Marshall Mateer – film, art, writing

Early ‘British’ volunteers ~ Spain 1936 …


Aragon Front – 22nd November 1936.

After the latest attack by Republican militias on Fascist positions, on the Aragon Front at Almudevar, news got through to Barcelona that Nat Cohen was missing … and Sam Masters too.

And who was this Nat Cohen?

A garment worker from Stepney in the East End of London. He’d been around a bit. Signed on as a stoker’ on a ship trading with the Argentine and stayed on in South America. Thrown out of Chile for union activities. Thrown out of Argentina for “communistic activities” in 1932. Back home in London he was the ‘instructor’ of the Jubilee Street group of the Stepney Communist Party. Visited Russia and took part in actions against the rise of fascism in England and Europe.

As you say he’d been around a bit in more senses than one.

Yes, and he was renowned for his physical strength and once lifted and over-turned the platform a Fascist speaker was using to harangue a crowd. And he spoke, read and wrote Spanish fluently – which explains quite a bit about how he got on in Spain.

And who was Sam Masters?

Nat’s great friend. Sam was younger and Nat had been his mentor in the CP – three things – read; learn chess, it teaches you strategy; and walk everywhere – it keeps you fit, and you save on the bus fares, Nat advised. But the thing about Sam was he was an athlete – he rained at the Club, “loved his bike” and ran keep fit for a ladies group in Stepney … and delivered the Daily Worker – by bike. And no holding Sam back; once at a dance they were invaded by a group of fascist thugs and it was Sam who waded in first without any thought for his own safety.

A good man then.

The very best.