Forgotten war heroes remembered at Nottingham memorial

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Three men from Hucknall and Bulwell who fought fascism in a ‘forgotten war’ were remembered during a service to rededicate a memorial at the weekend.

The three are amongst more than 20 men from around Nottinghamshire who joined around 2,000 Brits who formed the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

The special rededication ceremony took place at County Hall, in Nottingham, on Saturday27th July and remembered Frank Ellis, from Linby, Jim Shepperd from Hucknall and Walter Gregory from Bulwell.

Frank Ellis fought in Spain and later in the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944 as a member of the Parachute, while Walter Gregory was wounded in three battles while fighting in Spain.

The volunteers were fighting on behalf of the elected Government of Spain against a fascist uprising, led by General Franco and backed by Mussolini and Hitler.

The International Brigaders’ Memorial at County Hall was first unveiled in September 1993. It was commissioned from Doncaster-based sculptor, Michael Johnson and depicts a scene from the conflict showing bombed-out buildings. A separate plaque lists the names of some of the volunteers.

Kirsty Weatherall is the grandaughter of Frank Ellis, who died in 2007.

Kirsty, who attended the service, said: “It’s a shame that so few people know about the Spanish Civil War or the sacrifices made by the volunteers from this country, like my grandad. No one told them to go to fight fascism, it was just something they passionately believed in.”

“My grandad also fought in the Second World War, which is rightfully remembered. But although grandad was thanked by the Spanish Government through the award of honorary Spanish citizenship, there is little recognition in this country. So I am pleased that the county council created the memorial in the first place and have decided to rededicate it.”

The ceremony fulfils a pledge, made by county council leader Alan Rhodes, who promised to return the Information Panel removed by the previous Tory administration, when Labour next controlled the authority.

Coun Rhodes said: “Many people are unaware of the significance of the Spanish Civil War as a forerunner to the Second World War or the role played by people from this country and our county in fighting fascism, even before Hitler’s assault on Europe.

“It is vital that this does not become a forgotten conflict and in particular that the bravery and selflessness of volunteers from Nottinghamshire is remembered.

“Many of the International Brigade members were inexperienced soldiers, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.”

The service included readings and the singing of Jarma, a song about a bloody Spanish Civil War battle, by the Nottingham Clarion Choir. Wreaths were also laid at the memorial.

A public information board, which explains the purpose of the memorial and details of the volunteers it recognises, was also reinstated near to the memorial in time for the service.