Marshall Mateer

Early ‘British’ volunteers ~ Spain 1936 …

Sam Masters died fighting in the battle of Brunete in July 1937.

Sam wrote to his mother, “Frankly, I’ve never felt in my life such love of comrades as here. These boys are the finest, the grandest that I’ve ever seen in my whole experience of men.

When we sing the ‘Internationale’ together it sounds like Bedlam, but you can’t mistake the meaning and their faces are as hard and determined as granite…

I go forward, confident that I shall do my duty against the enemies of progress, and that whatever comes the strength of the workers will overcome all opposition in Spain and the rest of the world.”

Sam Masters, letter from Albecete, written June 1937 before he went forward to Brunete.
Quoted in Rust, ‘Britons In Spain’, 1939. Photo taken in Barcelona after he had been wounded in the lung fighting on the Aragon Front.

Jack Shaw told his account of Brunete to his family. “My father [Jack Shaw] went into battle with the British Battalion, part of the XV Brigade, at the Battle of Brunete in July 1937. He was a runner for the battalion Commander Jock Cunningham and experienced coming under attack from German Messerschmitt 109 aircraft. He found himself in a foxhole on Mosquito Ridge with Giles Romilly, Churchill’s nephew, who said to him: “Do you think we’ll ever get out of this alive, Shucky (my father’s nickname)?” After having to retreat from the ridge to rest in a shady wood away from the intense heat, Romilly was suffering from shell shock. The retreat was covered by two of my father’s friends from the East End, Sam Masters and Harry Gross, who both died at their posts. With thanks to Freddy Shaw – ‘My Father’s Story’ JEWISH EAST END OF LONDON PHOTO GALLERY & COMMENTARY

Harry Gross. Spain 1937.

Harry Gross, like Sam, was from Stepney and a member of the Tailors and Garment Workers Union. He was wounded at Jarama in February. He died at Brunette in July 1936.

Photo taken in Spain shortly before he died. It is probably cropped from one of a series of photographs taken when Errol Flynn visited the Guadalajara front on 3rd April 1937.

Cyril Sexton, a brigader from Croydon, wrote about Brunete, “One day, towards the end of July [1937], the Spaniards yelled that the fascists were coming. Harry Gross sprang upon the parapet firing at the enemy. John Ireland and I were firing as fast as we could with our rifles. On the right there was an enemy officer or NCO directing the troops forward. I set my sight for 200 yards and took a bead on him. To my satisfaction I saw him go down. We seemed to have held them to our front, but we could see our right flank was crumbling. Then we no longer heard the sound of our light machine gun and found that Harry was dead.” See page 22 the IBMT magazine, ¡NO PASARÁN! 3 2022. Thanks to Clive Sexton.