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Unlikely Warriors: The Extraordinary Story Of The Britons Who Fought In The Spanish Civil War Paperback – 1 Apr 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (1 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781312338
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781312339
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.5 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 220,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘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)

‘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)

'Benefiting from an impressive range of research, this is an extraordinary story of heroism, tragedy and sacrifice.'

(Nick Soldinger History of War magazine)

'A marvellously accessible history of the British volunteers who joined the struggle against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Richard Baxell sheds new light on the role and achievements of these idealistic men and women. Fascinating.'

(Victoria Hislop, author of The Return)

'A story of astonishing principle and courage. Baxell presents the volunteers unromantically but sensitively: as ordinary people who made an extraordinary choice.'

(Maxine Peake)

'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)

'The book is beautifully written and it’s a totally absorbing read about incredible people whose like we will probably never see again.' 

(Alan Lloyd Morning Star)

'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)

'Unlikely Warriors is a well researched, largely balanced, highly readable and accessible narrative of what remains a compelling story. For this, Richard Baxell is to be congratulated.'

(Lewis Mates Contemporary British History)

‘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)

‘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)

‘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)

'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)

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

(Good Book Guide)

About the Author

RICHARD BAXELL is an author, researcher and historian who has lectured and written widely on the British volunteers in the Spanish Civil War.

His critically acclaimed British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Battalion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939 developed from his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics under Professor Paul Preston. With fellow historian Angela Jackson and journalist and International Brigade Memorial Trust Secretary, Jim Jump, Richard wrote and designed the popular travelling exhibition Antifascistas on the British and Irish volunteers as well as the accompanying book of the same name.

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

More information can be found at: www.richardbaxell.info

 


Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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