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Spanish Civil War’s British volunteers honoured at South Bank ceremony

Broadcaster Robert Elms has paid tribute to those from Britain and elsewhere who volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War.

Robert Elms
Robert Elms speaking at the Jubilee Gardens event
Carles Casajuana and Sam Lesser
Spanish Ambassador Carles Casajuana with International Brigade veteran Sam Lesser
Spanish Civil War’s British volunteers honoured at South Bank ceremony
A representative of the Catalonian delegation to London prepares to lay a wreath at the memorial. Behind him is the ASLEF branch banner.

A memorial to the British volunteers who travelled to Spain to fight for the republican side against General Franco's nationalists during the 1936-9 war was installed in Jubilee Gardens in 1985.

Each July a commemoration ceremony with wreath-laying, music and speeches is organised by the International Brigade Memorial Trust.

"We have a celebrity culture which puts people on a pedestal that aren't fit to be anywhere near the men and women we are honouring today," Robert Elms told the assembled crowd. "I wanted to bring my son to see some real heroes."

The BBC London radio presenter, who said that he felt "incredibly humbled being asked to speak", added that over the years he had developed a great relationship with Spain which had become his 'other country'.

"Although the civil war was along time ago the past is always a reminder of the future. There is always a need for vigilance. There is always a struggle to make sure that the forces of good triumph over the forces of evil."

Wreaths and flowers were laid by the Spanish Ambassador and the Head of the Catalonian Delegation to London followed by representatives from America, Germany and Sweden, Jewish Volunteers and the ASLEF union branch from nearby Waterloo Station.

Volunteer Sam Lesser, who this year was awarded honorary Spanish citizenship, paid tribute to Jack Jones who fought in Spain and until his recent death always attended the annual ceremony.

The wreath laying was preceded by the singing of The Valley of Jarama recalling the six hundred strong British Battalion which in 1937 suffered four hundred casualties over three days in stopping Franco from cutting off Madrid.

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