According to newly released MI5 files, many more British and Irish set off to join the International Brigades in Spain to fight against Franco than has generally been cited by historians.
Most historians put the figure at around 2,500, but the newly released files from MI5 suggest that as many as 4,000 set off for Spain, although they do no know whether or not they all made it.
The MI5 files have been published online by The National Archives and feature some well-known names, including the author George Orwell and the trade union leader Jack Jones. Orwell, listed under his real name Eric Blair, wrote about his experiences defending the Spanish Second Republic against Franco’s military uprising in his classic book ‘Homage to Catalonia’.
The MI5 list contains more than 200 pages of names and dates detailing the movements of the men and women who left British ports on their way to the frontline in Spain, as well as a ‘roll of honour’ of some of those killed in action. The file can be downloaded for free for one month at: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/spanish-civil-war