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VOLUNTEERS RETURN SAFELY FROM SPAIN


Leinster Leader, 1937
Volunteers Return
Many narrow escapes
Naas men in front lines
 
All of the volunteers from Co. Kildare numbering nine returned safely from their expedition to Spain under General O’Duffy. Their stories of their experiences there are somewhat similar, and they were very glad indeed to be once more in their native land. Some of them had very narrow escapes from death under shell fire, and thank merciful Providence that their lives were spared. All without exception, told harrowing stories of the terrible brutalities of the Reds, the descration of Churches, the killing on nuns and priests, and the thousands of people with sympathies towards General Franco.
The Naas contingent, Messrs. J. Byrne, P.Daly, Jos Curran, and W.O’Neill were in the front line trenches, but escaped unscratched.
Speaking to one of the volunteers, he said that during the nine weeks they were in the trenches they were under shell fire the whole time. The food was bad and they got very little sleep being in their full equipment throughout the nine weeks. A Spanish Lieutenant and Sergeant attached to the Bundera were killed just as entered the trenches, and Lieutenant Tom Hyde and Volunteer Chute were killed subsequently. After entering the village of Clempotuelo about twenty miles from Madrid the volunteers were horrified to find that the asylum there was filled with young girls who had lost their reason because of their ill-treatment by the Reds. The asylum had formerly been managed by nuns, and some of these had escaped by passing as patients until relief arrived. A large portion of the population of this village had been killed by having their throats cut
A doctor, who was one of the most prominent citizens of the village, was cut in pieces on his own operating table, and the volunteers found Communistic emblems written in his blood around the walls of the house. All chapels and convents in the area were burned and wrecked, and wherever the volunteers came into a house where there were sure to have been murdered and the pictures profane and broken.
Another volunteer, Mr. Joe Curran, stated that they had to suffer severe hardships going over to Spain, but when they reached the headquarters of the forces they got a rousing reception and all along the way were greeted by cheering crowds. They then went into training at Caceres for two months and subsequently took over front line trenches from the Moors. At Chimposulos an incident occurred which reflected the highest credit on all the Volunteers concerned. One evening the volunteers were having a hasty meal in the ruins of a Church when one of the volunteers on going to a window was greeted by a fusillade of shots. Willy O’Neill, a Naas man, immediately took up his rifle and accompanied by Joe Curran, and a few more of the Bandera, went out in search of the sniper. After a thorough search Pte. O’Neill discovered him hiding behind a wall and advancing held him up with his rifle and forced him to give up the revolver which he held in his hand. He then marched him down through the streets of the town to the camp. The next morning the man was shot.
The general complaint, however, was the scarcity of food, and even the water was scarce, and when found was often found to be undrinkable, some of the wells being found to be full of corpses.
It was around Lamoracos that the volunteers went into the heaviest fighting and lost most. Advancing in the enemy lines they came under the heavy fire of the Russian artillery, and when they came close to the trenches were met with machine gun fire. They took the trenches, however, and captured a number of guns. It was here that Volunteer Horan of Tralee, was killed, in a shell landing practically beside him and narrowly making some of the Naas volunteers who had just passed the place. All through the campaign in fact the members of the Irish brigade had the most Providential escapes and the hand of God seemed to be watching over them night and day.
Legionnaire Liam O’Neill’s recital was somewhat corroborative of the others. He had found evidence of convents being ransacked and their inmates brutally murdered while ruined churches and broken statues desecrated with Communistic emblems were to be found on all sides. The Legionnaire showed the writer portion of the vestment of a murdered priest, which he had picked up on his way.
The complaints about the extremely bad food supplied to the Volunteers was general. Not only that, but they seldom got even any kind of food, while some of the men manning the front line trenches were in rags. This was in contrast to the treatment meted out to the Spanish Volunteers, who were well clothed and fed. The hardship entailed induced many of the Volunteers to express a wish to leave the country, and besides there was continual wrangling going on between the officers of the Bandera as to the rank they held. This disunity disheartened and discouraged the general body of the Volunteers. Mr. O’Neill stated that General O’Neill seldom went near the front line trenches, and that the story published in the daily newspapers about the narrow escape of the General when a shell landed near a dug out which he had occupied was totally untrue. The Volunteers received pay amounting in English money to about 2s, 6d a week. They discovered that many of their letters had never been posted, but nevertheless their postage money which they had handed in with the letters had never been refunded by the responsible authorities. A bonus had been promised the Volunteers when leaving the country, but they had never got any bonus whatever and most of them returned much poorer than they went. Referring to the fighting qualities of the foreign troops with General Franco, the Volunteer said that the Germans were outstanding soldiers, well disciplined and fearless in the face of danger, while the Italians also fought well.
 
 

An interesting article from the pages of the Leinster Leader of 1937 on the safe return of volunteers from Co. Kildare  from their expedition to Spain under General O’Duffy. Our thanks to Roy O'Brien


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