Richard Baxell

How the International Brigades were ‘thrown into the heart of the fire’

Drawn from 52 countries, the brave volunteers were used as shock troops — so no wonder the casualties were so great, says Giles Tremlett

International Brigade soldiers with a Russian machine gun. Credit: Getty Images

During the Spanish civil war of 1936 to 1939, 35,000 men and women from around the world volunteered to fight against the forces of General Franco and his supporters from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. When the volunteers were withdrawn in September 1938 after two years of bitter fighting, more than a fifth of them had been killed and very few emerged unscathed.

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