Nottinghamshire Oral History Project: talk. Sample containing about 11492 words speech recorded in leisure context

4 speakers recorded by respondent number C165

PS268 Ag1 m (No name, age 20, interviewer) unspecified
PS269 Ag5 m (No name, age 70, retired, Ex. Political Activist) unspecified
FYJPSUNK (respondent W0000) X u (Unknown speaker, age unknown) other
FYJPSUGP (respondent W000M) X u (Group of unknown speakers, age unknown) other

1 recordings

  1. Tape 096001 recorded on unknown date. LocationNottinghamshire: Nottingham () Activity: Talk Debate

Undivided text

Unknown speaker (FYJPSUNK) [1] And what happened to him after that?
(PS269) [2] Er ... well he was unemployed for a quite some time ... er and he got odd casual jobs ... er ... and then finally doing ... er as late as the second world war he got er he got employment on the railway.
(PS268) [3] Now did he have any er political or trade union affiliations?
(PS269) [4] He had er some er trades union er some trades union experience.
[5] ... Er er he did attend his er the union branches,q er quite regularly.
[6] But he didn't have er ... he didn't have any official er position within the union branch.
(PS268) [7] And was he politically active or anything?
(PS269) [8] Er ... not really, no, not really that er ... er political activity was left er to my mother. ...
(PS268) [9] Yeah.
(PS269) [10] She was er ... she was politically acti active, er for the Labour Party .
(PS268) [11] Could you tell me a bit about that?
[12] Yeah.
(PS269) [13] Yeah.
(PS268) [14] And erm ... what kind of things was she involved in then?
(PS269) [15] Well she was er very prominent in the er Labour Party War Organization,
(PS268) [16] Mm.
(PS269) [17] that old day they had a fairly er strong ... er War Organizations locally, and she was er she was fairly active in there. ...
(PS268) [18] And do you remember any experiences of your mother at election time or anything like that?
(PS269) [19] Er well yes.
[20] Er, ... er ... the main means of propaganda of course in those days was er leaflet and er street meetings.
[21] ... Er and I well remember er ... even as early as nineteen nineteen ... the election which took place immediately after world war one, I remember being ... er sort of dragged round the streets, ... you know, er ... I think it was enjoyable, I don't know ... er by my mother, er attending these street meetings, ... er ... I I I very well remember it because I had a a a new coat, a new coat for for er for this particular venture, ... and er the two things you know are fairly deep in my memory.
(PS268) [22] Now, ... how did your family cope with your mother being sort of politically active, what did you how did you manage? ...
(PS269) [23] Well, fairly well, fairly well.
[24] Er ... erm, my older brothers ... er they took an active part, immediately i in the early twenties.
[25] So it didn't seem to be of any hardship to to anybody for for the mother to be involved in er political activity.
(PS268) [26] Mm.
[27] Did your father play er a role in [...] ?
(PS269) [28] Er no no, he er er he did ... er become an individual member of the Labour party at that stage, but he er he he didn't he didn't take er er an active er or organized part in it. [sniff] .
(PS268) [29] Now could you tell us a little bit about your brothers and sisters?
[30] How many did you have, [...] ?
(PS269) [31] Well, I had my older brother, [sniff] , er ... he won some sort of a scholarship I remember, he became er ... er part-time attendant at the er part-time attendant at the er university.
[32] Er [laugh] .
[33] [laughing] It didn't do him a lot of good [] in the early er in the early days, but er it did stand him in good stead later of course because ... he became er er a full-time official o of the er Notts area N U M.
(PS268) [34] This was [...] wasn't it ?
(PS269) [35] He was indeed.
[36] He he was one them, but who was er victimized in ninet after nineteen twenty six.
[37] He spent all his working life up until nineteen twenty six ... er at the local Hucknall Colliery, but after twe er er twenty six, er he was victimized, he was dismissed, and was unable to get employment in the er in the industry, until er the latter thirties, middle thirties.
[38] After which he became a branch official and er and er subsequently became a er a full-time area official.
[39] Er another brother in the in twenty six, he he took another course of action, he he he cleared off and er he went to he went to live in Australia.
[40] ... Er ... another brother he ... er subsequently became a er er a Labour county councillor, but that er that was after the second world war, er after he had er after he had er done war service.
[41] But I'm quite sure his earlier associations within the family, er you know helped him in er in his endeavour to become a county councillor after the er after the second world war.
[42] ... Er well that leaves me.
[43] ... I also er I did have a sister
(PS268) [44] Yes.
(PS269) [45] and subsequently she was much younger.
[46] She she she went to Australia.
(PS268) [47] And your elder brother you talked about at some length was Les, was it? [...] ?
(PS269) [48] That's right, yeah.
(PS268) [49] Er, and what about erm political affiliations?
[50] They're all you mentioned one was a county councillor, what about Les what w he was involved with [...] .
(PS269) [51] Ah,L L Leslie, yes, he he he did a tremendous amount of work for the er er for the L Labour party.
[52] Er, he was indeed for some time the er secretary of the er er divisional Labour party.
[53] Er, among other things.
[54] But er he did a fair amount of educational work, organizing er educational classes and so on.
[55] Er, so much so he was er able to ... er ... organize local weekend schools to which er people like Hugh Gaitskell, er would come and er give a couple of lectures, er Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon.
[56] Er, John , another one.
[57] Er ... he was also closely associated with the National Council of Labour Colleges, who did indeed
(PS268) [58] Mm.
(PS269) [59] help in the organization of er ... of these weekend schools.
[60] ... But er ... immediately prior to the second world war, he did er he did er join the communist party. ...
(PS268) [61] Now, so he was a p a n a political influence on you was he, er at some time [...] ?
(PS269) [62] Er, well it was all mixed up, it was all mixed up, the funny thing is, er whilst he was many years my senior, ... [laugh] ... er I joined the communist party before he did.
[63] So er er th th there were some er quite substantial er discussions and debates which er which er which went on in the family over the years of course.
(PS268) [64] Now erm, tt could you just talk a little bit just about your you know y your background as a child?
[65] What what school did you go to?
(PS269) [66] I went to a local er er council school.
(PS268) [67] What was that called?
(PS269) [68] That was er er Boys' School.
(PS268) [69] And do you remember much about that?
(PS269) [70] pardon?
(PS268) [71] Do you remember much about that school? [...] ?
(PS269) [72] Er well, not a lot.
[73] I remember there was er ... er about forty eight of us in the classes, that er that went on.
[74] There was a very very strict er a very very strict discipline.
[75] Er ... looking at it from today's standards, there was little [cough] er little recreation.
[76] You know ... er little physical recreation. [cough] .
(PS268) [77] And what do y what sort of examples can you give about discipline then, [...] harsh discipline?
[78] What what what sort of things went on?
(PS269) [79] Er ... well er I d I remember the er in the infants, er in the infants section it was necessary for to er for to touch y touch your hat, touch your little cap, er when the er when the headmistress when the headmistress er went by.
[80] Er and I think that somewhat sums it up.
[81] You more or less stood to attention. [laugh] .
(PS268) [82] Now erm ... did you stay in the same school or?
(PS269) [83] More or less, yes.
(PS268) [84] Yeah.
(PS269) [85] Er, the school had its infants department, and er intermediate and so on you see.
(PS268) [86] And you went on and left school at what age?
(PS269) [87] Fourteen. ...
(PS268) [88] And what did you come to do then, when you erm
(PS269) [89] Er, well
(PS268) [90] left school ?
(PS269) [91] of course, jobs were at a premium then.
[92] Er, I got a job er in the butchery trade.
[93] Er, which er I suppose I was there for ... for six years.
[94] But, many of these, er many of these jobs of course as far as the young people were concerned were dead end jobs.
[95] You got, nineteen twenty, twenty one, and that was it, they didn't want er they didn't want adults.
[96] Er you know they they only wanted er re really junior people.
(PS268) [97] Now before we talk a little bit about that, I'll j can I just take you back erm a couple of years and ask you er what your memories are of the general strike?
[98] What do you remember about that ?
(PS269) [99] About the general strike?
(PS268) [100] Yeah. ...
(PS269) [101] Er, ... one was er one was food.
[102] Er, ... at midday, at midday,w we er ... er we reported to one of the local chapels.
[103] Er the majority of the local chapels were were w were responsible for er organizing soup kitchens for the kids, er S it didn't apply Sundays, it didn't apply Sundays.
[104] We got er a meal, mostly soup and a piece of bread, ... er at midday.
[105] Er ... the chapel I attended was er the Baptist chapel on er on Road.
[106] Er as I say, it [cough] the majority of it was soup, but on one occasion during the week, we always had er ... er some sort of mincemeat, er potted meat sandwiches and tea.
[107] ... And er I can taste the tea now.
[108] Er, it it had a peculiar taste with it.
[109] I don't know exactly what it was, but er er it was potted meat sandwiches er and tea.
[110] Now the other one, the other
(PS268) [111] Were you at school normally?
[112] During the strike?
(PS269) [113] Oh yes, we were at school.
[114] Yeah.
(PS268) [115] Yeah.
(PS269) [116] Er the other one ... was towards the latter end of the strike ... and er this particular area, the Notts area, ... er had what was called broken away from the er from the main body er of the strike.
[117] ... There were some er some er miners in Notts who were persuaded er to go back to work.
[118] Er, as against the decision of the er of the union.
[119] And of course this created this created a a tr a tremendous problem, because er these few people that went to the er odd pits were in need of er a very strong police escort.
[120] ... And there were hundreds of police who were ... drafted into the into the town, ... er billeted on the er local pubs, er and so on.
[121] And d it was the duty of these police to protect these er er these people, these scabs as they were called, ... er and escort them from their homes to the pit, and see them back.
[122] See them back home.
[123] Er and I remember er er a a very vivid occasion of being on Road, which is close by the er Hucknall Colliery about three o'clock time, when er a couple of these er er people were being escorted back towards the centre of the town, after they'd done er a day's work ... and there were lots and lots of er er er people about, men and women, who were shouting and jeering, at er at er at these at these people, who had been er who had er er violated the union decision and gone to work.
[124] ... And there were quite a large collection of police who stood in reserve up one of the side streets.
[125] And er anyway, the situation was getting out of hand, and er the man in charge, the the the the superintendent, whoever he was, he gave the signal that these that these reserves should er should clear the street to make way for the to make way for the scabs.
[126] ... And er they drew their truncheons, that [...] I'd never seen before, policemen with truncheons, er and they started to run ... and everybody else started to run, and I forgot there was a puppy dog, this puppy dog it it chased it chased towards the er p policemen, and started er barking and d and carrying on, and one of the policemen did no more than thump it straight across the top of the head with a with a truncheon, and er and that was the end of the puppy.
[127] Well everybody everybody really ... er began to scamper.
[128] Er, people would try front doors to see if they could get in front doors, but no, ... and they dived down er er er entrances between the between the houses and so on.
[129] ... Er, and all in all, it was quite er it's quite it was quite an experience, er er to have seen er this this er this police er er baton charge, ... er and er we were fortunate enough in in being able to to to get out of the way.
[130] Those are the two e are the two experiences the the question of food and the f er the s the soup kitchens, and the er er police protection for those who er er went to violate the decisions er of the union.
(PS268) [131] Now about these these people, these blacklegs, what were they, were they local people, or were
(PS269) [132] Oh yeah.
(PS268) [133] they people drafted in?
[134] They were local people then?
(PS269) [135] They were local people, yes.
(PS268) [136] And what was the attitude over and above, other than obviously coming in and out of work, what was the attitude of the local neighbours and whatnot towards them ?
(PS269) [137] Well er th er this is one of the misfortunes er is it not, you see, this bad feeling.
[138] This bad feeling er lived on into old age.
[139] Lived on into old age.
[140] ... Er
(PS268) [141] [...] ... What were the kind of conditions of the people who w who went back in, did they go in ... bec because of they had, erm say large families or something like that and they had difficulty trying to make ends meet?
(PS269) [142] Er ... I don't know whether that I don't know whether that was a factor, er er er looking back er er I wouldn't know.
[143] But there was a a I know there was a a system in Notts you see whereby ... er ... the coal was dug on the basis of contracts between the management and er a man or two men
(PS268) [144] Mm.
(PS269) [145] and these two men would employ half a dozen other men, you see, and whether w whether it was for to to to to get a foothold in the future for to be one of these contractors or not, I j I just don't know.
[146] You see.
(PS268) [147] Now what about your own family, how did you manage, how did you make ends meet with the er four children ?
(PS269) [148] Well we were fortunate, we were fortunate.
[149] ... Er, in so far that my father had been dismissed from the er from the coal mining industry, er before just before nineteen twenty six, ... and he was officially unemployed.
[150] So the family, we as a family were better off ... than the majority of er of families ... er in so far that er er whilst we were a a fair sized family, we did have at least some income, in the form of unemployment pay er that my father received.
(PS268) [151] Mm.
(PS269) [152] Er, ... my brothers brothers er older than me who were indeed er boys working in the pit, they didn't get, they didn't get any relief, or er any income.
(PS268) [153] Did they did
(PS269) [154] Except
(PS268) [155] they or you have to get any c casual work, I mean y sort of part-time little jobs?
(PS269) [156] Er
(PS268) [157] [...] ?
(PS269) [158] Yeah, well, er they did a little bit of er ... pea-picking.
[159] They went to Spalding area, pea-picking.
[160] ... And one or two er little odd jobs like this er for er ... for the summer period, but er obviously these harvest jobs er didn't last very long.
[161] But there was a movement, there was a movement, because these single men had no income whatever, ... and there was a demonstration of er of these er single men, they marched to the workhouse, er in Baseford.
[162] Er, [...] the city, not the city, the the Baseford Hospital.
[163] Er they they they marched, you see they'd no income, they'd nothing.
[164] They they marched to the er to the workhouse, demanding that they should be taken in, you see.
[165] Er, on the basis that er that er that er they were destitute.
[166] ... But they were not allowed in because.
[167] ... A they couldn't er they couldn't get er th they couldn't provide accommodation for all the hundreds that they were, you see.
[168] And B of course er the political set up was such that they were not interested ... er in helping er the miners over this er over this particula particularly difficult er period.
(PS268) [169] And why do you think was that?
[170] They di they didn't want to feed those on strike, they wanted to try and get them back to work did they? ...
(PS269) [171] Er, yeah, well, one one can appreciate in er in in circumstances of real hard struggle,
(PS268) [172] Yeah.
(PS269) [173] the likes of which the twenty six strike was, you see, there there was no er there was no holds barred.
[174] [...] [laugh] .Y your political affiliation was either one way or the other, and er er er you didn't er you didn't m mince words about it, did you not, I mean you [laugh] .
[175] You didn't show you didn't show any er er either any enthusiasm or sympathy for the other side.
(PS268) [176] Now what about other members of the of your family?
[177] Were they active in in organizing in, in participating in the picketing and this kind of thing, [...] ?
(PS269) [178] Yes, oh yes, they were er they were involved.
[179] So much so of course that er that er the the elder brother, he was er he was er a branch official by this time, twenty six, at the er Hucknall Colliery, the local colliery, and of course when the strike er was over, er that was the end of he as far as working in the in the coal mining industry in this particular area, that was the end of it.
[180] They er ... they just had their blacklists and er and er that was it, you you you were out, and you weren't going do er, you know, you were not allowed to have another job. ...
(PS268) [181] Now I don't know if you remember anything ... about the nine days of the General Strike, as opposed to the s sort of the whole miners' strike in that year.
(PS269) [182] Yeah.
(PS268) [183] Do you remember anything special about
(PS269) [184] Yeah.
(PS268) [185] those nine days?
(PS269) [186] Yeah.
(PS268) [187] In comparison to [...] ?
(PS269) [188] Yeah, well er yeah, there was there was er one er ... er course er er we kids w looked upon er er these activities w with some with some interest you know?
[189] ... Er for example it was better than going to school.
[190] ... And ... th the local there was a local brewery, now I I can't quite remember which brewery it was, during the er during the General Strike, ... they er they decided to er to send out barrels of beer.
[191] Er [laugh] .
[192] Obviously to the to one of their pubs.
[193] ... And the vehicle got as far as Hucknall Marketplace, ... er ... and that was it.
[194] The it was halted there, ... and er all the barrels of ale were were were [laugh] were rolled off, [laugh] we were rolled off the vehicle.
[195] ... And er ... they were just [cough] they were just in the in the act of of of tapping of tapping a couple of these barrels, and er i it was unfortunate that the that the police showed up.
[196] ... So consequently, ... th there was no er [cough] ,the [cough] there was no free beer.
[197] But I ve I ve I very well remember that one.
[198] Er ... I remember too er ... there was some attempt made to stop a train, which er which was run ... er on what was then known as the Great Central Line, that runs through, that runs through Hucknall.
[199] ... Er I know that there was quite a business about this, but er I wasn't an eyewitness, er and I didn't er I'm never so sure that er I I didn't get the I didn't get the details right.
[200] ... Er it seems it seems that there were a lot of students, from one of the bigger un er er top class universities ... which were handling this train, ... er ... but er there were quite a few er things done, some of them I would think dangerous.
[201] ... But er apparently, er this train whilst it was halted, it was halted locally, but after a while it er it er it did get away, and it proceeded towards er towards er Sheffield.
[202] What happened above ... er above Hucknall er I just don't know. ...
(PS268) [203] Now ... if we er if we can just move on move on back to your ... tt starting your working life,
(PS269) [204] Yeah.
(PS268) [205] Erm, and y you er said that you that you started work in a butcher 's.
[206] W did you have a proper apprenticeship?
(PS269) [207] Not re No.
[208] No.
(PS268) [209] No proper training?
(PS269) [210] Oh no, no.
(PS268) [211] And what were y What were the kind of jobs that you were expected to do then? ...
(PS269) [212] Well, er there was er ... er keeping the place cleaned, er there was er ... doing deliveries work, there was er the making up of er certain items, sausage, er etcetera, er and you were also ex expected to help in the er in the slaughterhouse.
[213] Er and you sort of er er a general labourer actually, but you picked up some knowledge, some knowledge of the of the er business.
(PS268) [214] What er what sort of wages were you getting for that?
(PS269) [215] Well the wages then was er w started at er ten shillings, ten shillings a week, that's fifty P a week, you see.
(PS268) [216] And wh how did that compare with other lads of your age?
[217] Was that good or bad?
(PS269) [218] Oh er now th that was that was that was pretty poor, er ... probably employed in the co-op in those days, would would have attracted er er er a fourteen shillings, er nearly half as much again.
[219] Er, perhaps in the mining industry, you would have got er thirteen shillings, something like this.
(PS268) [220] And what sort of hours did you have to work then?
[221] Shop work, is that a long, how long a day would you have?
(PS269) [222] Oh hours, it was er it was er six er six full days a week, ... seven in the morning to six at night that is.
[223] Er. ...
(PS268) [224] Now, er if we could come on a little bit, erm, tt when was it that you became sort of officially politically active, when you actually joined ... er joined the party?
(PS269) [225] Oh well that would be the er ... I was a member of the er I was a member of the trades union whilst I was in this private distribution.
[226] There weren't many others, er perhaps only four more er in the in the town, but we were associated with the with the er branch which looked after the interests of the co-op employees.
[227] ... Er ... but er political affiliations, ... er serious political affiliation, that that would start about nineteen thirty one, or perhaps nineteen thirty two.
(PS268) [228] And and what did you join?
(PS269) [229] Well I joined the I joined the Young Communist League at that stage.
(PS268) [230] And er if we could just go into a little bit about, this was in Hucknall?
(PS269) [231] This was in Hucknall, yeah .
(PS268) [232] [...] .
[233] What what ... erm ... what sort of activities did you organize then, what sort of thi events did you [...] ?
(PS269) [234] Well we did er we did a fair amount of er er leaflet er distribution.
[235] Er, ... there were one or two of us, not many ... we helped the er Communist Party branch proper, in their campaigns for er council elections, er sales of the er of the Daily Worker, as as as it was known er in those days.
[236] Er, ... we had a fair amount of activity supporting the s marchers ... of the er unemployed.
[237] Er, I would think we made ourselves generally useful.
[238] Probably too much so on the political side, ... in so far that er er looking back, it seems that w w we were isolated from other young people, in so far that we were associated with straight political er activity and er straight political movement .
(PS268) [239] Mm.
[240] Well why w would why would you say that, what what s what s was your sort of membership, where from what groups of people did you draw your members from? [...]
(PS269) [241] Well, they were much the same, local workers.
[242] Er, a couple of lads who were who were unemployed, er ... we were never able to break in the mining industry, at this particular stage.
[243] We were never able to er we were never able to get young miners ... er in these ... in the very early days immediately after nineteen twenty six onwards, to er to ... er to be associated with the er Young Communist League. ...
(PS268) [244] And why do you think that was?
[245] Was it was it [...] or would you say it was [...] ?
(PS269) [246] Well er this wa this was this was this was very clear, this was very clear you see.
[247] When you look back, when you look back ... you see, erm, understand ... that after nineteen twenty six, at the local pits, ... if you if you took a watch, if you took a watch to work with you, ... so that you're in a position ... to know the time, and tell the other people what the time was, you see, you were running the serious risk ... of losing your job.
[248] Now this, this may [laugh] this may appear [laugh] , this may this may may be a this may appear to be a a a something farfetched, might this.
[249] This is exactly what the situation was.
[250] Because they developed a system ... of mining, whereby ... once once it was ... the the the task had begun to clear the coal face ... of a certain er a certain area of coal, ... it didn't matter what what happened during that particular period of time, whether all the machinery broke down, etcetera, etcetera, ... you had to stop u until that amount of coal had been cleared off, you see.
[251] And they were not having anybody in the mine, with a watch, who could let people know exactly what the time was, and in other words, create a situation where the men might go home before they'd completed this particular task.
[252] But that that indeed er was the situation.
[253] ... Er so much so, you see that er er er people who did have employment in the industry would not, would not be seen talking to left-wing Labour party people, or members of the Communist party, because they readily understood, you know, that here was a risk that they were running, whereby they may indeed lo er er lose their employment.
[254] ... Er and so the therefore you see, these are some of the reasons why w ... we were unable to get close to the er er er younger members, who were or or or the younger people who were employed in the coal industry.
(PS268) [255] Now,
(PS269) [256] However, the situation was changed later on. ...
(PS268) [257] Er ... what was your relationship with people, as you say, on the left in the La in the Labour party?
[258] With the Labour party generally?
[259] Or w or and with the youth in the I L P and the Labour
(PS269) [260] [...] .
(PS268) [261] party with their youth sections, what was your relationship with them?
(PS269) [262] Well the funny thing was that er the local Labour party ... n didn't have didn't have a youth er a youth section.
[263] ... It were shame, it were shame that those who would er have been the youth section in [cough] in the Labour party locally were we people, who were who were in the Youth Communist League, you see.
[264] Er ... but the relationship with the er with the Labour party, and particularly the left in the Labour party, was not er was not too bad at all.
[265] Was not too bad at all, because ... er d d d everybody was inv involved in some sort of endeavour, either er er through the unions, or through the ... er demonstrations against unemployment, you see, so there there was indeed er a a certain coming together.
[266] Er when the election, local elections were on of course, er er er [cough] i we were n not quite so friendly to each other , because er each had got candidates er contesting for the er for the same er for the one er particular seat.
(PS268) [267] How wh what sort of how ... how did that feel, then er er one minute you were fighting together on er an unemployed
(PS269) [268] Mm.
(PS268) [269] demonstration, and the next minute you were fighting against
(PS269) [270] Mm.
(PS268) [271] one another, what er wh did that cause any personal antagonism?
(PS269) [272] Er, only in very very odd cases.
[273] Only in very odd cases.
[274] Er ... I don't think er ... the L on the left it didn't much matter, on the left it didn't much matter, er er er er the right-wing types were probably not so er not so very happy about the situation.
(PS268) [275] Now, you've you've talked about these activities, erm, [...] [...] .
(PS269) [276] And wi and parliamentary-wise, you see,
(PS268) [277] Yes.
(PS269) [278] there was a er a fairly good er ... fairly good er M P, a fellow named Seymour Cox.
[279] ... Er, he was not a brilliant orator, er but er by and large he was er he was er he he he was he he was a pretty good and well respected er member of parliament.
(PS268) [280] Erm, ... if we can just talk a bit about the the the activities, the question of the demonstrations against unemployment, what did you actually do to to aid those demonstrations?
[281] Were these the national marches as well as local ones?
(PS269) [282] Oh yes.
[283] The national marches er the the er the Yorkshire the Yorkshire contingent ... er would come through here.
[284] Er ... and when the Yorkshire contingent didn't come through here, you'd get the er er er Notts er contingent, which er would join up with the Derbyshire contingent, er a wee bit a wee bit lower down, wee bit lower down the er er down the country, so er in every er in every er activity against er unemployment, they'd the locals who were who were obviously involved.
(PS268) [285] And what sort of things did you actually do to help the national hunger marchers then?
[286] What practical support did you give them?
(PS269) [287] Er ... well we'd er er distribute the leaflets, we'd er do what was known as the whitewashing, in other words, er er er whitewash slogans, whitewash times of meetings, ... whitewash the announcement of er er times of arrival, er and things of this character.
(PS268) [288] And what about their accommodation and things like that, did you or or the food, did you do anything like that ?
(PS269) [289] Er invariably the co accommodation was er was provided in the in the local halls, there were two local halls in those days, but er primarily the public hall,wi [...] that was the local council hall.
[290] Er, this er provided the er this provided the accommodation.
[291] They all slept there, you know, they s th they they they slept rough.
[292] ... But it was warm, er and er meals were provided for them.
(PS268) [293] And do you have any specific memories of er the hunger marches?
[294] Because it must be thirty two and thirty six, mainly you'd be talking about wouldn't it?
(PS269) [295] Yeah.
[296] Early thirties, yes.
(PS268) [297] The two main ones.
[298] And what Do you have any sort of memories that you can ... describe [...] of of the marches in ... coming to [...] ?
(PS269) [299] Er ... I remember one I remember one demonstration, we were able to er ... we were e employed you see, er we we didn't we didn't participate in the er in a national march, but what we were able to do on one occasion was er to raise enough money for one or two of us, for to er go to London by the train, and er be in Hyde Park when er the er the various contingents from e er from various areas er of London, marched er marched into er marched into Hyde Park.
[300] ... And er ... it was quite er it was quite something you see ... to see these er thousands of er of er and they were well-disciplined, er in demonstration, with banners, with their elected leaders at the front, march into er march into er er Hyde Park, er they had bands playing, they had er er perhaps er fifteen or sixteen platforms, you know from which the er ... various working class leaders er er spoke, to I don't know how many people,wh who er who who would be in H Hyde Park on on on on er on this particular day.
[301] But er ... as much as anything, that in itself was er er one of the ai you know one of the er high points that the er I remember of this particular period. [break in recording]
(PS268) [302] Hyde Park erm was it to see the arrival of the hunger marchers, can you remember what year that was?
(PS269) [303] I can't no, I can't.
(PS268) [304] And er
(PS269) [305] Er ... it could have been thirty two er er er.
(PS268) [306] Now ... can you remember any of the local initiatives, or any of the local activities that took place against unemployment?
[307] What what sort of things that went on. ...
(PS269) [308] Erm ... well there was er there was the local organization for the unemployed, the national union, the er national unemployed workers' movement.
[309] They they had a very strong well-organized er well-organized branch locally.
[310] Er ... and these people er understood what could be got f er ... what little bits could be got out of the er various unemployment er acts, and er ... this knowledge, er plus the pressures and feelings that were able to be brought to bear, I'm quite sure did er did benefit many er many people who who were unemployed.
[311] Er, for example, er whilst people w were getting what er the unemployment act said they should have, er this pressure was er I'm quite sure, able to get some additional er benefits even if it was er only in kind, er from the from the local authorities.
(PS268) [312] Now wh erm ... can you remember any of the sort of i initiatives, I mean did anything take place in Hucknall? ...
(PS269) [313] Er ... not beyond not beyond the er ... the marketplace the er marketplace meetings.
[314] Er, summertime, good weather, ... the these meetings were a feature of er the you know the political lie, er in the wintertime, similar meetings and activities were undertaken er in the public hall, er in in in the local hall.
[315] ... But er er exact er victories if you [laugh] in that respect, it's hard to it's hard to say whether they were any.
(PS268) [316] And er how how many people did you get at at these street meetings in the marketplace ?
(PS269) [317] In the public i in the marketplace?
(PS268) [318] Yeah.
(PS269) [319] Ooh, round about er three hundred.
[320] Yeah.
[321] Oh yes, it was, you could get a meeting there, you could get a meeting there.
[322] And there was interest, there was heckling, there was er er er etcetera etcetera, you see?
[323] And it had been known that er the Tories that the Tories through the medium of er the economic league, you know, their their propaganda organization, the economic league, which was er which was substantially supported by the by the coal owners
(PS268) [324] [laugh] .
[325] Yeah.
(PS269) [326] obviously, er they th they'd been known they'd been known to come, er and try and have a meeting.
[327] They they usually didn't finish it, but er they started, [sniff] so er there was a fair amount of er of er of er interest in the marketplace.
(PS268) [328] Now you you told me er er before about this er the unemployed used to gather weekly in in in the in the public hall, what
(PS269) [329] Yeah.
(PS268) [330] was this?
[331] What what took place at these meetings?
(PS269) [332] Well, they would have a er they would have a singsong, they would have er their own er er local artists, you know, er
(PS268) [333] What would that be, not just sort of Play School songs, it would be anything would it? [...] .
(PS269) [334] Anything, anything, anything.
[335] Oh yes, yes.
[336] Anything.
[337] ... Er instrumentalists, local instrumentalists ... but er overall of course it er i i i i it was the er er unemployed workers' organization.
(PS268) [338] And was there any sort of political activities organized then?
[339] ... Erm, meetings or classes or anything like that?
(PS269) [340] Yes, there was er ... a fair amount of er straight political er er education.
[341] Er, for example classes were, my mother organized some classes, other people organized classes.
[342] Er ... for example, I remember in , a couple of miles down the road, in the er Hall, ... there was er there was weekly classes on er among other things on Marxian economics, you see.
[343] ... We had no money in our pockets, but er we're talking about er er er economics, and Marxian economics at that [cough] , er and funnily enough the chap the chap who did that, er Bert , he was unemployed, he was he was one of the fellows from Derbyshire who was victimized in Derbyshire.
[344] ... Er, he was a lecturer, and er er a couple of fags and he was a couple of cigarettes and he was he wa he wa he was er quite well quite well er r rewarded.
[345] But he, he became he became the area secretary, of the Derbyshire miners er Derbyshire miners organization.
[346] Er, and you've got er you've got er political er educational classes, similar to this, both in Hucknall, er and in the and in the surrounding area. ...
(PS268) [347] And did you, even though you were employed, did you actually participate [...] ?
(PS269) [348] Oh yes, yes yes.
[349] Er, ... of a Friday evening, of a Friday evening, er I would attend er er a national council of labour colleges lecture, a fellow named u u us us used to run this one.
[350] Er, ... and then [sniff] ... er I also attended er er political discussions and lectures which were laid on er by the communist party as well.
(PS268) [351] And this went on for years this?
(PS269) [352] Oh yes, over a long period.
[353] Over a long period.
(PS268) [354] Now, what about your your life outside of work, and outside of political activity, did you have much leisure activities?
(PS269) [355] Er ... not really.
[356] I er I was a keen cyclist.
[357] ... Er, mind many people, many people relied on the cycle er for to get about you see.
[358] Er if we attended if if we were due to attend a meeting for example in in in Derby, er er ... twenty mile away?
[359] Er, well, you went on a bike, you see.
[360] Er er if if you er er if you attended were to attend er a meeting in Nottingham, you went on your bike, or Mansfield you see.
[361] Er ... and apart from them, I was er I was er I was a fairly er keen er cyclist, and did er did a little bit of camping too.
[362] But er [...]
(PS268) [363] Right.
[364] Where did you used to go?
[365] Why what did you used to do?
(PS269) [366] Er ... well we had a camp, the Youth Communist League had a camp down at er a place called Lamley Dumbles, ... that was er that was not far er not far from [...] Colliery.
[367] Er ... quite a successful camp that, quite a successful camp.
(PS268) [368] Er what sort
(PS269) [369] [...] fifty or sixty er er of a weekend, you know who who would attend, who would attend that.
(PS268) [370] And what sort of things did you get up to?
(PS269) [371] Er ... well we had er ... er ... a very fine er er wind-up gramophone, and we had some marvellous records.
[372] Some er some very good erm records [...] I should say decent music.
[373] Er ...
(PS268) [374] What do you mean by that, decent music?
(PS269) [375] Pardon?
(PS268) [376] What do you mean by decent music?
(PS269) [377] Well, er you'd get er light opera, and er er and er you know Gilbert and Sullivan and and and and and
(PS268) [378] Yeah.
(PS269) [379] and this sort of thing.
[380] ... Er which was er which was always er which was always enjoyable.
(PS268) [381] Mm. ...
(PS269) [382] Er ... apart from, you'd get a ramble, you know y y you'd go along for for for for a ramble, er my most most of the time was er made up er by er cooking your grub, you know ?
(PS268) [383] Mm.
(PS269) [384] Messing about with the wi wi with the er food.
(PS268) [385] Now, what about other things?
[386] I mean did you ever have time for dances, and going to the pictures and that kind of thing, I mean you must have found some time ?
(PS269) [387] Er, well that that kind of thing, that
(PS268) [388] As a young man.
(PS269) [389] that was always a question of money,
(PS268) [390] Yeah.
(PS269) [391] you know, and er you just didn't er you just didn't have er er y you may get a cinema once a week, or perhaps a dance once a week, but that er that wa that was the limit, you know.
(PS268) [392] But you ma you managed to fit in some other sort of
(PS269) [393] Oh yes.
(PS268) [394] social life over and above it, as a sort of relax , you know,
(PS269) [395] Yeah, yeah.
(PS268) [396] yeah?
[397] That was what I was trying to get at.
[398] And then you know so l try and bring that on,y you erm you got married in the thirties,
(PS269) [399] That's right.
(PS268) [400] and how did you get round to to meet your wife then?
(PS269) [401] Well she was er er she was involved with er er the cooperative youth organization, known as the er Co-op Comrades Circle.
[402] Er, and all all of these organizations, you see, one way or another, their paths crossed and er erm people met people this way.
(PS268) [403] And can you remember how exactly you met your wife? ...
(PS269) [404] Er ... I don't know, er I don't know I'm not er I do er I had this brother, I had this brother, and he was er he was a lecturer you see, and he was supposed to g go to West Bridgford to talk to this Co-op Comrades Circle on the problems of the Saar.
[405] Er I I don't know whether you know about the Saar?
(PS268) [406] That that the area in Germany you mean?
(PS269) [407] That's right.
(PS268) [408] Yeah.
(PS269) [409] Between France and Germany you see.
[410] And he sent me to tell them he couldn't come, you see.
[411] [laugh] . Er and i something like this.
(PS268) [412] And so you met your wife there?
(PS269) [413] [...] , aye.
(PS268) [414] Erm, and how long was it before you got married?
(PS269) [415] I don't know really, I married in er ... early thirty six, er er er
(PS268) [416] Now, your your wife wasn't a member of the communist party?
(PS269) [417] She was by this time.
(PS268) [418] Yeah?
(PS269) [419] Er
(PS268) [420] Wha what did she think by er she was a member before she got, before she married then?
[421] Yeah.
(PS269) [422] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
(PS268) [423] Er so she was she wasn't bothered at all about your er
(PS269) [424] Oh no no no, no no .
(PS268) [425] your activities when you first started.
[426] So how did you er manage when you first got married then?
[427] Did your wife work at all?
(PS269) [428] Yes, well she she er she did a bit of work and er we lived
(PS268) [429] What what job did she do?
(PS269) [430] in a comparatively comparatively cheap er cheap little flat, with er some other party members you see.
[431] So we were
(PS268) [432] Whereabouts [...] Hucknall?
(PS269) [433] this was in ba the exact centre of Hucknall.
[434] Er near the marketplace, overlooking the marketplace.
[435] But of course er that's gone now, that that's all gone now, and by one means or another we were able to er to er live comfortably, anyway.
(PS268) [436] And your wife was from West Bridgford originally, was she?
(PS269) [437] Yeah, yeah .
(PS268) [438] Yeah.
(PS269) [439] Well she lived down there, but she originates from Derbyshire, [...] .
(PS268) [440] And w er ... did sh you said she got some work, what what job did she do then to help?
(PS269) [441] Erm, mostly of a domestic nature. ...
(PS268) [442] And you were still working in the butchers' at this time?
(PS269) [443] That's right.
(PS268) [444] That's right.
[445] ... Now, er if we could come on now, it was in nineteen thirty six that you went to Spain?
(PS269) [446] Well, it was thirty seven.
(PS268) [447] Thirty seven was it ?
(PS269) [448] Yeah.
(PS268) [449] Erm, ... now can you tell me about how you how you decided to actually, you know why you decided to actually go to Spain ... in the first place?
(PS269) [450] Well er you see, the b the the the political background, er ... played a very important part, ... er ... and the fa and the struggle against fascism ... in this er ... early thirty period, was er was really something.
[451] Er ... it's difficult for people to appreciate today er ... the amount of political activity that took place during this early thirty period, and it's pe difficult for people to appreciate the political understanding that did exist over this period.
[452] And not only political understanding, but ... political determination to do something about it.
[453] ... And the er the er struggle of the Spanish people r really captured the imagination ... of er huge sections of the er of the majority of the people er er in Britain.
[454] And you'd got you'd got a tremendous buildup you know of er of enthusiasm, of determination you see, er and obviously er people wanted to give er expression to their support to the maximum.
[455] Er people quite a f few people went to er er went to Spain.
[456] ... Bef before I went, er I er quite a few of my friends went.
[457] You see, and it's er it er it's this j this background you see which er er ... er convinced people that er they ought to you know help the Spanish people in a real, serious, and er and personal capacity.
[458] Because they'd got a tremendous struggle on, they'd got a tremendous struggle on, they were struggling against tremendous odds, ... they were struggling against er er all sorts of er er of er of trickery, that er was being conducted by quite a quite a few of the er quite a few of the major powers.
[459] And it was this background you see that er that er th th that gave me at least the need for to to play some some part in
(PS268) [460] Mm.
(PS269) [461] helping along the struggle against er er against fascism.
(PS268) [462] Now did you go with friends?
[463] ... Did you go with you know your friends and comrades at the time?
(PS269) [464] Well, I er er I picked up I picked up er I picked up people in London, but [sniff] , locally locally er I went er individually.
[465] I went on my own.
(PS268) [466] How did you know people had gone before you though? [...] .
(PS269) [467] Well we got letters back, we
(PS268) [468] Yeah.
[469] Your
(PS269) [470] [...] .
(PS268) [471] your friends had gone, though, you [...] had gone .
(PS269) [472] Oh yes yes yes.
[473] Er in fact in fact, a a c a couple of them are o er b were killed there.
[474] ... Er er one from Mansfield, er one from Nottingham.
(PS268) [475] Now can you tell me a bit about you your your journey down there? [...]
(PS269) [476] Er we were well it it it was fairly well-organized, it was fairly well-organized it was er.
(PS268) [477] Well how, you you got to London did you?
[478] And then ?
(PS269) [479] Yeah, you're in need of er you're in need of er getting to London.
[480] Er, and to get to London, probably the local people would help raise the er would help raise the fare, but having er ... er having got to London, er you contacted the organization, er ... you would then ... took a er weekend ticket, took a weekend ticket to er to Paris.
[481] This was a, you know, a return er a return ticket.
[482] Cost about one pounds twenty five, or the equivalent of one pounds twenty five P.
[483] But er you got to Paris, you got an address in Paris, they gave you a bed, [...] couple of meals
(PS268) [484] Now who who ga who supplied the money?
[485] Were you given the money or did you have to pay for that yourself?
(PS269) [486] Oh no, you er ... they er provided the ticket, you see, they provided the ticket.
(PS268) [487] Mm.
(PS269) [488] Oh there was no such thing [...] if they gave you the money, you might nip off. [laugh] .
(PS268) [489] [laugh] .
(PS269) [490] No, they they provid they gave you the tickets you see.
(PS268) [491] Mm.
(PS269) [492] How we got there, er you you you got er you got some food, ad you got a bed for er for a couple of days.
[493] Er, you then had got another ticket, and er ... train ticket, and you went to the south of France by train, ... and er ... you got a bed and a couple of meals there er then you had a bus ride.
[494] ... They provided a bus, you had a bus ride and you picked up a couple of guides er, who during the night would take you over the er take you over the er Pyrenees, er over the mountains er, the Pyrenees, you see becau ... er you're in need of a guide because the er the frontier posts etcetera etcetera were shut, were closed.
[495] Er, and they were also guarded.
[496] ... And er you were in need of er er finding a way over the Pyrenees which er gave you a chance of er getting to the other side, so hence er you needed er you needed French er er French guides.
(PS268) [497] And they were guarded by Franco's troops?
(PS269) [498] Pardon?
(PS268) [499] They were guard guarded by Franco's troops?
(PS269) [500] Ah well you didn't go over, you didn't go over er where Franco's troops were, but
(PS268) [501] Mm.
(PS269) [502] they were guarded by French troops, you see .
(PS268) [503] I see.
[504] Yeah.
(PS269) [505] Er there was not a lot of enthusiasm ... for this er th this guarding which went on you see, because everybody was in sympathy ... er with the cause of the republican government, the S the Spanish republican government. ...
(PS268) [506] Now,
(PS269) [507] So it was er only half-hearted as far as er as far as the er the er activities of the guards on the frontiers from the French side were concerned.
(PS268) [508] Now, where did you go to once you were in Spain?
(PS269) [509] Well, we went to a place called Figueres ...
(PS268) [...]
(PS269) [510] That's just inside er that's just inside, er just inside Spain, what
(PS268) [511] [...] . [plane overhead]
(PS269) [512] they have it's a it's an old an old fort, from the grander days of the er history of Spain yeah.
[513] And er from there, from there we we er we were er we were obviously then enrolled there, and we then went to er a training base of Albusate
(PS268) [514] Now how
(PS269) [515] more or less in the er almost in the middle of Spain.
(PS268) [516] Tt how long had the erm journey took you then from from from Nottingham down to Albusate
(PS269) [517] From here to to er republican territory?
(PS268) [518] Yeah. ...
(PS269) [519] Perhaps six days. ...
(PS268) [520] And it was quite short then?
[521] The er [...] .
(PS269) [522] Oh yeah yeah, it was quite short, yeah.
(PS268) [523] Yeah.
[524] Now what happened when you got to er Albusate the me ?
[525] This was what was there, it was the international brigade [...] ?
(PS269) [526] Well that was the that was the er base headquarters of the international brigade, Albusate And then from there,w you were farmed out to the village, which was er er sort of the base, who are responsible for your er particular national battalion, you see er, the the the French people, they they er w they would be in one village, the English and the Canadians er er Americans would be er ... in this place that we were at, called Tarrazona ... Er and the Germans w , the German anti-fascists would be er in another.
[527] Er like wh when I was with the It er the Italian anti-fascists, you see.
(PS268) [528] And what er How many different nationalities were there then? [...] ?
(PS269) [529] Well, you you you name the nationality and they were there, you see.
[530] They were a everybody was there.
(PS268) [531] And not just Europeans?
(PS269) [532] Oh no, no.
(PS268) [533] Who who from outside of Europe ?
(PS269) [534] No, there were there were Indonesian, there were there we the the there were Chinese, there was er the there were Mexicans, there were er Ce people from er Central America, South America, from everywhere.
(PS268) [535] Now, given the different nationalities,wa wasn't there a communication problem?
[536] Language problem?
(PS269) [537] Well, er er there there al there always is, isn't there?
[538] There is a there is but er ... er but er er the medium er er as best it could be used was was Spanish you see.
[539] ... See?
[540] And it's surprising the number of people er who do speak Spanish.
[541] You see, because everybody everybody from Mexico, right down to the er to the tip of South America, for example, ... er speak one dialect or another ... of er of er of of of of Spain, of the Spanish language, and large areas of er ... of er the Indes ... you see, er ... and Italian is not ... a long way from it, you see, so er er er it it on the surface it may seem to have have been difficult, but the er you know there we we we did get by.
(PS268) [542] Did you manage by pick did you pick up a few words yourself?
(PS269) [543] Ah, yes, just a few.
(PS268) [544] Everybody managed by
(PS269) [545] Yeah.
(PS268) [546] doing that did they?
(PS269) [547] Yeah, yeah.
(PS268) [548] And er what what was the point, it was like a training camp as well was it?
(PS269) [549] That's right, yeah.
(PS268) [550] Now what what kind of er training did you get?
(PS269) [551] Well er we ... got we got the use of er er of rifles, you know, there weren't many, because they were wanted er they were wanted at the er front.
[552] There were one or two rifles they were er, you know, [...]
(PS268) [553] [cough] .
(PS269) [554] so we did indeed get some basic er basic military training.
[555] We fired rifles, and and and and and this and this sort of thing.
[556] Er, we did er you know practise military formations ... as they were as they were practised in er in those days and so on.
[557] So we did er we did indeed get some er basic military training.
(PS268) [558] Erm ... what about your standard of living?
[559] What what kind of food did you get, and where were you living at the time?
(PS269) [560] Er, ... well there was always a problem er food-wise, because there was a scarcity, there was a sc an overall scarcity ... er of food.
[561] Er ... er ... and the Spanish coast, you see, was blockaded.
[562] You see it was er whilst it was er er a democratically, legally elected government, you see there were such people as er er as Mussolini, from Italy, fascist Italy, ... and er er er ... Hitlerite Germany you see, who had got units, naval units, air units etcetera, blockaded.
[563] Blockaded the er er the ports of er of republican Spain.
[564] And consequently, er ... the blockade did have er did have serious er serious consequences for the imports in relation to food etcetera, that er that were required by the er by the republican government.
(PS268) [565] So what sort of
(PS269) [566] I remember there was one fellow, er an Englishman, he was known as Potato Jones.
[567] He used to he used to run his own ship, er a little coastal a little coastal er er vessel.
[568] Er, and he he used to run he used to run food to er the [...] ... in er in this in this boat, a fellow named Potato Jones, I don't know why he was known as Potato Jones,
(PS268) [569] Er was was he politically inclined, was he [...]
(PS269) [570] Er this I don't know, this I don't know, but er
(PS268) [571] or was it a bit of opportunist entrepreneur ?
(PS269) [572] Yeah.
[573] He was an he he was an he was a hero you see, er er er
(PS268) [574] You don't know whether he did it from an entrepreneur's point of view, or from er
(PS269) [575] No.
[576] Exactly why, he must have had some sympathy, mustn't he ?
(PS268) [577] [...] .
[578] ... Er now,
(PS269) [579] And and and the food, on
(PS268) [580] Yeah.
(PS269) [581] the question of food
(PS268) [582] Yeah, yeah.
(PS269) [583] you see it was er er er it could have been er it could have been er better done, but er, we got by, we got by.
(PS268) [584] What what exactly kind of meals did you have?
[585] What were they?
(PS269) [586] Most of it most of it is most
(PS268) [587] Rice is it?
(PS269) [588] of it was soup.
[589] Most of it ,
(PS268) [590] Was it?
(PS269) [591] most of it was soup.
[592] I was ever so sure that er that that ... there was a goodly number of er er er well there was a qu quite a substantial fall in the in the in the donkey population, er
(PS268) [593] [laugh] .
(PS269) [594] er in Spain, because we reckoned it was only donkey that went in that went [laughing] into the er burro as they call it [] , went into the went into the soup, you know with the beans and er er er various types of lentils and so on.
[595] And er the bread.
[596] The bread wasn't bad, the bread wasn't bad.
(PS268) [597] Did you ever get any let up from that though?
[598] Did you ever have a decent meal [...] ?
(PS269) [599] Er ... n not really, you you may talk your way into some peasant's house, and er er he'd give you a scrambled egg or or something like this, and er that was something, if you got a scrambled egg.
(PS268) [600] And what about oth other other supplies, I mean clothing, and cigarettes and that kind of thing, was that ?
(PS269) [601] [...] ?
[602] [sniff] . Well, you had what you went in you see, er you may get a you may have got a a trench-coat, or a poncho, you know, er er sort of a big cloak, er ... but er uniform in the in the accepted military sense, er, no. [...] .
(PS268) [603] Mm.
[604] And what about cigarettes?
(PS269) [605] Pardon?
(PS268) [606] How about did you manage for them?
[607] Cigarettes? ...
(PS269) [608] Well, er er a similar, er ... when you got a letter, when you got a letter,so you you'd probably get ... you'd probably get four or five Woodbines, you see, er things like this, and there was an issue from time to time, and they were chiefly American cigarettes, chiefly American cigarettes.
(PS268) [609] Now,
(PS269) [610] Perhaps once a week you'd get twenty of those, but er ... there there was a local tobacco, you know.
[611] But er, you'd got to be a man and a half to be able just to to smoke to smoke the local stuff. [sniff] .
(PS268) [612] Now how long were you were you at this er camp before you [...] ?
(PS269) [613] Oh er ... perhaps a couple of months.
[614] No longer.
(PS268) [615] Now how how was the army itself organized, did you was it in the in the normal normal sense of the army
(PS269) [616] Oh yes.
(PS268) [617] or was it
(PS269) [618] Yes, it was organized and it and er yes.
[619] There were companies, er and there'd be probably three companies to a battalion, something like this, depends on the arms, er and then er you'd get three or four battalions to er to a brigade, you see.
(PS268) [620] But you had political commissars [...] ?
(PS269) [621] And we had political commissars, oh yes, yes .
(PS268) [622] And what what sort of a role did they play, then?
[623] What did they do?
(PS269) [624] Er, well, ... they had a difficult job, they had a difficult job you see, because they'd got to keep explaining to you why you hadn't got a rifle.
[625] ... And er ... and when you're fighting a war, you see and er and and and er and you haven't got a rifle, I mean it's a serious problem.
[626] ... So the political commissar has got to convince you, you see, as to who was responsible for you not having a rifle.
[627] ... Er ... in other words in other words, ... their task was one of er of holding, maintaining, you know, ... er a political enthusiasm, ... you know and er and er a political discipline, see?
[628] ... So when things aren't going very well, you see, the the the f these these are the chaps that's got to do, they've got to do the explaining.
(PS268) [629] But er did they have er any other sort of job to do though?
[630] I mean did they you know deliver political speeches to try and [...] .
(PS269) [631] Oh yes, yes, yes.
[632] [...] . This was their role, this was their role, you see.
(PS268) [633] Erm and how did that go down well, did it er did it work in practice ?
(PS269) [634] Well it more or less, it more or less it was accepted.
[635] [cough] . Because he's talking, ... he's he's talking to er er a fairly high er political level of understanding
(PS268) [636] Mm.
(PS269) [637] you see.
(PS268) [638] Mm.
[639] ... And wh ... what happened then?
[640] Wh where did you go to anyway when you when you were sent to the front [...] ?
(PS269) [641] Oh well er I joined the er [sniff] I joined the er British battalion, er ... er up the front, not far from a place called er .
(PS268) [642] [...] interesting, you said the British battalion,th y , in your own battalions you kept your own nationality.
(PS269) [643] Oh yes, aha.
(PS268) [644] So that language [...]
(PS269) [645] Yeah.
[646] Although for a time for a time, I was er I was with er er ... er an hotchpotch, mixed up ... outfit,wh which included er Americans, Canadians, [cough] er and British.
(PS268) [647] But mainly but English speaking?
(PS269) [648] Oh aye, yes, they were all English speaking ,
(PS268) [649] [...] .
(PS269) [650] oh yes, yeah.
(PS268) [651] But anyway when y you were first sent with the British battalion to , was that? [...] .
(PS269) [652] Well then I went to the British battalion,
(PS268) [653] Mm.
(PS269) [654] not far .
(PS268) [655] Erm did you have all your equipment by this time, then you did get a rifle [...] ?
(PS269) [656] More or less, more or less.
[657] Er, you'd never got er you'd never got enough ... er if you'd got a rifle, er you didn't have many rounds of ammunition, and things like this, you see.
[658] So there was never er there was never an an abundance of anything, as far as that went.
(PS268) [659] Now were you involved in many battles?
(PS269) [660] Not many.
[661] No.
[662] ... Er ... I was involved in the in the ... this battle that resulted in the breakthrough by the er by the er by Franco's fascists, at , er
(PS268) [663] What what sort of things went on, erm was it close fighting or did you never see
(PS269) [664] Yeah, it [...]
(PS268) [...]
(PS269) [665] it got fairly close.
[666] Er it ought not to have done in so far that er we were we were we were we were moving, we were going forward to take up positions on er on the river, er and this was being done on the understanding that er a certain bridge had been destroyed, ... er and it hadn't been destroyed ... er and they were and they were they were already across you see.
[667] They were already our side,
(PS268) [668] This is the nationalist army, yeah?
(PS269) [669] and er they did indeed even have tanks across this side.
[670] Er ... and when you ain't got any tanks, [laugh] , and he's got some tanks, your your your situation isn't it's it's not very it's not very healthy.
[671] They not only had tanks, they had er they had aircraft.
[672] In fact, in fact, ... tt it was a regular ... army division er from Italy that was doing this job. ...
(PS268) [673] And so you as a sort of er volunteer army didn't have a lot of
(PS269) [674] Well we you didn't have a lot of chance in these circumstances, in these circumstances when they when they possessed every every piece of modern equipment, ... or equipment that w was modern in those er in th in those er in those days, and you're not er
(PS268) [675] Was there much [...] ?
(PS269) [676] you're not er er ... er more heavily armed than er than rifle, and the odd light machine gun.
[677] And er he's already he's already got you at a disadvantage, ... by er er you're on the move and he's waiting for you.
(PS268) [678] Now,d was there much of a battle, or did you realize [...] ?
(PS269) [679] Yes, this went on, it went on for about er three days, it went on for three days.
[680] Er ... but er in the end er in the end they won.
[681] Obviously.
[682] They
(PS268) [683] Mm.
(PS269) [684] er ... the air force, the German air force, aye, they had a go as well, they they they they they they they were providing all sorts of er er strafing and bombing, er comma.
[685] And it's my contention, it's my contention ... that them people that were er strafing and bombing me, er outside , er in republican Spain, was the same was the same crowd was the same crowd that were bombing and strafing several years later, in the in in the second world war, in in in France er and Holland.
(PS268) [686] Now, what happened to you then?
(PS269) [687] Well, I was captured, ...
(PS268) [688] And ... if we can just ... er ... just go back just for for one minute, just to draw a bit of before you were captured, er and whatnot, could you tell us just a little bit about the living conditions that you had when you were actually at the front.
(PS269) [689] Well er aye.
[690] ... Well you j you just live rough, you li you live rough.
[691] Er and this particular time of the year, it was summer of course, you we you you weren't overly worried about not having a shelter, you see.
[692] You had reached the stage where you could er you could sleep out ... er and you didn't er er [laughing] you didn't have a soft bed [] if er you were you were living rough.
[693] And of course er er i i I think it says something it says some thing for the morale, you see, that er and political understanding you see, that you can accept all these things, see, er er and still er and still carry on determined.
(PS268) [694] Now what about your supplies, how did you manage with them?
(PS269) [695] Er most of the supplies, food, was picked up er was picked up locally.
[696] ... Er ... er it seems we had a very good er er quartermaster, he seemed to always turn up er he seemed to always turn up with something.
[697] Er ... it seems it seems that the English are p pretty good at this sort of thing.
(PS268) [698] And did you ever meet up with your friends from Nottingham at that time?
(PS269) [699] Er, yes.
[700] Er ... Gregory, yes, I saw him.
[701] But Gregory, he came down to the er to the base, and then I went out, you see and er er he he was back at the base whil whil whilst this was going on.
[702] Although, although I would think that er Waldo Gregory has got the longest er ... time served in active service than probably er any other individual that went to Spain.
[703] [...] he was in at the beginning and he was er [laughing] he was there at the end, sort of thing [] .
(PS268) [704] Mm.
(PS269) [705] Er ... he suffered a couple of wounds as a ma as a matter of fact.
(PS268) [706] Now er ... what happened once you'd been captured then?
[707] Where were you taken?
(PS269) [708] Tt ... er ... well we had like I I say, we w we were i we were in the hands we were in the hands of the er Italian army, the er regular army from Italy, we were in their hands ... er for quite some time.
[709] Er ... there was some relief I should think about this, er er a bit of relief.
[710] But after a while, after a while we were handed over to the er Spanish fascist authorities, proper.
[711] ... Er ... er there was just the one meal a day and a piece of bread and that was your lot.
[712] But er after a while,
(PS268) [713] Erm er th they so they treated you quite badly then?
(PS269) [714] Pardon?
(PS268) [715] They they didn't treat you very well?
(PS269) [716] Not r no, not really.
[717] No.
(PS268) [718] And di did they
(PS269) [719] They they weren't against laying about you with sticks and stones and rifle butts for no reason at all.
(PS268) [720] And did they pick on any individuals?
(PS269) [721] Er oh yeah, they they would
(PS268) [722] [...] .
(PS269) [723] pick on individuals.
[724] ... There was a ... a bloke named , er ... he w he he was er ... er an Irishman, who who had er a fairly high standing [cough] in the Irish er republican movement.
[725] Er they were they picked they picked er they picked on him.
[726] And as a matter of fact, as a matter of fact, the Germans th th th had thought that he would be of value to them at a later stage, ... because he was er he was shipped to Germany, and er er I understand that he died in Germany ... er at the latter end of er of of er of the of the war, the Second World War.
[727] Y er er ... th they they kept him there, they they I think they were hopeful, they were hopeful that he being a republican from Ireland, that er he he c he c he could have been used, you know by the Nazis in er in their general propaganda, directed to Britain ... er ... with a Irish er slant on the situation, but er it's quite clear that er that they were never able to use .
[728] er er er wouldn't be used, because er ... he was never heard he was never he was heard, [...] he was never heard, erm similar to this Lord Haw-Haw, you know that used to do the broadcasting er from from Nazi Germany to er to to to Britain, particularly to England.
[729] But anyway, he he died almost as a prisoner at er at towards the end of er o er er of the Second World War.
[730] ... Er and they did indeed, they picked er they picked on him.
[731] Er ... but this er that was a that was a er decision of the er er of the German command, of the German army that was in Spain.
[732] But after the war,w we went back er under the er under the control of the Italian army. [recording ends]