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Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Wednesday, 4 August 2010 13:38 UK
Manchester remembers its Spanish Civil War heroes
Sam Wild in the Spanish Civil War
Sam Wild (centre) was awarded the Medal of Valour for his part in the Spanish Civil War

British men and women who risked their lives in the Spanish Civil War are being remembered in a new exhibition in Manchester.

United against the rise of Fascism in the 1930s, hundreds of people left their homes in the UK to fight against Franco's forces.

Of the 2,000 volunteers, 500 lost their lives.

The exhibition 'Antifascistas' tells their story, including that of their inspirational leader Sam Wild.

Sam Wild
Our 500 comrades who sleep forever beneath the Spanish soil shall serve as an example to the entire British people in the struggle against Fascism
Sam Wild, International Brigade

Between 1936 and 1939, 130 men and women left Greater Manchester for Spain to join in the fight against General Franco and his army of fascists.

Like the rest of the International Brigade, they were appalled that a democratically-elected government had been overthrown and believed correctly that Fascism was on the rise in Europe.

One of those was Sam Wild from Ardwick, who went on to become the last commander of the British battalion of the International Brigade.

In 1936, Sam heard speakers in Manchester's Stevenson Square warn that ordinary Spaniards were struggling to stop fascists take over their country and instantly took a train to London to make his way to Spain for basic training.


His daughter Dolores Long, who now lives in Whalley Range said, like many poor Mancunians of immigrant stock, her father felt a strong sense of injustice.

"I think maybe he had a gut feeling that if something wasn't done now, then the rise of Fascism throughout Europe was going to take over."

Over the next two years, he fought shoulder to shoulder with Spanish republicans in many major battles and was injured at least three times.

International Brigade
General Franco ruled as a dictator in Spain until his death in 1975

Wounded by shrapnel as his battalion was forced to retreat, Sam Wild refused to leave his men and was awarded Spain's highest honour, the Medal of Valour, by the Spanish people.

On leaving Spain, Sam said: "The British Battalion is prepared to carry on the work begun here to ensure that our 500 comrades who sleep forever beneath the Spanish soil shall serve as an example to the entire British people in the struggle against Fascism."

Sam returned to Manchester and lived in a council house in Longsight with his wife Bessie where a plaque on the wall commemorates his efforts.

He continued to raise funds for the families of the International Brigades until his death in the 1980s.

Dolores said it was important that Manchester remembered those people who helped in what was a 'unique event'.

"A group of men and women, mainly working class, decided they would volunteer to fight for a country that wasn't their own.

"They went over to Spain and fought for a cause, a very humanitarian cause, and I think that it is still a fairly unique event in history."

'Antifascistas' is at the People's History Museum in Manchester, 6 - 31 August 2010.

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