After fighting Fascism – in the shape of Sir Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts – in Manchester, the 21-year-old Bernard McKenna went to Spain to join the battle against Franco’s troops. Despite being wounded he “never regretted going” and stayed involved in left-wing politics throughout his life. Bernard died in 2008, 2 years after this interview was carried out.
Born in Hulme, Bernard McKenna joined the Young Communist League at 18, attending meetings, educating each other about Marxism and political issues and supporting workers who were out on strike or suffering at the hands of their bosses.
There was always something to do, it was a busy time politically,” Bernard said of the 1930s. He himself worked in a clothing factory in Cheetham Hill, owned by one of the area’s Jewish businessmen. It was a ‘good company’ to work for, he recalled, and his jobs included stock-keeping and dispatch, making use of…
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Sam Wild, born in Ardwick, was one of the Manchester men who fought in the Spanish Civil War, eventually becoming the commander of the British Battalion of the International Brigade. Bessie Berry, his wife, was a pioneering women activist in British Communist circles.
Dolores Long, Sam Wild and Bessie Berry’s daughter, described their lives and politics in an interview in June 2009.
Unemployment in Manchester
My Dad was a working class man who had a really poverty-stricken childhood. He was born in Ardwick and left school at 14 with no skills and found it very difficult to get work. He got involved in the unemployed workers’ movement because he couldn’t find work in Manchester and so he joined the merchant navy. And he always said, I joined the merchant navy because I knew I’d get accommodation and I’d be fed.
His political education was in the merchant navy, I think…
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Having seen the excellent work in finding images of International Brigade volunteers and then putting names to their faces on the International Brigade Memorial Trust Facebook page. All the information and photographs are from this Facebook page.
I have created this post with some of the images uploaded. More will be added in the future and as more information and photographs are put on the Facebook page. I hope this post will help keep the memory of the sacrifice and bravery made by the volunteers.
Please visit and support the International Brigade Memorial Trust.