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Richard Burton Archives: Spanish Civil War

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Sources for the History of the Spanish Civil War

The Richard Burton Archives hold various collections that are of relevance to the study of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). The collections are particularly strong in resources relating to the Welsh volunteers who went to fight in the International Brigades and the mining communities that supported the Republican cause. These include:

  • personal correspondence between volunteers and their families
  • unpublished memoirs
  • photographs
  • Spanish Aid material

Additionally, the collections provide an international perspective of the war through photojournalism, journals and propaganda from both the Nationalist and Republican sides of the conflict. 

Personal Collections

Leo Price

Leo Price worked as a collier at Cwmtillery and Bedwas Collieries and was a member of the South Wales Miners’ Federation. He also joined the Communist Party. In April 1937 he travelled to Spain as a volunteer and became a member of the Second Company, Fifteenth Battalion. Leo was shot in the chest but survived and after medical care travelled to Tarrazona where he was given a desk job recruiting new soldiers. His collection includes

  • letters to his wife and sister
  • autobiographical memoirs
  • his Spanish identity card
  • postcards
  • photographs of the war in Spain
  • pamphlets issued by the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain.

(Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/93, SC/309, SC/164)

Part of handwritten letter.

Part of letter in a souvenir postcard from Leo Price to his wife (SWCC/MNA/PP/93/4)

David (Dai) Francis

David Francis (often known as 'Dai') was born in 1911 in Pantyffordd, near Onllwyn in the Dulais Valley. In 1926 he began work at Onllwyn No. 1 Colliery. In 1937 he joined the Communist Party. He was a member of the Executive Council of the South Wales Miners' Federation, 1943-1959; appointed as Chief Administrative Officer of the NUM (South Wales Area) in 1959; becoming General Secretary of the NUM in 1963. In 1974 he was elected First Chairman of the Wales Trades Union Congress (TUC).

His collection includes includes the minute book of the Onllwyn Spanish Aid Committee (he was secretary), 1937-1938. 

Catalogue: David Francis (Ref: SWCC/MNB/PP/24) 

Jack Jones

Jack Jones was born in Trealaw, Mid Rhondda in 1898 and in 1912 commenced employment in Cambrian Collieries. He was a founder member of the Communist Party in 1920. In March 1938 Jack Jones volunteered for the British Battalion of the International Brigade, becoming the oldest Welshman in the British Battalion. However in May of the same year he was captured by Franco forces and was taken to a concentration camp in San Pedro de Cardena, Burgos, where he remained until January 1939. He returned home to South Wales and in 1940 became Miners' Agent for the Rhondda district.

The collection includes letters from Jack Jones to family and friends detailing his intention to join the International Brigades, his experiences in Spain and his experiences as a prisoner in Spain.

Catalogue: Jack Jones (Ref. SWCC/MNB/PP/41)

Harry Dobson

Harry Dobson was a collier at Blaenclydach Colliery who volunteered to fight with the International Brigade. The photograph below was put up by the Cambrian Combine Workmen and friends as a token of their esteem for his 'Supreme Sacrifice for Democracy'. He was killed at the battle of Ebro River in July 1938, just over a year after he had arrived in Spain.

Handwritten letter.

Headshot of Harry Dobson.













Photograph of Harry Dobson (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SWC/14) and letter sent by him to his sister Irene, 26 December 1937 (Ref. SC/182)

Personal letters 

Our collections include many personal letters from the volunteers including:

  • Tom Picton (Ref. SC/163, 2000/13)
  • Harry Dobson (Ref. SC/182)
  • Tom Jones (Ref. SC/210, 211)
  • Alwyn Skinner (Ref. SC/286, 1995/14, 1994/20)
  • Jack Jones (Ref. SC/306-308)

It also holds letters from wives and other family members including:

  • Iris and Dora Cox (Ref. SC/167)
  • Lil Price (Ref. SC/168)

Other items

  • Unpublished memoirs of the Spanish Civil War by Cyril P. Rule, “The Spanish Civil War: A Personal Viewpoint”, 1975 (Ref. SC/158)
  • Spanish Civil War scrapbook compiled by Harry Straton, with an account of some activity in support of the Spanish Republican Government, including a period in the British Battalion of the International Brigade (Ref. SC/159)
  • A number of memorial programmes, including one for James Strangward who was killed in action in 1938 (Ref. SC/177)
  • Notebook created by Jack Roberts whilst at the International Brigade Officers' Training School, Tarrazona, Spain in 1937 (Ref. SC/269)

Page in notebook with handwritten text and drawings about battlefield tactics.

The notebook by Jack Roberts includes drawings and detailed notes about weapons, tactics and Spanish topography, 1937 (Ref. SC/269)

Photographic Material

Children in costume as part of a Basque Refugee dancing troupe.

Photograph of members of Basque Refugee dancing troupe which toured the valleys, c.1937-1938 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/52)

The collection (ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW) includes photographs of

  • Spanish Civil War volunteers
  • memorials and ceremonies to commemorate those who fought in the civil war
  • Spanish settlers in Wales
  • Basque children and other refugees from the Spanish Civil War
  • images of relief for Spain from places in Wales.

Gallery- Photographs

Group of Welshmen, International Brigades, in uniform.

Welshmen in the International Brigades, including Harry Dobson, Blaenclydach, who was killed in Spain (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/3)

British platoon before the Ebro Offensive

British platoon before the Ebro Offensive. Tom Glyn Evans of Kenfig Hill is standing centre, with beret and Morris Davies of Treharris is kneeling far right. (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/6)

Group of British Battalion volunteers in uniform.

British Battalion volunteers at the front, including Jack Murray of Maesteg, standing third from the left. (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/10)

Members of Basque Boys Association Football Club in football kit.

Members of Basque Boys Association Football Club, Caerleon, 1939 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/31)

Press and Propaganda

  • Photo-History and Picture Post (Ref. SC/844/1-3)
  • Photo History issues, 1937, and Picture Post articles, 1938-1939, relating to the Spanish Civil War, 1938-1939 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/103/12)
  • International Brigades newsletters in Polish, English and Spanish (Ref. SC/100)
  • We saw In Spain newsletter (Ref. SC/843)
  • Our Fight, Journal of the XV International Brigade (Ref. SC/209)
  • propaganda leaflets from the Spanish Civil War from both the Nationalist and Republican sides, 1938 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/103/12)

Visual Items

Kerchief with image of a female combatant and text 'Pro-victimas del Fascismo', and acronyms AIT, FAI and CNT.

A kerchief with image of a female combatant (Ref. 1999/22)

  • A kerchief with an image of a female combatant (Ref. 1999/22)
  • Postcards and reprint of a postcard sent home by Tom Jones from the Spanish Civil War. Three colour postcards all depicting soldiers fighting. One of the postcards has the following inscription on the back "Long live the victorious Spanish Peoples Army", c1938 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/5)
  • Spanish Civil War Cartoons (Ref. SC/231)
  • Visions de Guerra I de Reraguarda: photo journal of the Spanish Civil War (Ref. SC/517)


Ticket for Spanish Civil War Christmas Food Fund.

Spanish Civil War Christmas Food Fund ticket (Ref. SWCC/MND/65)

Handwritten postcard.

Postcard from Alwyn Skinner to Dilys (Ref. 1994/14)

Match ticket for football game.

Match ticket for football game, Basque Boys vs Pontypridd Boy's Club, 1938 (Ref. SC/681/1)

Roll of honour for Welshmen who died in the Spanish Civil War.

Roll of honour from a programme for the Welsh National Memorial Meeting held on 7 December 1938 (Ref. SC/176/1)

South Wales Miners' Federation

Records relating to the South Wales Miners Federation contain information about the union’s response to the Spanish Civil War:

  • Penllwyngwent Lodge records include reference to charitable collections, such as Spanish Aid and the International Brigade (Ref. SWCC/MNA/NUM/3/3/60)
  • Cambrian Combine Joint Committee minutes includes references to Harry Dobson both before and during his time as a volunteer, 1935  (Ref. SWCC/MNA/NUM/3/8/22A)
  • South Wales Miners' Federation correspondence includes international affairs, mainly relating to the Spanish Civil War, 1934-1939  (Ref. SWCC/MNA/NUM/3/3/60)

Other sources at Swansea University

South Wales Miners' Library

At the Miners' Library, a wide-reaching collection across assorted materials highlights the political significance of the Spanish Civil War for working-class communities in Britain. The resources available include: