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CLIP 11134

Volunteering to fight in the International Brigade (audio)

Volunteering to fight in the International Brigade (audio)

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Key Info
  • Volunteering to fight in the International Brigade (audio)
  • Duration: 08:59
  • Londoner Sam Lesser describes why he joined the International Brigades, and his experiences fighting in Spain. He believed he was defending Europe from fascism following the coup led by General Franco in Spain in 1936. He knew fascism was to be feared having already experienced anti-semitic fascism in London. Sam left London in secret, hiding a uniform under his normal clothes. In Spain he trained in the mountains and fought to defend Madrid, a very different environment to fighting in open country. Fighting took place from house to house with heavy casualties. He was wounded when fighting near Cordoba, was rescued by a friend and was sent back to Britain to recover. He describes watching the eventual victory of the fascists in Spain and the refugees who fled the country prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. He still believes his fight was worth it, and may have helped save Britain from fascism. This clip from ‘Witness’ is published on the World Service website: and was first broadcast on 16 July 2010. Please note this is an audio clip and only available in Flash.
  • Subject:


  • Keywords: Spanish civil war, Spain, fascism, fascist, volunteer, war, fighting, memory, oral history, primary evidence, Witness
Ideas for use in class
  • Was volunteering to fight in the Spanish Civil War an act of great madness or an act of great unselfishness? Use evidence from the clip to give evidence for both these points of view. Create some more verses for the song (‘There’s a valley in Spain called Jarama’), in the same style and with the same length. Use information you have researched to make reference to particular events or people of the time - there is a version with four verses which can be found on the Internet. At which point in his account does Sam, the volunteer, become the most emotional, Explain why you think this. (Possible answer – where he describes his rescue his voice becomes softer, cracking slightly, plus there is none of the chuckling which he does elsewhere).
Background details
  • Clip language : English
  • Aspect ratio : 16x9

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