Remembering Jarama

18th March 2017

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Visitors to Wadham Antechapel will notice a small but dignified temporary memorial marking eighty years since the battle of Jarama in 1937, when Franco’s armies were held back from Madrid.

The memorial, created by Wadham undergraduate Peter Morgan (History, 2014), celebrates the lives of the volunteer International Brigades who stood alongside the army of the Spanish Republic to fight against the fascists.

Peter Morgan reports: “Eighty years ago, the Jarama Valley fell quiet after a month’s fighting – for the time being, Franco’s armies had been held back from Madrid.

"It was on the River Jarama in 1937 that thousands of international volunteers for the first time stood side by side with the armies of the Spanish Republic. With their strength and their lives they declared in many languages and one voice that fascism would not pass.

"In a world clamouring for symbols, stories and methods of resistance to the Far Right the International Brigades which fought and died in Spain should be raised to the highest pedestal. They were "the generous blood of the world. And in spite of their youth, or maybe because of it, they were also its conscience."

"I’m proud that Wadham has provided a platform to commemorate these volunteers and publicise their all too little-known story. Any history of human courage and solidarity must be punctuated by the epic of the brigadistas."

The memorial in the Antechapel includes a book of remembrance and there are candles to light for the thousands of politically and culturally diverse volunteers who went to Spain to defend democracy.

Historical background

In July 1936, a clique of fascist generals launched a military rising against the Republican government of Spain. The Spanish masses rallied in defence of their elected government, but the fascist forces secured the military support of Hitler and Mussolini. Soon General Francisco Franco’s army was advancing toward Madrid.

The Soviet Union was the only foreign state to provide significant support to the Spanish Republic. But thousands of citizens from a range of different counties, including approximately 2500 volunteers from the UK joined the army of the Spanish Republic to fight against the fascists. These International Brigades numbered over 35,000.

Despite suffering heavy losses and losing some ground, the Republican forces successfully held Franco back from Madrid. However the Republic was saved only for two years and Madrid fell to Franco in March 1939. His fascist regime survived Hitler and Mussolini until 1975.

  • Undergraduate Peter Morgan with the memorial to Jarama