Update 22 March 2012 – Interesting Question Raised by Signatures

March 22, 2012

An interesting question is raised by a series of signatures found in Box 2, Folder 23, 177_197042 [List of Names] Moscow #5/197/42 Oct. 1938.  This is a page from Folder 197: Album of 15th International Brigade Presented to the American Communist Volunteers of the 15th Brigade by the Communist Party of Spain.  On a two page spread entitle Declaration of the American Negro Comrades eighteen individuals signed the second page.

All but two are individuals confirmed as African-American volunteers.  The two are Charles F. Foster from NYC and Larry Foy who listed Harlem as his home.  Foy has been identified as possible African-American in the past.  However, he does not appear to have been an African-American.  Foy is a Canadian who was living in the US.  Charles F. Foster is a new name. 

Charles Frank Foster was born on September 18, 1900. Almost no information is currently available on him.  He sailed for Europe on March 18, 1937 aboard the Normandie.  No information is available regarding his service in Spain.  He returned to the United States on December 20, 1938 aboard the Ausonia.  SSN database gives a probable date of death of December 28, 1987.

Lawrence Foy (aka Fay) born March 5, 1909, in Montreal, Canada and was living in Harlem, New York.  He sailed for Europe on October 9, 1937 aboard the Vollendam.  He was married and listed his occupation as Commercial Designer/painter and was a member of the CP having joined in 1935.  In Spain he served with the 35th Division and later in the XV BDE.  Foy returned to the United States on February 4, 1939.  A letter published in the Daily Worker on December 23, 1937 did not indicate that he was African-American.  Myron Momryk prepared a sketch on him in his unpublished Biographical Dictionary of Canadian volunteers.


Update 17 March 2012 – Initial look at the Moscow: Selected Images ALBA.PHOTO.177 – The Football Team

March 17, 2012

I spent a couple of hours browsing the Guide to the International Brigade Archive, Moscow: Selected Images, ALBA.PHOTO.177 and found an additional photo series of the team in American Football uniforms.  I have had a copy of the team photograph for over a decade as the team included three Black volunteers.  In Folder 192: 15th International Brigade Sports Contest and Football Team there is a small series of seven photographs relating to this football team (Box 2, Folder 18, 177_19206-19212 [Moscow #s 5/192/6-12]). 

  The series includes two photos of the team in huddle, an action shot entitle “Play along the line of scrimmage” , two shots of the team celebrating victory and a team shot of the oposing team.  I often wondered whether this team actually had played any games.  Apparently they did have at least one scrimmage. 

I would like to be able to identify the volunteers in the photos.

Update 16 March 2012

March 16, 2012

I have spent a couple of hours using the quick edit functions in WordPress to clean up the names of posts and ensure that they are all listed under the correct category.  Hopefully, this will make it easier for people to look over the site.

In the most recent Online Volunteer it was announced that more photographs from the ALBA collection are on line  Guide to the International Brigade Archive, Moscow: Selected Images ALBA Photo 177.  I am planning on spending quite a few hours working my way through the documents and photographs.  It is incredible to find an institution putting this type of material on line.  Thank you NYU and Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives for allowing easy access to these incredible sources.

Update 14 March 2012 Review of The Last to Fall

March 14, 2012

My review of Last to Fall was published in the latest issue of the The Volunteer on line.

 A Review of John L. Wainwright’s The Last to Fall, The Life and Letters of Ivor Hickman – an International Brigadier in Spain,  Hatchet Green Publishing, 2012. (ISBN 978-0-9568372-1-9)


From the cover photograph, of the International Brigade volunteer’s weather-beaten face to the closing lines of The Last to Fall, The Life and Letters of Ivor Hickman – an International Brigadier in Spain, John L. Wainwright beautifully intertwines the personal correspondence of Hickman into the broader context of the British Battalion.   The photograph which was taken during the height of the Ebro Campaign shows a soldier who appears to be in his thirties, with worry lines etched into his forehead and a tired squint.  The image belies Ivor Hickman’s youth. Hickman, the Chief of Observers for the English Battalion was only in his early twenties when the photograph was taken.  

 Wainwright’s work takes the reader through the brief life of this almost forgotten Spanish Civil War volunteer.  The letters Hickman wrote to his wife both during their courtship and his time in Spain are the focal point of this work.   Hickman was a young man with a great deal to live for.  He was only 23-years-old and married less than a year when he died in Spain.  As his letters convey, he was committed to surviving the war, exercising every opportunity to obtain training aimed at increasing his chance of survival. Despite his training and optimism, Hickman understood the dangers of war and that one cannot ensure his own safety on the battlefield.

Hickman had an impressive education.  He attended Peter Symond’s preparatory academy on scholarship after his father, an officer in the Great War, committed suicide.  In light of contemporary psychology and the study of combat’s aftermath, it can likely be concluded that the elder Hickman suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  An outstanding student at Symond’s, Hickman earned a Bachelor of Arts from Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1936. While at university, he developed liberal political leanings and joined the Cambridge Communist Party.  While at Oxford, Hickman also met his future wife, Juliet MacArthur a student at Newnham College.

Hickman’s letters are introspective and contain less of the propaganda element many other volunteers interjected into their memoires and correspondence.  Despite self-censorship, and strike-outs by the censors, Hickman provides a very human portrait of his service in Spain.  Wainwright provides context, adding short biographical sketches, either in the text or in footnotes, of volunteers Hickman mentions in his letters.  This element is strengthened by Wainwright’s inclusion of photographs of the volunteers when available.    Additionally he includes relevant primary sources and provides transcription.  Wainwright’s extensive research is evident and his narrative is engaging.  This book is a must read and is a worthy addition to Spanish Civil War libraries.

Update 4 March 2012

March 4, 2012

I have completed my review of John Wainwright’s The Last to Fall.  I will submit it to ALBA for the Volunteer.  Speaking of books I have ordered four additional books:  War is Beautiful, The Premature Anti-Fascists, They Shall Not Pass: British BN at Jarama and Fighters Against Fascism.  I am looking forward to being home where I can get back to work on this site.