Johnny Longstaff, British Battalion of the International Brigade c1938

t14617 This photograph shows my father Johnny Longstaff from Thorpe Street with a couple of his friends, Charles or James Cormack and Tom Sloan taken in Barcelona just before the Battle of the Ebro which started in July 1938, Johnny was 18 and was wounded twice during this battle.


t14618This photograph was taken in Ripoll, Catalonia, Spain. Johnny was awaiting repatriation to Britain along with the rest of the British Battalion of the International Brigade.

Photograph and details courtesy of Duncan Longstaff.

16 thoughts on “Johnny Longstaff, British Battalion of the International Brigade c1938

  1. The Young’uns folk group are putting on a show at the ARC theatre in Stockton, “The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff” 7th April 2018, also being performed at 18 other venues in the UK.


  2. There’s an active International Brigade Association that maintains records and some volunteer lists are in the National Archives. Also, it may be possible to search the Gazette and the Northern Echo in the British Newspaper Archives through your local library. The press often reported recruits going to Spain.


    • The organisation is called the International Brigade Memorial Trust, based in Clerkenwell London where the International Brigade Archive is held, also the Imperial War Museum has many oral records of the brigadiers, some of which can be listened to online. Or go to IWM booking an appointment beforehand.


  3. Hi folks, I started looking into my Casey ancestry trying to prove my granddad Robert Casey fought with International Brigade, my late father always said his father did go, I never did get to find his name and I now think its possible he got as far as France or even Spain and was rejected on medical grounds as many a lad were like my granddad Robert, soldiers from the great war who came back wounded, my granddad died 1939 so I never got to meet him, in the early 1980s Neil Kinnock the then Labour leader came to Tilery rec to make a speech, with him the great late Jack Jones, he and my father spoke for some time before shaking hands then all departing, I wished I’d’ asked my late father more questions as to what he knew about granddad.
    I did discover my granddad was sent to France to join 2nd battalion KOSB, came back wounded by a German dum-dum bullet, then went on to fight in Gallipoli, then back into France for the Somme offensive, he fell badly wounded 1st July 1916, a terrible day.
    All the best to all.


    • Derek,
      Since yesterday’s post I’ve spoken to a fellow member of the North East Labour History Society who has researched and written on International Brigade volunteers, including Teesside. He has Brigade lists and would be able to do a quick search. Ask Picture Stockton for my email and I’ll put you in touch.


      • Hi Brian, will do that, I have over the years contacted IBA & Karl Marx library in London, their archives are being added to every now and then.


        • Derek, my friend Don Watson was co-author of a book called An Inspiring Example. North East of England and the Spanish Civil War. However, I’ve just glanced at his recent book No Justice Without A Struggle, The National Unemployed Workers’ Movement in the North East of England 1920-1940 and see that a John Longstaff features, beginning as a 15 year old on the hunger march to London in 1934.


  4. There was an elderly gentleman who, until ten or fifteen years ago, used the Cleveland Bay in Yarm. His name was Johnny and he served in the International Brigade. He died some years ago in his nineties. Interesting chap. Same man?


  5. Some of us remember those events and as a result studied the process once old enough to attend the reference library and later as school history though it was sidelined by the Wartime History being made as we studied. I well remember spreading the papers on the floor and reading about battles and there would be pictures of lines of bodies in massacres by either side, there was also the Pathe news on Cinema’s with all the gory details. We called them Communists and Nationalists though there were many diverse groups fighting.
    Franco supported by Germany and Italy with troops from both countries and the Republican or Communists by Russia and Mexico with International Battalions from many countries including Britain around a thousand men in total with a couple of hundred from Ireland, The USA Canada France even China sent units although as normal with Russia they had their own agenda and the result was confusion and the eventual losing of the war to Franco who ruled until his death in 1975 when Spain once more got a King.
    The war from 1936 to 39 caused misery and widespread terror as do all wars it also allowed the Germans and Russians to practice their Armed forces notably with the Germans mass bombing Gurnica and the killing of civilians which led to the newspapers telling us that if we declared war on Germany we would find the sky black with German planes devastating our cities resulting in mass panic when the sirens went after the declaration of war speech.
    Young men from area’s where work was non existent would possibly think it exciting and would then find as many of us did there is nothing exciting about it at all, it becomes a matter of survival until you can get away to safer places.
    We are seeing the same thing today as young men go to war zones after seeing to many movies, unlike movies the dead do not get up again.
    It would be interesting to know how many Stockton men actually did join the International Brigade and if any were killed?


    • There were men from Teesside that were killed in Spain, there is a plaque in Middlesbrough Town Hall commemorating these men. There is a group in Stockton who is currently planning to have a plaque..


      • A plaque to commemorate men from the North East killed with the International Brigade was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle in November 2016. An article outlining the background to this and details of many of those remembered appeared in North East History (the annual journal of the North East Labour History Society) Vol 48 2017, which I edit.


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