“We, the undersigned”: Oxford Aid for Spain

This open letter (transcript below) about the provision of medical aid to Spain is as interesting for its signatories as for its content: Lascelles Abercrombie (poet and literary critic),  James Leslie Brierly (law professor), Alexander James Carlyle (minister and historian), Robert Ensor (poet, journalist, historian, etc.), G. F. Hudson (historian), Gilbert Murray (classicist, internationalist, etc.) – an eclectic mix of an older generation of Oxford liberals. I’m not sure exactly when it dates from – probably 1936 or 1937 (the same year that Gilbert Murray’s son, Basil, was killed in Spain) – or if an ambulance was ever sent to Spain from the Oxford students (though there was a Scottish Ambulance Unit). Equally, I don’t know if Elizabeth was involved in the drafting of this letter, or the Oxford University Spanish Democratic Defence Committee that is referred to – this was all a year or two after she had left Oxford, so possibly she just had a copy as an interested party.

I can’t help but compare this to various efforts to help Syrian refugees at the moment – although the idea of university students funding an ambulance is hard to imagine.

1937 poss - AID FOR SPAIN - Oxford Ambulance etc

We, the undersigned, though we are unable to agree entirely with the manifesto issued by the Oxford University Spanish Democratic Defence Committee, wish to endorse the appeal for an ambulance to be sent to Spain from the students of Oxford University.

Terrible sufferings have been inflicted on the Spanish people by the rebellion of General Franco and his followers, supported by “totalitarian volunteers” from Italy and Germany, against the legally elected Government of the Spanish Republic. To the casualties sustained by the forces in the field must be added those due to the aerial bombardment of cities and those from privation and disease among the crowds of refugees fleeing from Madrid, Malaga and other places. Englishmen, who have so far been spared the horrors of such a war in their own country, can express their sympathy with the Spanish people by contributing to the medical service and supplies of which there is now so desperate a need.


Lascelles Abercrombie, M.A. (Goldsmiths’ Reader in English)
J. L. Brierly, D. C. L. (Chichele Professor of Inter-Law and Diplomacy)
Rev. A. J. Carlyle, M.A.., D. Litt.
R. C. K. Ensor, M.A.
G. F. Hudson, M.A.
Gilbert Murray, M.A., D. Litt.


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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

One thought on ““We, the undersigned”: Oxford Aid for Spain”

  1. Very interesting letter. Much of the British Labor Party spearheaded an all out volunteer effort to help the Spanish Loyalists. You are so right that there are many similarities between the Spanish Civil War and the Syrian war. I wrote a blog on my website nancybartoncarterclough.com listing the close comparisons between the two wars.

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