Smith, Chris (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 12290
Production date
Subject period
  • whole: Duration 260, Number Of Items 9
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview


Object description

British civilian in Scotland 1931-1936. Served with Anti-Tank Bty, 15th International Bde and Spanish Anti-Tank Bty in Spain 5/1937-10/1938.

Content description

REEL 1 Family background and political activities in Rutherglen, Glasgow, Scotland, 1915-1936: political influences; opinion of education at Catholic school; religious allegiances in Rutherglen; family poverty; father's political attitudes; influence of novels by Upton Sinclair; background to joining Young Communists League, 1931; employment as despatch clerk in warehouse, attempt to form trades union, story of conflict with anti-Catholic employer; activities with YCL during 1930s. REEL 2 Continues: attending hiking trips, activities on Kinder Scout trespasses with Young Communists League; composition of YCL; personal interest in local housing conditions; local relations between religion and politics; question of relations between religions and Communism; Spanish relief activities, 1936; stories illustrating YCL internal discipline including reprimanding of Hugh Sloan; question of presence of Scottish nationalism during 1930s; background to joining International Brigade. REEL 3 Recollections of recruitment to International Brigade and journey to Spain, 4/1937: decision to go to Spain with YCL comrades; question of adventurism, pacifism; verse written for him and Hugh Sloan by YCL member; reactions of family; his attitude to leaving home; father's reaction on his departure for Spain compared to that on his return; family relations; recruitment advice from Peter Kerrigan; recollections of other volunteers travelling from Glasgow including Jack Kent; being refused entry at Calais; staying in homeless hostels in London; description of hostel in Covent Garden; entering France at second attempt; being separated from group leader John Londragan in Paris; May Day celebrations in Paris, 5/1937; move to Lyons; story of group of volunteers following wrong contact in Lyons; billeting in Beziers; crossing Pyrenees on foot. REEL 4 Continues: physical strengths of volunteers; lying low under garlic-eating volunteer; carrying of weak volunteer. Recollections of period with Anti-Tank Bty, 15th IB in Spain, 5/1937-10/1938: aspects of billeting in Figueras Castle including other volunteers, rations, rolling cigarettes, uniforms; training, formation of Anti-Tank Bty at Albacete; opinion of Malcolm Dunbar and Hugh Slater; question of unit discipline, class relations; opinion of Dunbar; training near Madrid, 5/1937; aspects of action at battle of Brunete, 6/1937-7/1937 including first view of dead volunteer, Slater's picking-up of dismembered arm, duties in gun team, 'Jimmy Higginsism'. REEL 5 Continues: field communications; action at Mosquito Ridge; supplies; heat; death of Jack Black; firing technique; attracting fire with corpse of mule; ammunition; casualties; manoeuvring guns; retreat; deafness of Bill Alexander; position of American machine-gunners; unit casualties; aspects of rest period at Ambite during 7/1937 including rations, doggerel verses by Miles Tomalin, reorganisation of unit, his promotion, shaving; opinion of Jimmy Sullivan; story of drunken volunteer; background to positions near Quinto; shelling Quinto, 8/1937; being wounded in penis at Teruel? 12/1937. REEL 6 Continues: medical treatment at dressing station and on hospital train; convalescing in Benicasim; story of mix-up at Peter Daley's funeral at Benicasim; convalescing in cook-house at Fuentes de Ebro, opinion of cooks; rejoining unit in reserve near Masta de las Matas, 12/1937, billeting in convent; question of Christmas celebrations; conditions of journey to Teruel, 12/1937; kit, opinion of role of unit, action at Teruel, 12/1937-2/1938; communicating with Spaniards; story of disputes between commanders at Brunete. REEL 7 Continues: question of fraternisation with civilians; story of volunteer who deserted after Brunete; opinion of Nationalist forces and supplies; mail, cigarettes from home, question of censorship; visits from VIPs; opinion of Ernest Hemingway and Sefton Delmar; reactions to introduction of saluting; story illustrating discipline in unit; story of listening to talk on sexual behaviour at Ambite; role of political commissars; comparison of commissars; retreat from Gandesa across River Ebro, 3/1938. REEL 8 Continues: losing unit during retreat across Ebro, being criticised for straying by Andre Marty, 9/1938; opinion of Marty; crossing River Ebro before detonation of bridges; position at bridge, air attacks, refugees, ca 19/3/1938; disbandment of unit; joining new artillery gun coy; effectiveness of gun, mountain position at Sierra Pandoles, ; shooting down of enemy bomber; panic-shooting; removal of unit's gun; decision to send George Baker home for propaganda work; being redeployed to scouting position near Corbera; physical and mental condition of Ben Glazer; investigating break in Spanish Republican lines near Corbera; death of Ben Glazer; posting as adjutant with Spanish Anti-Tank Bty at Corbera, 18/9/1938; positions; morale; quelling panic of unit in cave; reaction to being left with unit; reaction to being left on own near Corbera. REEL 9 Continues: reaction to repatriation of IB; departure from Spain, morale at Ripoll; view of war materials for Spanish Republic at French border; farewell parade in Barcelona, 29/10/1938; delay in repatriation, interviews by League of Nations workers, rations at Ripoll; refusing Salvation Army food in France; receptions in London and Glasgow, GB. Aspects of return to GB, 1939: continued campaign for Spanish relief; move to Rotheram; story of being pressurised to rejoin Catholic church; employment in steel works; contacting Spanish comrades; story of imprisonment of Ted Edwards, question of British Army's discrimination against Communists.

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