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British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War

British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War

Over half a century later, a British family searches for their relative that fought with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. This is the history of Dunbar, one of the thousands of British soldiers who died in Spain.

British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
01/15
Caption
Ms. Carol Bartholomew, in the cemetery, crying in front of the annonimous grave of her uncle Arthur Dunbar, an International Brigadist dead in Brunete's Battle during Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
02/15
Caption
Ms. Carol Barthelemew, in the cemetery, putting some flowers in the annonimous grave of her uncle Arthur Dunbar, an International Brigadist dead in Brunete's Battle during Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
03/15
Caption
Mr. Tony Barthelemew and Mr. Roy Ellis, in the cemetery, in front of the annonimous grave of Arthur Dunbar, an International Brigadist dead in Brunete's Battle during Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
04/15
Caption
Mr. Tony Bartholomew, in the cemetery, in front of the annonimous grave of his uncle Arthur Dunbar, an International Brigadist dead in Brunete's Battle during Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
05/15
Caption
Mr. Tony and Ms. Carol Barthelemew, in the cemetery, in front of the annonimous grave of their uncle Arthur Dunbar, an International Brigadist dead in Brunete's Battle during Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
06/15
Caption
The relatives of Arthur Dunbar, an International Brigadist dead in Brunete's Battle during Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), are welcomed by officials of the City Hall in Colmenar Viejo (Spain).
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
07/15
Caption
School group Soledad Sainz, old female school that harbored, during the Spanish Civil War, the Republican Army Hospital where Mr. Dunbar died. He was an International Brigadist dead in the Brunete's Battle in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
08/15
Caption
The defunction certificate of Mr. Arthur Dunbar, a british fighter of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).Mr. Dunbar, 30 years old, dead in Brunete's Battle in 1937.
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
09/15
Caption
The relatives of Arthur Dunbar with Immaculada Viñoles (Councilwoman of Education of the City Hall), speak under Ms Concepcion Sainz’ photography, the land donor where the Republican Hospital was where.
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
10/15
Caption
One of the historicians seeing a copy of the front line of Brunetes' battlecamp where Mr. Dunbar dies in 1937 figthing against fascism.
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
11/15
Caption
The British "delegation" at the entrance of the cemetery in Colmenar Viejo. Mr. Dunbar was buried here after his dead in July 1937. He was injuried in the Brunete's Battle. He was 30 years old.
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
12/15
Caption
The British "delegation" at the entrance of the cemetery in Colmenar Viejo. Mr. Dunbar was buried here after his dead in July 1937. He was injuried in the Brunete's Battle. He was 30 years old.
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
13/15
Caption
Ms. Carol Barthelemew, Arthur's niece, near the grave of his uncle in the cemetery of Colmenar Viejo. Mr. Dunbar was buried here after his dead in July 1937. He was injuried in the Brunete's Battle, one of the hardest battles in the Spanish War.
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
14/15
Caption
Some years ago, somebody put a stone over the grave with a short dedicatory: "To the people that rest in this place". Here Mr. Dunbar was buried after his dead in 1937. He was injuried in the Brunete's Battle, the hardest battle in the Spanish War.
British family discovers grave of dead relative from Spanish Civil War
15/15
Caption
Mr. Tony and Ms. Carol Barthelemew, in the cemetery, in front of the annonimous grave of their uncle Arthur Dunbar, an International Brigadist dead in Brunete's Battle during Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

Over half a century later, a British family searches for their relative that fought with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. This is the history of Dunbar, one of the thousands of British soldiers who died in Spain.

Almost 75 years later, History is still written in many places; cities, towns, highways, gutters and cemeteries in Spain. Like rheumatism, injuries not well healed, still hurt years later. Thousands of parents, brothers, women, girls and young lost, in an uneven fight, their names and surnames to become anonymous skeletons. Skeletons that had a voice and were full of life, happiness, misfortune and dreams.

A warm spring day of 2012, the relatives of the British brigade member Arthur Dunbar tracked their uncle’s last steps. He was, like many others, a young who sacrificed his life fighting against fascism in Spain almost a century ago. The Spanish Civil War was the first chapter of the unsuspected Calvary that Europe had to put up a few years later, since everyone was excessively convinced of the values of Democracy.

Arthur Dunbar travelled from London to Colmenar Viejo following the dream that Madrid would be the tomb of fascism. We know little things about Arthur Dunbar (whose family name means "strong in the top” in Gaelic). He arrived in Spain wrapped in the dream of the left who were convinced that fascists had to be fought throughout Europe. He stepped the “bull skin” integrating the International Brigades; He was older for the average of age of brigade members since he reached Spain being thirty years old.

We have only learnt one letter from his Spanish travel. He sent it to his family through the Red Help from Albacete. On those lines, awkwardly hand-write with a pencil, the dreams of those who fought in Spain are glimpsed; also the yearnings of the land, the good liquor and the cigars that were rather scarce in the rows of the brigade members.

Five relatives of Arthur embarked some years ago the search of their relative. When someone dies away from home and did not have a bit of land to honour, time weaves, with invisible threads, the parallel history. Today, Tony and Carol Bartholomew, Arthur’s niece and nephew, accompanied by Roy Ellis, the niece’s husband, along with two more relatives, a British historian and Ernesto Viñas, both specialists in the International Brigades matters, have travelled through the fields of Brunete, the bloody, desolate and torrid space where Arthur was fatally wounded. Later on, continuing Arthur’s sad and last travel in 1937, they reached Colmenar Viejo; Here was located the Military Hospital of the Republican’s First Body of Army. This hospital was one of the centres of assistance where were evacuees, continuing a protocol regulated the wounded in battle during Brunete’s battle. Arthur fought near the sites known as Romanillos -in rebels hands-, with the Guadarrama’s river on its backs, some kilometers east of the confluence with the Aulencia’s river.

According to the military documentation, this frontline hospital known as “hospitales de sangre” gathered more than 100 beds and one operating room, as well as a blood transfusion unit developed by the Canadian medical equipment under the orders of H.N. Bethune, or, according to others, by the British doctor with Spanish roots, Frederic Durán-Jordà-. The military hospital occupied the space of the female school Soledad Sainz. It was in a notable stone building with two floors built in the ground that Mrs. Sainz donated to the City Hall years before the Civil War broke out.

How painful trance is seeing the walls covered with the children’s blood in their childlike play; blood spilled by those who came after a dream to fight for a liberty that was considered blemished; a liberty that they believed in danger.

On July 14th, 1937, at six thirty in the evening, Arthur Dunbar soldier died due to his injuries suffered in battle. Mr. Dunbar was part of the 15th Brigade -also called Abraham Lincoln-, 2ª Company of the English Battalion, under the Colonel Januses Galicz and the English Captain George Nathan and in Brunete’s battle and Jack Cunningham’s command. There is no other news from him. According to his death certificate, copied from the original wrote by the Hospital Director, Arthur Dunbar was buried in the town cemetery the day after his death.

More than 1500 of the 2500 men who were part of the XV Brigade lost their lives in that battle; these dead were added to the more than 1000 losses that the Brigade had a few months before in the front of Jarama’s river. 331 volunteers of the English Battalion initiated the battle on July 6th, only 42 survived.

For Arthur’s eternal rest as well as for other soldiers’, a piece of land without stone recalls them without any distinction of nationalities, origins, without any sign that indicate that a brave combatant for freedom lays down; perhaps Arthur was just a useless chess piece of an absurd war.

The sun strikes vertical over Carol, Tony and Roy’ heads. The day weighs out at the doors of the cemetery. A bland forest of crosses, angels and silence burn in the hot afternoon. As a funeral entourage, the relatives approach to the space reserved for those who died without confession, executed and suicides. According to the rules this piece of land is separated of the consecrated cemetery since they did not embrace the law of God.

Concrete preserve from excavations nowadays. A hypocritical stone recalls the memory of the ones who rest in this place. A plastic floral decoration remembers timidly the ones that fought for a dream that we enjoy.

But under this infamous cement there is a light and fresh land, soaked of blood and tears of those who could not elect their destiny. Men and women like Arthur, with names and surnames and with a history that still has to be told; a history that the lying official narration, stole to its owners.

History has a debt of gratitude written with gunpowder and blood in the gutters, in the shameful walls of cemeteries and in the far away corners of the olive grove. Spain has a debt of gratitude with those who left theirs dreams behind and gave their lives in a stupid war, like all wars.

We hope that Carol, Tony and Roy’s journey ends up with the find of their memory. Because today Arthur Dunbar is still here, under a heavy land that he loved a long time ago. At least, we should take the commitment to put a name on a stone to remember him and his war mates, whatever our beliefs are. Thanks to people like him, who fought for a dream, freedom remains in our lives nowadays.

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