A republican soldier

Spanish Republican Soldiers
Republican Soldiers

I decided that the only way of being able to do this was to volunteer for the infantry as a veteran soldier and hope that I would be sent to the front from where I could dessert.

I therefore present myself to a recruiting office in north Barcelona. My false identity papers made me out to be older than I was, but the officer seemed delighted to enrol me and I was sent to a training unit outside Les Borges Blanques.

The demand for fresh troops for the front was so great that our training was brief, just a fortnight. We were now in the Tarragona area near the river Ebro and much closer to the front line.

When the sergeant asked for those with a knowledge of telegraphy, I resolutely stepped forward. I was convinced that this would keep me out of the firing line.

I hated being a soldier and longed to escape to a new life.

Baptism of fire

The signal corps soon realized my inadequacies so I came to join the signals unit attached to the International Brigade which, owing to the lack of foreign volunteers, consisted mainly of Catalans.

My baptism of fire took place when a very noisy rebel plane released its deadly load over a pontoon on Ebro river. The violence of the impact made us rigid with fear.

Conditions on the front line were bad. Morale was low, discipline slack and my fellow soldiers were full of complaints about the way the war was being conducted and talked frequently about going over to the enemy.

All we Republican ever had to eat was a plate full of lentils seasoned with lard o a trace of pork, day in day out for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Every night as the sun went down, the rebels would yell, “Hey Reds, what’ve they given you to eat today? Lentils again?”

Starving, disenchanted with life and longing for more congenial company, I decided to try to cross over to the “enemy”. Looking back now I would never take such a hazardous risk again. To cross from Republican to Nationalist lines was the craziest act I ever did in my long and adventurous existence.