Excitingly, this document means that I can pinpoint where my grandparents were for at least part of their time in Spain – Puigcerdà in the Catalonian province of Girona – and now know that they were there roughly between 1937 and 1938. I previously knew that my grandmother had been looking after evacuated children somewhere in the Pyrenees, fairly close to Barcelona, and that my grandfather had come there at some point. My grandmother met Frank and others off a train;  he commented on her “funny hat” – love at first jibe apparently.

1938 - Puigcerda
Las Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas al pueblo de Puigcerdà y en particular a las demás organizaciones juveniles (1938)

I had had trouble working out exactly where they were before finding this document, partly due to my grandmother’s handwriting/spelling of the town’s name (as on the back of this 1937 photo of Frank, with what must be some of the evacuated children).

Wikipedia tells me that Puigcerdà was unique in having a democratically elected anarchist mayor during the Spanish Civil War, and according to Britain and the Spanish Civil War, by Tom Buchanan (1997), a “children’s colony” was set up there by the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief (and G. T. Garratt in particular), partly to accommodate children evacuated from Madrid. Having been involved in various efforts to accommodate refugees in Britain (even before the 1938 Christopher Hill correspondence), it seems likely that this is what first brought Elizabeth to Spain (although perhaps further finds will provide more information on this).

I am aware that this first box is very much an “Elizabeth” box, and had been thinking that I still don’t really have much on Frank’s life pre-Spain, and pre-Elizabeth; I was hoping that this would be recitifed in time, and with future boxes – but then yesterday I received one of the most exciting e-mails I have ever had: Fraser Raeburn, a PhD student at Edinburgh, working on Scottish involvement in the Spanish Civil War, sent me my grandfather’s International Brigade file from the Comintern archives. This is still to be digested – and translated – so more on this later, but it means I can fill in a lot of the gaps about what he was doing in the mid-thirties, and what took him to Spain. Watch this space – meanwhile, enjoy this wonderful poster from the bottom of Box One, with the Spanish Republic depicted complete with mantilla and rifle.

1938 - Pyrenees poster

Pyrénées. Tant que moi République d’Espagne je vivrai, nul ne les franchira Français! Sois tranquille


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if you have any thoughts, questions, suggestions - or (even better!) further information - about any of the topics covered on Red Thirties, then please either leave a comment or e-mail me at: redthirties@gmail.com. Thanks for reading, Anna

2 thoughts on “Puigcerdà”

  1. My uncle, Barton Carter was from New England in the USA. He went to Spain in 11/36 as a reporter after receiving a salvo conducto pass covering a two weeks stay in Spain. At the age of 21, he became enamored with the Loyalist cause and returned to Spain as an employee of the National joint Committee of Spanish Relief (NJC). Barton drove a truck carrying supplies from Valencia (the capitol of Loyalist Spain) to the soldiers at the Madrid front, picked up 40 orphans/ refugee children and brought them to safety in Valencia where they lived in homes and went to school. As the Loyalist territory diminished, he was hired in 6/37 by John Langdon Davies and soon became the administrator of several colonies in Puigcerda. These colonies in Puigcerda and other towns north of Barcelona were run by the Foster Parent Scheme. Foster Parents from England, America, and Australia were recruited to adopt these children and were asked to donate 25 cents a day and write letters and sometimes send packages to their adoptees. My uncle, Langdon-Davies and two others started this blueprint for Plan International which remains in 50 countries today. My uncle remained in Puigcerda until the end of February, 1938 when he joined the international brigade.
    I do not remember coming across your grandparents names. I am in my summer house and will return to NH in September and I can look through my notes and sources and may be able to find them. In the meantime, I suggest that you pick up a copy of Searching for Barton Carter as it contains descriptive content about what was happening in Puigcerda during the winter of 1937 and 38. Moreover there is a 200 page addendum that includes brochures, letters, and bulletins that were written by the orphans and sent to the foster families. I believe your grandmother probably worked for the NJC in these orphanages and probably knew my uncle. It was a very interesting time and these young people from all around the world were willing to sacrifice their lives to maintain a democracy in Spain and stop the spread of Fascism.

    Would be happy to do whatever I can to help you!!! Best, Nancy Clough

    1. Thank you so much for all of this information Nancy. I am pretty sure that my grandparents must have been in Puigcerdà at the same time as your uncle and so will definitely get a copy of your book. I’ll keep an eye out for his name – and the names you mention above. Does the book contain photos? – I’d be so interested in seeing if Frank or Elizabeth are in any photos of your uncle at Puigcerdà. Thanks again for all of this and I look forward to being in touch in the future. A.

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