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