Service to remember Mansfield’s heroes from ‘forgotten’ war

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A group of Mansfield men who gave their lives fighting fascism in a ‘forgotten war’ will be remembered during a service to rededicate a memorial at the weekend.

The four are amongst more than 20 men from around Nottinghamshire who joined around 2,000 Brits who formed the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

The special rededication ceremony is set to take place at County Hall, in Nottingham, on Saturday, 27th July.

Mansfield men Eric Whalley, Alfred Woodhouse, and Bert Tagg were all killed in the conflict. A fourth man, John McLean, who survived the conflict, is also remembered in the memorial.

The volunteers were fighting on behalf of the elected Government of Spain against a fascist uprising, led by General Franco and backed by Mussolini and Hitler.

The International Brigaders’ Memorial at County Hall was first unveiled in September 1993. It was commissioned from Doncaster-based sculptor, Michael Johnson and depicts a scene from the conflict showing bombed-out buildings. A separate plaque lists the names of some of the volunteers.

Eric Whalley was born in George Street, Mansfield, in 1914 and worked down the pits before rising to become a leading light of the Labour Movement, before forming the Mansfield branch of the Communist Party, along with six others.

Eric travelled to Spain in 1937 to take part in the conflict, and was killed in action within weeks of his arrival.

The ceremony fulfils a pledge, made by county council leader Alan Rhodes, who promised to return the Information Panel removed by the previous Tory administration, when Labour next controlled the authority.

Councillor Rhodes said: “Many people are unaware of the significance of the Spanish Civil War as a forerunner to the Second World War or the role played by people from this country and our county in fighting fascism, even before Hitler’s assault on Europe.

“It is vital that this does not become a forgotten conflict and in particular that the bravery and selflessness of volunteers from Nottinghamshire is remembered.

“Many of the International Brigade members were inexperienced soldiers, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice because of the strength of their belief against fascism and tyranny.”

The service will include readings and the singing of Jarma, a song about a bloody Spanish Civil War battle, by the Nottingham Clarion Choir. Wreaths were also laid at the memorial.

A public information board, which explains the purpose of the memorial and details of the volunteers it recognises, will also be reinstated near to the memorial in time for the service.