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The symbol of the international brigades

The XV International Brigade fought for the Spanish Second Republic in the Spanish Civil War as a part of the International Brigades. It was a Mixed brigade (Brigada mixta) mustered at Albacete in Spain, in January 1937, comprising many English-speaking volunteers - arranged into a mostly British British Battalion and a mostly North American Lincoln Battalion. It also included two non-English-speaking battalions, the Balkan Dimitrov Battalion and the Franco-Belgian Sixth February Battalion. It fought at Jarama, Brunete, Boadilla, Belchite, Fuentes de Ebro, Teruel and El Ebro.

The brigade's songs were "Jarama Valley" and ""Viva la Quinta Brigada".[1]


The XVth Brigade first fought at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937 and suffered many casualties. The British lost 225 men from 600;[2] the Lincolns 120 from 500.[3] After the battle, the brigade was seriously understrength.

At the end of March, a Spanish battalion, Voluntario 24 (the 24th Volunteers), joined the brigade. Over the next few months, under the close supervision of Janos Galicz, the brigade was re-organised into two regiments of about 1,200 men. He appointed "the gallant major",[4] George Nathan, as brigade Chief of Staff.

The first regiment, commanded by Jock Cunningham, with Harry Haywood as political commissar,[5] was English-speaking and comprised the depleted British and Lincolns; as well as the recently formed but understrength second battalion of American volunteers, the George Washington Battalion. The second regiment was commanded by Major "Chapaiev" (Mihaly Szalvay)[5] and consisted of the Dimitrov Battalion, the Sixth February Battalion and the Volontario 24 Battalion.

This was the composition in July 1937 for the Battle of Brunete. As with the Battle of Jarama, the brigade suffered huge casualties; the brigade strength was reduced from six to four battalions. In particular, the two American battalions were so depleted that they merged to form the Lincoln-Washington Battalion[6] (This name did not last: it was renamed the 'Lincoln' Battalion in October 1937.) The 6th February, which also suffered severe casualties, was transferred after Brunete. After Belchite the nominally Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, joined the brigade while the Dimitrov Battalion departed.

During the fall of 1937 the units of the International Brigade were integrated into the Spanish Popular Army and the Battalions were re-numbered. The British Bn became the 57th, the Lincoln-Washington the 58th, the Spanish (formerly known as the 24th), became the 59th and the Mackenzie-Papineau the 60th. The battalion line-up remained stable through the withdrawal of the Internationals during the Ebro Campaign.

The XVth International Brigade also included volunteers from Latin America,[7] who after multiple incidents of bad treatment by the Americans left the international brigades and joined other units such as El Campesino's First Mobile Shock Brigade.[8][9]

Battalions: overview

Flag of the 1st battalion of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Date joined Number Battalion Name Composition Date left Comments
31 Jan 1937 16th/57th British Battalion British, Irish, Dominion 23 Sep 1938 Demobilized
31 Jan 1937 17th/58th Lincoln Battalion US, Canada, Irish, British 23 Sep 1938 Demobilized
31 Jan 1937 18th Dimitrov Battalion Balkan 20 Sep 1937 Moved to 45th Div. Reserve
31 Jan 1937 19th Sixth February Battalion French and Belgian 4 Aug 1937 Moved to 14th Brigade
14 Mar 1937 24th/59th Volontario 24 Spanish volunteers 10 Nov 1937 Moved to Spanish brigade
29 Jun 1937 60th Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion Canadian and US 23 Sep 1938 Demobilized
4 Jul 1937 20th Washington Battalion US 14 Jul 1937 Merged with Lincoln Battalion[10]
  • Sub-battalion units attached to the Brigade
    • Brigade Anti-Tank Company
    • XVth Brigade Photographic Unit (Aug 1937-Sep 1938) Archive

Notable people

  • Lt-Col Vladimir Copic- Brigade Commissar promoted to Brigade Commander
  • Major George Nathan - Brigade Chief of Staff
  • General "Gal" (Janos Galicz)- Brigade Commander promoted to Division Commander
  • Liam Beattie
  • Jock Cunningham - Battalion Commander, British Bn
  • Fred Copeman-Battalion Commander, British Bn
  • Jack Jones - Company Commissar, British Bn
  • Oliver Law- Battalion Commander, Lincoln Bn
  • Robert Hale Merriman- Battalion Commander promoted to Brigade Chief of Staff
  • Frank Ryan- Commissar
  • James Maley

References and footnotes

  1. Viva la Quinta Brigada was unfortunately misnamed in the 1970s song "Viva la Quinta Brigada" by Christy Moore.
  2. Beevor (2006), p. 211
  3. Beevor (2006), p. 214
  4. Thomas (2001) p693
  5. 5.0 5.1 Eby (2007), p174
  6. Eby (2007), p 196. "... losses in killed and wounded approached four hundred out of close to eight hundred just eight days before..."
  9. Petrou, Michael (2008). Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, p. 109-110. UBC Press. ISBN 9780774858281. 
  10. Briefly known as the Washington-Lincoln Battalion

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