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Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle Against Fascism [Hardcover]

Richard Baxell
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Sep 2012

When a Nationalist military uprising was launched in Spain in July 1936, the Spanish Republic’s desperate pleas for assistance from the leaders of Britain and France fell on deaf ears. Appalled at the prospect of another European democracy succumbing to fascism, volunteers from across the Continent and beyond flocked to Spain’s aid, many to join the International Brigades.

More than 2,500 of these men and women came from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth, and contrary to popular myth theirs was not an army of adventurers, poets and public school idealists. Overwhelmingly they hailed from modest working class backgrounds, leaving behind their livelihoods and their families to fight in a brutal civil war on foreign soil. Some 500 of them never returned home.

In this inspiring and moving oral history, Richard Baxell weaves together a diverse array of testimony to tell the remarkable story of the Britons who took up arms against General Franco. Drawing on his own extensive interviews with survivors, research in archives across Britain, Spain and Russia, as well as first-hand accounts by writers both famous and unknown, Unlikely Warriors presents a startling new interpretation of the Spanish Civil War and follows a band of ordinary men and women who made an extraordinary choice.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (6 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845136977
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845136970
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.2 x 5.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Baxell is a research associate at the London School of Economics and a trustee of the International Brigade Memorial Trust.

He is the author of a number of books and articles on British volunteers for the International Brigades, during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. His latest book, Unlikely Warriors, an 'authoratative' oral history of the British fighters against fascism from 1932 to 1945, was published by Aurum Press in hardback in September 2012 and will be available in paperback on 1 April 2014.

His previous works include the critically acclaimed British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Battalion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939. With Jim Jump and Angela Jackson, he is a co-author of the IBMT's travelling exhibition, Antifascistas and the accompanying book.


Product Description

Review

‘Baxell’s authoritative book draws on unpublished memoirs as well as personal interviews with a tiny band of survivors who lived their experience, in the poignant words of one volunteer, as "a time of hope, when a man with a rifle had some power to divert the tide of human affairs".’

(Military History Monthly)

‘Examines the motivation of these individuals and recounts their stories in an oral history of remarkable power.’

(Good Book Guide)

‘Most interesting, because previously least known, are Richard Baxell’s detailed descriptions of the backgrounds of the individual volunteers, drawn from unpublished diaries and oral histories, and the reception they received on their return home.’

(Caroline Moorhead Literary Review)

'Well researched and luminously written, Baxell's book shows us what these volunteers were like - their grand heroism and their petty hatreds, the miseries they endured, the awfulness of war.'

(Francis Beckett The Tablet)

‘Baxell draws painstaking miniatures of the uncontroversial heroism of doomed men. It’s beyond history; it’s myth.’

(Gideon-Lewis-Kraus London Review of Books)

'This is a brilliant new book with lots of new material that should appeal to the general reader as well as those who already have a fair knowledge of the subject. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it.'

(Journal of the Spanish Study Circle)

‘Lively and accessible… Those of us privileged, like the author, to have met and known a number of the survivors know that Spain always remained in their hearts. The time they spent there was proudly remembered by many as the most important of their lives.’

(Morning Star)

'This is a colorful, heroic, tragic and deeply troubling tale. War is a horror that can serve a good cause. Baxell provides a full account of mostly working-class people who voluntarily went to war for a good cause that they believed in. Based on an extraordinary range of material, it is a splendid thing to have this full and satisfying account.'

(Peter Stansky The Volunteer)

‘Richard Baxell is one of the world’s greatest experts on the International Brigades. Unlikely Warriors is not only the definitive work on the British volunteers in terms of its research base and its awareness of the complex British, Spanish and international contexts. It is also a superbly written and deeply moving vision of the inspiring but doomed efforts of men and women to halt Europe’s descent into war.’

(Paul Preston, author of The Spanish Holocaust)

About the Author

Richard Baxell is a research associate at the London School of Economics and a trustee of the International Brigade Memorial Trust. He is the author of a number of books and articles on British volunteers for the International Brigades, during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939.

His previous works include the critically acclaimed British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Battalion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939. With Jim Jump and Angela Jackson, he is a co-author of the IBMT's travelling exhibition, Antifascistas and the accompanying book.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IN THEIR OWN WORDS 19 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bolted on to the back of the Rev. William Rickman's tombstone in the churchyard of the Dorset village of Powerstock is a plaque of green Cumberland slate commemorating his widow Annie and their only son John Pascal Rickman who `Died in Spain in February 1937. He Gave his Life in the Cause of Freedom'.

Fifteen years ago I went in search of the late John Rickman but found instead the then lively George Wheeler, an International Brigade veteran who inhabits Baxell's vibrant narrative along with many of the 2500 British and Irish volunteers who offered their young lives to defend Spain's fragile democracy.

Baxell's book is a substantial achievement. Combining published and unpublished memoirs with letters and taped and filmed interviews, the author allows the men and women who went to Spain to speak for themselves. The testament is underpinned by Baxell's forensic knowledge of the British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade and lucid explication of the political and socio-economic forces that propelled these young people over the Pyrenees and into the inferno.

Baxell's passion for the subject and his empathy for the volunteers is evident in his crisp, confident prose. He employs humour and irony to take us as close as we can ever get, seven decades later and from the comfort of our armchairs, to the frontline in Spain.

George Green, a classical musician from Stockport, was a most unlikely warrior. Like George Wheeler, we meet him in the author's chronicle at the Battle of the Ebro. In a letter home, surprisingly not quoted by Baxell, he wrote: `Mother dear, we're not militarists, nor adventurers nor professional soldiers.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest and moving account 4 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Richard Baxell writes about British volunteers who served in the International Brigades, medical services and in the revolutionary militias. The book looks at the subject through the personal re-collections of the volunteers as well as the authors exhaustive research on the subject. The main section concentrates on the volunteers experiences in Spain, but the author also tells in detail the story of the volunteers before they went to Spain and their experiences in World War II. The author obviously has a sympathy for his subject matter but is not afraid to re-account mistakes, disasters, breakdowns in morale and ill-discipline that occurred. It also covers the hardships, horrific losses and heroic stands made by the British volunteers in Spain. I strongly recommend this book as the definitive book on the British Battalion of the International Brigade. It is well written and even to a Spanish Civil war geek I found much information that was new. A warts and all account of British volunteers in Spain that will hopefully reach a wide audience.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Tribute 22 Feb 2013
By Red1918
Format:Hardcover
The only pity about this book is that it has taken over 75 years since the start of the Spanish Civil War for such a comprehensive book about the British volunteers to be published.It is such an important part of British working people's fight against fascism in the Thirties and yet, no doubt due to their embarrasment at their appeasement of it, the powers that be have been happy to suppress it.
The real beauty of Baxell's book is that he allows the volunteers to tell the story in their own words, taken from the records of their heroism that have been left. What we have is an enthralling number of little potted biographies of those of those 2500 men and women from Britain, who left for a foreign land to fight an evil they realised threatened their own country - and with a one in five chance of being killed.
Their stories are woven together so that the narrative runs very smoothly and becomes totally engrossing. It is also brilliantly referenced and indexed for those who will crave to know more about these magnificient examples of working class heroism.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spanish Civil War 14 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bought this book on the recommendation of the previous reviews. I wanted to understand what the war was all about and this book is very thorough and easy to read. Also, an ancestor, Douglas Frank Springhall, who died when I was very young, is mentioned several times and I am interested to know what made him tick.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best 17 Aug 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have read a lot of books on the Spanish Civil War in the last thirty years or so. This is easily the best and I was sorry when I finished it. It reads almost like a novel. It concentrates on the people involved but still manages to weave a background story. At the end the author also highlights accounts from fascists - or supporters - and their beliefs which partly helps balance the book. Highly recommended.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlikely Warriors by Richard Baxell 22 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle Against Fascism

This book is a highly rewarding and satisfying read. The author's deep knowledge of the subject leaves the reader with a much better understanding of Britain in the 1930s and of the 2500 plus British and Irish volunteers who went to Spain in support of the Republican government following the military rebellion and the ensuing civil war. It also covers the subsequent service of many of the former International Brigaders in their ongoing struggle against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during the Second World War, and beyond, and includes biographical details of several of them right up to recent times. Although written sympathetically, it doesn't shy away from the more controversial aspects such as the extent of Communist control within the Brigades, and drunkenness, desertions, discipline, executions and spying are all dealt with sensitively. On a lighter note, the book also contains many humourous passages of which, I have to admit, some had me laughing out loud! The book is full of names of individual volunteers, a veritable goldmine for anyone with a parent or grandparent who served in Spain. It is oral history at its best. The book's main impact, however, is the feeling of pride, gratitude and respect it engenders for the overwhelming majority of the brave men and women, from all walks of life, who foresaw the dangers at an early date and had the courage of their convictions to go to Spain to confront the viciousness of totalitarianism head-on. More than 500 of them lost their lives in Spain. This is a brilliant book with lots of new material which should appeal to the general reader as well as to those who already have a fair knowledge of the British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Talk about finding a gem. Unlikely Warriors is a remarkable accomplishment, with solid five-star reviews for excellent reason. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Caroline Angus Baker
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't forget they fought to make Spain a police state
If you believe the International Brigade were all good democrats who loved freedom then you'll like this book. Unfortunately, the truth is something else. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gordon Beckwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended
I would honestly recommend this book as a well balanced and well written account of the subject.
Carefully researched without prejudgment or bias. Read more
Published 2 months ago by s p keane
1.0 out of 5 stars Same old bias pro-communist pap.
After reading some of the other reviews I expected to read an up to date study of the Spanish Civil War, what I found myself reading was the same tired old pro-communist propaganda... Read more
Published 2 months ago by East ender
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Scholarly yet engrossing account of the British (and Irish) contribution to the International Brigades, which were so important in the Spanish Civil War, with an intelligent and... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Dr Iain Macmillan
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant
This book is brilliant. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.
I started this book and couldn't stop.
Richard is also a good rock climbing teacher
Published 8 months ago by Tomer Yashiv
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect!
Perfect. Pact full of information on the British and the Spanish Civil War a great assert to my dissertation research.
Published 19 months ago by Lynsey
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