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Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Thursday, 29 July 2010 11:48 UK
Exhibition highlights plight of International Brigade
Propaganda poster for the International Brigade
The International Brigade was made up of anti-fascist volunteers

An exhibition at Nottingham's Council House highlights the sacrifices made by the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War from 1936-39.

Sixteen of the 2,300 men, who travelled from Britain to fight fascism in Spain, were from Nottingham.

Robert Bates' father Ronald fought in the war but never spoke about his time in Spain until many years later.

Robert said: "Perhaps he found the memory of friends he had lost too painful."

When war broke out in Spain, in 1936, men and women from all over Europe travelled to the country to defend the Spanish Republic against General Franco and his fascist regime.

One of those people was Ronald Bates.

Born in 1911, Ronald was one of four brothers who worked in railway workshops in Swindon.

Ronald heard of the plight of Spanish peasants and industrial workers from his elder brother Ralph, who lived in Spain.

The brothers' grandfather was also a captain of a Spanish ship trading sherry.

Ronald headed to Spain, through France, in 1937.

He had to keep a low profile because the French had a policy of non-intervention in the war, so Ronald pretended he was going on holiday.

The first major battle he was involved in was Teruel, a town situated between Zaragoza and Valencia, in Eastern Spain.

It was winter, 1938, and a fierce battle raged in which many lives were lost.

The British Battalion suffered many casualties and overall the Republicans lost 84,750 soldiers.

Having survived Teruel, Ronald was then involved in the Battle of Ebro, known as the last great Republican offensive in the Spanish Civil War.

Robert said his father at one point was so far from supply lines that he faced starvation until tins of sardines, abandoned by the fascist forces, were found.

Ronald contracted typhoid and ended up in a small hospital in Barcelona. He could have died there if it was not for an English nurse hearing of his condition.

I am very proud of him, his brother and all of the other men and women who went to fight and give their lives in the fight against fascism
Robert Bates

He was put on one of the last trains for the International Brigade out of Barcelona.

Back in England he worked at Bray Court - a home for Spanish refugee children.

It was here that he met Robert's mother Marguerite Scot. They married in February 1940.

In 2004, Ronald died aged 94, in Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire.

It was a year after he had taken Marguerite back to Spain to attend a tour of the Ebro battle field organised by the International Brigade Memorial Trust.

"I am very proud of him, his brother and all of the other men and women who went to fight and give their lives in the fight against fascism," said Robert.

"I don't think I would have had the courage to go."

The International Brigade Memorial Trust's travelling exhibition "Antifascistas" is at Nottingham's Council House until Saturday, 31 July 2010. If you miss it in Nottingham it will be at the People's History Museum, Manchester, from 6 to 31 August 2010.

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