brigade as nursing staff) and food and clothing to the Spanish people. Organisations like the National Joint Committee For Spanish Relief were set up in response to the suffering of the Spanish people in defiance of the British Government's policy of Non-Intervention, by people who recognised the threat posed by Fascism from Hitler's Germany and Mussolini in Italy.

Spanish Civil War republican flag

Republican flag

Also part of the collection is the Spanish Republican flag rescued shortly before the fall of Madrid by Liverpudlian, Jimmy Shand. The flag was presented to the Library by Hilda Froom-Baruch.  It also has a tape recording of an interview with Brigader Bernard McKenna.

Spanish Civil War forage cap belonging to Stephen Outram

Forage cap

Artefacts such as ceramics, International Brigade caps and Identity cards, together with contemporary posters and some of the wonderful paintings by International Brigader, Syd Booth, are on display in the Library's International Room. With the plaque crafted by Sol Garson on the door, the room serves as a fitting tribute to all those who risked their lives in the first epic battle against Fascism.


Resources relating to the Spanish Civil War and the International Brigade in the library collection


Back from the dead: the adventures of Jack Coward, International Brigader by Jack Coward (no date) - Shelfmark: JS38 Spain Box 5

Bill Feeley: singer, steel erector, International Brigader published by the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (Constructional Division) and Greater Manchester Trade Union Spanish Solidarity Committee (ca. 1978) - Shelfmark: JS40 Spain Box 19

Britons in Spain: the history of the British Battalion of the XVth International Brigade by William Rust (1939) - Shelfmark: JS24

Canadian volunteers: Spain, 1936-1939 (1989) by William C Beeching - Shelfmark: JS24

Cheetham to Cordova: a Manchester man of the thirties by Maurice Levine (1984) - Shelfmark: JS39 Spain Box 9

Clem Beckett: hero and sportsman published by the Dependents' Aid Committee (ca. 1937) - Shelfmark: JS40 Spain Box 20

Connolly Column: the story of the Irishmen who fought in the ranks of the International Brigades in the national revolutionary war of the Spanish people, 1936-1939 by Michael O'Riordan (1979) - Shelfmark: JS25

Dolores Ibarruri: speeches and articles, 1936-1938 (ca. 1938) - Shelfmark: JS25

From Manchester to Spain by Bernard Barry (2009) - Shelfmark JS38 Spain Box 5

From the Tees to the Ebro: my road to Spain by Dave Goodman (ca. 1986) - Shelfmark: AG Communist Party of Great Britain Box 3

I was A Franco soldier by Seamus MacKee (1938) - Shelfmark: JS38 Spain Box 2

La Pasionaria: the Spanish firebrand by Robert Low (1992) - Shelfmark: JS26

Miners against fascism: Wales and the Spanish Civil War by Hywel Francis (1984) - Shelfmark: JS26

National emergency conference on Spain: report containing extracts from speeches, resolution, programme of action, credential committee report, messages from home and abroad (1938) - Shelfmark: JS38 Spain Box 2

No other way: Jack Russia and the Spanish civil war - a biography by Richard Felstead (1981) - Shelfmark: JS26

Pollitt visits Spain: Harry Pollitt's story of his visit to Spain in December, 1937 (1938) - Shelfmark: JS38 Spain Box 3

Prisoners of the good fight: the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Carl Geiser (1986) - Shelfmark: JS27

Speech by Dr. Negrin, President of the Council of Ministers: Barcelona, 14th October, 1938 (1938) - Shelfmark: JS38 Spain Box 3

Speech delivered by Don Manuel Azana, president of the Spanish Republic in Barcelona City Hall on July 18, 1938 (1938) - Shelfmark: JS38 Spain Box 3

The book of the XV Brigade: records of British, American, Canadian and Irish volunteers in the XV International Brigade in Spain, 1936-1938 edited by Frank Ryan (1938) - Shelfmark: JS24

The day Guernica died by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts (1975) - Shelfmark: JS25

The odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War by Peter N Carroll (1994) - Shelfmark: JS26

The road to Spain: anti-fascists at war 1936-1939 edited by David Corkhill and Stuart Rawnsley (1981) - Shelfmark: JS27

The signal was Spain: the Spanish aid movement in Britain, 1936-39 by Jim Fyrth (1986) - Shelfmark: JS27

The Spanish problem: speeches at the Trades Union Congress, Plymouth, 1936  (1936) - Shelfmark: AF Trades Union Congress Box 19

Union of all Spaniards: complete text of the report to the plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Spain, at Madrid on May 23rd 1938 by Dolores Ibarruri (1938) - Shelfmark: JS38 Spain Box 3

Unlikely warriors: the British in the Spanish Civil War and the struggle against fascism by Richard Baxell (2012) - Shelfmark: JS29

Voices from the Spanish Civil War: personal recollections of Scottish volunteers in Republican Spain 1936-39 edited by Ian MacDougal (1986) - Shelfmark: JS29

Volunteer in Spain by John Sommerfield (1937) - Shelfmark: JS29

Women's voices from the Spanish Civil War edited by Jim Fyrth and Sally Alexander (1991) - Shelfmark: JS29


Bulletin of the political commissars of the International Brigades
(Aug, Oct 1937) - Shelfmark: JS41 Spain Periodicals A-Z

Our fight: journal of the XV international brigade
(Dec 1937/Jan 1938) - Shelfmark: JS41 Spain Periodicals A-Z

Spain [pro-Franco]
(5-26 Jan, 9-16 Feb, 9 Mar-18 May, 13 Jul-3 Aug, 24 Aug, 7 Sep-7 Dec 1939; 1 Feb, 7 Mar 1940) - Shelfmark: JS41 Spain Periodicals A-Z

Spain at war: a monthly journal of facts and pictures
(Apr-Dec 1938) - Shelfmark: JS27

Spain Today
(Jul 1946-Jul 1947; Sep 1947-Feb 1949; Apr 1949-Jun 1953) - Shelfmark: JS41 Spain Periodicals A-Z

Voice of Spain
(Jan, Feb, 29 Apr, 13, 20 May, 3, 10 Jun, 22 Jul-12 Aug, 26 Aug, 21 Oct, 11 Nov, 23 Dec 1939; 6 Jan-10 Feb, 24 Feb-9 Mar, 23 Mar, 13 Apr, 1 Jun, 7 Sep, 16 Nov 1940; 7 Dec 1940-18 Jan 1941; 8-22 Feb, 8-29 Mar, 19 Apr, 17, 24 May, 14 Jun 1941) - Shelfmark: JS41 Spain Periodicals A-Z

The volunteer for liberty: organ of the international brigades
(1 Jun, 29 Jun-23 Aug, 6, 13, 27 Sep, 14 Oct-6 Dec, 20 Dec 1937; 2 Jan-15 Jun, 7 Jul, 13 Aug-5 Sep, 6 Oct 1938; Jan-May 1940; Jul 1940-Nov/Dec 1941; Feb 1942-1943; Nov/Dec 1943-Feb 1944; Apr, May, Jul, Oct 1944; Feb/Mar 1945-Jun 1946) - Shelfmark: JS41 Spain Periodicals A-Z


An examination of the motives prompting the volunteers from Manchester and Salford to join the International Brigade in Spain, 1936-1939 by ME Kirk (1980) [EVT/SPAIN/2] - Shelfmark: JS38 Spain Box 4


In addition to the letters already mentioned, the Library also has archival material from the following organisations:

British Youth Peace Assembly/Spanish Youth Foodship Committee.
Friends Of Spain.
Manchester and Salford Foodships For Spain.
National Joint Committee For Spanish Relief.
Spanish Medical Aid Committee.
Wounded and Dependents' Aid Committee

Biography files of International Brigadiers and other people involved in the Spanish Civil War containing correspondence, newspaper cuttings, notes, biographies and photocopies of information and articles. Of particular note is a collection of official papers regarding nursing with the International Brigade, concerning British nurse Mary Slater.


The Library has a number of tape recordings detailing the experiences of International Brigaders. These are listed on the online catalogue.


Other sources

For details of the University of Warwick Modern Records Centre's digitisation project Trabajadores: the Spanish Civil War through the eyes of organised labour click here.  Other archive collections on this topic are listed on the Archives Hub Web site here