Review by Theresa Wolfwood
When I took recent visitors from Europe to see the memorial to the Canadians of the Mac-Pap (Mackenzie–Papineau battalion) who fought in the Spanish Civil War, they were amazed. Why would anyone travel from Canada to voluntarily fight in someone else’s civil war?
This book is one Canadian’s story of why approximately 1600 (1200 in the Mac-Pap by most estimates; , some Canadian joined the USA Lincoln Brigade. 600 Canadians died in battle) men travelled secretly to Spain to fight for democracy and the rights of an elected socialist government. This government, unsupported by any major European government, called on internationalists to fight on its side against the military uprising led by Genral Franco. From 1836 until 1939 there were bloody battles, atrocities and massive killing of civilians, including the well-known bombing of Gernika by German and Italian fascist air forces – a prelude to WW 2.
Liversedge, born in England, fought in the First War, emigrated to Canada and lived out his days on Lake Cowichan, BC. Although no stranger to warfare, Liversedge was ill-equipped and unprepared as were most Canadian volunteers; they had to travel to France as tourists and then cross the Pyrenees to join the government forces. He tells his personal story of his near-death experiences of just crossing the Atlantic and then his moving accounts of his and companions experiences in the battles in which the Mac-Paps fought.
In 1938 the government and its international supporters were being overwhelmed and the Prime Minister told the foreign brigades to leave. The fascists prevailed with support from Germany and Italy with no opposition, the infamous “non-intervention.” from England, France or other ‘democracies’. The rest is history: Franco ruled ruthlessly until 1975.
The Canadian government never honoured these soldiers, in fact they were criminalized. Only in recent years were memorials erected to their memory; in Ottawa in 2001 and in Victoria (at Belleville & Montreal across from the BC Legislature) in 2000. Photo of Victoria Memorial.
The book ends with an extensive bibliography and personal notes about many of Liversedge’s comrades. Yorke has done Liversdge’s memory a great service by editing this memoir for publication. Canada’s role in the Spanish Civil War is little-known; this memoir is a poignant contribution to our history.