Sunday, March 24, 2013

'Renegades' - Canadians serving in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War



Between 1936 and 1939, over 1,500 Canadians defied their government and volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. As it was in the midst of the Great Depression many of these men left behind punishing lives in relief camps, mines, and urban flophouses in order to confront fascism in a country few of them knew much about. 

Members of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion with their banner. Libraries and Archives Canada

These Canadians ultimately fought as the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion (The 'Mac-Paps'), serving within the 15th Brigade of the International Brigades. They were heavily engaged in several campaigns across Spain and paid a heavy price, not only in fighting Franco's fascists, but also internally, suffering from the unwanted attentions of fanatical political commissars that plagued the Republican forces during the later part of the war.


Canadians showing a bit of bravado for the camera.
These 28mm models are from Empress Miniatures. 


I've kept the colours of the Brigadiers clothing fairly varied as they were often indifferently uniformed and equipped. The officer with the rifle and the political commissar are dressed in a brown-khaki which I understand was a common colour for Republican uniforms.





For the Lewis Gun LMG team I cut some thin plastic rod to replicate spent shell casings, in an attempt to give the impression that the team are in the midst of laying down fire.







Again, like the others I have featured on the blog, these are fabulous sculpts to work with (I believe Paul Hicks work). 



Lanky, nicely posed and well defined, I found the castings to be clean, crisp and a breeze to prep for painting.




Of the 1,546 Canadians that served in Spain well over half were made casualties, with 721 of these listed as being killed - most without any known grave or record of how they perished.

The survivors returned home to a nation whose people pointedly ignored them, and whose law enforcement agencies earmarked them as troublemakers. They were often vilified as communist agitators, 'premature anti-fascists' and dangerous renegades. At the onset of the Second World War a few of these men managed to enlist to continue the struggle, but many were denied the right to serve, with some being harassed for years afterwards because of their political affiliations and stigmatized by their decision to fight in Spain.


A very good recent history of the Canadian involvement in the Spanish Civil War.


To this day the Canadians who died in the Spanish Civil War are not included in the Books of Remembrance that are housed in the Canadian Peace Tower in Ottawa and their sacrifice is not officially observed at our national war memorials or commemorated within our official Remembrance Day services. Those who survived the war are not even entitled to veterans' benefits. 

To me this is a shameful, self-inflicted stain to our country's honour. In light of this, as my own small personal observance, I proudly wear my Mackenzie Papineau pin next to my poppy on November 11th and make sure to raise a glass to those Canadians who chose to help the people of Spain to defend their government against the repression of fascism.




So, to those who not only fought the good fight in Spain but also to those who continue to struggle for our fundamental rights and freedoms, both from without and within, I can only say: ¡No Pasarán!

43 comments:

  1. Superb work. Most impressive. Dean

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  2. I love this hobby! You learn something new every day! I'll have to track that book down, too.

    Lovely work, Curt.

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    1. Thanks Ben! I'm delighted to shed a spark of insight no matter how ham-handed it may be.

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  3. You know, I didn't even realize until this post that you're a fellow Canuck.

    Nicely painted figures and a much-neglected corner of Canadian military history.

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    1. Yup! A born and bred Flatlander. Thanks for the comment! I see you're playing Pulp Alley as well - going to have to pick those rules to give them a go...

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  4. It must be nice to get time at the painting desk again!

    Nice bit of history and nicer painting

    Ian

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    1. It is! I've actually had these mostly done for weeks but just could't find time to get them done until now.

      Thanks Ian!

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  5. No Pasaran!

    It's disgraceful how they were treated. "Premature anti-fascists"? What? Is there a defined time point from when you are permitted to oppose fascism? *harrumph*

    Lovely figures as ever Curt :)

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    1. I know, it is a crime actually. Nonetheless, to be fair, this was at a time when being affiliated with ANYTHING communist was very much frowned upon. Also one has to remember that fascism in the early-mid 1930's was actually quite admired throughout much of the world.

      Thanks for your comment Tamsin!

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  6. Excellent looking troops Curt! I never realised the Canadians fought in the SCW, how sad that they're not remembered with other Canadians who fell in other wars. Good on you for wearing the pin on poppy days.

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  7. Excellent work and very surprised about the Canadians involvement in the SCW, totally new to me. I collect SCW works and this one you mentioned was out of my radar, but not any longer; now to Amazon website :-)

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    1. Well, I'm delighted to have helped add another volume to your library!

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  8. Great work Curt, and I learnt something today Thank you

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  9. Great post and very nice figures. I really can not imagine not immediately picking up that you are Canadian!

    John

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    1. Thanks John! I should really include more 'eh's' in my writing just to make it clear.

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  10. A great post. I'm investigating doing the Spanish Civil war in 6mm and will endeavour to create a MacPaps brigade in honour of these brave men to serve in the Republican ranks.

    Phil


    PS your ronin is finally en route!

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    1. Awesome! I'll definitely be looking out for that project debuting from your workbench.

      Thanks so much for the Ronin! I'll drop you a note when he arrives.

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  11. Nice figures and great banner.

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  12. Great figures! Your paintjob realy does these brave men honour.

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    1. Very kind of you, Moiterei. Thank you!

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  13. These look just superb Curt! I wish I had the time to add a few more to mine and this sure is lighting the fire!

    Christopher

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    1. Oh, I very much look forward to when you do as I know they'll be superb.

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  14. Very nice work, Curt. The "Mac-Paps" was a very good unit.

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    1. That is what I've read as well. I am proud that they gave good service. What is interesting is that I've been recently told that there were many French-Canadian Catholics that fought for Franco during the struggle as well. This participation has been conspicuously silent but requires more investigation.

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  15. They are great again Curt. And another sad piece of history to go with it. Thanks for sharing both.

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    1. Cheers Phil! It is a sad chapter in our national history but one that needs to be exposed and better understood.

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  16. Mr Campbell you are spoiling us with these lovely miniatures! Great work Curt.

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  17. Lovely work Curt. The banner is absolutely stellar.
    A little bit of family history:
    My father was a young lad of 16 in Montreal who tried to join the MacPaps until his dad, himself a vet of the trenches, pulled the plug. Said he was too young. A few years later dad was old enough for WW2 and didn't need parent's permission. I'm grateful to my grandfather for keeping him home.

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    1. He was lucky that his dad scotched it as most did not come back unscathed, either from the war or from the tender sympathies of our government later.

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  18. Very cool work and a nice touch of history! Well done.

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    1. Cheers Scott, it was very satisfying to get it all put together for the post.

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  19. Beautifull stuff Curt.
    And great history too.

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    1. Cheers my good man! I hope I can get a SCW game organized for you the next time you're down for a visit.

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  21. Great painting work !
    A question : where do you find the flag ?
    All the best
    Philippe

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    1. The flag is from Empress Miniatures. I believe the code is SCWR3 'International Brigade Flags'. I hope this helps.

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