A sculpture has been unveiled to honour those who volunteered from Hull to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War.
Nine men and one woman from this area volunteered to fight against the rising levels of fascism during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), a time when it was illegal for a British citizen to fight in the army of another country, without explicit permission from central government.
Many fighters joined under assumed names and others kept their journey a life-long secret. Countries across Europe, Britain included, had an official policy of ‘non-intervention’ in the war for fear of provoking the rising threat from Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, and senior British politicians were advocating a policy of appeasement with Germany.
In other countries like France, similar issues meant that travelling to Spain through France was a very dangerous and risky affair that could end up with arrest and imprisonment.
To mark their bravery, the Hull International Brigade Memorial Group (HIBMG) was formed in 2016, and set about raising money to commemorate the volunteers. The group raised all the funds to design and build a memorial from individual donations, trade unions, progressive political parties and anti-racist groups so that their legacy will remain a permanent fixture of the city’s historic landscape. Hull IBMG have other projects planned for the coming years to add to this legacy.
Joe Gibbins, Chair of the Hull IBMG said: “The memorial marks a wider recognition of how history may have played out, had the fight against the spread of fascism in Europe succeeded in Spain. Had the volunteers prevented the Nazi forces supporting Franco from practising techniques such as carpet bombing and ‘Blitzkrieg’, then the history of Europe, the UK and especially Hull; as one of the most heavily bombed places in the UK; would have been very different.”
The structure is made up from Crema Marfil Alba, a type of marble found in the Basque region of Spain, and Cor-ten Steel manufactured in Catalonia reflects the art and symbolism the volunteers would have experienced whilst fighting the war.
Andy Stankard, Hull IBMT Steering Group Member, added: “Four of the volunteers were killed in Spain in battle and their bodies were never recovered. They are a part of Hull that remains in Catalonia and this memorial from Catalonia, where they fought, is a part of Spain that now remains in Hull.”