25 Comments

  1. Decades ago now, I’ve met two U.S. volunteers who went to Spain to enlist in the International Brigades. One was Jewish kid from New York City who was with the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, the other an Arkansas share-cropper’s son turned Depression-era communist who was slated for the George Washington Bn., but was put in the MacPaps/Mackenzie-Panineau Battalion after the disaster at Jarama. Anecdotally, it appears that most of the Canadian volunteers in the MacPaps were Finnish Canadian Reds.

    An interesting photo, Ian. Thanks for posting it.

    The Spanish Civil War turned up some interesting people… “Premature antifascists” in the U.S. and Canada–and Great Britain for that matter (Tom Wintringham’s pro-Home Guard WWII book _New Ways of War_ comes to mind, although he’d broken with the CP of GB, he was still prevented from enlisting for political reasons since he was one of the founders of the CPofGB) and the “premature anti-Stalinists” like Eric Blair/George Orwell. I think the memoir _Homage to Catalonia_ by Orwell about his service with the Marxist P.O.U.M. militia in Aragón and Catalunya is one of the best and certainly most accessible accounts.

    • While avoiding deeper cause analysis and from what I learned while in Canada is that MacPaps were pretty dedicated lot. It can be easy to understand their motivations – times were extraordinarily hard at home and ideological flare-ups were easy to succumb into.

      They had rather uneasy going after they returned home. Any way you look at it, they deserve a credit, as fighters for sure. And yes, there were Americans as well among them, also pilots one of which (cannot get the name right now) became quite famous; however shortly after return home committed suicide.

      • Here is page on Mac-Paps http://www.web.net/~macpap/

        It goes to various details of how organization took of and how they proceeded over into European theater. It lists the units/type of service they were incorporated to. there is also a list of participants including KIA and MIA. It is certainly helpful to go thru the names to see ethnic makeup – they were from all over, truly multinational. Recently died the last participant at age of 95 in Ottawa.

  2. Well, in fact the Mauser m712 “Schnellfeuer” was born later than full auto Astra 900 series. There has been always a bit of controverse about the issue, but it´s mostly recognized that albeit the Mauser C96 opened the way to some Spanish semiauto copies with the same external layout (Astra 900, E. Arostegui “Azul”), when it comes to full auto models, Spanish “Mauser type” pistols (Astra 901-902-903, BH Royal, E. Arostegui “Superazul”) preceeded Mauser introducing the selective fire option.
    Link – http://amonio.es/pistolas_mauser_espanolas.htm

    • It´s difficult to locate them at any army convencional role by their clothes or equipment: they were volunteers, and fought as a militia where all men were equal (they fought the same way they thought in political terms: military discipline and hierarchy were seen as a kind of oppression, more typical of fascism). International Brigadists fought with a strong political motivation and thoughtless bravery… but (most of them) with no military experience at all. They took a light training in shooting and parade, were given a gun a were sent to the front. Sadly, many served as mere cannon fodder.
      The only professional forces at their side were the part of the Spanish Army, Police and Guardia Civil that remained loyal to the Spanish Republica Government, some mercenaries (mainly aircraft pilots) and Red Army elements (advisors, pilots, tankmen) sent by USSR.

  3. The fellow on the right seems to be quite annoyed by the camera’s presence. Is he threatening to shoot off the photographer’s ear?

  4. thespanish c96 look -alike, arenot copyes of the mausers.
    in fact did Mauser develop there reienfeuer for the chinese marked, to compete vith Astra.
    Mecanikly they are totaly different.
    At the time therewere prakly no gun laws. A danish shiping firm, lead by Richard Jensen, transportet sarms to both sides of the conflikt, from Russia and from Madsen in Copenhagen. these ships were frekvently sabotaged.

  5. Well, I started laughing as soon as I saw the headline. For those who didn’t get the joke, “PAF” was the WW2 designation for American veterans of the Spanish Civil War – for the most part, trade unionists and labor activists with ties from casual to informal to the Communist Party. Keep in mind in the 1920s the response of management – with the enthusiastic support of the government and media – to labor unrest was to mount Lewis guns on the roof of the factory or mineshaft and open fire on the picket line. So, when America went to war against Fascism, the only veterans of combat against Fascism were denied positions of responsibility and leadership because they had been prematurely anti-fascist. Patriotism is a moral stance that has been OKed by your government; treason is taking a stance before the government approves. Rather brings to mind the last decade or so of Cheney’s Quagmire, where it was hard to remember that the Sunnis, who were the good guys last week, are the bad guys who hate America this week; but the formerly hated Shiite are our bosom buddies this week. The only absolute, of course, was that the Saudis had nothing to do with 9/11. Wasn’t there a scene in Orwell where the enemy became the ally (and vice versa) in the midst of a patriotic parade?

    Anyway, back on topic (whatever that was.) For really fun reading about the Spanish Civil War, Stephen Hunter’s “Tapestry of Spies” (also published as “Spanish Gambit”) is an interesting look at the war from the International POV. And being a Hunter novel, the gun stuff is pretty good… there’s a fun bit, where a foul-mouthed Cockney is trying to repair a 1895 Browning, that will sail right over the head of anyone who doesn’t know what a “bloody-f****ing (two “o”s, not “u”) potato-digger” is. Back in the 80s I read and re-read an outstanding novel about American Communists fighting for the Internationalists called “Hermanos” whose author I cannot recall. It got lost during a move and I have never seen another copy; if anyone can supply the author’s name I would appreciate it. “Hermanos” is a pretty good account of how the Soviet role in Spain was to (a) evacuate the Spanish gold reserve to Moscow for “safekeeping” and (b) eliminate as many Anarchists and Trotskyites as possible, either by sending them charging against the Republicans or having the NKVD and its Spanish surrogates execute them as fascist spies, leaving Stalin as the undisputed leader of International Communism.

    I ran into another interesting footnote reading David L. Robbin’s incredibly well-researched “The Last Citadel” about the Battle of Kursk. One of the novel’s lead characters from the German POV is a Spanish tanker! That was when I first learned that in order to stay out of the war, while thanking the Germans and Italians for their assistance, Franco allowed about 30,000 Republicans – to a man, devoutly Catholic and anti-Communist combat vets – to volunteer to fight alongside the Germans against the Godless Bolshies. Very few of the “Blue Berets” made it home from Russia.

    Ian – double bonus points if you can come up with a photo of International Brigade troops armed with Russian-contract 1895 Winchesters. I read somewhere that quite a few of them wound up in Spain.

    • Good to have man like you on board. I also doubt that the Spanish revolution was truly in interest of Moscow. They (Republicans) were way too amateurish too fit themselves into CCCP led International. And mainly, Stalin did not want competition. When you are in opposition you are fine as ‘leftist’; once you are there (in charge), you are automatically the other side. That’s why it is so easy to be on left.

      But, I kind of like certain aspects of them being the enterprising nature and taste for change, to destroy old unproductive Spanish royal system. As a footnote I like to add little personal touch I gained when conversing with immigrant Spaniard. In short told me that pity Franco is gone (he left after that) because he returned country to order.

      • Thanks for the complement – as Trotsky said about a noted Anarchist “On the first day of the revolution he is a jewel without price. On the third day of the revolution he should be taken out and shot.” That’s the standard I’ve always tried to live up to.

        I see once again (in a morning caffine blur) I’ve managed to confuse Republicans, Loyalists and Nationalists. All I can say is that being from Texas, when I discuss ultra-right pro-oligarchy religious-fanatic bayonet-the-progressives fascists I just think “Republican” for some reason.

        But the Spanish Civil War is a fascinating bit of history that got lost in subsequent events. A few years ago I was trading emails with a (post-Falklands) Armada Argentine vet and history nut and he had mentioned the close love-hate relationship between Argentina and Spain in the century or so after independence. I asked him what the impact of the Civil War was on the daughter country, and he got back to me after a month or so of research with a long, fascinating study… Argentina, on grounds of emotion and economics and social class, came very close to following Spain down the “brother against brother” path… it was risking your life, depending on which team you were rooting for, to stop for a coffee at the “wrong” shop in Buenos Aries. And there was an incident when an Armada Argentine heavy cruiser (with huge national colors painted on the sides) was pouring out the AA and onloading Latin American neutrals (and some wounded Internationalists) while being strafed by Loyalist, German and Italian planes. Spain was more World War 1.5 than most people realize.

        I did a couple of month-long pre-patrol refits in Rota in the late 70s, after Franco died but before the democratic monarchy was installed. Fascism-in-place is pretty interesting… it was slow and sleepy and peaceful with this unmistakable authoritarian undercurrent. The law of the land looked a bit silly riding two-up on 50-cc mopeds wearing patent-leather tricorns, with the passenger carrying a slung G-3 CENTIME, but there was never a doubt that You Do Not Mess With The Guardia Civil.

        Rota/ Cadiz harbor has this massive seawall a mile or so long made up of house-sized stones, and it was a favorite sol-y-vino spot for liberty parties. I remember one Saturday afternoon we were out there with massive quantities of cava and sangria and for some reason a Soviet AGI (intelligence trawler) was determined to get close to the mouth of the harbor. A Spanish LOH with a skid-mounted 7.62 buzzed the AGI a couple of times and it didn’t turn back; the third pass they cut loose with a full-belt burst right in front of the bow and the Russians developed a sudden interest in going to the Canary Islands, or possibly New Zealand. And here’s about 20 half-naked drunken teenage American submarine sailors jumping up and down cheering and screaming “Get some, Pedro! (Bleep) you, Ivan!” You do not mess with the Guardia Civil. Or the Spanish Armada.

        • In reference to Argentina, I do not know anyone there but read couple of reliable sources (first person kind of observations). My sense it that they live in strange state of nostalgia combined with potential for outbreak of something, they do not even know name for – maybe Peronism II.

          When comes to their production of firearms, they scaled down drastically and ones chugging Armeria Domingo Mathieu is turned into museum. It’s a shame, they are quite capable nation technically speaking.

    • There´s some mess here with the right designations of spanish civil war sides.
      Putting some order:
      Side A)Leftists, Reds, Republicans, Loyalists (loyal to the Spanish Republica Government, at that time “Frente Popular” on charge -group of left and radical left parties that won the 1936 elections-), anarchists, etc.
      Side B) Nationalists, Fascists, Rebels (rebel to legitimate government), “Franquists” (Franco men), ultracatholics, monarchists, right and radical right parties followers.
      While Side B acted as a solid block during the war, Side A was really divided, with stalinists pushing hard to take the whole power, eliminating inconvenient comrades (trostkists, anarchists, democratic leftists). You can have a look on an interesting movie: “Land and Freedom” by Ken Loach, about the experience of an english worker in the Spanish War, with some passages that have strong similarities with what G. Orwell lived. Trailer-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQXAU-P8Avo

      • I agree. I remember as a kid reading in my grandma’s old issues of Catholic calendars (actually books). There were pictures and testimonies of Republican ‘crimes’ while assaulting institutions of Church. With this kind of stuff, in conservative society, they could not make it very far. Even if they won temporarily, they would be swept away later in following uprising. It was kind of doomed from start.

  6. You have an excellent insight Jim. Similarly like you, I do not take sides (guns are good for all and any). I used to, but luckily for me, I un-learned it. So, in conclusion – or close to it in my short existence. just couple of decades, I do not know ‘what’ I actually am in political terms; it looks that I arrived to nirvana.

    Anyway, tell you this: I do read and without prejudice anything I can lay my sight on – from socialist to libertarian. At the end I can say with degree of certainty – it is good for keeping mind open, BUT when used for power gain, it is one and the same piece of CRAP. Sorry for rude language.

    • Oh, I take sides. Unfortunately, mine tend to be at the apex of a salient with the path for a strategic retreat caught in a crossfire. I know this is a forum for fans of weird solid-steel guns with wooden stocks in odd calibers (which is what I like – I’ll take a Lee-Enfield .303 over a M-16 for just about any social occasion, if I can’t have an Israeli .357 Timber Wolf carbine) but my politics are just as unorthodox. I came off of a nuclear-weapons platform into the early 1980s Farm Crisis (see every Willie Nelson Farm Aid concert done since I was your age) and into heavily-armed vacant-lot free-market organic anti-Monsanto urban agriculture social activism. I totally deplore polarized nutcase politics… which puts me is a situation where I oppose (did I mention Orwell?) two intractable positions I cannot tell the difference between. Did I mention that I live in Texas? So I’m some kind of socialist progressive radical conservative who has an Interarms Rossi 3″ .38 and a Marlin 60 .22 for home defense, a deep loathing for corporate omnipotence (I’m a family farm/ small business/ guns made by union craftsmen guy) and a fondness for reasonable discourse… with way too many rescue dogs.

      But Democrat, Republican, Stalinist… it’s all CRAP. (Cretins Realizing Absolute Power.)

      • Thank you Jim, this is truly hi-octane stuff. I just love it and almost laughed my head off! (Being the inter-faith is the best.)
        I just hope you guns do not take offence!

  7. The Machine Pistols and Grenades make me think they are more likely ‘storm troopers’ rather than a tank crew. I don’t recall many Tankers wearing canteens.

    • Some Mac-Paps brigadists were assigned to Artillery tasks. Maybe they are an artillery crew. A second line task matches with their equipment… otherwise I agree they seem some kind of CQC unit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*