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   Noel Stevens

 A Historical Novel

                      Ronald Noel Stevens
                      Muntaner, 520
                      08022 Barcelona
                      Barcelona Registry
                      la Propiedad
                      No      39222
                    rep                                       A

I wished to dedicate this book to the Spanish Civil War
brotherhood of pilots, aircrew and ground staff of the
Republican Aviation, 1936 – 1939 …

Then I realized they would not have that, and would ask me to
dedicate it to ALL the pilots, aircrew and ground staff, Spanish,
International Brigades, Germans and Italians, who fought in the
air in Spain form 1936 to 1939.

Because they never weary of saying, never weary of teaching
me -
        Enemies in the air, friends on the ground
        Enemies in war, friends in peace
        The enemy is always the plane, never the pilot

These were all different order of men to the rest of us - an Order
of Knights,

        Knights of the Spanish skies.
                   rep                                      B

All names of Republican aviators and ground staff are their true
names. I have reproduced, as accurately as possible in English,
their own words from their original Spanish, and am profoundly
grateful for permission to reproduce what each one has to say.

I am deeply indebted to Moe Fishman and Victor Berch, of the
Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, for their unstinting
help, and to Benjamin Lahman, owner of the copyright, for his
kind permission to use the true-life accounts of the Americans
who appear in this book.
                   rep                                      B

All names of Republican aviators and ground staff are their true
names. I have reproduced, as accurately as possible in English,
their own words from their original Spanish, and am profoundly
grateful for permission to reproduce what each one has to say.
                  rep                                       C

The Hot Gates:    meaning Thermopylae, north Greece: site of
    far-famed battle where Leonidas and his Three Hundred
    Spartans Fought the Persian host, 480 BC.
rep   D
                                                                                      rep 2
        It was one of those freezing days in Barcelona – a brilliant blue sky and a blazing
sun that could not melt one drop of water from a icicle.
I had gone to bar in Pelayo street to have my white coffee and a croissant, and read the
morning newspapers. It was half-past-ten, a bit late for breakfast, but in Spain you got up
        I found myself a table and managed to get one of the newspapers. At the next
table, I saw an old, white-haired woman, with a sharp face and dry skin, reading the Daily
Telegraph. Very unusual.
        In the middle of an article on Catalonian complaints and claims, I heard a bang,
and looked up sharply. The old lady‘s handbag had fallen to the floor, so I scooped it up
and handed it to her.
―Just as well the floor‘s clean,‖ I smiled. ―Hope you had no breakables in it. What ladies
put into their handbags always keeps surprising me.‖
        ―That was careless of me and thank you very much,‖ she said in a voice I couldn‘t
place at first.
        She had an Australian accent, with a strong Spanish intonation. She had been
living here perhaps ten years, speaking Spanish most of the time, which had changed her
Australian rhythm.
She said, ―You‘re English are you? Are you living here?
        She asked so directly, I was taken aback. A nosy old lady used to asking a lot of
        ―I like Barcelona,‖ I found myself saying. ―All the Polls say it‘s the best city in
Europe.‖ I trailed off, on the defensive.
        ―I live down south,‖ she said crisply, for her years. ―It‘s warmer. But Barcelona‘s
vibrant, electric, like no other city I‘ve ever been in.‖
        ―You sound Australian,‖ I ventured. ―Isn‘t it warmer there?‖
        ―I was here in the Civil War, and after that Fascist monster died and I came, back,
I found I couldn‘t live anywhere else.‖
        The conversation was too direct and personal, and I was growing uncomfortable.
I‘d have to get up an leave and
                                                            rep 3
find another bar.
       ―What fascist monster?‖ I asked weakly.
       ―Franco! What do you think of Franco?‖
       It was 1991, and Franco had been dead and buried God knows how many years.
       ―Never thought much about him,‖ I confessed finally. ―He did an awful lot of
good, didn‘t he? Built a modern Spain. If the others had won, we‘d have a Tito‘s
Yugoslavia here, I suppose…‖
       My voice trailed off under her glare.
       ―Franco threw Spain back into tyranny – after centuries and centuries of tyranny,
this poor country finally had democracy, which Franco smashed. He gave them
dictatorship. Can you imagine a dictatorship in Australia? Or America?
Are you from the States?‖
       ―I‘m English, but I lived some years in Canada.‖
       I felt around for my coat and gloves.
       ―I have to come up here for medical treatment. Another first for Barcelona – one
of the world‘s best cities for medical treatment. I‘ve got to go to Hospital del Mar… my
appointment is two hours from now.‖
       She paused, and said, ―I was a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War. With
the Republican Air Force.‖
       She had my interest, despite myself.
       ―Never heard of the Republican Air force,‖ I said hesitantly.
       ―The unsung heroes,‖ she said softly. ―Absolutely Incredible story … ‖
       She turned white as a sheet and grabbed the edge of her table.
       I jumped to my feet.
       ―Are you all right?‖
       ―Can you take my purse and pay? Could you him help me out to a taxi? The
Hospital del Mar.‖
       I called the waiter, making people look at us, put three hundred pesetas on the
table, got my sheepskin on, and when I saw she couldn‘t manage, tried to help her put on
her overcoat. The waiter helped me. I put on my gloves but I couldn‘t see hers- We
supported her out into the street, and got a taxi. I rode with her to the Hospital, and told
the driver to take us into Emergencies.

                                            rep 4

       I ran inside, asking for a doctor, and a young man in a white coat and trousers
came over.
       ―I‘ve got an elderly lady in the taxi. I think she‘s Australian. She‘s come up to
Barcelona for an appointment here at Hospital del Mar, in a couple of hours time, but she
collapsed in a bar, so I‘ve brought her here.‖
       ―What‘s her name?‖
       ―Well, er, I don‘t know.‖
       He hurried over to the taxi and opened the door.
       He asked in Spanish, ―Can you tell me your name?‖
       She said weakly, ―I‘m Dawn Spencer. My papers are in my handbag.‖
       The doctor said, ―Just a moment, I‘ll get a stretcher.‖
       She whispered, ―What is your name?‖
       ―Norman Clayton.‖
       ―Can you com here tomorrow, or ring?‖
       ―I‘ll be in touch.‖
       ―Thank you … there‘s no one left. Open my bag. The big envelop – for the
       She seemed to slip into sleep.

       I gave the envelope to the doctor, and a stretcher took her off.
       At the office window, I explained what had happened, and asked for a phone
number I could call.
        I walked out of the hospital, and down on to the beach, where I walked along the
sand, in the freezing wind coming off the sea.

        I‘ve got pathological feelings about death, to the point of putting in three months
with a shrink. That shrink gave me good advice about the ordinary business of living - he
said, always decide what you want most, accept that, and see how you feel.
        I felt she was close to death. So what I wanted was not to see her again, and not to
ring the hospital. So I decided on that –and felt very badly.
        I decided, against my will, that I would ring the hospital - and I felt much better.
        I couldn‘t understand myself. Perhaps she made me more important – made me
feel significant.

                                                                rep 5

        Against all my instincts, I rang the hospital. They told me she was in Intensive
Care, but to ring the next day. If she had been moved, they‘d give me her room number.
        Next day, they told me she was in a room, gave the number, and I went to see her,
with a bunch of flowers.
        She was propped up in bed, looking thinner and more drawn, and she said in low
voice, ―Bless you for those flowers.‖
        A nurse cut off the top of an empty plastic bottle of mineral water, filled it at the
tap, and set the flowers on a table in the corner.
        Two beds stood in the room. Dawn Spencer had the bed near the window, and a
curtain hid her neighbor.
        Dawn said, ―Norman, they‘re sending me back to Malaga in five days. Then I
have to come back here two weeks later for an op. I have the op, I‘ll gain an extra six
months of life. Do you mind my telling you this?‖
        I shook my head. Then I asked her, ―Don‘t you have friends in Malaga?‖
        ―All very casual. But don‘t let‘s talk about me. What do you do?‖
        ―I‘ve got an English School. Well, I put up the capital, and my partner, she runs
the place. We go fifty-fifty. She and other teachers give the classes, although I give a few
myself. I‘m also a Publisher‘s Reader.‖
        ―What!‖ she whispered. ―You read books already published in English and write
reports for Spanish Publishers - whether they‘re suitable for translation?‖
        It was a long sentence for her, and she fell back into the pillows.
        ―Yes, that sort of Reader. Exactly. I‘ve only got four publishers I work for,
because they let me write my reports in English. All the others want the reports in
Spanish, and that‘s too much work, time-consuming, y‘know. Are we talking too much?
Is this tiring you?‖
        ―During the Civil War, I wrote a Diary. It‘s anti-Franco. How strong are your
feeling about Franco?‖
        I laughed. ―Franco‘s none of my business. But even if I defended him, I‘d defend
your right to criticise him - at any cost!‖ I added, with a flourish, laughing.
        ―I want to give you the Diary, for you to get published. Pleas write down your
name, your passport number, your resident permit number, your address, and your date

                                                                       rep 6

of birth. In Malaga I‘ll make out a document giving you full rights. I also have a house
down there that‘s worth about fifteen million pesetas, but its declared value is about five
million. If you look after my Diary, I‘ll sign my house over to you, and you‘ll have to pay
the 70% tax on the five million only.‖
        I shook my head.
        ―I‘ll look after your Diary. That‘s all.‖
       She whispered wearily. ―Go home and think about it. Come tomorrow with all the
details for me.‖

       I was in a turmoil. I couldn‘t accept – yet that money would put me on my feet. I
could take out a mortgage, and buy my own flat. A down-payment of about ten million!
       Suppose the Diary was no good. Suppose no one wanted to read it …
       What I decided was madness, but I couldn‘t do it any other way. I went back next
day, and said, ―I want you to come to Barcelona, and stop in my flat. I‘m no nurse, no
way, but I can phone for a doctor, or go out in the middle of the night to find medicines
from an all-night chemist‘s. I do my own cooking, so you won‘t have to shop, cook or
clean. You see, I‘ve got this School, and three days, I go there from eight to nine in the
morning. I‘ll leave the phone number with you. At nine, my partner comes in
and takes over. I give another class from nine to ten, and then come home to shop and
cook. My partner knocks off from two to four, and I give a class from quarter-to-three to
       ―So when does your partner shop and cook?‖
       ―She loathes cooking. She goes to a restaurant. She comes back at four, and I give
another class from four to five, then come home for a bite to eat. Then I go back and give
classes from eight to ten. So those times, I won‘t be in the house, but there‘s always the
phone at the school.‖
       She began weeping. ―Thank you,‖ she sobbed.
       She went back to Malaga, and I was in mental agony. I had no experience of
death, and she was going to die. The idea daunted, appalled me.

                                                                  rep 7

       She came back the day she said she would. I had fixed up the second bedroom,
and bought an eiderdown, as the bed had only two thin blankets. She said she loved the
room, and enjoyed my the lunch I cooked.
       ―What newspaper did you represent in the Civil War?‖
       ―I had been a Cadet Reporter on the Melbourne Argus.
When Franco landed in Spain, I told them I wanted to go, and they said they‘d give me
accreditation, but no pay. I was only twenty-four, so they were polite, but must have been
pretty scornful behind my back. What I needed was that accreditation. They also gave me
cabling rights - I could file by cable and they‘d pay whether they published me or not.
They‘d pay me for what I published. I contacted newspapers and magazines in England
and the States, once in Spain, but they wouldn‘t give me cabling rights. I had to send the
stuff by mail. But after three months, I got cabling rights from two newspapers in
London, and three in the States, in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. I took the
Flying Boat from Rose Bay, in Sydney, to London, then the train to Barcelona. I arrived
on the 27th of July, 1936, and went straight to the Subscretariat of the Air in Via
Layetana. That was more or less in front of where the Palacio Cinema is now.‖
       After lunch, she slept for half an hour.
       I had dozed in an armchair, in the living-room.
       I made some coffee, and she asked me, ―Do you have a Car?‖
       I nodded.
       She handed me several envelopes.
       ―Here are some notarial documents, and the deed to my house. I go into Hospital
this evening, and they‘ll operate tomorrow afternoon. If anything does go wrong – now, I
don‘t want to sound silly, or dramatic, or anything like that, but - well, if anything goes
wrong, there is funeral insurance there, which covers cremation. Behind Terrassa, about
fifteen kilometers up the Talamanca road, when you get to the top, where the road starts
to go steeply, there‘s an old roadmenders‘ Hut. Behind that, a track leads to a sort of
Sugarloaf, about kilometer or more away. The call it the Mola. You see, well, I fell
deeply in love with a Republican pilot. He was a Catalan, called Angel Pujol, and when
he had some leave here in Barcelona, we‘d take a motorbike, and go up there. We‘d sit on
the top, so I could feel what it was to fly. Could we drive up there this afternoon?

                                                              rep 8

I‘d like to show you where it is. Because I‘d like my ashes scattered there, on top. I‘m
sure everything‘ll be okay tomorrow, but I‘d like you to know where it is … ‖
       Her voice cracked.
       ―When my time comes, some months from now, it‘s so you know?‖
       I nodded, but couldn‘t speak.

       We drove out of Barcelona to Terrassa, then went through Matadeper_a, and I
found the Talamanca road. The road wound and climbed and twisted, and at the top, the
old Roadmenders‘ Hut had been built up into a Bar-Restaurant. The other side of the road
was a car park, and a bitumen road led from behind the Bar towards the Mola. She stared
at it all with dismay
       ―It was so beautiful,‖ she said. ―Now it looks tawdry. The Spanish don‘t have
much sense of natural beauty. I‘m afraid they‘re the world‘s greatest tree-cutters.‖
       ―They slaughter trees everywhere,‖ I assured her.
       We drove to the end of the road, and got out, and stood looking around us. Then
she gazed up at the Mola.

       Next afternoon, I sat in a waiting-room, while she was in the operating-theater. I
was impatient for her to come back to the flat. I liked talking to her, and her presence was
comforting, had a sort of strength. She hadn‘t said anything about her Diary, but I
supposed she had brought it with her.
       They wheeled her from her room to the Operating Theatre at 4.10pm. At 5.50, I
saw with relief a doctor in a green smock and trousers and a green face mask hanging
around his neck come walking towards me. As always, they were unsmiling, and I got to
my feet eagerly.
               He said, ―You‘re Mr. Clayton? You‘re with Miss Spencer?‖
               ―I‘m sorry. I‘m very sorry. We lost her. She couldn‘t survive the surgery.‖
               He stood looking at me.
               ―Are you all right? Will I get a nurse? We can give you an injection. Pleas
sit down.‖
               I sat. ―I‘m all right, ―I said levelly.

                                                             rep 9

       My heart pounded out of control.
       He took my pulse.
          ―Did Miss Spencer have Funeral Insurance? Could you come with me to the
Office. They will explain what has to be done.‖
          ―Can I see her?‖
          ―Later on. They will explain at the Office. I‘ll walk there with you.‖
          We walked together. He was watching me sharply.
          ―Our Head of Surgery said she was once somebody famous?‖
          ―She goes back to the Spanish Civil War.‖
          He waited patiently, then accepted my silence.
          A nurse was waiting at the Office.
          ―This nurse will look after you while you talk to the people in the Office.‖
          He shook my hand.
          ―Pleas accept my profound condolences.‖

          I put the bronze urn with the ashes in a backpack, to climb up the scree covering
the sides of the Mola Sugarloaf.
          A cross stood at the top, on a concrete plinth, and a bitter wind whipped my face.
I didn‘t wan to let go of her ashes – it was all I had. I had not got to know her, and I felt
          I forced my hands to take of the lid, and the wind whirled away the ashes into the
empty air. She was lost to me.
          Under some rocks, I buried the urn, then scrambled down the dark scree.
At home, I found her Diary on her dressing-table, with a note.
―This is for you, my dearest Norman.‖

                                                            rep 10 - A

           Dawn Spencer
       The Spanish Civil War, 1936 - 1939

                                                                     rep 10-B

                PART ONE
Tuesday. August, 1936                                                          rep 11
       He said, ―When you fight with a Fascist machine, just the two of you, all the
shooting apart, it comes down to good flying. You both fly into a tight turn, trying to
circle inside the other, so you can bring your guns into play. Your wings are almost
straight up and down, so it means fine judgment, fine handling with your hands and feet.
You have to keep enough angle to give your wings lift - the fabric on the top of your
wings has to belly up slightly in the near vacuum above the wing. This is the vital test of
a fighter pilot - you lose that fraction of control and you‘ll side-slip and drop. The Fascist
dives on you then and you‘re done for.‖
       We were lying in bed, in a peasant cottage. With my eyes, I devoured the lines of
his face, his dark eyes shining, the taut skin of his cheeks, his smiling mouth. I had gone
crazy. I was a War Correspondent, who had fallen in love with a Republican fighter pilot.
Angel, my dearest Angel. Pujol. He could be dead that very afternoon or evening. It was
unprofessional, against all the rules. He had faint black marks in the pores of his nose and
forehead – from engine oil, from cordite from his guns which fired through his propeller.
       I pressed our bodies closer together.
       ―Now, when several machines mix it up, then there‘s no science. You grab any
chance, and wait for your rear cockpit machine-gunner to warn you someone‘s on your
tail. You get on the tail of a Fascist. Can you get a burst straight off? If you can‘t, don‘t
stick with him, because another Rebel Fascist plane will see you on a fixed trajectory,
and come over at you on full throttle. It‘s a meleé, súdden lunges and bursts of fire. Then
you rest to draw a few breaths to pick your next chance, your next plane. You look for a
plane at a lower level, or having a spot of trouble, or separated from the other Rebels and
not properly covered.‖
       I gently kissed his face.
       There was no tragedy in his voice, no fear, just sheer excitement.
       ―Now, suppose you‘ve got a couple of dozen planes milling around. They hurtle
by each other at four hundred, six hundred, or seven hundred kilometers an hour closing
speeds. They brush by so close it‘s no wonder there are collisions.‖
       ―You‘re frightening me,‖ I cried.
       ―A fighter pilot can never get frightened,‖ he soothed
                                                              rep 12

me. ―To fly a fighter, you need strong muscles, instant reflexes, eyes in the top and back
of your head, icy nerves and no feeling at all. You have to take decisions before you
know you‘ve taken them. Often your feet and hands have moved before you realise it. It‘s
impossible to describe, because down here on the ground we live in a two dimensional
world. We walk through doorways, avoid a cat, step aside for a car, don't bump into a
post. We think it‘s three-dimensional, because a doorway is so high, a post is so high, but
our feet are moving in two dimensions mainly. You only realise what three dimensions
are, really are, when you get into the air. Down on the ground, our hands can move in
three dimensions, but our body usually weaves about in two dimensions.
       ―Some pilots are in their element in three dimensions, and they‘re the dangerous
ones. Most pilots always find it faintly foreign.‖
       ―And you?‖ I demanded, alarmed.
       ―I love it, ―he told me, brushing his lips over my face. ―It‘s a new freedom such as
I‘ve never known. You discover part of your mind you never knew existed.‖
       He was silent for a minute.
       ―It‘s an exhileration, but you‘ve got to be cold- blooded, unfeeling. You have to
be an utter professional at the controls of your machine and sizing up the enemy machine.
You can‘t go thinking, there‘s the enemy, a fucking Fascist bastard. For me, the enemy is
the plane, never the pilot. The pilot belongs to the same brotherhood as myself, and most
of my Republican comrades feel the same way. For us, the enemy is the plane.‖
       ―The last gasp of chivalry,‖ I murmured.
       ―It is,‖ he said firmly, ―It‘s chivalry surfacing again in the twentieth century. Only
in the air. This is gong to be the last romantic war, because pilots want to come from
England, France, Germany, Italy, from Canada and the States. German pilots and aircrew
who will fight against Hitlerite Germans who are flying for Franco.‖
       We lay there together, and he gently caressed my breasts.
       ―You are so warm… But when we fly high, the air can fall below zero degrees.
Your hands can go numb, and your feet too. You can‘t restore circulation by clapping
your hands, or swinging your arms around, you can‘t bang your
                                                                    rep 13
feet on the floor of the cockpit. If the fascists bring in planes with closed-in cockpits,
we‘ll be in trouble. I‘ve heard the Germans have some advanced aircraft. The Russians
are building very fast planes too, but the Russians build in a sturdy, cheap way – nothing
fancy, just solid and conservative. They change things very slowly. If something works,
they like to stay with it and just make it go faster. If we had the British and the French
experimenting, and sending their machines to us, we might do better.
       ―It‘s hard to fight in machines that are souped-up First World War designs. When
you‘re half frozen, you have to concentrate as never in your life, just make your hands
and feet work although you can‘t feel them. You‘ve got to use every trick, every deft skill
you know to shoot down the Fascist, or get back to your own aerodrome in one piece. No
feelings, no emotion, jus pure grit and determination honed to a sharp point, just a
murderous resolution … ‖
       His voice trailed away.
       ―When a fighter pilot dives on you, he‘s pitiless, deadly, his heart is of stone.‖
       I shivered.
       ―There are things you can do,‖ he said, comforting me with his arms. ―Two days
ago, I made one plane crash, and the other came after me. I was out of ammunition.‖
       ―You didn‘t tell me this,‖ I said coldly.
       ―Didn‘t want to upset you. But now I see it wasn‘t all that bad. I dived close to
the ground and began weaving. The other plane was faster. He‘d come up on me, fire a
burst, then point his nose up into the air till he almost stalled and I flew ahead of him
again, then Red roll over back onto my tail to get in another burst. I kept swinging from
side to side. I could see holes popping open in the fabric of my wings. He ran out of
ammo, close to the aerodrome, and when he turned for home, his engine stopped. He
landed in a field, and I saw some militiamen surround his plane. Back at the aerodrome,
we grabbed a lorry, and went and picked him up. He was so enraged at the loss of his
friend, he ran out of petrol chasing me. He was guest of our squadrons in the Mess that
night. An Italian. Good pilot, but emotional.
       ―But don‘t you worry about me. This is not they way to get kills‘ and become an
ace. You‘re out on patrol and
                                                               rep 14

you spot a single plane with the black cross, doing some photography or strafing the
ground. You‘re flying in a V with three other planes. You break off, dive at full gas and
riddle him before be knows you‘re there. Or you come up behind an enemy patrol, ever
so carefully and slowly, behind and below their tails where they can‘t see you. Even if the
Fascist has a machine-gunner observer and he sees you, he can‘t twist down his gun to
bring it to bear. If you‘re close enough, you let fly with one burst. You can hit his engine,
or cut of his wings on one side, or cut off his tailplanes, or ruin his rudder. Without his
rudder, you can close in further for the kill. But you‘ve always got to be on the look-out
that someone isn‘t sneaking up on you.‖
       I was beginning to get the shakes, can‘t he made love to me, and afterwards we
lay there exhausted and satiated.
               new page
                                                              rep 15
Friday, August, 1936
We were in a mansion, near the aerodrome. The pilots shared rooms, but I had a room to
myself, with a wide bed. Angel, using his aviator skills, slipped into my room without
being seen – well, of course, the squadrons knew what was going on! Yet all these
aviators and their machine-gunners were so close to each other - they were like a band of
brothers. We were living in bed, and he said, ―Today, we saw four Rebel machines. We
dived onto them like falcons on four pigeons, but they put on speed and we couldn‘t
catch them. I felt uneasy – they could be decoys, so I warned by machine-gunner through
the rubber speaking tube to watch the sky for our very lives. I began climbing hard, and
realised we were separated from from our other five machines. Great, just great! I was
searching the sky ahead, when I heard Luis open up behind me. His machine-gun was
yammering, the engine was straining like something demented, holes suddenly opened in
the fabric of the wings but the struts held. Something smashed the control panel to
smithereens, but we weren‘t touched. I side-slipped, dived, threw a tight curve to the left,
looking all over the sky. I couldn‘t see him. I heard the chatter of a distant machine gun,
felt the plane shudder, and heard Luis firing again. I twisted, rolled, dived, pulled up, and
then I saw him coming in from my high left. Luis hit him, and bits flew off his plane. I
pushed on the stick and rudder, and went into a spine. I held the spine, and saw the
ground slowly coming up. At about four hundred metres I pulled out of the spin. He was
lazily circling way up above. He didn‘t bother to follow me down, but was watching for
me to crash. When I pulled out, he dived at me like a flash, I went down to about seventy
metres above the deck, and was weaving like a fury. I heard the chatter of a machine gun,
but he didn‘t touch us. I glanced over my shoulder, and the sky was full of planes. My
patrol had come back and they were all of them after him. He was climbing, suddenly
trailed smoke, he jumped out and opened his parachute. It was over Government-held
territory, so he‘s a prisoner somewhere now.‖
       I got the shakes again.
       ―I get so scared,‖ I whispered.
                                                                      rep 16
                ―That‘s because you‘re not flying,‖ he said cheerfully.
         ―You take flying lessons, you get up there, and you‘ll put the fear of God into
                We laughed uproariously.
                I said, ―You don‘t fear death. If something happened to you … None of
you are really afraid.‖
         He said, ―When you get a lot of men who are very close to each other, they all
finally feel and think the same way. I think that what we all think is that we‘ve been
specially chosen. We‘ve been chosen to be born at this time, to fly these planes, and die
very early in our lives. Some of us, not all. We‘ve been chosen to fight a very great evil,
to fight a monster, Franco – well, to fight three monsters, Franco, Hitler and Mussolini,
because I hear Hitler has sent messages to Franco, and he and Mussolini have promised
men and planes and tanks and artillery. We are only a few, the Few, but we have been
chosen to try and stop them and to defend democracy in Spain, a Spain that never had
democracy. That is why we aren‘t afraid. We are the Few. Death doesn‘t matter.
         ―Then there‘s another thing. When you hear your engine start up, you see your
plane and its wings, you fell gratitude. You‘ve got such a weapon to attack those Rebels
with. You haven‘t got just a rifle. You‘ve been entrusted with all that power, and you
hear the engine roaring in your ears. It‘s your engine, for you to fight with. You have the
power of whole battalions in your hands to fight evil with. So maybe price is death. It
doesn‘t matter.‖
         ―The militias all talk about the big bosses, the money-bags, the working-class and
         ―We all think alike, somehow, and we aviations think about democracy, and free
government. This government was elected. Do you know what that means in Spain, after
centuries of Tyrannical monarchy, the corrupt politicians close to the Crown, the
Grandees of Spain. No wonder we threw out the Spanish king.‖
         ―You accept your death, but you don‘t think about me.‖
         ―I‘m a good pilot. We‘ll come through this and have a family,‖ he soothed me,
hugging me tightly in his arms.
                                                                            rep 17
Monday. August, 1936
We were back in the peasant cottage, close by the aerodrome. Angel took off this
morning, and didn‘t come back. I waited all day, in an agony, and he arrived in a car or
lorry ? at seven o‘clock, cheerful and cocky.
At the cottage, we sat at the table, eating by the light of a lantern the old lady serving us.
What we ate were luxuries for the rest of the Republican zone. The Insurgency was only
about one month old, but food had suddenly disappeared from the shops. No one went
hungry, but prices went up and people had to queue.
        We had tinned corned meat, with vegetables and potatoes, followed by fruit and
cheese. We gave food from the aerodrome to the old peasant lady, so she didn‘t get
        Angel told me ―We had orders to strafe a column of trucks moving up to the
Front. The archie was heavy (the word used up to 18 years ago in the great war, and
which I am using too: it. anti-aircraft fire). Shrapnel banged into our fuselage, to make
work for the mechanics. I heard a piece hit the engine, but the propellor went on spinning
okay. I was third to fly along the road, machine gunning the lorries which were catching
fire and exploding. Men were running away from them, across the fields on either side of
the road, but we weren‘t Rebels. We didn‘t machine-gun them as they ran for their lives
to trees and rocks in the distance.
        ―I pulled up, and Luis called, ‗Behind us!‘
        ―I glanced back, and saw a plane closing the distance in a steep dive. I waited till
he was almost at shooting range, then peeled away to the side. He kept coming, shooting,
and I suddenly banked the other way. He turned, but too slowly, and overshot. I turned.
onto his tail and got in one burst before he was out of reach.
        ―I climbed, but already he was climbing above me. He looped and came down at
me on my left, so I turned towards him, and we closed at hundreds of kilometers an hour,
both firing. Our wings touched, and sheared off. He plunged straight to earth and crashed.
My plane tottered upwards for some moments, then tiredly heeled over. Luis jumped. I
waited two more seconds, then jumped too. We were dangling in parachutes, with other
planes in the sky, and a fighter with the black cross flew close to us and the pilot waved
his arm. Did he know we were
                                                             rep 18
Loyal aviators? I suppose so. We landed beside a road, about a hundred meters apart. We
ran towards each other, and I said, ―You all right, Luis?‖ ―Not a piece missing,‖ he
grinned. It was a bit of a joke. Here we were in Rebel Fascist territory. So we rolled up
our parachutes, and carried them in our arms, looking for Franco troops to surrender to.
       ―We saw a dirt track leading off the road, into low hills, with trees, so we
followed it and it wound on for about five kilometers. Occasionally, we passed peasant
huts, but no one was in them. Not far way, we could hear rifle and machine gun fire, and
the thumping of artillery. We came to a stream, and had a drink. We saw an even
narrower path leading into thicker trees, so we followed that. The path began to descend
and we reached to edge of the trees. We went down some rocky slopes onto ploughland
that was lying fallow. We crossed that, went up a slight rise, and on the other side saw
some trucks coming along a road. They stopped suddenly, men jumped out, and began
running towards us. We put up our arms, and waited.
       ―The first five reached us, and we saw they were Loyal regular soldiers.
       ―The sergeant said, ‗Why, they‘re aviators. Bloody Fascist aviators!‘
       ―Luis said, ―Hey! We‘re Republican aviators!‖
       ― ‗Don‘t you wish you were,‘ sneered the corporal. ‗Don‘t you think we can‘t
recognize the uniforms!‘
       ―Covering us with their rifles, they made us walk to the lorries. I made sure two
soldiers carried our parachutes.
       ―There isn‘t much to distinguish the flying outfit of one side from the other. We
wear leather caps, leather jackets, trousers tucked into our flying boots, not to mention
the goggles.
       ―We got to the road, and a captain was there. We told him who we were, and he
said they‘d phone the aerodrome at the next town and see if it was true. It took nearly an
hour for the phone call to get through, and the Squadron Leader told the Captain to put us
on. We recognised our voices immediately, and began laughing his head off. Then he
talked to the Captain, who sent us back a lorry. Before we left, the Captain told us, ‗Do
you realise you‘ve walked right through the Front. The Rebel lines are only three
kilometers away, and no-man‘s land is about five hundred meters wide. You walked
through their lines, no-man‘s land, and through our lines like you were out on a
                                                                    rep 19
Saturday picnic.‘
       ―Luis said, ‗Yeah, but we had no picnic basket.‘
       ―The Captain said, ‗Don‘t expect any sympathy from me. I‘ve heard about the
rancho (the grub, food) you aviators get. They‘ll feed you when you get back. Give the
driver a few tins of meat when you get there, and a bottle of that brandy you‘re supposed
to be always drinking!
       ―Consider it done,‖ I told him.
       ―So, here I am. Did you miss me?‖
       I pouted. ―I was sick with fright.‖
       He laughed. ―You‘ll have to come flying with me, that‘s clear. Have you written
an article today?‖
       ―I have. And I‘ve got a letter from a London newspaper, refusing me cable rights
for the moment, but paying me for two articles. I‘ve got two cheques for when we get to
the Bank.‖
       We couldn‘t wait to get to bed.
                                                                      rep 20
Wednesday. Sept. 1936
We were in bed, in the peasant cottage. Angel was somber. He took me in his arms, and
said, ―Luis was killed today.‖
        I had gone to the town, to post stories, and got back late.
        I froze in his arms. I sat up against the pillows, and turned up the flame of the
lantern, staring into his face.
        He gazed up at me from the pillow.
        ―We were on patrol, and dived on a flight of Fascist machines. They were new
machines we hadn‘t seen before. I dived on to the tail of one, and fired a burst that went
wild. He did a climbing turn that made me miss. He was awfully fast. He railed over to
get on my tail, and I rolled to my right. He came around, firing, but missed. I got into a
closed climbing spiral, and he followed, in a tighter spiral, climbing faster. I looped over
and he followed firing bursts. We went into a vertical turn, but his machine outperformed
mine. Luis was standing up in the back cockpit, firing bursts, although he must have been
pinned to the straps by centrifugal force. Perhaps the centrifugal force made him lose the
use of his arms, or didn‘t let hi crouch down in the cockpit. The Franco plane was firing
bursts from the nose, and he got inside use. Luis took a dozen impacts. The other two
from my V came hurtling down and riddled the Rebel plane with bullets. It broke off,
went into a steep climb we couldn‘t follow, and disappeared towards the enemy lines.‖
        I felt sick to my stomach.
        ―Let‘s get dressed and go for a walked ,‖ begged.
        We dressed in silence, and walked through the countryside for an hour and half.
        Luis had a widowed mother, with another son, who was forbidden to do military
service, to be able to look after her when she got old.
                                                                      rep 21
Thursday. Sept. 1936
We‘re in Barcelona. Angel has a flat which his parents left him. They died seventeen
years ago, in the Great Flu Epidemic, just after the Great War, when he was five. An
uncle and aunt brought him up, and when he turned eighteen, he opened up the flat again.
He still had his meals with the uncle and aunt, but slept in his flat. I think he needed it for
his girl friends – he said he used it for his parties. That‘s his story.
        Out at Prat aerodrome they lent him a motorbike, a British BSA, and he took me
out of Barcelona into the hills behind the city. We drove through a textile town called
Terrassa, relic of the Catalan Industrial Revolution, and up into low mountains beyond.
We climbed up a read to Talamanca, and at the pass at the top, we got off. He locked
The bike, and propped it up behind an ancient Roadmenders‘ Hut, built of rough, honey-
colored stone, with a couple of windows, the frames of which had lost all their paint. A
solid wooden door was barred by a huge lock.
        We hiked over rough, stony ground behind the Hut, and then I saw a Sugarloaf
mountain. We went towards it, stepping among stones and wild thyme. It took us twenty-
five minutes to climb, our boots scrabbling in scree on the sides.
        At the top, we brushed away the stones and pebbles to clear a space to sit.
        Angel put his arm around me, brushed my cheek with his lips, and said, ―Look
around you. New you see what it feels like to fly.‖
        I gazed into the sunlit air, and turning slowly around, it seemed I was fleating in
space and seeing up to a hundred miles away.
        I breathed in rapturously.
        ―The empty air, the free air,‖ I exclaimed. ―And France is coming to darken it, to
imprison it.‖
        I got to my feet, held out my arms, and spun around.
        ―You have all this space when you‘re flying,‖ I cried. ―You lucky bastard!‖
        I knelt beside him, kissed his face, and hurt my knee on a sharp stone.
        He rubbed my knee for me, and covered it with kisses.
                                                                      rep 22
       He asked me tenderly, ―How is you speak Spanish so well?‖
       We almost always spoke in Spanish, very seldom in English.
       I said, ―My father experts Australian dried fruits – Sun-Kissed Aussie dried
fruits!‖ and I laughed. ―He travels a lot, and in London, about 1900, he made friends with
an English businessman, Mr. Keeley. Mr. Keeley imported oranges and strawberries from
Spain, and be used to travel to Valencia. He had two children, and when the first boy was
born in 1895, he brought a sixteen-year-old Spanish girl from Valencia to help his wife
with the baby. She was very good, apparently, and when his second boy turned fourteen
in 1912, and I had just been born, he offered her to my father. My father arranged for all
her papers, and she came to Melbourne. She spoke some English, but she was told to
speak o me only in Spanish. She always talked in Spanish to me, and to my brother, when
he was born.‖
       ―When you speak Spanish, it almost sounds as though you‘re of Catalan origin,
but your speaking with a Valencia accent! No one would know, because of the Australian
accent. So, what happened to her?‖
       ―She‘s still with us. My mother died, and she looks after the house. She‘s fifty-
seven new - and has an Aussie accent! You‘d never know her Valencian accent because
of her Aussie accent, ―I mocked him.
       H pretended to scowl and said, ―Señoritas are required to show respect and awe
towards Republican aviators.‖
       He seized me in his arms, and I expostulated, ―If you think you‘re going to make
love to me on these stone, you can forget it!‖
       ―I‘ll make love to you with my eyes, Dawn, will you marry me?‖
       My heart turned right over, and stopped. I couldn‘t breathe.
       Then I was able to draw in air, and cried, ―Yes, yes, I will! I will!‖
       We clung to each other, and then sat there, communing in silence, gazing into the
free air, sitting in the heavens around us.
        We got to our feet, and began walking around the top.
                                                                rep 23
        He said to me, ―As you know, I got these days of leave to fly my machine to Prat
for an engine change. So, this morning I had to take it up, to try it. It was very cloudy
then, so I had to climb through cloud. You know, a pilot flies by the seat of his pants, and
the seat of his pants needs him to see the horizon.‖
        ―Don‘t tell me where the seat of your pants leads you!‖ I giggled.
        Angel went on severely, repressing a grin, ―To keep the plane level I need to see
the horizon. When clouds hide the horizon I don‘t know where I am. The seat of my
pants plays tricks on me. Planes are coming in new equipped with a gyroscope on the
instrument panel, but you can be tipped right ever and the seat of your pants insist you‘re
flying level. The only thing you can be sure is whether you‘re climbing or diving because
your altimeter is winding up, or unwinding. I have had my altimeter showing I was
climbing when the seat of pants insisted I was flying level.‖
        He paused.
        ―Well, I have a little glass tube which had a bubble to show whether I was tilted
or not, but the liquid escaped, so it‘s no good to me.
        ―So there I was going up through white cloud with long wisps whipping by me.
Aviators have got into a panic, lost all sense of up and down and gone into a spin,
dropping out of the clouds at full speed without knowing what was happening. So long as
the cloud cover isn‘t too thick, you nurse your machine up and got through it as quickly
as can, and try not to stand your machine on its nose. It‘s a bit dicey, and can make you
feel trapped inside your cockpit.
        ―I had to climb to one thousand five hundred meters before I got through. I was
looking for the thinning of the cloud and the lightening of the mist which means the sun
is just up there.
        ―I broke through, and the whole cloud bank was tipped way up on its side! As a
mountainside up in the Pyrenees somewhere! I was completely disoriented. I‘d been
climbing with the plane tipped over on one ear. I couldn‘t accept that I was wrong and the
long plains of the clouds were really flat. I banked the plane, and suddenly everything
came back into perspective. And Dawn, that‘s what you mean to me. You‘re my

                                                                  rep 24
horizon. I‘ve been living tipped over – and suddenly, you are here!‖
         I gave a gasp, and turned and held him in my arms.
         ―I looked around me, and everywhere saw blinding whiteness. The air sang in my
struts, the wires vibrated. Unsullied continents of white purity spread out before me. The
sky was a great bowl of living blue – a blue that was alive, and I was carried into it upon
my wings that moved like live things too.
         ―The vast expanse of whit boiled and writhed, then a wall of cloud rose up in my
path, rearing higher and higher, and suddenly I saw another plane at its edge. I tensed,
sought the trigger of my gun, and saw it was my shadow! I closed with this tugging,
rising wall of cloud and saw my shadow ringed by a radiant rainbow that formed a
perfect circle. Down on the ground, we always see rainbows as half circles, but this was a
full, marvelous circle of colour, and I thought of you. You surround me just as that
rainbow surrounded my shadow – you surround me with those beautiful, intense colors.
You are that brilliant halo that lights me up.‖
         I had never known a moment like this in all my life - and would never know it
         That hilltop became a holy place. For us alone.
                                                                     rep 25

Monday. Sept. 1936

We were eating a late evening meal in the village near the aerodrome. We were getting
married on Sunday, back in Barcelona, with his relatives all coming.
The inn had cooked a paella, with rabbit, tomatos, green peas and small bits of garlic. We
had red wine, and Angel said, ―You found me in that village because we went out this
morning to escort four bombers. We found the Fascist artillery, and bombed in the middle
of anti-aircraft fire. One of the bombers went down and the others turned back. I didn‘t
see anyone parachute from the bomber that was hit. Then about ten Fascist fighters hit us,
and we engaged. The bombers scattered and got away, which doesn‘t always happen. It‘s
not easy to protect bombers with fighters. We are much faster, and from the few
engagements I‘ve seen, the bomber‘s a bit of a death trap. It‘s slow, it‘s got to make a
straight run to drop its bombs. They talk about the bomber, that it‘ll always get through.
But although you‘ve got two of three machine-gunners on it, I see it‘s a poor match to a
fast diving fighter, firing from the nose. Then it‘s easy to come up from underneath and
behind, and they see you too late. Or you can fly underneath and your machine-gunner
can point his gun straight up, vertically. Don‘t ever quote me on this. Don‘t publish a
word about this. There‘s all this military theory on the bomber, but it‘s not working out.
Well, I‘m not sure, but I think a dive-bomber would have a much better chance than a
plane making a straight run to drop its bombs with precision. We‘ll see as time passes,
but very privately, I‘m afraid bombers could be flying coffins. Fighters are supposed to
cover bombers, but it doesn‘t work out in practice. They‘re two completely different
machines for them to work together.
         ―Well, we managed to let the bombers escape this time, thank God, so we were
scrapping with the Fascist planes and being driven deeper into the Rebel lines. We came
to some hills covered with mist, and above into it. I tried to stay with the mist. I thought
I‘d fly several kilometers parallel with the Front, and then turn and head back to our lines.
         ―But I didn‘t dare climb, or I‘d climb out of the fog. I had to watch my compass
and trust the seat of my pants that I was flying level, but I could easily smash into a
                                                                      rep 26

hilltop, or out-jutting crags, or trees, or there could be villages in the hills with a church
tower. I was peering ahead watching for the first glimpse of an obstacle. My height was
six hundred meters, so I climbed to eight, and was still in cloud. I felt a bit better, but my
neck was aching, I was peering forward so intently. I went to nine hundred, five hundred
meters – and I was still in cloud! I turned back to our lines and climbed to two thousand
meters. No danger of hitting anything at that height. I suddenly burst out into blazing
sunshine, so I ducked straight back into the cloud.
         ―Now I had to get below the cloud!
         ―I unwound my altimeter. I got down to three hundred meters. Now I was in
danger. I couldn‘t see anything in front of the propeller except this mist. I had no idea
where I was. I checked the petrol gauge and got a bad shock. The tank was almost empty.
It wasn‘t possible! A bullet must have nicked it. It had to be leaking, slowly; but I was
certainly emptying my tank. I eased down to one hundred and fifty meters, expecting to
crash, then seventy five, fifty . . . Pedro behind never said a word. I don‘t know what he
was thinking. I dropped to thirty meters and saw a tree in front of me, on a slope.
Unknown to me, the seat of my pants had played me false. I had the plane canted over at
about 35 degrees and that saved our lives because I didn‘t have time to react. We curved
away from the tree, along the side of the slope. I had been flying in a wide circle, going
round and round. I turned the plane into valley beyond the hill, and followed it down. We
came to a road, with trees planted along it. I followed the road and then saw open fields. I
flew over them, looking for somewhere to land, when the engine coughed, and stopped.
So I had to settle straight down, and made a good landing, without breaking anything.
         ―We had a bit of a walk back to the road, and then followed it along till we came
to a village. We asked for a phone, and were surrounded by a lot of suspicious men. We
had to give them the number, and they rang the aerodrome, then put us on. I told the
commander to send a lorry with men to dismantle the plane, and carry the pieces back,
and could he give you a motorbike, to come and collect me.
         ―Which is what you did, my darling!‖
                                                                   rep 27

        We had not been able to talk on the bike, riding back. At the aerodrome, I had
delivered him straight to the office and he had been there more than an hour.
        Meanwhile, I had jumped on a lorry to take me to the nearby town, to post my
articles, to the censorship in Barcelona.
        After eating, we sang song with other men in the inn, then went for a long walk in
the darkness, looking up at the stars in a cloudless sky.
                                                                      rep 28

Wednesday. Sept. 1936

We were lying in bed, in my room at the mansion, near the other aerodrome.
        Angel said, ―There‘s a big battle going on, and every forty minutes, the Fascist
fighters come back, and shoot up our trenches. So they sent out nine of us, a Squadrom.
        ―You know, it‘s beautiful when you see the planes taking off and forming up.
They‘re rising, rocking, swinging, banking gently as they take up their positions. You
circle, wail, the plane vibrating with the sheer power of your engine, the wind loud in the
                 ―We got formed up, and climbed up to the mountain tops of cumulus
cloud, mountains with cloud canyons and ravines, gorges and defiles that we follow, deep
passes kilometers long. The defiles give way to sheer cliff falls, sky precipices, that drop
to the yellow and being ground below, with its faint, winding roads. We climbed to four
thousand meters, along the edge of plunging crags of cloud, precipitous headlands in the
air. Dawn, it was so magnificent. My love.
                 ―We headed into another cloud defile, climbed up out of it, and the leader
banked. I was busy with my hands and feet, to keep tight formation. Then, suddenly, far,
far below we saw the dark, weaving points over our lines.
                 ―Full gas, my breath quickened, muscles straining against the stick . . . oh,
Dawn, we fell upon those Fascist machines like avenging furies. How our troops must
have felt when they saw that dive.
                 ―I got the first one in my sights, got off a burst of about thirty bullets
because I had overshot him, and as I flattened out and rolled, a second long burst into
another one. I zoomed up and saw both of them go into the ground. I banked steeply and
another plane with the black cross on his rudder twisted and rolled madly. I held my fire.
He turned into me and I turned. We turned more and more tightly, when a Loyalist plane
dived straight at him, with a long burst.
                 ―It was a duck shoot - the guns of freedom were victorious!
                 ―Then, down the mountainside of the clouds raced a swarm of Rebel
planes. They fell on us like wolves.
                                             rep 29

It was catch-as-catch-can. I saw a Fascist on to one of ours, they were almost plunging
vertically. Our plane broke up from the bursts of fire, but suddenly another one of us was
shooting down the Fascist, which caught fire. Another Fascist looped onto his tail and I
drove straight in from his side and raked his cockpit and engine. He rolled out of control
and fell to the earth.
                 ―I climbed desperately, to gain height, and another machine dived
headlong at me. We both opened fire, we both played our rudders to spoil the other‘s
shooting, and at the last fraction of an instant we threw our planes aside. This time, we
didn‘t lose our wings!
                 ―A Fascist had stayed high above, watching and waiting, and suddenly he
dived on our Squadron Leader, whose plane suddenly shook, and slowed, half pulled up,
then rolled over on its back and slowly dropped down through the air.
                 ―I went after the Fascist as he pulled out of his dive, and got in a long
burst that stood his plane on its nose. Then it turned over and dropped like a stone.
                 ―I was running out of petrol again! The petrol tank again! Hardly any
ammunition left. As with a single thought, all my companions headed for the clouds, and
we disappeared into them.
                 ―I nursed my engine back to the aerodrome, and landed with the very last
of my gas, oh Dawn, it was a marvellous day. We‘ll stop them yet, you‘ll see.‖
                 I couldn‘t control the beating of my heart.
                 ―Let‘s get dressed and go for a walk,‖ I pleaded.

                After ten minutes, I had calmed down.
                I was thinking of our wedding on Sunday.
                ―You told me about centuries of tyranny. But you never mentioned the
Spanish Catholic Church. The Inquisition.‖
                ―Some people probably hated the Church, but they would never say so. If
they did, the Inquisition got them. For most people, it was a solace. People were ignorant,
couldn‘t read or write. Today, only about 40% of people can read and write. Mainly up in
the north, and in the big cities is where they can.‖
                I said, ―The Church would never let us get married on a Sunday. They
would never allow a civil ceremony. Can you imagine what
                                                              rep 30

it will be like if Franco wins! No civil weddings. No divorce. No contraception. The
Church will come down like a ton of bricks on this poor bloody country. In the twentieth
century! It will grind Spain down back into the 15th century.‖
                 ―I know, I know,‖ said Angel somberly. ―That‘s why I fly. I fly for
freedom, and that means religious freedom too.‖
                 ―They‘ve been burning churches and convents.‖
                 ―I‘m not surprised, but that‘s not what I‘m flying for. Let the believers go
on believing. This Spain of mine doesn‘t seem to let each one think as he wants to.
Of course, now Hitler and Mussolini are doing that too. But England – America – France
– Scandanavia . . . what‘s the matter with us?‖
                 I stopped and held him in my arms.
                 ―You‘re flying to put it right,‖ I said softly, with my cheek against his.
―You‘re going to stop them, my love,‖
                                                             rep 31

Friday. Sept. 1936

Angel is dead.
The Commandant told me that an anti-aircraft shell exploded directly below his plane,
blowing it out of existence.

I have been lying in bed for 24 hours.
Every nerve ending in my body is raw with grief.
Yet, I cannot believe it is true. Angel will walk in, and change everything.
How long have I left to live? Fifty years? Do fifty years stretch before me, to bear alone,
before we are joined again?
It is easy to find a weapon. Will I shoot myself?
Many are dying every hour. Why does my pain matter?
I have work to do. To awaken public opinion in England, France – in the States. What
does it matter!
Angel. My Angel! You have left me to face this long tunnel of decades alone.
Angel – the room is filled up with you.
           rep 32 – 38

                                      rep                                           39

Saturday, 14 August, 1936

        In most Western countries, 13 is an unlucky number.
        Spain is different – they think Friday, the 13th is unlucky. And yesterday was a
Friday, the 13th.
        This morning, I was chatting with Ricardo Domingo, and we strolled along
slowly, in the shade. It was too hot and airless to sit.
        ―It‘s like this,‖ he said to me. ―When the war began San Javier aerodrome (30 km
south east of Murcia) had 27 Vickers Wildbeest torpedo planes. I had to fly one of them.
Great! Except they had just arrived at the Base, and we were all disorganised, and
training on them. Which means some had a machine-gun mounted, and the rest didn‘t.
They had come that way from the factory.
        ―But the government had to make do with anything that could get off the ground.
So these Vickers were handed around in pairs to all the fronts, just as they were.
        ―If they didn‘t have machine guns, you had to carry a rifle with you in the cockpit.
And as they were torpedo planes, they had no way of dropping bombs… no bomb racks,
and no bomb-aiming telescope.
        ―What we did was load the bombs inside the fuselage whatever there was room,
and them push them out through a hole in the bottom of the plane. A huge rush of air
came through this hole, so that when you tried to bomb with the incendiaries called
‗Baby‘ and which were lightweight tins, the high-speed compressed air rushing through
the hole flung them back into the two cabins, so that you had these incendiary tins all
over the place. You had to struggle around, picking them up, often on hands and knees,
and it was uncomfortable, dangerous and undignified in the extreme.‖
                 We were convulsed with laughter till tears came into our eyes.
                 ―Then you had to try and push these ―Babys‖ out again!
                 ―Anyway, these Vickers have done a great job in these first couple of
months of the war, and got us out of several jams. We still haven‘t got much in the way
of planes, and they‘re fantastic for the morale of the troops. They see that plane overhead
and hear all the noise of the engines they go wild
                                             rep                                  40

        ―When they see bombs exploding all over the place, they love it. They think it‘s
precision bombing, but we‘re scattering the bombs blindly through that bloody hole in the
        ―Of course, they‘re death traps, these Vickers. We can‘t defend ourselves against
the Nieuports, other sorts of plane, and against ground fire. Several dear companions
have already been killed on the Teruel front and over Granada. Do you know any of these
names? Honorio Martinez, Escapa, Amilcar Darca?
        I shook my head.
        ―Hiraldo or José Escourido?‖
        ―No, I didn‘t meet them. All killed in the Vickers?‖
        He nodded. ―So I‘ve been sent with two Vickers, No 25 and No 13, to Alcázares
(next to San Javier aerodrome, just south of it), and here we are. From Alcázares here we
fly against Granada. At first, we flew by day, but in the enemy aerodrome at Armilla (just
south of Granada) they‘ve got these Nieuports that are up and at us every single time--
our only hope is to flee for our lives.
        ―So, we‘ve been flying by night, which is what we did last night.
        ―Now, I fly with Lieutenant Ricardo Monedero in no 25. In the other Vickers, no
13, were flying there people – Liutenant David, Hiraldo and Escourido.‖
        I stopped dead.
        ―You just told me that they were dead, and did I know them!‖
             ―We‘re combing to that,‖ he said somberly.
              I stared at him, and he walked on slowly. I followed.
             ―Lieutenant David is pretty old – I think he might be 26 or even 30. Anyway,
last night, when we went to board our Vickers no 25, we were astonished to see the other
crew had taken it, and already had the engines running. So what!... we had never received
orders to take a specific plane, so we could fly in whatever one we wanted. We couldn‘t
say anything to them, so we just climbed on board no 13.
        ―They took off first, but as it was pitch dark and we showed not lights, I could
only pick them out by the blue flames from their exhausts. A bit before we got to Guadix
                                      rep                                           41

(about 30 kms before Granada, east north east), the blue exhaust flames vanished and I
thought that as we were closed to our target, they‘d pushed on a bit faster to make their
bombing run first. When we flew over Granada I didn‘t see any explosions or fires,
which was very strange.
        ―We did our bombing run, and flew back home here, to Los Alcázares, without
seeing the least sign of them on the whole flight.
        ―We landed, and I found they hadn‘t arrived. Monedero and me we decided they
had probably got lost and had to fly to the coast and be guided back by the sea. We
waited and waited, and when more than enough time had passed for them to have arrived
by the long way round, we thought they had made a forced landing, perhaps in Gaudix,
where there was a landing field, but a night landing without an illuminated windsock
would be extremely difficult.
        ―We made out our report, and west to sleep, pretty worried.
        ―This morning, some comrades woke us up to say that the wreckage of Vickers no
25 has been found near Gaudix, with the bodies of our companies Miraldo end Escourido,
and that David is in hospital with broken ribs, after parachuting to the ground. He said the
machine was in flames.‖
        Ricardo fell into thought, then stopped and looked at me.
        ―Do you know what I think happened?‖
        I nodded. ―Friday, the thirteenth.‖
        He breathed in heavily.
        ―I think the idea of Vickers no 13 with Friday 13 was just too much for them. I
think that out of superstition they decided to grab our no 25, before we had time to get on
board. Did all that negative thinking produce the disaster? Or was something wrong with
that plane?‖
        After a long silence, I asked him, ―What do you feel about the number 13?‖
        He said, ―I think from now on I‘ll try to fly In machines numbered 13 whenever I

9 pm, What the hell is a Vickers Wildbeest? I love my work as war correspondent, and
love writing my diary. But I hate
                                      rep                                           42

the impossible job of trying to find out about these planes. I can see Wildbeest outside,
through the window, but that doesn‘t tell me anything. And the Nieuport! How can I ever
find out!

Dawn Spencer has stapled in a sheet, with the following:

August 23, 1936

Vickers, Sons and Co. Ltd. was founded by Edward Vickers, at the end of the 19th
century, for naval and mechanical construction. In 1897, he merged with armament and
munitions manufacturer, Máxim Nordenfelt. (Maxim machine gun?).
        Under the new name of Vickers, Sons and Máxim Ltd, they got interested in
aviation at the beginnings of the 1900s.
        Who has been my salvation with all this information has been José Jové, and José
tells me that in 1908 they set a section to build airships. They hauled the first one out of
the hangar for its test flight and it broke in two. That was September, 1911.
        But José tells me that in March, earlier in that same year, they‘d organized their
Aeronautic Department, under the management of a Mr. F. Wood; and for their first
model, they chose the French REP to build under license.
        Then in1912, at Brooklands, in Surrey, they set up the Vickers Flying School.
They used three Farman planes from France.
        Then Wood designed the F.B.-1 Destroyer, putting the propeller some way back
and leaving the nose free for a machine gun. They presented this in 1913.
        In the Great War, Vickers built 15 different types. It build a fighter-bomber, and
the famous Vimy bomber. Mr. R.K. Pierson was chief designer at Vickers for close on 30
years, and he designed the Vimy, which in 1919 crossed the North Atlantic for the first
time, piloted by Alcock and Brown.
        Another Vimy flew from London the Australia, piloted by Ross and Smith.
        In the 30s, this was the RAFs bomber.
        Back in 1916, Vickers dabbled in the revolutionary technology of building its
planes in metal – the FB-14 fighter-bomber was in part built of metal. In 1925, Vickers
bought the patents for metallic construction from the French
                                      rep                                           43

designer, Michel Wibault; they began to built wholly metallic planes.
        José Jové tells me that in 1927 , Vickers Ltd. merged with Armstrong Whitworth
Ltd., founding Vickers-Armstrong Ltd. But the aeronautical sections of each company
kept separate.
        In November 1928, Vickers (Aviation) Ltd. takes over The Supermarine Aviation
Works, builders of famous, high-speed racing planes. In 1922, the Supermarine Sea Lion,
a two-winged one-engine plane, won many prizes for England, above all, the coveted an
world famous Schneider Cup. In 1925, for the Schneider Cup, the Supermarine Works
build a low-winged, one-engine seaplane, with a Napier engine.
At Baltimore, USA, the wing broke.
        The designer, Mr. S. Reginald Mitchell didn‘t lose heart, and in 1926 they build
his S-5, with a Napier-Lion engine of an incredible 875 hp, and a new version in 1927
won at Venice.
        Mitchell went on to design the S-6 and S-6b, with a Rolls Royce engine of 12
cylinders in V, of 1,900 hp and 2,350 hp.
Dawn Spencer has pencilled in a note, saying, See attached Note.
The attached note reads:
January, 1945
These Rolls Royce engines were the forerunners of the Rolls Royce MERLIN engines
that were to save Britain in the Second World War.
Mitchell went on to design and build the Supermarine Spitfire which won The Battle of
Britain and saved the Isles from German invasion. There should be a statue of Mitchell in
every city, town and village of England. He saved Britain, not Churchill, not
Montgomery and the rest of them. Had British pilots fought the Battle of Britain with the
ramshackle planes which the Republican pilots had to fly in Spain, Britain would have
been invaded within weeks.
        Mitchell saved Britain by building the Spitfire with FIVE spars in the wing, one
on top of the other, like the leaf-springs under the back parts of lorries, and used in many
early cars.
        This allowed him to mount cannon and machine-guns on the wings, which fired in
a devastating convergence.
Hence the names Spitfire.
rep                                          44

        The German fighters had to fire through the boss of the propeller, and had to
compensate instability by putting lead in the fuselage.
        With all that load on the wings, the Spitfire flew in perfect balance.
        The broken wing in Baltimore had taught Mitchell a lesson that went deep into his
Dawn Spencer continues with the Vickers company, and with the Vickers Wildbeest:
José Jové tells me that the name of the plane is spelt Vildbeest, but that could be Spanish
rendering. Perhaps it is really spelt Vildbeest and not Wildbeest. I‘m going with the
English spelling – right or wrong!
        Vickers designed the Wildbeest torpedo plane in 1926, and prototypes flew in
1928, with the company test pilot, Scholefield. The plane had a radial Bristol-Jupiter
engine. The tests went okay, and they decided to swap the wheels for floats and put in a
more powerful Bristol-Jupiter engine. This seaplane version flew in June, 1930, piloted
by Henri Biard, José tells me, and in November of that year, it was presented at the
International Salón of Aeronautics in Paris, with a Towend cowling.
        A Spanish commission was interested, and asked Vickers to put in a Hispano-
Suiza engine of 12 cylinders.
        Vickers delivered two planes to Spain with these engines, one a seaplane; and
licensed the CASA factory in Cádiz to build 25 machines. Six were seaplanes.
        In England, they used the version with three cabins – pilot, bomb-aimer and
machine-gunner, but in Spain they built it with two only, the pilot seated in front of the
top wing and the observer behind it. The top wing had the so-called Handley-Page front
edge, and the plane carried one or two Vickers machine-guns, one firing through the
propeller and the other with the observer, although the observer could carry a Lewis
        When the Civil War broke out, all plans were in government hands, at San Javier
and Carmeli aerodromes (on the coast south of Murcia) and the first was lost while
bombing Antequera (about 90 kms east-south-east of Seville).
                                   rep                                        45

       They had a top speed of about 220 kms/hour, and the Hispano Suiza engine put
out about 600 hp. They could fly for six hours without refuelling.
                                     rep                                          46

7, September, 1936

        Have been talking to Anthony(?) Borge at Don Benito aerodrome (between
Badajoz and Ciudad Real, about 180 kms west of Ciudad Real.)
        Borge said heavily, ―What happened was this. Several Breguets XIX of my
Squadron as well as other planes had formed a Group that was fighting on the
Extramadura front, and they were flying out of Herrera del Duque (90 kms west-north-
west of Ciudad Real), Castuera (140 kms west of Ciudad Real) and Don Benito (where
we were having this conversation). We were drastically short of ground staff, so the
Commandant at Getafe aerodrome (a few kms south of Madrid) told me to round up
mechanics, armourers and so on and take them straight to Don Benito. I loaded 25 of
them on to a lorry, but we ran into trouble. Seven were killed and seven wounded, and I
arrived with only eleven ground staff.
        ―At Don Benito we found all the planes fighting there, plus two damaged
Breguets XIX and a fury, piloted by the famous Urtubi, my very good friend.
        ―The Fury had hales in the propellers. The machine-gun was supposed to fire
‗through‘ the spinning propeller, but just before the war, we had gotten three of these
planes without guns, so our armourers mounted machine–guns. Only, they weren‘t
properly synchronised! So the bullets shot holes in the propellers.
        ―I telephoned Madrid, and they told me they had ordered three new propellers
from Alicante, and our one would reach us as fast as possible. So I ordered the mechanic
not to touch the engine of that Fury till the propeller arrived.
        ―A couple of days later, we see an enemy plane coming towards us - looked like a
Heinkel – and all we had on the ground were the two damaged Breguests and the Fury.
These three planes were under some cover, and we ran to some railway wagons parked
on a ‗dead‘ stretch of railway line. The plane flew over without bombing us, and when
we came out, we found the wagons we had hidden under were loaded with explosives!
        ―Minutes later, after flying over us, the plane banked and went back the way it
had come.
        ―Then, to my stupor, I see the engine of the Fury start. ―I ran to car nearby, and
drove frantically over to the Fury.
                                       rep                                            47

―Before the car reached the plane, it took off and was climbing after the Heinkel. I
roundly cursed the mechanic, but he said Urtubi had ordered him to spin the propeller to
start the engine, and had even threatened him.
         ―We stood there, searching the sky, waiting for the Fury to appear as a dot.
Nothing. I got on the phone and told Madrid what had happened.
         ―Two days later, as fighters were coming to land after a sortie, I saw a peasant
with a burro coming into the aerodrome. I sent a soldier to turn him away, but instead, the
two joined up, chatting away, and kept on coming.‖
         Borge looked at me, and shook his head.
         ―When they came within earshot, the peasant called to me, ‗If you don‘t want me
here, I‘ll go back to the fascists‘. I‘ll tell you, my heart turned over. Under the disguise I
saw it was my dear friend Urtubi. I ran to him, and we embraced.
         ―I couldn‘t wait to hear what had happened.
         ―Urtubi told me that when the Heinkel went over, he and the mechanic hid under
some bushes, but hiding there, Urtubi realised that he could catch the Heinkel in a matter
of minutes, long enough for the propeller to hold out. Urtubi himself had been the last
one to fly the Fury, so he knew all about it.
         ―He climbed fast, and when he put his finger around the trigger of the machine-
gun, he heard a deafening crash from the engine, saw the plane break up, and found
himself in the air without having lifted a finger, and all he had to do was tug his ripcord.
         ―As he swung under his parachute, he looked down and saw a town he reckoned
was Mérida, and other hamlets, but not a living soul. Mérida is in the fascist zone (45
kms west of Badajoz). He fell in a large vegetable plot, and when he was pulling his
parachute in and rolling it up, he saw a man hurrying towards him, unarmed. The man
was the mayor of the villages and a republican. He warned Urtubi that he was in enemy
country, but that he‘d hide him in a hut he had well away from nay track or path. Urtubi
would have to keep an eye out for enemy patrols, because the front there was
discontinuous. Later, this man gave him corduroy peasant trousers, of the sort used by the
peasants there, a shirt of brown cloth, some canvas shoes with laces around the ankles,
                                             rep                                   48

and a man‘s shawl for his head.
        ―He gave him a mule with panniers full of vegetables, so that if he ran into a
patrol, he‘d a peasant selling vegetables in some of the villages.
        ―I telephoned Madrid, who told me to send him with all dispatch.
        ―As we had to wait a couple of hours for the next train to Madrid, we went to a
bodega of a friend, and as Urbuti liked his glass of wine, brandy or whatever offered, he
downed a few glasses of a golden wine of 160 or 172. As the bodega was cool inside, and
the wine too, one didn‘t realize what one was drinking till too late. We had to haul him
onto the train, and left him in his seat, nodding off.
        ―As the weather is warm, I‘m sleeping in the open, on that grass over there, and at
midnight, a solider woke me up to say I was wanted on the phone. They were calling me
from Almadén station (about 70 kms west of Don Benito). It was the head of the militias
who said they‘d found this unruly character in the train who said he was the famous
Urtubi and that he‘d just come from Don Benito. The militiaman said he hadn‘t
convinced anyone – he was a small, insignificant chap, who hadn‘t shaved in days, and
had a big hangover. I asked the officer to put him on; he spat out over the phone (after he
recognised my voice), ‗These c--ts have woken me up on the train, pushing shotguns up
my nose, and they‘ve pinched my pistol.‘ I calmed him down, saying these men were just
doing their job, and not to worry, they‘d help him. The officer came back on, and I said,
‗It‘s Urtubi, all right. He‘s got to get to Madrid on an urgent mission. Could you send
someone with him, to see he arrives all right, and doesn‘t get into any more trouble?‘
        ―I‘ve just heard he‘s reached Madrid – so that‘s one headache less!‖

Tuesday, November, 1936
I‘ve just heard that Urtubi has been shot down, believed killed.
                                       rep                                            49

1, October, 1936

Today, in Burgos, they named Franco as sole Head of the uprising.
       I thought Franco had led the uprising from day one, but three generals were
running things - Sanjurjo, Mola and Franco.
       The other two were far better than Franco – at the Academy, Franco came out
about number 250 or 300 – well down the list.
       General Sanjurjo had already led a failed uprising in 1932.
       Sanjurjo and Mola had much more experience than Franco, but recent accidents
have just killed both of them.

       God! I bet it goes to his head! I‘ll bet he becomes insufferable, that short little
vainglorious nightmare, who strews the ground of Spain with death.
                                      rep                                           50

       Oct. 22, 1936

At the end of August, Stalin decides to send arms, planes and advisors to the Spanish
government. Things move quickly. On October 13, a Russian ship, Bolshevik, docks in
Cartagena with 13 new, revolutionary fighter planes, the I-15 so-called, which should
change the war. On October 16, out at sea, another 12 are transshipped from the
Lavamendi. Another six arrive in Alicante on the Georg Dimitrov.
        I now discover that on September 10, mechanics and tools from Russia
disembarked from the Rostook.
        The fighters are carried by road to Los Alcázares, to be put together.
        Apparently, the planes will be based at El Soto aerodrome – the land belongs to
the Duke of Albuquerque – about 25 kms from Madrid. And other_s will go to the
aerodrome at Alcalá de Henares, about 30 kms from Madrid, on the Guadalajara road.
        Madrid will hold yet!
        Apparently these fighters will outfly anything, these I-15s.
        The thought of that Franco makes me wake up every morning in a dark mood.
What a threat hangs over Spain.
        In the western democracies, people sleep sound a-bed.
        Can‘t they see what Franco, Hitler and Mussolini are going to do to them! In
England the public won‘t let the government rearm. They want nothing to do with a war-
mongering government. They‘ve gone mad.
        It‘s as though in Australia an invader holds all Western Australia, South Australia,
and the Northern Territory, an invader whose speciality is the firing-squad where it has
taken over. And this invader is pressing on to the Australian eastern seaboard – to
Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
        What a nightmare. If Franco wins, I‘ll be able to get out. The Spanish people
                                      rep                                           51
30, October, 1936

Have been talking to José Ramos, near Madrid.
         ―Two days ago, on the 28th, we thought we had ended for the day. We had been
attacking the Married front, flying Breguet XIXs. Only four of them left.‖
         I shivered. I don‘t know much about planes, but I knew that the Breguet had been
a backbone in the defence of Madrid in the first four months of the war. I knew that the
Breguet was another of these flying French coffins, that the Breguet was a lady with
glittering past who had today turned into a lethal old woman.
         ―On orders from the Ministry of Defence, the High Command had decided to pull
out all the pilots and machine-gunner-bombers from these four planes and put them into
the new high-speed fighters that had arrived from Russia.
         ―But next day, the 29th, when we were at lunch in the Hotel Alcalá de Henares, a
solider appeared telling us we had been called urgently to the aerodrome. We rushed out
to the omnibus that stood at the door of the Hotel, leaving our food on the tables.‖
         José Ramos paused, thinking, his face tense.
         He picked up the thread. ―Imagine our surprise when we arrive. We had to go on
playing with our lives in those Breguets. We had to fly out on a mission from which we -
or our planes – would not return.
         ―The order was implacable. On orders of Prieto, the Minister of Defence, we had
to fly out and sacrifice the four planes, and if needs be, ourselves.
         ―The Column of Commander Rubio was surrounded by rebels on the Peguerinos
front (just west of Madrid). The fascists had set up loudspeakers, calling out harsh threats
and warning our troops that the ‗Red‘ aviation had been wiped out.
         ―We had to be volunteers, or draw lots. The gravity of the business was clear as
was the sacrifice. There was a big struggle among us – everyone wanted to go. But we
were the aircrew that had piloted these planes a short time ago, so we had first choice,
and took it.
         ―It was unlike anything I had seen in my life. Those kids fighting to go – most of
them had hardly shaved in their lives. Our airplanes had turned those beardless boys into
men who were full of responsibility and ready to cover themselves with honor. But they
had to stay behind.
                                     rep                                          52

        ―The farewell they all gave use was something straight out of a film. Those young
pilots, with the mechanics who were untiring in their work, all crowded around. Each one
of us who was flying left our baggage with our friend, with the addresses of our families.
Alvarito, my pilot, left everything to his wife, including his motorbike which he had on
the aerodrome. I was a bachelor, had nothing of value, and carried only the letter I had
received that morning from my fiancee.
        ―We received our last orders. We were not to be taken prisoners. We loaded our
pistols with explosive bullets, and were ordered to sell our lives dearly.
        ―Our rickety Breguet XIX was the last on the left. Alvarito the pilot, and me, the
machine-gunner. We had to raise the morale of our companions surrounded at
Poguerinos, and help the break out.
        ―We didn‘t have to wait long for our chance. When we were lining up for the
bomb run, six Fiat CR 32s appeared on the horizon. We rushed through the bombing, and
then we prepared to dogfight with our French apologies for fighters. Our Squadron
Leader swung fast to the right, with two of us behind him, then went into a steep dizzy
dive. We did the same, but turning left, to avoid an attack against our bellies, and this
obliged our attackers to divide into two Vs of three each.
        ―While three Fiats chased the three Breguets, the other three Fiats formed up for
attack on ourselves. We swung inside them and soon ‗the fish was eating its tail.‘ We got
on the tail of a Fiat, but the angle was wrong for my machine-gun, and the situation was
desperate. I could also cover the plane of the Squadron leader of our attackers, but I
couldn‘t line up the aim, no matter how madly I tried. Beside that, my machine-gun was
defective and hadn‘t been repaired in time – when you started firing, it went on shooting
even though you took your finger off the trigger. It stopped when it felt like it. You ran
the risk of using up a lot of ammunition and wasting it if you weren‘t right on target.
        ―Then I got the aim, and was shooting like a demon, I stopped, but the machine
gun went on, and the Fiat disappeared, sliding out of the sky. I found myself standing up
in the cockpit. Every tenth of a second seemed an eternity, and
                                             rep                                  53

I was waiting for a burst to cut me to pieces.
         ―The two surviving Fiats were more cautious now. They attacked in unison, or
while one attacked, the other chose its position. I kept them in my sights, but held my
fire; they made one pass after another, but they were afraid.
         ―Alvarito didn‘t stop yelling at me, begging me to open fire but I didn‘t dare. I
would have had to change the drum, and the Fiats would have pounced while I was doing
         ―I told him I barely had ammunition in the gun, so he shoved on the joystick and
we dove headlong for the ground. The machine-gun broke off from its support and fell on
the floor of the cockpit.
         ―Then our troubles began. The two Fiats attacked together, but without the
synchrony and prudence they had been showing. Bullets tore through us everywhere.
They holed the oil radiator and I was bathed in oil. My goggles were smashed. I kept
calling Alvarito. but he didn‘t answer.
         ―I decided they had killed him.
         ―I jumped out and opened my parachute, with no idea where I was. When I did
realise I was hanging from a parachute, I saw the two Fiats closing in to shoot me They
fired at me and missed. Then I saw our Breguet flying normally, very low and in the
direction of our aerodrome.
         ―I sank in an enormous silence, swaying under the parachute. Where was I!
         ―I banged onto the ground, and not sure whether I was behind the enemy lines, I
decided to abandon the parachute, and try to find out where exactly I was. I was busy
undoing the harness when the two Fiats returned and machine-gunned me. I jumped into
a river which was right alongside where I had landed.
         ―I got into the reeds along the edge, and although the Fiats swooped low they
couldn‘t see me. I used the reeds to pull me along to a bridge a few meters away, and,
under it, I joined some women who were sheltering there from the Fiats.
         ―They told me we were in El Escorial!
         ―I had fallen inside our lines!
         ― I felt the whole nightmare lift away from me, and was able to gather new
energies to scramble out of there with the women, who did everything they could to help
         ―I felt flattened. After all, I hadn‘t had my lunch
                                       rep                                           54

which I had left sitting on the table at the Hotel in Madrid. And that dogfight had taken it
out of me.
        ―Suddenly, a group of Militiamen surrounded us, ordered me to halt and stuck the
muzzles of their rifles in my face. For one moment, I thought those woman had tricked
me and these were the Falange. Then I saw the scarves around their necks and realised
they were CNT.
        ―Well, I thought, here‘s been a slight misunderstanding which will be easy to fix
        ―Oh, no! Neither my documents, nor my words, nor the shouting of those women
would convince them. They insisted that I was the pilot of the fascist plane which had
had been shot down – the plane I shot down. At first, I was perplexed and anxious,
arguing with them, and then I realised they were standing me against the bridge and
lining up to execute me. Two men held my arms while the others took aim. The women
shrieked and crowded in front of me, until finally the militiamen said they‘d shoot the
women too.
        ―All this yelling attracted more and more militiamen who yelled and shouted too,
and as they lined up to shoot me, a voice cried, ―Halt! Halt! Halt!‖, over and again, as
officers ran towards us.
        ―They turned around, the lot of them, and a Medical Captain ran in front. He had
seen me descend by parachute, from the first moment.
        ―With tremendous difficulty, the Captain took me to the Military Command Post
at El Escorial, while the Militiamen never stopped protesting, shouting and flinging
obscene insults at me.
        ―While this was happening to me at El Escorial, Alvarito landed at Alcalá de
Henares, where all the mechanics rushed to the plane, and saw the machine-gunner
wasn‘t in his cockpit. They found a piece of the parachute pack sticking to the machine-
gun mounting. Alvarito still didn‘t realise I wasn‘t there. He was trying, with trembling
hands to straighten his goggles on his forehead, when they told him I wasn‘t there.
        ―While Alvarito, half sobbing, said I must have fallen out, he put his glasses back
on. Everyone started at him in amazement, and told him that he had gone cross-eyed. He
took this as a joke in the worst of taste, and finally they realised that in the rush to take
off, he had taken the wrong glasses which had falsified his visual angels the whole
                                      rep                                            55

time he had been flying. The Fiats must have found the movements of our plane totally
         ―Yesterday, most of our companions died on this mission.‖
         I could just stare at him.
         I said, ―There‘s something on the front page of EL HERALDO DE MADRID
         He modded heavily ―That‘s it.‖
         The Breguet XIX. Another one of those awful French planes. I‘m going to find
out about them.
1, November, 1936
José Jove is a mine of information on planes and their histories.
         He tells me that the Breguet was designed and built by Louis Breguet in 1921, as
the successor of the Breguet XIV, which had fought so conspicuously in the Great War.
         It first flew in 1922, with a Renault engine, but this gave way to a Lorraine engine
of 12 cylinders in three blocks of 4 cylinders, in a W.
         The Spanish government orders 30 planes, which the French government delivers
by 1925. Then the Spanish workshops at Getafe, just outside Madrid, build it after 1926 –
at C.A.S.A.
         In Barcelona, the car manufacturer of the Elizalde car builds the Lorraine engine
under licence.
         The plane can do 220 km/hour.
         From April 5 to May 13, 1926, two Breguets set out from Madrid to fly 18,900
kms to Manila. One plane arrived, with both pilots. The mechanics had to finish the route
by ship.
         From March 24 to 26, a Breguet XIX with a Hispano engine flew from Seville to
Rio de Janiero. It carried a petrol tank in the fuselage of 3,750 liters plus 4,000 liters in
the wings, which had been lengthened.
         A Super Bidon Breguet XIX let Seville on June 9, 1933, and reached Cuba 40
hours later. It flew onwards to Mexico, on a courtesy visit, and vanished.
         José Jove tells me that the Berguet has borne the brunt of the fighting till now,
and the Nieuports-52 have not offered much protection as they are being shot down, or
are breaking down. French planes! Breguets and Nieuports are disappearing fast under
fascist fire.
                                             rep                                   56

November 2, 1936
        Hooray! A terrific new Russian fighter is flying over our heads in the defence of
Madrid. We call them Moscas (i.e. houseflies!) and the fascists have already nicknamed
them the Rat. Thirty-one have arrived, and 126 more are on the way. They‘ve been
formed in squadrons of 12 instead of nine – they fly in Vs of three planes. They have
stopped the fascist Fiats (the Chirris) dead. The Moscas do 465 km/h, an unheard of
speed, and they turn more tightly than the Chirri.
Now, I‘ve got to find out about these planes. They have only one wing – they‘re a low-
winged monoplane single-seater. How does a plane stay in the air without two wings?
These don‘t have an upper wing.

November 5 1936

The Mosca is the world‘s first low-winged monoplane, and the world‘s fastest.
The ones which have arrived have two different engines – one lot has the Wright-Cyclone
M 25 A.
The others are more powerful, with engine ―B‖ instead of ―A‖
These engines are radial, nine cylinders (the cylinders are in a circle pointing inwards).
The ―A‖ model develops 700 hp and does 465 km/h. two machine guns.
The more powerful ―B‖ model develops 750 hp, and has four (not two) machine guns.
Two guns fire through the propeller.
They‘re very fast guns – 3500 shots a minute.
This plane has been a big shock all round. Everyone thought Russia only had a muddled
mix of foreign plane designs, all out of date and weakly armed.
No one can believe that this small monster has come from Russia! Russia has the most
advance fighter in the world, and they designed and built it themselves!
The fuselage is made of glued strips of birch (a tough timber, very compressed fibres and
easy to polish), while the engine cowling is metal. The wing is carried by two long beams
of steel-cromolibdeno (?) with cross spars of duroaluminium, a new metal. Cloth covers
the wings, but the leading edges are of curved duroaluminium.
The cockpit is closed by a canopy that slides forward.
Another novelty – the back of the pilot‘s seat is heavily armoured.
                                             rep                                   57

The landing gear winds up manually – the pilot works the lever.
The wheels have springs and brakes, which work very badly. The tail has a rod, which
dragging in the earth, helps stop the plane when it lands.
The ―A‖ model has a ceiling of 5,000 metres. The ―B‖, with its bigger engine, does 480
km/h instead of 465 km/h, and can fly higher than 6,000 meters.

Planes usually dogfight over Madrid under 2,000 meters, and flying so low, the Mosca
reigns the skies.
But it‘s a tricky plane to land and new or inexperienced pilots have accidents, one after
the other.
Dawn Spencer has stapled another sheet on to the page:
The Mosca became – beyond any question – one of the most famous fighters in aviation
history. After 30 years, the two-winged plane, with its wires and struts has given way to
the Mosca.

With the Mosca was born a twin. The Mosca was the I-16, but it_s twin, the I-15, the
Chato, (360 km/h) is a formidable enemy, and the Mosca with Chato for a time were
lords of the Spanish skies. The Chato has two wings, struts and wires, a plane of the old
school. And the Chato can take on several fascists and come out the victor.
So, the Soviet Union was the first to adopt the radical Mosca – but the last country to
abandon the Chato. After what the Chato did in Spain, the Soviet Union hung on to it, for
year after year.
        In the Mosca, most pilots flew and fought with the canopy open, so the new
planes came without the canopy. The strut under the tail, that dragged in the earth, was
changed for a tail wheel.
When the deadly, shark-shaped Messerschmidthe 109 appeared, it inspired terror. But it
couldn‘t weave and fight like the Mosca.
        It had a higher ceiling, and the fast, high-flying Katiuska bomber soon was in
deep trouble. The government imported 25 Wright-Cyclone engines with super-chargers,
and fitted them on the Moscas of the legendary Group 21. These engines took the Moscas
up above 8,000 meters, and again they dominated the Spanish skies. The Fiat was as good
as useless against a Mosca, and the Me 109 lost its advantage.
        But the writing was on the wall for the government. With the Non-Intervention
                                                    rep                           58

Policy of the democracies, the Loyalists were steadily starved of planes. Planes flowed
into the Fascists from Italy and Germany. The government was steadily outnumbered and
out-gunned in the air. Fascists crews flew for about six months, then had long leaves for
rest, or went back to Germany and Italy and didn‘t return. The Republican flyers had not
rest in three years.
         The Republican government was democratically elected, but the democracies
strangled it. Britain, France, and the USA had no worries. The war would never touch
them. Fascism, Nazism – no threat at all. While the Republican pilots climbed into the
sky, hour after hour, putting their lives on the line, the British, French and Yanks slept
warm abed.

The Soviets used Moscas till 1942 against the Luftwaffe. The new Russian planes were
still coming out of the factories. The new German planes could outfly the Mosca, but it
was a deadly plane in the hands of Soviet pilots.
        So, the Mosca flew in Spain, in USSR and in China.
        Altogether, Russia manufactured some 20,000 Moscas. The Soviets called it the
Little Eagle. The Spanish Fascists called it the Rat. The Japs called it ‗Abu‘, and the
Nazis in Russia, the ‗Dienstjäguer‘, the Elderly, or Old Scrap.
                                       rep                                             59

Saturday. November, 1936

Isidoro Giménez has been reeling off very funny doggerel about pilots and flying. I‘ve
copied it all down, but the trouble is – it‘s all in funny, rhyming couplets. Translated, it
doesn‘t rhyme, and I don‘t know whether it‘s still funny!

               If you wan to fly a happy man
               Before, have a pee.

               If you don‘t empty your bladder
               It can cost you your life.

               You have to leave take off flying dead straight
               Your nose stuck right into the breeze

               Bank when you‘re straight up and down
               Can be fatal for your health

               Never fly upside down
               It can leave you at sixes and sevens

               If you‘re upside down and you land
               You mightn‘t keep your hair on

               Your head serene
               If you‘re diving in a spin

               If everything gets out of hand
               Take your hands off the controls

               You should take care
               Not to turn turtle when you land

               Fly low and slowly
               Is to risk your neck

               Don‘t dive if you don‘t know what‘s underneath
               You can get your bottom scratched

               Land on two wheels,
               You‘re not a bad pilot.

               Make a three point landing,
               You can wet your pants with pride
If you turn over on landing, you dumb ‗melon‘,
Don‘t blame your ‗avion‘
It‘s your sinful hands
That are to blame

In the bar, don‘t skite (Aussie slang: ‗to boast‘)
That you fly like an ace.

Be prudent, and don‘t show off
Till you grow your feathers

On Saturday night, ah! Saturday night!
A clean shirt and get laid!
                                                    rep                           60

Monday, November, 1936

This morning, I went to Andújar aerodrome, about 60 kms east of Cordoba – Cordoba is
in rebel hands.

           I got talking to a pilot called Borge.
         He waved his hand around the aerodrome.
         ―Someone out there is watching everything we do. You‘re not going to believe
        He paused, then pointed at several parked planes.
        ―Those planes we‘re flying are Breguets XIX, and we‘re lucky to do 160
km/hour. The front now is at El Carpio, so we have to fly reconnais_ance, and bomb the
front. For some time, we made regular flights, but then the insurgents received these
bloody Fiats. The Fiat outflies and outguns the Bruguet, but suddenly what happened was
every single time – without fail! – when we flew to the front, the Fiats jumped us. They
were waiting for us. We had to run for our lives, at ground level ducking among olive
trees and banking around hills. These bloody Fiats! We‘d arrive full of bullet holes,
giving our mechanics no end of work, patching us up again. Then we lost a crew, dear
companions of ours.
        ―We changed the times we took off, changed our timetables to dawn, to dusk, to
midday. The Fiats were still there.
        ―At first we thought they must have hundreds of machines to keep up an all day
patrol, but the front was quite, it was stabilised. The fascists had no reason to assign a
hundred Fiats to a relative backwater.
        ―Finally, the penny dropped. Someone out there is watching, and when they see
our planes in the air, they send a message. Where are they holed up? Among some trees?
In a peasant hut? Do they have a radio? Are they using the phone? We‘re inclined to
believe they are using the telephone, because the lines haven‘t been cut. ―The Fiats take
off from Cordoba aerodrome, and are waiting for us.
        ―So then, the other day, our Squadron Leader, our companion Villimar, calls me
upstairs in the little building that‘s our headquarters. He led me over to a map laid
                                      rep                                    61

out on a table, showing our sector.
         ―He said, ‗Know what? I think I‘ve found a way of stirring up the front without
those Fiat fighters bothering us.‘
         ―He pointed to a cross marked on the map.
         ― ‗The other day, flying over these fields, I saw this big clearing among the olive
trees. As though they‘d cleared all the trees in a big rectangle, and that rectangle‘s big
enough for a Brugaet to land and take off. It‘s close to the front. We can take off from
there, and before the rebels know what‘s hit them, we drop our bombs along El Carpio
and they won‘t even know what color our planes are. What about it?‘
         ―I said, ‗Brilliant!‘
         ―So, we spent a day driving a mechanic and his assistant there by car, so they
could help load up the planes.
         ―At dusk, Villimar went first, alone, his bomber empty. Flying at treetop level, he
reached the now ‗base‘ without any surprises, and landed.
         ―When the spy saw one plane alone take off, he would have thought it was
probably to test an engine, and didn‘t send a warning.
         ―Early next morning, very early, they loaded up the plane and it took off, and in a
few minutes it was bombing the front, without a shadow of a Fiat to be seen. They
bombed a long stretch of front, and did a reconnaisance as far as the city itself, Cordoba.
On their return, when they were landing at their new ‗base‘, three Fiats pounced. They
had time only to land flat out, jump from the plane, and hide among the olive tree trunks.
         ―The Fiats dived in turn on the plane and set it alight. Then they machine-gunned
the olive trees, coming in from all sides. The trees were young ones, not old tress with
thick, gnarled trunks, so they were dodging about, very lively, and the trees lost a lot of
         ―That afternoon, Villimar arrived at Andújar by car, with the other two. He got
out of the car, saw me, and strolled over. He had the map of the sector hanging round his
neck – all that he had been able to save. He rasped, ‗Those buggers localised me on the
first sortie, a great
                                    rep                                         62

pity, because the idea was f----g good.‘‖
Dawn Spencer stapled the following note onto the page:
They caught the spy. He had climbed up a telephone pole, like a telephone repairman,
and snapped clips on to the wires…
                                     rep                                          63

10, November, 1936
        The rebels have given the Republican aviation a bad time with the German
fighter, the Heinkel – 51.
        The new Russian fighters can outfly it!
        The Heinkel-51 does only 330 km/hour.
        Ernest Heinkel AG. built it in 1934, with a BMW 12 cylinder engine of 750 hp. It
carries two machine guns and is a two-wing single seater.

It began arriving in July and August, this year.
        It can‘t stand up to the new Russian fighters. So much for the vaunted German

Dawn Spencer has pencilled in this note:
        This was the last German two wing fighter. Finally, the Germans sent a total of
135 of these planes to Spain. In Germany, they built 700 units. It flew in the Legion
Condor, and was the plane that machine-gunned the civilians in Guernica.)
                                       rep                                            64

25, November, 1936

Have been talking to a man called Romeu Moratonas. I think his first name is José, but I
didn‘t catch it properly.
         In the first months of this war, some Savoia S.62 seaplanes were about all they
had to protect the Catalonian coast. These seaplanes flew out of Barcelona, from the port
at Prat. They are rickety old planes and hardly suitable for modern air war.
         Romeu told me, ―A few days ago, we got an urgent order to go and look for a
submarine that had been sighted up the coast. They pressed into service a seaplane we‘ve
got, the Savoia S.62 – well, it‘s one of several, you understand? They had to find and sink
this submarine. Usually this plane carries a crew of four, but this time only three went.
         ―The old plane lumbered into the air with good visibility and cold weather, first
thing in the afternoon.‖
              I interrupted him.
              ―Is that the plane that‘s got a seaplane fuselage, and an engine sticking way up
in the air, on struts, and the wing sitting on top of the engine?‖
              ―It‘s got a lower wing too, sitting on top of the fuselage.‖
              ―I know it!‖ I exclaimed. ―I‘ve seen it!‖
              ―They climbed to 500 meters,‖ he went on, ―and headed for where the
submarine was supposed to be. It took them about two hours to get there – it flies at about
170 km/hour – and then they put in another two hours circling and looking for the sub.
The Savoia does 6 hours of flight before refuelling, but it doesn‘t have a petrol indicator
on the dashboard. The Mechanic has to stick a rod into the petrol tank to see how much
fuel is left.
         ―Okay. Suddenly the engine coughs – and coughs – and the propeller slows down.
They lose altitude, and have to land among the high waves – the pilot surpassed himself.
It was an ugly sea.
         ―The Mechanic was looking to find out what had gone wrong. He stuck the rod
into the petrol tanks and found them empty. All the tubes were okay. They‘d taken off,
depending blindly on the ground crew. They hadn‘t filled the tanks.
         ―They tried to use the telegraph without wires, but it didn‘t work. They didn‘t
have a pistol to fire colored lights. They had no boat on board. Nor good and water,
                                      rep                                          65

I think they found cooked potatoes and raw carrots, which they ate somberly.
         ―Night fell, without any ship or plane. The wind grew, the waves buffeted the
seaplane, which drifted fairly fast; the floats broke off, and then the wings smashed and
floated free.
         ―The wooden hull offered good resistance, but the waves washed into the cabins
and they had to bail without stopping.
         ―As each hour passed, things got worse. They grew exhausted, and more
despondent. How long could they hold out for? Briefly, they caught a glimpse of lights
along a coast, but they vanished. They debated whether to suicide with their pistols, but
managed to hold out till daylight – at first, a grey, uncertain light, which grew stronger
despite the heavy clouds.
         ―And then – unbelievably! A big French fishing boat!
         ―They saw it swing towards them, saw the high prow cutting through the waves.
The waves would hide it, then it would reappear, driving towards them. The French
seamen swung out a boat and rowed towards them.
         ―The Frenchmen helped them on board, half-lifting them bodily, and rowed back
to the trawler.
         ―They had been fishing in Newfoundland, on the other side of the Atlantic.
         ―The crew all helped to get them on board, they were half-unconscious, their
hands bleeding, and their bodies covered with bruises and cuts. They half-carried them
down to sick bay.
         ―Before the trawler got under way, the seaplane went under. It had been a fine run
         ―The trawler docked in a small village close by Marseilles. When the villagers
heard what had happened, they were all over them with help and gifts. The Spanish
consul gave them train tickets back to Barcelona, and a small crowd gathered on the
platform at Marseilles to wave them goodbye.
         ―Back at the Base, their companions couldn‘t believe their eyes. They had already
put out their death notices.‖
         Romeu‘s eyes twinkled, ―So, Dawn, now you know. Always check how much
petrol you‘ve got.‖
23, December, 1936
Enrique Pereira tells me that the Naval Aeronautical works at Barcelona began
                                      rep                                          66

building these seaplanes in 1929. They built 39, and 30 were in the hands of the Republic
when the Civil War broke out.
         Five planes fell into rebel hands in Marin (the north-west corner of Spain, on the
Atlantic) and one in Palma (Mallorca). The pilot in Palma flew the plane to Mahón
(Menorca) where the Republicans took the Falangist guard prisoner.
         The rebels seized El Ferrol (attacking the naval ships which refused to join the
uprising) and Marin Seaplane port alongside. The pilot Joaquin Moreda at Marin refused
to join the uprising, and they shot him by firing squad at El Ferrol.
                                                          rep                   67

November 27, 1936

The Fiats CR-32 and the Romeo Ro-37s have been playing havoc with Republican
planes, and with the lives of Republican pilots and machine-gunners. These Italian
Fascists come out of the sky like birds from hell.
        But today! Oh, today! Out came the 3-engine Junkers-52 of the Kampstaffel
Moreau with some Romeos, yet again to blow the hell out of our front at Madrid. The
insurgents believed they had it made. Their troops were at the gates of Madrid almost.
European governments are ready to recognise the Rebel government of Burgos. Madrid
was going to be a pushover.
        But the government troops are showing tougher resistance. They‘ve got T-26
Russian tanks, which have just arrived. They‘ve got the new Russian ―Katiuska‖ bomber,
the Tupolev SB-2 which is faster than the best of the Rebel fighters. The insurgents
haven‘t even noticed.
        And they got a surprise today.
        As the Junkers and Romeos were bombing, out of the sky pounced ten new
Government planes – colored green, small stubby fighters of unsurpassed agility. One
Junker went straight down, another extensively damaged and forced to land, with its
observer dead. The new government planes hit the Romeos and then go for the two
invincible Fiats – and shoot down both of them.
        The rest of the Franco planes flee.
        The government‘s Chato fighter has arrived. The I-15!
        Chato is a Spanish word meaning stubby. And this fighter is the latest work in
Russian technology. It‘s got a huge, round, flat nose. Russian don‘t worry much about
streamlining. They put radiators on the front of their engines like barn doors. I can‘t
publish that, but in my diary I can say exactly what I think, and say things that are
                                      rep                                            68

Wednesday, January, 1937

Yesterday, I got a letter from Rodolfo Robles, about the ‗Red Devil‘, which upset me no
end. I had met the ‗Red Devil‘ – the ‗Dimoni Roig‘ they called him in Catalonia. He had
a distinguished face – high cheek bones, a wide, strong jaw. When I say distinguished, I
mean also that there was something benevolent yet spiritual in his expression. A face and
an expression that fixes itself in your mind.
         I‘m going to translate his letter, and put the translation in the diary here – a bit
unusual, I know – but I want to keep it with my diary.
Here‘s the translation:
It‘s an arduous job for me to try and explain who he is and what he‘s like. (Robles didn‘t
know I‘d talked to the ‗Red Devil‘ – Jesús García Erguido. D.S.)
But I had a friendship with Jesús García Erguido which for me was sacred, and we shared
the same ideas and feelings completely. Dawn, you will have heard of him as ‗el Dimoni
Reig‘, or ‗el Dimoni Rojo‘ – his comrades in Aviation gave him that nickname. The
ordinary people love their heroes, and they used the same nickname, because he was their
hero who they loved. His first deeds were done on the Aragon Front.
         Jesús was a man bursting with life, full of dreams and hopes, a very strong man,
physically and spiritually, with an absolutely overflowing charm. He loved the common
man and believed he was fighting for the common man. He knew how ordinary people
had suffered in this Spain of ours, and how they would suffer if the traitors were to win
and impose fascism on them.
         (His charm was incredible, his unselfishness and idealism … D.S. A photo with
the letter shows it in his face.)
         He was a modern Don Quijote.
         But he wasn‘t half mad like the literary Don Quijote. He didn‘t tilt windmills. He
was not the creation of the genius of Cervantes. He was live flesh and blood, extremely
sane and sensible, with a heart of gold, who defended the humble like his own brothers,
launching his fighter against the enemy planes, against the traitors who had
                                       rep                                            69

     betrayed a democratically elected government.
         He was man, a real man, the like of whom we shall not soon see again, with the
soul of a child; and the children were mad about him. Those shaven-heads (most children
had their hair cut very short as protection against lice, etc. D.S.) living close to the front
would play with the ‗Dimoni Rojo‘ when he rested between dogfights. When he landed
after dogfighting, or flying cover for bombers, the kids would come running over the
aerodrome, shouting ‗El dimoni!‘, ‗El Dimoni Rojo!‘, and as he rolled to a stop cluster
around his cockpit, till he got out, and then they were all over him. They gazed at him
like a supernatural being, like some sort of fairy tale hero, imagining what great feats he
had just done. They all said, ‗When I grow, up, I‘m going to be like the ‗Dimoni Rojo‘.
         With ourselves, his fighting companions, we all thought, and sometimes
remarked, ‗If only we could fly like him!‘ He was just born to it.
         From the very first uprising of the traitors, Erguido took part in dozens of forays,
distinguishing himself in each one. On the first day of the war. July 19, 1936, he was one
of the very first to take off. On the 20th, he gave up his place as pilot, and flew as
observer in a Bruguet for some almost impossible pinpoint bombing – the traitors‘
barracks in San Andres, on the outskirts of Barcelona. Erguido‘s performance was
masterly; he killed a number, wounded others, demoralised the defenders, who then
         Another day, flying over the Huesca front, we saw three enemy machines on the
ground, and we bombed them.
         We missed.
         Erguido, who was flying his Mosca to cover us, dived steeply to treetop level,
roared in over the aerodrome and machine-gunned the parked planes, setting two of them
         A storm of bullets flew around him from the enemy machine-guns defending the
         What he did then was sublime – oh, beautiful.
         In a graceful descent, he came down on the landing strip and majestically rolled
almost to a stop. The enemy thought he was deserting to their ranks, so they stopped
firing. But ‗Dimoni‘, still rolling, smiling at them, raised his first in the air, in a
                                                     rep                            70

contemptuous salute, and then with his throttles to the wall, took off again, in risky turns
and banks as he climbed, suddenly to turn his plane over and dive back, straight as a
dagger, all his machine-guns firing on the traitors, who ran like terrified hares.
        Then he rejoined the rest of us, who were circling, choked with emotion and at the
same time scared to death for what could happen to our beloved comrade.
        Another time, our Militias couldn‘t advance at a place on the Huesca front. The
fascists had set up machine gun nests on a strategic hill. We tried several times to bomb
them, but the target was tiny to line up with in the air. So, Erguido begged permission
from Lieutenant Colonel Reyes to hang bombs from his Mosca and try to dive bomb the
machine-gun nests that were blocking our devoted Militia_men.
        He got permission and joined up with several machines setting out for the front.
We all wanted to watch what he was going to do – we thought it was nobility itself in
        We watched, holding our breath, as ‗Dimoni‘ climbed to a 1,000 meters, turned
over on his back and screamed into an inverted dive and then with what looked like a
loop of joy, lobbed his bombs – which missed the heads of the traitors by about 100
meters. So, he turned and at treetop level, screamed in, machine-gunning them, then
climbed, and dived on them steeply, his guns firing. He did this again, coming in low,
then diving, killing many of them, and the rest fled for their lives. The heroic Militiaman
rushed forward, took the country beyond, and raised our tricolor Flag.
        In December, he was wounded over Madrid, so they took him to the Aviation
Hospital at Prat, in Barcelona. He was soon back in Madrid, not altogether recovered
from the wound in his knee, which he got in a dogfight. But in 20 days only, he limped
back into his cockpit, although he was not fit to fly. I can see him in my mind‘s eye – in a
Chato, a Knight in his Chato chariot.
        But never in my life will I forget his last flight.
        A cold January day. The enemy swarmed in on us like black birds of prey. Our
planes took off, and el ‗Dimoni Rojo‘ climbed fast in his Chato.
                               rep                                                     71

        It was horrifying, sublime, incredible – a fury. Our Moscas and Chatos mix in
with the enemy planes, and several of the enemy fall, their wings broken. The ‗Dimoni
Rojo‘, all nerve, muscles like steel, falls like an avenger on a Heinkel, but the enemy pilot
is good, he swerves, banks, turns, does a half loop. But it‘s useless. ‗El Dimoni‘ is back
on his tail in a flash, hammering him with burst after burst.
        The Heinkel plunges in a mortal spin, but ‗Dimoni‘ remembers that but a short
time ago, he watched from above as another plane plunged – and near the ground, pulled
out cleanly from its dive and escaped back across the front. ‗Dimoni‘ follows this one
down, to our horror – down – down –down. Machine–gunning all the way. He ran out of
bullets, and the Heinkel exploded against the ground, ‗Dimoni‘ alongside it.
        When we pulled his dead body from what was left of his plane, his face carried a
placid, spiritual smile.
        Oh, Dawn, those of us who sallied forth on July 19, to destroy traitors with bullet
and shrapnel, will never forget our ‗Dimoni‘, nor others who have offered their lives for
the freedom of the Spanish people, a freedom that has eluded us for unending centuries.
But what bitterness, the loss of ‗El Dimoni‘. We weep for him, as only men can weep for
heroes, with tears from our souls. We weep for all our companions who have shed their
blood on our Spanish soil, dreaming of a new freedom – who have given their lives for
our glorious Republican Aviation, despising death and flying against the fascists.
        ―El Dimoni.‖ Without marble and without bronze, your incredible aerial
acrobatics have written your name on the immense arch of blue, the Spanish sky.
        My dearest Dawn, all my best wishes,
                 Rudolf Robles
        This death stabs me like a knife. Loving, understanding Jesus …
        I knew exactly how Jesús felt; I felt as he felt. He threw his fighter into the air for
the hungry millions of Spain, in their hovels, where the damp and cold decimated them in
winter, with pneumonia and T.B. I reckon life expectancy here at 38 years.
                              rep                                                    72

        Most of Spain works on the land, from dawn to dusk, and in the cities, works up
to 14 hours a day. In the last eight to ten years, elected governments have raised their
starvation 3 pesetas a day (say, 80 pesetas a month) to a niggardly 5 pesetas, in the teeth
of the obduracy of landowners, factory owners and the Roman Catholic Church. They
have cut back the rents of the Church.
        For a news piece published abroad, I get 800 pesetas, more or less, and for a
syndicated article, up to 3,000 pesetas.
        The USA has its New Deal. The U.S. working–class is eating and dressing like
the middle-class, buying tract houses and putting in gardens. The Spanish land and
factory owners, the Roman Catholic Church and Franco are fighting to bring to Spain
        And now the Red Devil no longer stands blocking their way.
                                             rep                                   73

Jan 5, 1937

More good news. Yesterday, a lot of Chatos machine-gunned Franco troops on the road
to Toledo. And the super-fast two-engine Katiuska bombers bombed rebel aerodromes.
Government troops at last have taken the initiative with a heavy artillery barrage on
fascist troops by two armoured trains, while the Russian T-26 tanks went into action.
         There are so many different planes, I‘m going to have to find out about them. I
haven‘t got a technical bone in my body. All I‘m good for is typing on my portable
typewriter! If I have to change a light bulb, it takes me five minutes to screw in the new
bulb. But I‘m going to have to immerse myself in all these flying machines. They nearly
all have two wings. Some have only one wing – and how can one wing keep the plane up
in the air? Beyond me! And with one wing, how come the wing doesn‘t fall of, without
all the struts and wires that two-wing planes have? The new technologies are amazing.
         The rebel nationalists are calling our Chato the ―Curtiss‖, and accusing them of
being copies of American planes. The Russian pilots and advisors are wild, really furious.
Apparently, the fascists and Germans and Italians just know that Russia is a backward
nation of Slavic serfs, and to talk of them building modern fighters and bombers is like
saying an African tribe has built a destroyer.
A not is stapled to the page, dated 1938. In it, Dawn Spencer writes:
Curtiss-Wright, in USA, refused to accept orders from either side in the Spanish Civil
War. These monsters of the twentieth century – Franco, Hitler and Mussolini – were no
business of right-thinking Yanks.
In 1930, the plane builder GRUMMAN, in USA, built a new sort of plane, which in those
days was thought of as revolutionary. They called it the GRUMMAN XFF-1. It was
intended for the US Navy, and made its first flight in Dec. 1931. It was one of the fastest
planes the Navy had. What was new about it was the metallic fuselage, with a flotation
chamber built into the bottom. The wheels could be pulled up and tucked out of sight.
Further, the bottom wings carried two more floats. The wings were built with aluminium
beams and covered with cloth. The ailerons and tail
                                                                  rep            74
planes were also covered by cloth.
        The two-wing, two cockpit fighter had a Wright Cyclone engine of 615 HP, and
in Oct. 1932, they changed that for another Cyclone engine of 680HP, which gave a
speed of 325 kms an hour.
At the end of 1938, the Turkish government placed an order for 40 planes. As
GRUMMAN was tied up with supplying these planes to the Navy, they licenced the
CANADIAN CAR AND FOUNDRY Co. to handle the Turkish contract. So they built 40
planes in their factory near Montreal, and called them CCF-GRUMMAN (their initials,
        So, the planes are shipped to Istambul, with the ship stopping at The Havre, in
France. The Hada County sails on April 11, 1938, the Royal Mounted Police oblige it to
return, and confiscate 16 planes, leaving 18 planes, out of the 34 that were on board.
        At the end of May, these 18 planes are unloaded at Barcelona, from two other
merchant ships. Seventeen of them were put together at Vic, a town north of Barcelona.
One was left in pieces, to use as spare parts. These planes were blessed with Cyclone
engines of 800 HP at take off and 350 km/h. This Wright Cyclone was a radial engine of
nine cylinders.
        At the end of May, these Squadrons were ready at Cardedeu aerodrome, north of
Barcelona, under Squadron Leader Captain Santiago Capillas. One was a normal
squadron of nine planes, and the other an incomplete one of seven planes.
        These went into action in the Ebro Battle. They also flew patrols to guard the
coasts. Their Mange was 1,500 kms. The first loss was Left. Refael peña, who was dive-
bombing, and hit a cross country, high-tension cable. Archie fire got another, who had to
land behind enemy lines. Archie fire got Actavio Canut‘s plane, which collided with a
fellow pilot‘s, Rodriguez but Rodriguez jumped out and parachuted.
I was lucky to talk to José Lové, Who told me al this.
Dawn Spencer stapled a second note to these pages, dated 1948:
Five Grummans flew in the centre of Spain, and near Cartagena. They escaped to Algeria
at the end, thank God, and four of the planes got handed back to Franco.
                                                      rep                            75

Friday, January, 1937

A new Russian light bomber has arrived, called the Rasante, R-5. From the look of it, and
its green color, the fascists call it the ―Popinjay‖ – ‗Papagayos‘. The Spanish word,
‗Rasante‘, comes from the same root as the English word ‗Razor‘. That is, the R-5
‗shaves‘ the ground. The German anti-aircraft batteries claim to have shot down dozens
of them, when only a few have arrived. It flies at tree-top level (its top speed is 246 km/h,
but it can cruise at 200 km/h), and following every rise and dip in the land, it sweeps
upon the enemy without warning, machine-gunning troops, or dropping delayed
explosion bombs (so it‘s not caught in the explosions). It‘s deadly. It has a low speed
against enemy fighters, but it flies so low and turns in and out among the trees and hills a
fascist pilot can‘t come so low, but over shoots it.
        Salvador Pomés tells me that it‘s an adaptation of a prototype built by Polikarpov
in 1927. It has one engine, two wings (the lower much smaller than the higher wing), and
comes with the M 17 engine of 12 cylinders in V. Puts on 680 horsepower. The propeller
is of wood. Has two gas tanks and a firewall in front of the pilot.
        It‘s a very solid plane, very safe to fly, and can take every sort of punishment. The
engines can run flat out without problems. It‘s got 4 machine-guns, on the wings.
        Of all the planes the Soviet Union is going to send us, this is the most ancient.

Dawn Spencer wrote in by hand:
1938 – Russia finally sent 31 Rasantes.
                                      rep                                            76

January 12, 1937

This morning I was at Castejón del Puente (just south west of Barbastro, in Aragon, up
near the French frontier). I heard a mechanic singing a song that mystified me. I saw
Captain Ricardo Domingo strolling on the perimeter, and introduced myself and begged
him to explain the song to me.
        Ricardo gave me a great big grin.
        ―Let me see, let me see.‖ He paused, searching for words.
        ―We have an awful lot of novice pilots. The war‘s just months old, and each of
those novices has to face his first day flying over the Front. Are you with me?‖
        I nodded, eagerly.
        ―Well, our Squadron of Natachas on this aerodrome rejoiced with the arrival of
two of these greenhorns – Esteban Griñán, pilot, and his bomb ‗dropper‘ and machine–
gunner, Castor Antón.
        ―They flew in the last point of the Squadron, as the most junior – on the left of the
Leader of the 3rd V of planes (at the back of the whole flight).
        ―Their first foray came, and our objective was Pina. All the crews are called, and
the pilots get the route, the altitude, the angel of fire, the return route…
        ―The crews take note, none more carefully than Castor Antón, who wanted to
shine on this first flight. Esteban Griñán had it all worked out – he‘d follow the rest of
them, and everything would be okay. He believed he was lucky, and he trusted in the skill
and in the notes taken by Castor, because the two got on very well.
        ―The Squadron Leader takes off, followed by each Natacha until it was the last
plane‘s turn – Griñán–Antón, both of them excited, but determined to get everything
right, because it‘s their very first act of war… and it‘s no drill. Before taking off, Griñán
very carefully connects up the petrol-pump small tank of gasoline, because he knows you
can‘t take off without it. It‘s a small thank which quickly dries, but it‘s essential to
remember this detail for take off. After you gain a bit of height, you switch to the main
        ―The Griñán–Antón Natacha gains altitude, but they‘re two worried young men.
As the last ones to take off, they‘ve fallen behind and they‘ve got to step on the gas
                                      rep                                            77

to get into their position. Their patrol leader makes hurry-up signals with his arm and for
them to accelerate even more. Griñán wants to show he knows how to fly in formation,
but as their objective is so close, they‘re almost halfway there before he gets in his place.
But he‘s pleased as Punch, because he‘s sitting close to the leader at last and can wave to
his companions. Antón is also happy, swivelling around his machine-gun and thinking
about what he‘ll do the moment the Fiats jump them. Those Fiats aren‘t going to catch
him by surprise – he‘s looking in all directions at once, and longing to open fire.
         ―Such has been the enthusiasm and dedication of the Griñán-Antón team, that
neither of them gave another thought to the petrol pump tank, and their engine keeps
turning till they reach Pina.
         ―Griñán stays stuck like a leech to the patrol leader and does an impeccable
bombing run. Antón had his hand on the bombs-away trigger, impatiently waiting for the
signal – he dropped the bombs so quickly that they were all mixed up in a cluster as they
fell spot on the objective.
         ―Mission accomplished.
         ―Not an enemy fighter to be seen, no archie. A trip like that to the front is
marvelous, they feel like heroes, they‘re euphoric. They were safe and sound on their
way back home.
         ―But man proposes, fate disposes … The clock is ticking away in their petrol
pump tank.
         ―The two had begun to sing ‗Fly, oh vagabond bird …‘ when the engine coughed
– and coughed – and the propeller slowed and jerked. The engine stopped!
         ―Griñan instinctively remembers what he learned at pilot school and makes a
quick dive to spin the propeller and restart the engine. The propeller turns as though it
wants to – but the engine doesn‘t start. They lose altitude, and suddenly all their thoughts
are on looking for a place to land. They get so low they have to put down where they can
and Griñan chooses a large, leafy, hundred-year-old olive tree, which enfolds the Natacha
in its capacious branches.
         ―When Antón saw they were falling out of the sky, he carefully put his
                                     rep                                          78

parachute on the floor of the cockpit, and thought earnestly how he would jump out, as
the Natacha has a reputation for burning like a medieval, tar torch. He kept his hand on
the catch of his safety belt, to open it in a flash, and leap for his life.
        ―And this he did. He jumped out of the top of that olive tree and landed on the
earth beneath, miraculously without hurting himself. Griñan scrambled down and both
ran for their lives, before the plane went up in flames and exploded.
        ―Oh, farewell glory!
        ―They gave not a single, remote thought to the petrol pump tank.
        ―When it was discovered what had happened, and the mechan_ics had to take the
plane to pieces and get it out of the tree, the Squadron Leader gave them a blistering
dressing down.
        ―They took it philosophically. They said that was the way one learnt …‖
        And that was where the song came from. I‘ll translate it, but in English it comes
out woodenly. In Spanish, it has a ring and a lilt to it –
                         Griñan, Griñan
                         Don‘t be a gañan (a plowboy) (plough boy)
                         Open the gas tap
                         Because the petrol pump tank
                         Is empty.

                      Antón, Antón
                      Don‘t be bobón (a booby, a peasant dolt)
                      And make the high jump
                      Just because your machine
                      Goes in nose first.
January 15, 1937

Yesterday, I went out with two mechanics in a lorry, to visit farms and buy vegetables.
We took along a ten-litre milk churn, and managed to get it filled. Some of the blokes at
the aerodrome have kids in Madrid. I carried along a half-litre bottle with a stopper, and
got that filled with milk.
        So, this morning, I had my chusco loaf of bread with some honey! they sold us,
and a white ―coffee‖ with the milk.
        I woke up, desperately alone, thinking of Angel, my yearning for him was
        This breakfast cheered me up a bit. I got hold of myself, because I‘ve got things to
do – I‘ve got to find out all about the Chato plane, and that means talking to a lot of
people, I suppose.

Jan, 17, 1937

Well, the Chato plane!
After the Russian Revolution in 1917, not much was left of the plane-building industry.
The Czar came into the 1914 Great War with about 250 machines, five fuselage factories
and two making engines. About 2000 men worked in them. By 1917, there were eleven
factories building planes, five more making engines and another two, propellers. Ten
thousand workers had built 5,600 planes during the great War. Most of them were built
under French licence, but there were Russian planes of a surprisingly high quality,
designed by people like Sikorski, Grigorovich, Ivanov, and others. What mouthfuls these
Russian names!
        In 1920, they didn‘t produce one solitary plane, and the workforce had dropped to
3,500 men. So next year, the Russian Government invests three million gold roubles to
kick-start the industry.
        By the 1930s, with the Five-Year Plans, things looked up. The Red Army went
from 320 machines in 1922 to 3,000 in 1933. In 1929, eight out of ten planes were for
spotting. After 1934, about half were bombers and almost all the rest, fighters.
        So, these factories, called GAZ (I‘m not going to inflict the full Russian names on
my diary) had design centres called TGI (that‘s another string of Russian words).
                                     rep                                           80-A

In these design centres, who stood out was the Russian designer Nikolai Nikolayevich
Polikarpov, who I will in future call Nick Polly. After the Revolution, Nick Polly worked
in the biggest Russian plane factory, the famous DUX, near Moscow. Later on, he came
to manage all the GAZ. In 1925, he comes up with the I-I, a single wing, using metal and
wood, with an engine built under USA licence, the M-5. Twelve cylinders, no less, and a
speed of 265 km/h.
        In 1926, the I-2 flew, a two-winged fighter.
        In 1927, he designs the I-3, and these go into production. They build 400 of them.
The engine is 600 hp and it does 285 km/h.
        In 1927, Nick Polly has another success, a two-winged, single motor light
bomber, which stayed in production till this year. They built 6,000 of them. The R-5,
which apparently is coming to Spain.
In a stapled note, Dawn Spencer says:
This R-5 flew in the Second World War.
About this time, Nick Polly also designed the renowned U-2 training plane, of which
40,000 planes were built, (correction – he designed it in 1930).
In a stapled note, Dawn Spencer writes:
This U-2 was called the Po-2 when Polly died, and during the Second World War, this
was the famous light bomber that flew only at night, piloted only by women.
The German Fw-190 would attack it and it would slip easily inside the German plane. Its
performance was unbelievable. You could do practically anything with it and it still
would stay in the air.
Then it went to the war in Korea. American fighter jets would swoop down on it at about
900 kms an hour, so it would drift out of the way, and while the American was turning
around, some-where over the next mountain range, it would go about its business.
In Spain, in the Spanish Civil War, it was the legendary Natacha.
= = = = = = = = = = = == = = = = = = = = = = = = =
                                      rep                                           80-B


         In 1935, Polikarpov told the engineers D.S. Markov and A.A. Skabrow to design
a souped-up R-5. The R-5 has an M-17 engine, while the Natacha has the M-34, again 12
cylinders in V, but putting out 750/820 horsepower. The new bomber has supplementary
petrol tanks for the petrol pump, to use on take-off. Each holds 122 liters, and the petrol
goes straight into the engine. Once in flight, you switch off these tanks and use the two
main tanks of 230 liters each. When you empty those, you can switch back to the smaller
tanks and empty them.
         A very practical point – it has a manual magneto, with a crank handle in the
         On this bomber, the propeller is metal. Again, two wings, with a machine-gun
firing through the propeller, and another mounted in the cockpit at the back for the
                                                    rep                           81

        Now, Nick Polly had a lot of ideas about fighter planes, and he put them into a
book he called, ―Ability to Manoeuvre in Fighter Planes.‖ He argued that cylinders in
line, with liquid cooling, were more powerful and aerodynamic, although heavier. But
when it came to the crunch of dog-fighting, the radial air-cooled engine (cylinders in a
circle pointing inwards) air–cooled had a more concentrated weight and let the plane be
thrown around better. He also worked out the numbers in this book for
horsepower/weight to give a truly lively fighter.
Pencilled note by Dawn Spencer, stapled to the page: Polly did build the I-17, with the
cylinders in line and liquid cooled, which was very fast, but he always preferred small
stubby fighters that could turn on a dime.
He wrote this book in 1927, but he had failures.
He designed the DI-2, based on the I-3, and it crashed in trials.
His early training plane, the P-2, was too dicey for learners.
His new bomber, the heavy TB-2 had no visible advantages over the TB-1, once in the
The straw that broke Stalin‘s back (and Stalin had no tolerance whatsoever) was an
accident that wiped out the new I-6, again derived from the I-3. The I-6 had been given a
new Jupiter VI engine.
So, like all dictators and monsters of the twentieth century, Stalin believed that human
creativity and originality was best helped by the carrot and the stick, above all by the
        Poor Nick was arrested, accused of ―gravely sabotaging the Soviet aeronautical
industry‖, and was locked up in the new Internal Design Bureau 39 in GAZ 39 factory,
together with designer Grigorovich, Denisov (expert in fuselages), Nadaskevich
(armáment in planes), and others whose names are a headache to spell. The OGPU had
created this home away from home when the Fokker I-39 fighter failed.
        Their orders were to produce a new fighter based on original plans by Tupolev, or
        Led by Grigorovich, who was the most experienced, they built and flew, within
six months, three prototypes. The first was a handsome biplane with a licenced Gnöme-
                                      rep                                          82

Rhöne Jupiter engine of 480 hp that flew at 287 km/h, and came to be known as the I-5.
What distinguished it was a broad cowling. Two machine guns fired through the
propeller, as in all Polly‘s planes
         This plane went into mass production in 1932, at the new GAZ 21 near Gorki.
They built 800 of them, and set things up for the mass production of I-15 and I-16.
         With this triumph, the OGPU unlocked the door, and let the designers go home.
         In 1933, Russia had six huge factories for fuselages and four for engines. Plane
production took off. In 1930-31, the Soviets built 860 warplanes. In 1932-37, they built
2,600 a year, but this year they expect to build 3,570. Bad news for Franco.
         Polly got Stalin‘s blessing in 1933, when he headed GAZ 36, and his first job was
to build fighter planes to replace the I-5 and I-6.
         But Stalin had turned cautious and canny. New models had always to be in pairs.
One of them was the old model, with improvements that were sure of working. The other
could be flights of designer dreams, and if this one didn‘t fly, the factories fell back on
the first, conservative plane. That made sure the Soviet Air Force always had new planes
coming in.
         So that‘s what happened with the I-15, the Chato, and the I-16, the Mosca, or as
the Fascists nicknamed it, the Rat.
         The I-15 was an advance on the I-5, but took no chances. Two wings, fixed
undercarriage, metal and wood in the fuselage. But the upper wing was a gull wing, to
give the pilot much better visibility overhead. The radial engine had the now traditional
Towend cowling, which would make it recognisable forever. But it weighed less than the
I-5, and was covered in cloth as before, but with the more powerful engine of 715 hp, it
was a far more deadly fighter than the I-5.
         With the I-16, Polly let his imagination fly. A single, low wing plane, with a
closed-in cockpit, retractible landing wheels.
         The new Chato, I-15, could fly at 370 km/h and do a full turn in only eight
seconds. The first 400 carried a less powerful engine (the better engines were given to the
1-16s). In Nov. 1935, it reached a record height of 14,750
                                                     rep                           83

metres (with a powerful engine).
       In 1936, engine production had reached the point where the Chatos got the more
powerful engine, back, which let it fly at 370 km/h, as I said. They put in four machine-
guns, and in the I-16, the Mosca, they added cannon.
       The guns added weight, and lowered acrobacy. The Russians held meetings, and
even Stalin sat in on them, but they decided for extra firepower.
                                               rep                                     84

18, January, 1937

I was walking across the aerodrome at the Ribera – the Pilots‘ School – close to Murcia,
when a young pilot saw me. An unbelieving smile crossed his face and I could see what
he was thinking – a woman on the Base! His stride checked, so I stopped, and smiled at
him. He stopped too, glanced over his shoulder, saw that I was smiling at him, so he
walked over and said, ―Can I help you?‖
        ―I‘m a war correspondent and my name is Dawn. Are you in training? How‘s it
        He said very politely, ―My name is Félix Martinez Pardo, and I‘m flying solo. Not
many hours. Can I invite you to something at the Canteen?‖
        ―I‘d love something warm to drink.‖
        After we had sat down with our drinks, I asked him, ―What‘s it like here?‖
        ―The teachers are extraordinary,‖ he told me.
        He stopped and thought a moment.
        ―The school is under don Alejandro Gómez Spencer.‖
        I nodded. I knew him.
        ―He‘s a terrific chap, a gentleman and a fantastic pilot. I first saw him when we
were in a meeting for the formal presentation of all the Flying Instructors here at the
School. He made an immediate impression on me I won‘t forget – he carried himself in a
spirited, imperious way, had a forceful personality you could see right away. But now
I‘ve got to know him better, he‘s one of the most humane men I know.‖
        He took a drink.
        ―Know what happened yesterday?‖
        I leaned forward.
        ―I had 15 hours of solo in my log yesterday morning. So they ordered me to take a
turn in a Hispano, and I couldn‘t wait. When I about to climb on board, I hear my name
called from just behind me. It‘s the Colonel himself, Gómez Spencer. I turned around,
saluted, and stood to attention. He told me that he was going to fly with me. My jaw
almost dropped. I just stood there, and he said, ‗Come on, lad, let‘s, go.‘ I said, ‗Yes, sir‘,
and climbed on board. Then he got on behind me.‖
                                      rep                                           85

       I looked out the window. ―They‘re Hispanos, are they?‖

         ―The ones over there,‖ he agreed.
         It was a light, high–one–wing, one-engine plane, with two cockpits, one behind
the other.
         Then he said, ―Where was I? Ah, yes – I took off, flew some circles around the
field, and then we headed for San Javier (the aerodrome on the coast, just south east of
Murcia) where he made me execute banks and dives and loops. We were flying at about
1,200 meters, and after 15 minutes of this, he switched off the engine.
         ―‗Your engine has stopped, Pardo. Look for somewhere to land.‘
         ―What he didn‘t know, thank God, was that I knew all this countryside like the
back of my hand. As a kid, I‘d been all over it, playing, looking for birds‘ nests … you
         ―So, I decided on a barley field I knew, took my time gliding around, found it, and
made a perfect landing.
         ―He ordered me to get out, and crank the propeller for him, so he could start the
         ―Obediently, I got out, and instead of going to the propeller, I checked around the
plane. When The Colonel saw I hadn‘t obeyed his order, he raised himself half out of the
cockpit and asked me, ―What‘s the matter?‘
         ―Nothing, my Lieutenant, Colonel,‖ I replied.
         ―He stared at me hard for a moment, then got out of the plane and ordered me to
get in, and when I was settled in the cockpit, ordered me to get ready to start the engine,
because he was bout to crank the propeller.
         ―And seconds later, the engine was running.
         ―We took off, and flew to the Pilots‘ School, and we landed here.
         ―I stood to attention to say goodbye, and with a twinkle in his eye, he asked me,
‗Pardo, have you ever tried to start an engine by swinging the propeller?‘
         ―‗To be truthful, I never have, my Lieutenant Colonel.‘
         ―‗So it appeared to me. Apart from that, you did very well, but very well.
Congratulations.‘ And he stretched out his hand and shook mine!
         ―He didn‘t say anything else, but now I realised why he had made me land in the
middle of nowhere. I could find myself in a hell of a mess one day, if I didn‘t know how
                                      rep                                            86

to swing the prop. He already knew, before we took off.
So, now guess what – I‘m going to learn!‖
       We both burst into laughter, and everyone looked at us.
       He said, ―I was being bloody lazy, and let the lorries do the work.‖
       (A lorry on the aerodrome carries‘ scaffolding‘ to support a horizontal arm that
engages the propeller, and runs off the lorry motor.)

January, 1937

Have found out about the Hispano E – 30, from Cristóbal Coll.
This of the planes is hard work. Sometimes I‘m sorry I didn‘t stop in Australia, and just
have to worry about finding cooking recipes and knitting patterns.
         The Hispano-Suiza factory in Guadala Jára (Spain) in the late 1920s was building
the Nieuport-52 fighter plane. They talked about building a simpler plane, for Flight
Instruction, for student Pilots. But this training plane would be different – it would have
everything, for teaching pilots, combat, shooting, bombing, photography, observation …
finally they chose the design submitted by the aeronautical engineer André Bedoiseau. It
had fittings for a photographic camera, for a machine-gun. It could tow aerial targets for
air-to-air shooting. It had fittings for bomb racks, for a forward machine-gun
synchronised to shoot through the propeller. It carried a fitting for the Warleta bomb-
aiming telescope, and a blind canopy for blind flying.
         The wing was a parasol (high in the air, above the fuselage and crew) making it
easier to get out in a hurry. The fuselage came in three parts that were bolted together. In
summer, you took off the engine cowling, to help cool the cylinders. The landing wheels
had oil-pneumatic suspensions, which made for smooth landing.
         It could be flown from either cockpit.
         The Spanish were proud of the job they‘d done.
         250 horse/p – 225 km/hour. Landed at 90 km/hour.
                                      rep                                            87

        The trainees usually went from the Hispano to the Nieuport – 52.
        Salvador Pomés tells me that the Nieuport – 52 was the only single-wing fighter
the Republic had when war broke out.
        In 1929, he tells me, the Spanish government called for designs for a fighter
plane, and chose three of them- Nieuport, Dewoitine – 27 and another.
        After building prototypes and testing them, the factory decided on the Nieuport-
52. With this plane, the factory launched into a new technology - building an all-metal
        This Nieuport is (take a deep breath) sexquiplane, which means it does have a
tiny, second wing, one-sixth the size of the main wing. The main wing carries petrol
tanks for 362 liters, and this wing alone has airelons. The tiny wing acts as reinforcement
for Y-shaped struts that carry the wheels, and support the main wing.
        In its day, it was a great fighter plane. It has 500 hp and does 260 km/hour, but the
Italians and Germans are sending modern fighters which turn this into a death trap.
        Already last year, the Yanks presented their single-wing Boeing P-26, and the
British their Hawker Fury.
        Today, the Nieuports are flying from Getafe aerodrome, a few kms south of
Madrid, from Prat de Llobregat in Barcelona … and from Tablada aerodrome, in fascist
hands, just west-south-west of Seville. That‘s a total of about 45 planes, mostly in loyal
hands, Pomés tells me.
        They say that the French are sending us the Dewoitine 372, 500 and 510, and the
Spad 510, but I don‘t think those planes will stand up to the modern German and Italian
technology. The French are taking good Republican gold – and giving us mainly

        Again José Jové has come to my rescue. He tells me that on August 6, of this
year, four months ago, six Dewoitine 371S reached El Prat, in Barcelona. The French
factory, Lioré et Olivier, had built them for the Lithuanian government. They arrived
unarmed, so the Spanish fitted machine-guns. They have been fighting mainly on the
                              rep                                                   88
Madrid Front.
        They have formed the Malraux Squadron with them. In September, they formed a
second Squadron, the Layfayette.
        They had to take off the brakes – they were causing serious trouble, and the new
Dewoitines come from the French factory without brakes, and depend on the tail stud,
digging into the ground, to stop them.
        With the arrival of the Chatos and Moscas, these planes are being pulled out of
the fighting, and sent to San Javier (Murcia) for flight training.
        These Dewoitines put out 740 to 800 hp and fly at 380 to 400 km/hours. The D-
371 has machine-guns in the wing, and the D-372 fires through the propeller. It can climb
to 11,000 meters and could stay in the air three and a half hours.
        And the Dewotines 500 and 510? The bloody French.
The French never built a fighter to face the German onslaught. British Spitfires and
Hurricanes did what they could, but were taken home to save England, in the Battle of
        Hundreds of thousands of French refugees on the French roads were bombed and
strafed without French fighter pilots so overhead to save them.
        If the French had succoured the Republican aviators, those pilots could have
flown their woeful French fighters for them, and held the Nazi fighters.
         God help Britain if it had been in the same plight – if it had only the Hurri_canes
to face the 109s and the Folke-Wolfs.
                                     rep                                         89-A

25, January, 1937

Stone the crows!
        A British newspaper recently by-lined me as Our Air Correspondent in Spain.
        Now I‘m signing my cables as Air Correspondent, and other newspapers are using
this by-line.
        I report the ground war but always try to include a report on air activity, which
helps me against the competition. So many of my aviators are now friends they fly me
from one aerodrome to another. Most correspondents are fixed in place, or have to travel
slowly by train or by car.
        Fair dinkum, it‘s a great life if you don‘t weaken! Long live the Republican
                              rep                                           89-B
7, February, 1937

I landed at Tabernas aerodrome this morning, some 20 kms north of Almeria.
         I saw Captian Ricardo Domingo, who I already knew.
         ―Indescribable!‖ he told me. ―Thousands of civilians streamed out of Málaga to
escape the nationalists, and there‘s only one road to Ameria. The fascists raked it with
fire from the air and shelled it form the sea. Naval/shells exploding among civilians. A
road bathed in blood and death.‖
         I thought, this isn‘t warfare. This is warcrime, and who will ever bring that
monster Franco before a Court?
         ―A Phoenician holocaust,‖ I said. ―It means destruction of a people by fire.‖ I
added, ―It was like something out of Dante‘s Inferno?‖
         He said, ―Almeria now is like something out of the Apocalipsis. It‘s bursting with
refugees, all the streets full of people who have absolutely nothing. They‘ve ordered all
the bars, theaters, restaurants to stay open night and day, and to let people sleep there.
         ―But that wasn‘t the end of it. Last night, Almeria suffered a heavy bombing with
victims everywhere. We didn‘t have a single plane here so we couldn‘t defend the city.
There‘s a young Aviation doctor here Dr. Rosendo, from Granada, and be asked me to go
with him. The streets were in darkness full of tragedy. We hardly set out before we were
in the middle of horror. The doctor was working feverishly, without enough light to see
by. He was treating the wounds, saying soothing words here giving comfort there. I was a
fat lot of good, and my head was swimming at what I saw.
         ―On top of all this, here at the aerodrome, five Chatos and two Potez-540 came in.
The Potez must have been the last machines of the André Malreaux Squadron – you‘ve
heard of Malreaux, the famous writer? They had French crews, volunteers who‘d been
contracted at fabulous fees, and they seemed to think this was all a great adventure. They
hardly spoke Spanish, they were in high spirits. Our ground crews didn‘t like them very
much, and they certainly don‘t like the Potez.‖
         French planes are called the flying coffins, but the Potez had that specific
nickname – The Flying Coffin.
                                      rep                                           90

        ―Okay, what happened was the navigator broke his leg and they asked Spanish
Headquarters for a Spanish replacement. Commandant Villa designated me for this
‗honor‘. I wasn‘t at all pleased, and as Villa is a good friend of mine, he saw my reaction
and understood why, but there was nothing he could do.
        ―We arranged that yesterday morning, very early, Villa and I would meet up to
drive out to Tabernas aerodrome so I could join the Mareuz Potez. All that night I slept
badly, thinking how I hated flying in that ‗Coffin‘ with the Frenchmen. I woke up
yesterday morning, but I didn‘t get up right away. I turned over, fell asleep again, then I
loitered deliberately over dressing, shaving and the rest of it.
        ―Finally, I walked very slowly over to the Aviation Office, at Puerta Puchena, in
the centre of Almeria. I felt something holding me back, and when I arrived, Villa had
been a long time there waiting for me. He showed no annoyance whatsoever, and we left
together for Tabernas as though nothing was untoward. We didn‘t speak on the drive,
although we were both thinking hard, and he knew me through and through, we had been
together so often, in the air as well as on the ground.
        ―We reached Tabernas to find the Potez were down the other end of the
aerodrome with their engines roaring, about to take off.
        ―That meant I‘d have to wait till they came back, to go on board.
        ―The Potez took off, followed by the Chatos. Time passed quickly, and we saw
the Chatos flying back. The first Chato pilot to reach the Headquarters shack was
Eduardo Guaza, and we asked him why he‘d abandoned the Potez. He looked at us
ironically, and said he didn‘t know what their fate was as they‘d been shot down over
Motril (on the coast road between Málaga and Almeria, 111 road kms from Almeria).
The Chatos had their work cut out to defend themselves against a large number of Fiats.
        ―Everyone slapped me on the back and congratulated me as though I‘d done
something brave, which I hadn‘t‖
        We stood looking at each other.
        ―Believe me, I said. ―I‘m glad Thank God you‘re alive.‖
                                            rep                                   91

        Afterwards, I thought, now I must try and find out about these Potez.
Dawn Spencer has stapled in the following sheet:
        Than goodness, José Jové has come to my rescue. He‘s a walking encyclopaedia.
        From 1931, the designers of Potez Aviation in France were working on a bomber
which they believed would be invulnerable. It would have a devastating defensive
capacity and would carry an impressive bombload. They for saw the disappearance of
fighter planes and interceptors, because they would be helpless before this phoenix.
        These theories percolated into the French Air Ministry, and in 1933 the Air
Minister, General Denain, held conversations with Henri Potez about the machine. The
Air Ministry didn‘t tie itself down, but Potez flew the prototype at the end of 1933, and
official trails went on till the middle of 1934, when the Ministry accepted it for full
        Theoretically, this plane would revolutionize military aviation – and the Spanish
Civil War showed it to be a total failure.
        They finally mounted Hispano-Suiza engines (type 540) on some and Lorrraine
engines (type 524) on others, so the plane is designated Potez-540/542. Both engines
developed about 680 hp, with an outside top speed of 300 km/h. Its ceiling was 10,000
meters and it could do 1,200 kms.
        The plane had a rectangular fuselage - a wooden frame covered by cloth. The rear
stabilizers were the same. It had a high wing, of metal covered by cloth. Semi-wings at
the bottom of the fuselage carried the engines and the retractable landing wheels.
        The fuselage had a front machine-gun (the front of the fuselage was glass), a
machine-gun in a covered cabin on top, and another one the belly – that glassed-in turret
could be raised and lowered.
        The plane carried oxygen, cameras and radio.
        Spain got 20 or 21 of these ‗revolutionary‘ planes.
        The Frankist ace, García Morato, shot down the first one, easy as pie, over
Antequera (40 kms north of Málaga).
                                             rep                                  92

on August 18, 1936.
         The planes had no protective armoured steel.
         In October, 1936, the first Katiuskas arrived, and the Potez were set aside for
transports and reconnaissance.
Dawn Spencer has added a second sheet, dated 1952.
         The Allies learned nothing from the Spanish Civil War that I can see, and
certainly learned nothing from the Potez. The Yanks built their Flying Fortress, on the
same idea as the Potez – they put in about eight machine-gunners. Then they built the
Super Flying Fortress. The British built their Hallifaxes, Wellingtons and Lencasters,
bristling with machine–gunners.
         The result?
         Twenty thousand air-crew dead and the Germans driven to unimaginable efforts
in war production.
         The Spanish Civil War taught a plain lesson. The only successful bomber was the
Chato. It came in fast, aimed by diving, just once, and was out of there like a bat out of
hell. If attacked, it fought a dog-fight.
         The Allies learned too late this lesson.
         They put in the Mosquito fighter-bomber at the end of the war, and it practically
halted German war production in six months.
         The French never produced a fighter for the Second World War. Its Dewoitine –
in its most advanced model – did about 400 km/hour and was disappointing in a dogfight.
         R. J. Mitchell, who died in 1937, was filled with terror when he looked at the
panorama – looked at the new German 109 and the fast Ju 87 bomber.
         He designed the first Spitfire with 990 hp, the Rolls Royce PV12 engine and
EIGHT machine-guns on the wings, and the first one flew on March 5, 1936. The
Supermarine works got an order for 310 machines right away, and another 200 in 1937.
         Then they fitted the Rolls Royce Merlin III 585 mm/hour! Nothing could touch
it. The 109 models – 460 to 560 high depending on the model. giving 1030 hp. The last
Spitfire to leave the factory carried the number 20,334, and there were 21 generations of
ever-newer models.
         Every man, woman and child in England should have thanked God on their knees
every night for sending them R. T. Mitchell.
                                                     rep                            93

Monday, FEB, 1937

Alfonso Tuset is a pilot who can charm a bird out of a tree. Image my astonishment when
I find that for about three years he has been boxing champion for Spain, in his weight,
and also in Catalonia. He told me, ―I used to work for Aeronautica Naval, in Prat
aerodrome, outside Barcelona. I was flying seaplanes, but I made a lot of friends there,
including the crew of a Torpedo Boat, the T-17. Then I switched to land planes – ‖ He
explained, unnecessarily, ―That‘s planes with wheels.‖ Grinning, he went on, ―So
whenever I was in my fighter, flying patrols out at sea, to stop the Fascists flying in from
Mallorca and shooting up the coast, and shooting up cars and lorries traveling along the
coast, or close to it, if I saw the torpedo Boat, the T-17, I‘d make mock attacks, and dive
all around it. The crew knew me and they‘d wave, and I‘d wave back.
         ―So, a couple of days ago, I‘m out on patrol, about 25 kilometers from the coast,
when I see the T-17 lying alongside a merchant ship. I dive on them, but they‘re so busy,
they ignore me. I dive again, I fly over them at mast level, and they pull away from the
merchant ship, and still to busy to pay any attention to me, head out to sea. They must
have got warning of some ship or planes, so I fly out ahead of them for about 50
kilometers, can‘t see anything, and fly back to Barcelona.
         ―When I land, the Commandent comes running out, and cries, ‗You‘re re a hero!
         ―My jaw drops. I shake my head. I say reluctantly you‘ve got the wrong pilot.‘ I
begin to walk away, and he grabs my hand, shaking it furiously.
         You dived repeatedly on the Torpedo Boat!‘, he cried.
         ―They‘re friends of mine, the T-17, I told him.
         ―‗That was a German Torpedo Boat, which had captured the ship bringing vital
supplies to Barcelona. It was escorting the ship to Mallorca. Now it‘s steaming full speed
for Barcelona. Your fearless attacks made Germans flee.‘
         ―So, it dawned on me. ‗It was nothing, sir,‘ I said modestly. ‗Just doing my job.‘‖
                 ―The Commandent grinned at me, and patted me on the back. ―You
certainly did!‖
                                                       rep                             94

Feb. 9, 1937.

The insurgents have a new German bomber, the Heinkel – 111, which outperforms
anythings they had before. It flies at 370 km/h, the same as a Chato. The last few days,
they bombed us at Barajas and Alcalá de Henares. The first squadrom of the He-111 is
under Luis Rimbaud, born in Barcelona, who flew one of the few Nieuport 52s the rebels
had to cover the airbridge that carried Franco and his fascist troops from Marrocco to
The airbridge was organized by Rudolf von Moreau, born in Bavazia in 1910. He was an
Oberleutnant when he landed at Cádis, in 1936, in charge of ten aircrews sent by Hitler,
only about 18 days after the uprising. He goes to Seville, where he‘s told to organise the
first Junkers Ju-52 from Germany into an airlift between Tetuan and Seville, for Franco,
his troops and war supplies. Von Moreau organises three or four flights a day, the first
airlift in history.
          Then he has to turn two of the Ju-52s into bombers, to attack the Government
battleship, Jaime I, which was blockading the Gibralter Straits against the arrival of
German ships. On August 13, he attacks, the Ju-52s carrying six bombs each, and two
bombs hit the Jaime I. the battleship has to be towed to Cartagena.
          By last October, Von Moreau has airlifted 13,500 soldiers and 269 tons of
          A fascist general is holding the Alcázar de Toledo. An ―Alcázar‖ is a castle from
the time of the Moors. It‘s squarish, with high, thick walls, a wide courtyard, and around
the edges of the country ard, wide, tall underground galleries go down four stories deep.
Just days before the uprising, the disloyal general ordered five million rounds of
ammunition, which were delivered by pure routine.
          On August 20, Von Moreau tried to supply the Alcázar of Toledo by a night
flight, but he failed. Next day, he did the same, in full daylight, flying at treetop level in
through an incredible storm of bullets and dropped the supplies bang in the middle of the
courtyard! His plane was so full of bullet holes it wasn‘t true.
          Two months ago, he was ordered back to Germany i.e.
                                   rep                                95-96

        in December, to organise the Condor Legion, with four Heinkels and four
This infamous Condor Legion would later bomb Guernica, the unprotected town with the
sacred tree of the Basque Country, and the news would go round the world. Picasso
would paint his canvas, Guernica.
                            rep                                                96-A

February 17, 1937

Wow! Have just heard the Yanks are doing great. They‘ve given them some Chatos, and
the combination is devastating! US pilots Ben Leider, James Allison, Frank Tinker and
Whitney Evans, in a Squadron of eleven Chato biplanes took on 12 Junker Trimotors,
covered by 35 Heinkel bi-plane fighters, near Morata de Tajuna (new Madrid),
Yesterday. Leider‘s Squadron downed two Junkers. Another 24 Moscas waded in, and
shot down two more Junkers.
                                      rep                                           96-B

February 20, 1937

Yesterday, the Havas News Agency reported that an anti-aircraft shell hit Ben Leider‘s
plane and killed him instantly. He was flying low, on the Arganda front, (25 kms
southeast Tradiad). Ben is one of the US pilots.
On January 31, this year, he wrote a letter to his brother Will, and he showed it to me. He
told me, ―I‘m trying to explain how I feel about this war.‖ He let me copy parts of it
before he posted it:

Dear Will:

… Sometimes I am as much in the dark here about the progress of the fight as you are at
home. But I have seen tangible developments here in the direction of discipline, fighting
spirit, skill, etc., which is beginning to set the Spanish people apart from other
downtrodden peoples. And wherever I go––and I go places––I see evidence of deep-
rooted social changes taking place which cannot be accounted for merely by some
educational or propaganda program. Something is going on here which the people have
wanted for decades, and they are recognizing it as it happens! Once they get the idea, you
can‘t kill it with bullets. The presence of the International Brigades––a growing force
drawing its strength from those who are Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, English,
Austrians, Americans, etc., speak for the new line-up.
         Even after you make the necessary, realistic deductions, you can say of that force,
here is something which has happened for the first time in history.

My love to all.
P.S. Tell the folks you heard from me.
                              rep                                                   96-C

February 22, 1937

At a hotel bar in Madrid, I ran into a Yank correspondent called James Hawthorne. We
got talking and couldn‘t stop. And goodness, can he talk.
I told him I‘d been hearing impressive tales about the American pilots. He told me:
―They are understanding and sincere anti-fascists. They defend a cause that each
understands in his own way, but they all fight in the same way… That‘s what‘s
established Tinker, Jim Allison. Harold Dahl and Ben Leider of one Squadron and
Squadron Leader Albert Baumler of another, as vertiable pets of the air force from the
beginning. Professional skill reinforces their position. As human beings, they‘ve grown
close to the Spanish.
―You know, Dawn, On February tenth they learned to despise antiaircraft fire. It burst
around their Chatos while they protected bombers on two trips against Rebel powder
factories, and when they descended on the return trip, to strafe Rebel trenches. The
second day of action, the Rebel ground guns scored a direct hit—the first and only direct
hit the Americans had seen since they arrived—against a Loyalist plane, which burst into
tiny fragments. The ―American‖ squadron—only four were American, the rest Spanish—
accompanying the bombers on two trips over the Rebel lines, took revenge. They
encircled a fleet of Heinkels and drove them into a nest of Government Moscas which
shot down five of the Rebel fighters. The Rebels were mad and that night bombed the
Alcala (Henares) filed unsuccessfully. The following day the Yanks again protected the
bombers with their biplanes in raids on two railway stations where arms and ammunition
were accumulated. On the second trip they were boxed by antiaircraft fire, but, aside
from holes in Tinker‘s propeller, suffered no damage. Just for luck, the Moscas brought
down seven Heinkel. bidone fighters. ―On February thirteenth, Ben Leider got the first
American prize. The biplanes went up at a rocket signal to hunt the Fascists over Madrid.
The Moscas got four Heinkels again, and Ben got one. On the fourteenth, great
disappointment, the Fascists ran! It was not until the sixteenth that the Yanks were able to
engage the Italo-German fleet again. The Americans and their eleven biplanes arrived on
the Jarama front—this was on the day that the Lincoln Battalion entrained for the same
area—where they found twelve Junker trimotors, protected by thirty-five Heinkels. With
such an advantage, the Fascists were willing to fight, but the eleven biplanes paid no
attention to the fighters; they dived right into the bombers. They brought down two
Junkers and, when the Heinkels dived on them, they were joined in a flash by twenty-five
Moscas which got two of the Heinkels before the rest got away. The squadron was at
high pitch, gloating over the Rebel defeat on the Jarama, and anxious for trouble. But
they couldn‘t find it. On the Jarama the following day, with nine biplanes, they ran into
twenty-four Fiats, which turned tail and ran.
―On February eighteenth, however, they found trouble—and gave it back. Allison, Dahl,
Leider, and Tinker, flying in a squadron of eleven, ran into a fleet of Heinkels. There
were four or five down beneath them for bait and some eighty others high in the clouds—
these good divers always flew four or five thousand yards high. Once again, the Fascists,
thinking the squadron was alone, were willing to fight. The Americans dived for the low-
flying Heinkels and brought them all down. Ben got one, Allison another. As the Rebels‘
huge, hidden fleet zipped down on them from the clouds, twenty-eight Government
biplanes spiraled out

128                    THE HILLS OF JARAMA

to reinforce Leider and the others, while twenty-eight ripped into the enemy divers.
Allison was wounded twice in the right leg; Ben was hit in both legs. In the meantime,
seven Heinkels were shot down. Allison landed safely. Leider gritted his teeth and made
for the landing field. Tired, taut, he overshot the field and turned to try again. This time
he made it, but was so weak he couldn‘t hold out and came down hard. Luck was against
him. The plane was not completely smashed up, but his limp body had crashed against
the instrument board. First American sacrifice.
―Whitey Dahl had to bail out. Cool, calculating, he held the ripcord for three thousand
feet, until he felt he was safe from a cowardly shot in the air. When the parachute opened,
it was with a tremendous jerk that gave him a bellyache for a month but he landed safely,
and was in the air again the following day! In the air with Tinker to avenge Leider.‖
                                                     rep                           97

Monday, March, 1937
        Have been talking to Pedro Lino, a student pilot at Barcelona.
        He told me, ―A short time ago, six student pilots left San Javier aerodrome in an
Air Force car, excited beyond description because they‘d just received orders to present
themselves in Barcelona to begin flight training.
        ―One bloke was from Valencia, a Militiaman. Two were from Extremadura, from
the Assault Forces. Another was from Madrid, from a Naval Regiment. The fifth was
Galician, a Sergeant in the Civil Guard. We had all been fighting from the very 18th of
July, 1936.
        The first evening, we reached a village, where we passed the night. We got
together, got talking, and couldn‘t sleep. We had so many experiences – but we formed a
very deep bond in those few hours. That bond is still alive in my mind. We remembered
companions we had left behind, companions we had fought beside – we were pining for
days that had passed, filled with nostalgia, but we were all joined by our hopes for what
waited for us in Barcelona. We were crazy with excitement. What would the School be
like? When would we get back into the fight, in the cockpit of a plane? We tried to
imagine having a weapon of such enormous power put into our hands. How many other
companions would we be joining?
        Next day, we set off early on our great adventure. Suddenly, the driver slammed
on the brakes throwing us all forward. We were all dozing. A burst of machine gun fire
swept the roof of the car. The Galician shouted. ―A plane!‖ and jumped out. We all piled
out in a flash, and thanks to our battle experience, headed in different directions. Not a
single tree grew at the roadside – no stone walls, boulders nothing. All flat.
        It was a Fascist seaplane, which banked and came back as low as a hundred
meters, the machine gun raking the car, and then the Galician who lay about two meters
from the car, probably already dead.
        Then it fired bursts against the rest of us - we had found hollows and ditches.
        It came back on a third run, then headed out to sea.
        We didn‘t know it but we were only two kms from
                                                       rep                             98

Vinaroz (near Tortosa), and we saw two Moscas climbing hard out to sea, chasing it.
         Suddenly, the air was filled with cries and groans. The man from Madrid and
myself hadn‘t been hit. We carried the wounded to the car, and put in the body of the
Galician. We got the car going, and at the military post at the entry to Vinaroz, the
wounded went straight to hospital.
         The two from Extremadura were wounded in the legs, knees and ankles, and the
man from Valencia in the hip. The doctors warned us they could become cripples, but we
knew no more about them, because we two survivors had to drive on to Barcelona. We
sat in the car, full of heartbreak, grief, at the friends we had just lost, and thinking of how
they must feel with all their hopes of flying dashed.
         In Barcelona, they told us that the two Moscas had shot down the seaplane, and
the fascists had lost two Italian flyers.‖
         We sat sipping our wine.
         ―I know how you feel, ―I assured him.
         He nodded. ―I know,‖
                               rep                                                     99

10, March, 1937

José Gómez has been telling me about the Junkers – 52.
        It was built in 1932. for civilian transport, but they used it to ferry Franco and his
troops over from North Africa on the 20 of July last year, in the uprising.
        It has three engines, BMW Hornets, of 9 cylinders giving 575 hp each. It can do
245 km/hour, and carry 15 to 17 passengers. They‘ve turned it into a bomber.
        It has one low wing, all metal, the fuselage of corrugated duroaluminium. It has a
machine gun turret on top and another retractible turret in the belly.
Dawn Spencer has stapled in a sheet of paper, dated 1948:
The Germans used this bomber in the Second World War, building 4,835 units. It‘s one
of the world‘s best known planes, appearing in many films, and its silhouette was
unforgettable in the skies of Spain, France and Britain. This is the bomber that smashed

Thursday, 1937
Have been talking to Jaume Mata, an extraordinary Republican pilot, not out of his teens.
         I said to him wistfully, ―I wonder what it feels like to learn to fly. Imagine flying
your first solo.‖
         He grinned at me impishly.
         He said, ―A pilot told me this story the other day, so I‘ll repeat it, in the first
person as he did:
         ‗It was a lousy day, meteorologically, for Los Alcázares aerodrome, on the Mar
Menor, which enjoys a lot of good weather. Low cloud, drizzle and barely enough
visibility to see your own door knob a few yards away.
         ‗I‘d flown my first solo, and yesterday I did my solo route run. I felt proud of
myself, and couldn‘t wait to get my hands on the controls of a plane. I got my chance,
and invited a friend to come along.
         ‗You see, they‘d told me about this restaurante in Albacete, so I was looking for a
chance to fly to the aerodrome alongside, Los Llanos.
         ‗They had to fly a Potez to Los Llanos, so I offered to take it.
         ‗These bombers had the name of the Flying Coffin, but we weren‘t going into
action. It carried two pilots, a bomb-aimer, and three gunners, so with just the two of us,
we could relax. The pilots sat one behind the other to leave room for the bomb-aimer and
the pilot in front to go to and fro.
         ‗On our way to the hangars, my friend Pepe expressed some reservations about
our flight.
         ‗Don‘t you worry about a thing, I told him. We were on our way to enjoy some
delicious manchego lamb chops, I said, and they were not easy to find in wartime.
         ‗While we approached the hangar, the drizzle turned to a downpour.
         ‗The Traffic Officer was surprised to se_e me.
―You‘ve only flown single-engined planes,‖ he worried.
         ―An engine more or less,‖ I assured him. ―No problem.‖
         ‗Checking up on the plane, I saw that the tail wheel was missing, but it had two
wheels up front, so what.
         ‗The Traffic Officer passed it.
         ‗While I was looking for the controls to start the engines, another Officer ran over
to tell me that there were heavy storms over Los Llanos aerodrome, and to watch out.
                                      rep                                           101

I told him that storms didn‘t frighten me.
        ‗The takeoff was normal, except we ran out of runway and only just got off the
ground (later, I found out that we had taken off with the wind behind us and I hadn‘t
taken off the parking brakes.)
‗At about 200 metres we plunged into dark clouds, which was a real nuisance because I
know my friend Pepe would have loved to see the view. But the air was pretty still, and
except for the ice that quickly covered the windscreen, there was nothing of note.
        ‗With only six hours flying in my log book, I found I could handle the plane very
smoothly indeed. Sometimes, objects left my pockets and hit the roof, but Pepe didn‘t
notice. I kept glancing back, but the seemed frozen in his seat. I suppose the height we
were flying at affected him, because he had a stupid, white expression on his face This of
the height affects a lot of people who aren‘t pilots.
        ‗As we were flying at 250 km/hr, I expected to get there in some 35 minutes, but
after an hour I began to worry that I couldn‘t see anything. In this thick cloud, I wouldn‘t
be able to see the other planes around the aerodrome, so I hoped that they‘d have as much
common sense as myself and keep a sharp eye out.
        ‗I decided I‘d have to go down low, and entered a shallow dive. Just then, the
engine stopped.
        ‗At last Pepe spoke for the first time since we had left. He gave a sort of squawk.
        ‗I told him that we had nothing to worry about, because we had another engine
that we hadn‘t even used up to then. I managed to get the port engine started, and I think
Pepe felt much better, although he looked cataleptic, but it could have been he was
simply dozing.
        ‗Quickly, I could see the ground, although it was dark under the clouds, but
thanks to lightning bolts close, By I could more or less make out where we were going. I
reached a road, and remembered that a road ran close by the aerodrome, so I decided to
follow it.
        ‗It was hard to read the road signs and the names, so I had to fly really low.
        ―I saw several cars leave the road, and that does go to prove the truth of the old
                                                     rep                            102

adage that flying is much safer than driving a car. In a question of minutes I must have
seen a dozen accidents, and I‘ll bet no one had begun drinking yet, at that hour of the day.
        ‗So, following up one road and another, we finally found the aerodrome. I had to
make several sweeps to make sure it was the right place, and made some tight turns
around the control tower, till I could read the name properly. I didn‘t want to land in the
wrong place, and make everybody realize I was just a pupil. Besides, I wasn‘t going to
lose those lamb chops.
        ‗They‘re really hospitable at Los Llanos aerodrome. They received me with joy,
sending up flares in every direction, of every colour. Through the windows, I saw
everyone running out of the control tower, and they piled out the ground floor door,
falling over each other, To greet me. A feeling of warm companionship filled me towards
those man who were gripped by an emotion as strong as my own.
        ‗On the ground, I found everyone extremely excited. They had never seen a Potez,
apparently. Pepe had to be carried out of the plane, and I needed help to get him to
Albacete, to the restaurant.
        ‗When he did get his eyes open, he croaked something about not liking to fly.
        ‗I learnt a lot from that flight.
        The famous manchego lamb chops of Albacete aren‘t worth a damn!‘
        Jaime Mata said to me, ―So you see, it‘s quite an experience learning to fly.
Down, when do you want to begin?‖
                                    rep                                         103

18, April, 1937

Last night, I dreamed that we couldn‘t stop Franco, and Spain fell under his black
incubus. Hitler then plunged on to create his Reich from the North Sea to the Strait of
Malacca and the Flores Sea, but was blocked by Burma. But in my dream, Hitler was
mad. He conquered Africa instead, and then disembarked in the Antarctica, where his
armies perished in the snow and ice. Woke up covered in perspiration.
        This morning I was talking to Juan Comas, solid and round-faced, with a wide
        ―What on earth happened yesterday?‖ I asked him.
        We were at Sarrión aerodrome, south-east of Teruel.
        ―Fifteen Chatos took off,‖ he said with relish. ―I was flying with Santamaria.
There were three Russians, Kosakov, Victor and León, and two North Americans, Tinker
and Baumler. The rest of us were Spanish. After we flew over Port Escandón (15 kms
south east of Teruel) we met up with three Squadrons of Heinkel 51s fighters, flying in
two echelons, one at 4,000 meters and the other at 5,000 meters. We Chatos were in the
middle, like cheese in a sandwich. Our adversaries numbered 17, but only 6 of them
fought. The other 11 didn‘t, don‘t ask me why. They certainly knew that a big fight was
going on, a few hundred meters below them. One of the pilots with beautiful nobility
dived to help his companions, but the rest sailed on.
        ―We flew in the classic formation – three Vs (9 planes) forming the head of a
spear. As we were 15 planes, I was flying in one of two Vs only. The V to my left held
the three Russians.
        ―Kosakov‘s V dived gently to attack the Heinkels, and they separated a bit.
Suddenly – a Chato and a Heinkel collided in middair! Both fell blazing to earth. The
Chato was piloted by sergeant Chavo. I was about 30 meters away and saw the whole
thing close up – my mind reeled. Locked together, the two planes went down so slowly, it
was as though an invisible rope held them.
        ―Then the combat became a melee. We broke up the Heinkels‘ formation
completely, and each Heinkel fought on its own.
        ―I attacked the nearest enemy, a couple of bursts,
                                    rep                                        96-A

February 17, 1937

Wow! Have just heard the Yanks are doing great. They‘ve given them some Chatos, and
the combination is devastating! US pilots Ben Leider, James Allison, Frank Tinker and
Whitney Evans, in a Squadron of eleven Chatos biplanes took on 12 Junker Trimotors,
covered by 35 Heinkel bi-plane fighters, near Morata de Tajuña (near Madrid).
Yesterday. Leider‘s Squadron downed two Junkers. Another 24 Moscas waded in, and
shot down two more Junkers.
                                      rep                                            96-B

February 20, 1937

Yesterday, the Havas News Agency reported that an anti-aircraft shell hit Ben Leider‘s
plane and killed him instantly. He was flying low, on the Arganda front (25 kms
southeast Tradrid). Ben is one of the US pilots.
On January 31, this year, he wrote a letter to his brother Will, and he showed it to me. He
told me, ―I‘m trying to explain hot I feel about this war.‖ He let me copy parts of it before
he posted it:

Dear Will:

. . . Sometimes I am as much in the dark here about the progress of the fight as you are at
home. But I have seen tangible developments here in the direction of discipline, fighting
spirit, skill, etc., which is beginning to set the Spanish people apart from other
downtrodden peoples. And wherever I go—and I go places––I see evidence of deep-
rooted social changes taking place which cannot be accounted for merely by some
educational or propaganda program.
         Something is going on here which the people have wanted for decades, and they
are recognizing it as it happens! Once they get the idea, you can‘t kill it with bullets. The
presence of the International Brigades—a growing force drawing its strength from those
who are Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, English, Austrians, Americans, etc., speak for the
new line-up.
         Even after you make the necessary, realistic deductions, you can say of that force,
here is something which has happened for the first time in history…

My love to all.
P.S. Tell the folks you heard from me.
                                      rep                                           96-C

February 22, 1937

At a hotel bar in Madrid, I ran into a Yank correspondent called James Hawthorne. We
got talking and couldn‘t stop. And goodness, can he talk.
I told him I‘d been hearing impressive tales about the American pilots. He told me:
―They are understanding and sincere anti-fascists. They defend a cause that each
understands in his own way, but they all fight in the same way… That‘s what‘s
established Tinker, Jim Allison. Harold Dahl and Ben Leider of one Squadron and
Squadron Leader Albert Baumler of another, as veritable pets of the air force from the
beginning. Professional skill reinforces their position. As human beings, they‘ve grown
close to the Spanish.
―You know, Dawn, on February tenth they learned to despise antiaircraft fire. It burst
around their Chatos while they protected bombers on two trips against Rebel powder
factories, and when they descended on the return trip, to strafe Rebel trenches. The
second day of action, The Rebel ground guns scored a direct hit—the first and only direct
hit the Americans had seen since they arrived—against a Loyalist plane, which burst into
tiny fragments. The ―American‖ squadron—only four were American, the rest Spanish—
accompanying the bombers on two trips over the Rebel lines, took revenge. They
encircled a fleet of Heinkels and drove them into a nest of Government Moscas which
shot down five of the Rebel fighters. The Rebels were mad and that night bombed the
Alcala (Henares) filed unsuccessfully. The following day the Yanks again protected the
bombers with their biplanes in raids on two railway stations where arms and ammunition
were accumulated. On the second trip they were boxed by antiaircraft fire, but, aside
from holes in Tinker‘s propeller, suffered no damage. Just for luck, the Moscas brought
down seven Heinkel biplane fighters. ―On February thirteenth, Ben Leider got the first
American prize. The biplanes went up at a rocket signal to hunt the Fascists over Madrid.
The Moscas got four Heinkels again, and Ben got one. On the fourteenth, great
disappointment, the Fascists ran! It was not until the sixteenth that the Yanks were able to
engage the Italo–German fleet again. The Americans and their eleven biplanes arrived on
the Jarama front—this was on the day that the Lincoln Battalion entrained for the same
area—where they found twelve Junker trimotors, protected by thirty-five Heinkels. With
such an advantage, the Fascists were willing to fight, but the eleven biplanes paid no
attention to the fighters; they dived right into the bombers. They brought down two
Junkers and, when the Heinkels dived on them, they were joined in a flash by twenty-five
Moscas which got two of the Heinkels before the rest got away. The squadron was at
high pitch, gloating over the Rebel defeat on the Jarama, and anxious for trouble. But
they couldn‘t find it. On the Jarama the following day, with nine biplanes, they ran into
twenty-four Fiats, which turned tail and ran.
―On February eighteenth, however, they found trouble—and gave it back. Allison, Dahl,
Leider, and Tinker, flying in a squadron of eleven, ran into a fleet of Heinkels. There
were four or five down beneath them for bait and some eighty others high in the clouds—
these good divers always flew four or five thousand yards high. Once again, the Fascists,
thinking the squadron was alone, were willing to fight. The Americans dived for the low-
flying Heinkels and brought them all down. Ben got one, Allison another. As the Rebels‘
huge, hidden fleet zipped down on them from the clouds, twenty-eight Government
biplanes spiraled out

128                   THE HILLS OF JARAMA

to reinforce Leider and the others, while twenty-eight ripped into the enemy divers.
Allison was wounded twice in the right leg; Ben was hit in both legs. In the meantime,
seven Heinkels were shot down. Allison landed safely. Leider gritted his teeth and made
for landing field. Tired, taut, he overshot the field and turned to try again. This time he
made it, but was so weak he couldn‘t hold out and came down hard. Luck was against
him. The plane was not completely smashed up, but his limp body had crashed against
the instrument board. First American sacrifice.
―Whitey Dahl had to bail out. Cool, calculating, he held the ripcord for three thousand
feet, until he felt he was safe from a cowardly shot in the air. When the parachute opened,
it was with a tremendous jerk that gave him a bellyache for a month but he landed safely,
and was in the air again the following day! In the air with Tinker to avenge Leider.‖
                                      rep                                           104

stopping his engine, the propeller barely turning. As the pilot was defenseless I didn‘t
want to kill him – my sense of dignity goes against that. I saw the pilot looking at me,
trying to read my thoughts, and not being sure about me, fell in a slow spin to make sure I
knew he was out of it. I slowed down and flew alongside, protecting him to inside his
lines, where he landed violently and turned over.
        ―I flew some turns over the plane on the ground, and saw the pilot didn‘t come
out. Probably thought I‘d gun him if he did, which I had no intention of doing. I flew
back to the base here, hugging the tree tops, which was just as well, because the Heinkel
fighters flying back to their base flew over me.
        ―This morning, on the wireless, the fascists admit to losing two planes, and claim
they shot down seven of ours. We lost one Chato only – the Chato that collided.‖
        ―The Army is very upset about something that happened the other day,‖ I
        ―That was us,‖ he admitted. ―The 13th of April, to he exact. The Air Command
made us fly from Castjón del Puente (45 kms east of Huesca) to here, to make us
‗disappear‘ from Army eyes.
        ―On the front in the north, the situation was desperate. They were depending
Santa Quiteria on the Bilbao front – an absolutely key position. The rebels had much
more infantry than we did, and three squadrons of Heinkels 51 were machine-gunning
them (27 planes) without the slightest opposition.
        ―Back at Castejón aerodrome, we had orders to take off and fly urgent support for
our troops. They fired the first green rocket for us to start our engines. We waited for the
second red rocket to take off. The first Chato rolled, half lifted off the ground, when its
engine made a racket, a small fire began, and it landed. The second Chato - exactly the
same thing happened! And the third!
        ―Kosakov immediately gave the order that no more planes were to take off, and
all engines had to be checked.
        The mechanics went over all the engines with a fine-toothed comb, and found
nothing – and we lost the time needed to sweep the Heinkels out of the sky above Santa
Quiteria. But they did find one thing – something I‘ve never heard of in my life. You
neither, I bet. Listen – ‗metal fatigue‘.
                                      rep                                           105

I‘m not even sure what it means.‖
        ―For want of a nail, a horse was lost. For want to a horse, a battle was lost.‖
        Comas said, ―That‘s what happened exactly. The Heinkel 51 can‘t stand up to a
Chato - no way. And our Chatos couldn‘t get off the ground. To avoid friction with the
Army, the Air Command made us ‗vanish‘ – and here we are in Sarrión. ‗Metal

The Heinkel 11 went back to the late 1920‘s.
In 1933, the Reich Ministry of the air called for values and design in a modern fighter.
Heinkel submitted the Heinkel 112
The Bayerischin Flugzengwiske submitted the BF 109 by Willy Menerschmitt, which
                                      rep                                           105 A

19, April, 1937

Today, talking to Frank G. Tinker, American pilot from Dewitt, Arkansas.
        I asked him, ―Do you have a problem being American and having a government
that doesn‘t give a damn about Franco and Hitler. You‘re out of Annapolis, were in the
US Army –‖
        He grinned at me. ―I can see the way you‘re mind is working, lady. And this
coming from a good Aussie democrat! Hey, we‘re democrats too, remember.‖
        I looked at him doubtfully, nonplussed.
        I‘m going to come clean with you, Dawn. When this war started, I wasn‘t sure
what side I belonged to. That rebel defense of the Alcazar in Toledo – that really got to
me, and, well, I inclined to the insurgents. But after the aerial bombing of Madrid – that
swung me right over to the Government. Bombing a city full of civilians! What
democratic government would do that? We Americans believe in independence and the
only way people can enjoy independent lives is under democracy. Under dictatorship –
under Franco or Hitler or Mussolini, no one‘s life will be their own. And that‘s what this
war is about.‖
        I said to him, ―I heard about a big fight you were in a couple of days ago, here on
the Teruel front.‖
        ―You really interested in all this stuff, Dawn?‖
        ―Every word of it!‖
        ―Well‖, he said, ―It was like this: The 17th of April turned out to be our big day
on the Teruel front. This was the most evenly matched combat we had been in up until
that time; there were twenty one enemy fighters and eighteen of us—three six plane
squadrons. Their plane were new Heinkels, 1936 model, while ours were Chatos.
―This fight was so interesting that I will give a straight description of it from start to
―It was a nice, warm, sunny day, without a could in the sky, and most of us were
                                      rep                                            105-B

                               AMERICANS IN SPAIN                                    129

lying in the shade of our plane wings. All at once I heard a pair of dull, thudding reports,
and as I jumped up I saw two red flares soaring up from the field house––our emergency
signal! Getting into my parachute, clambering into my plane and starting my motor was
only a matter of seconds. A few more seconds and my wing-men, Justo and Magrinan
(Spanish) were likewise all set, and off we went. I circled the field once, to give the third
patrol a chance to tail on, and then started climbing. Jimenez‘s plane had a broken gas-
line, so the first patrol never even left the ground. Thus I had only six planes to work
with.‖ Tinker in this case was squadron leader. Dispencer).
―I hadn‘t the slightest idea what the emergency might be, but I lined out for Teruel
climbing all the time. We arrived over Teruel at an altitude of about 13,000 feet, and
saw––nothing. However, upon going past the city a mile or two, I spotted one of our
Katiuska bombers coming toward us from the opposite direction. And it was coming!
You could see that it was being urged along by both straining motors and the will power
of its occupants. Smoke was coming from each motor, and the plane was in a slight dive;
it was all we could do to catch up with the thing.
―Putting all these indications together, I came to the conclusion that the Katiuska had run
into something that its crew didn‘t approve of, and that they might feel better with a
squadron of fighting planes to help them across the lines. I therefore reversed our course
and started to fly the usual protection over the Katiuska‘s tail. Then, as we came back
past Teruel, I saw the enemy. They were away off to our right––in three echelons of
seven planes each. Their lowest echelons was at 10,000; their highest at 13,000. Their
third echelon was almost exactly half way between the other two.
―At the same time I saw the enemy planes I saw a patrol of our own planes closing in on
the lowest of the enemy echelons. Other patrols of ours were coming in from behind,
heading for the middle echelon. By that time our Katiuska was safely across the lines, so
I made a right turn and headed for the third and highest of the enemy echelons. As we
swung around the turn I put my planes into battle formation and went into a slight dive by
way of picking up extra speed, I don‘t think the enemy even saw my outfit at all until it
was too late to do anything about it.
        I was about two-thirds of a mile away when our first patrol went into action
against the first enemy echelon. There was a fierce scramble for a few seconds, then two
of the Heinkel BIPLANE FIGHTERS came wavering out of the mixture. They
immediately went into their final spins and splattered against the terrain a couple of miles
below. Then one of our planes came wavering out, caught itself for a moment, came
around and up in a sharp left chandelle, and collided head-on with an enemy plane.
                                                                             REP 105-C

130                            THE HILLS OF JARAMA

Even in the bright sunlight the explosion was blinding in its intensity. Then there was
nothing to be seen of the two except a few large objects dropping earthward.
―At this point the three of our patrols coming up from the south went into action against
the second––and what remained of the first––of the enemy echelons. This left only their
third echelon to contend with, so I took my crew over and closed in with them.
         ―After that, things were happening too fast even to see what was going on in our
own private little dogfight. Most of our physical movements were being made
automatically, and our mental decisions and observations were being made––and
forgotten––on the spur of the moment. My entire picture of that phase of the battle was
framed in the glass of my machine-gun sight. Here, however, are a few of the impressions
I jotted down immediately after we landed:
         ―Our entering charge breaks up the precise, military echelon of the enemy planes.
I waggle my wings––our break-up signal––and we close in on individual planes. There is
a mad whirl of planes going round and round. Planes start sliding across my sight––at
first only greenish ones with black emblems––each getting a burst of machine-gun fire;
and then, as the affair becomes more intimate, planes of both sides slide across so that
caution becomes necessary to keep from firing on one‘s own planes. We have to be
careful not to bank too violently or we ―black out‖; that is, the centrifugal force draws the
blood away from our heads and sight out completely in a dogfight is almost certain death.
         ―I see a green plane turning in toward me, and I automatically pull over to meet it.
I get in line first, and open fire, steadily this time. Although my adversary never succeeds
in getting in line, I see his machine-guns winking away and his tracers dripping blobs of
smoke––as I suppose he sees mine––but he is just a trifle too late.
         ―Metal starts flying from the left side of his motor, followed by water and black
smoke. Then a line of fabric tatters works down the sleek side of the plane. As he goes
past, his plane is in a sort of sliding roll and is already headed for the ground, leaving a
long, thin trail of the unmistakable greasy-black smoke. No need to bother about him
any-more! We are still tangled up with a few Heinkel FIGHTERS, so once more I start
handling out short bursts, first here and then there. I get behind one of the Heinkels and
am just getting lined out of the corner of my eye, I see the familiar tracer streaks off to
the right and pull around in a violent vertical bank to the left. A close call! The Heinkel
either can‘t follow or doesn‘t care to, and continues on down in his dive.
         ―I look around and note with relief that all my men are still intact and doing well.
The Heinkels have got tired of playing, and are diving for ground as fast as they can get
clear. They can outdive us, but we follow and fire until they get out of range.
         ―At this point more or less coherent thought started again. I saw that we had
plenty of men below, so I pulled up and organized my formations again at 5,000 feet.
                                                                             REP 105-D

                               AMERICANS IN SPAIN                                    131

There was no need of it, though, as the only enemy planes in sight were two who were
cornered in a little valley below by about five of Kosakov‘s men. These two were
polished off as I watched––they didn‘t have chance. The valley had sides that were just
high enough to eliminate any chance of the two unfortunate Heinkles being able to climb
out, and our planes could outclimb them; so all they could do was to fly around in the
little valley until they were shot down. You can‘t even surrender in an airplane; your
opponent wouldn‘t know whether you were joking or not.
         ―We flew around for awhile … then went back to the field and awaited reports
from our front-line ground observation posts. And what reports we received! There were
five of the Heinkels down on our side of the lines and three more had been seen to crash
on their side. Our loss was only one plane, and that was the one collided at the start of the
         ―That collision should become one of the epics of aerial warfare. Enough of the
remains of the two planes and pilots fell to the ground for the medical authorities to be
able to determine that the enemy pilot had been squadron commander, and that our own
pilot––a young Spaniard names Calvo––had been shot through the neck, his jugular vein
being severed. His maneuvers prior to the collision showed very plainly what had
happened. The bullet through his neck had momentarily dazed him; that was when the
plane was wavering and falling. Then he recovered his faculties and, upon seeing that his
end was near––because even if he had put his plane into a full power-dive he would bled
to death before reaching the ground––he deliberately pulled up and rammed the enemy
plane before passing out altogether. A really heroic gesture.‖
         [He srinned at me.
         [―You take some pretty fast shorthand‖, he said
         (―And you fly breath fast blames‖, I quipped

       January, 1940
       Dawn Spencer writes Last year the Umled
                                       REP   105-E

                                      rep                                          106

April 23, 1937

        The brothers Günther designed the Heinkel He. 111, and they gave the plans to
Karl Scwärzler, who began building it in the first weeks of 1934.
        The original idea was to build a transport plane for Lufthansa, and the first
commercial prototype flew in February, 1935, with two BMW engines of 660 hp, 12
cylinders each, in v.
        At the end of 1935, they flew a third, military prototype, using Daimler Benz 12-
cylinder engines putting out 80 hp.
        The military plane was completely, of metal, with a low, single wing, very
aerodynamic, with retractible landing-wheels. The nose carried a bomb-aimer‘s cabin,
covered in transparent plastic, with wide visibility. He had a machine-gun.
        On top of the plane, behind the pilot, a turret carried another machine-gunner, and
underneath, in the belly, another gunner sat in a retractible gondola. This gondola was
raised in flight – unless the plane was attacked – because of severe air drag. The belly-
gunner was also the radioman.
        The He. 111 could carry one and half tons of bombs.
        30 bombers reached Spain last February, with all their German crews, mechanics
and armourers. They joined the Condor Legion, and their baptism of fire was on March 9,
when they bombed our aerodromes at Barajas and Al_calá de Henares (Madrid).
        Now another 45 have come, with Jumo 211-c engines of 990 hp. These carry
TWO tons of bombs.
        The first lot of bombers fly at 400 kms/hour, and the latest once at 430 kms/hour.
The first ones can fly for 1,500 kms, and the second lot, 3,500 kms.
Dawn Spencer has written in a note, dated 1947:
        Millions of Frenchmen and Englishmen would shelter from this plane.
                                       REP                                            107

27, April, 1937

Today I have sent the most frightening cable of my life.
        Yesterday, I heard rumors of a terrible bombing in the north of Spain, I have
talked to Sulo Huhtala of the Canadian Mackenzie-Papimeau Battalion of the
International Brigades.
        He tells me the place is a small fishing town which is the ‗spiritual capital‘ of the
Basques. It‘s got some sort of historical tree in he middle of the main square, and it‘s one
of the ‗cradles‘ of Iberian civilization.
        It‘s a bit to the north of Bilbao, and usually has 5,000 inhabitants. Refugees have
pushed that number up to 7,000 and it seems that 3,000 rear echelon troops were there,
although no one knew about them, least of all the Germans.
        What I‘ve put in my cable is that 43 – yes! 43 – German bombers of the Condor
Legion bombed it to bits and killed 3,000 people. Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen
ordered the attack.
                 Forty-three bombers on a civilian target! This is something new, too
horrible to think of.

               The Germans bombed London in the Great War, with Zeppelins. What
will they do when they go to war against France and Britain, because most surely they
will? What new horror looms over mankind?
               That little town they bombed is called Guernica.
                                                                              rep     108

Thursday, April, 1937

I have a hard time, finding out about the Katyuska bomber, the most advanced in the
world today. I‘m never at home with all this technical stuff, but even so, it‘s fascinating.
This bomber is the ANT 39 – SB 1. SB means – take a deep breath – SKOROSTNOI
BOMBARDIROVSHCIK, which as everybody knows, (except myself) means, ―very fast
The plane is beautifully designed, a thing of the future in its lines, not of all like today‘s
planes. It was designed in 1933, in Russia, and first flew on October 7, 1934. In July,
1936, the Russians put it into mass-production, and it went into the Russian Air Force
in the first months of 1936.
         The Russians sent it to the Loyal Spanish Government, a truly revolutionary new
         The designer was A.A. Arkhangelski (A.A. Archangel?), who worked in the
design offices of Andrei Tupolev. The first plans to get approval were called ANT-40,
and from those plans sprang two-engined fighters, the ANT-21 and ANT-39, and from
this second came the Katiuska bomber, the ANT-39 SB.
         But the Republican government is woefully short of planes, so it can‘t use them
for what they are really meant for – strategic bombing, deep in the fascist rearguard. They
tell me that they are flying at lower altitudes, attacking the fronts, where they run an
enormous risk of being shot down.
(Here, Dawn Spencer had handwritten in a note: ‗See my Commentary attached.‖)
Dawn Spencer stapled in a sheet, which reads ―Commentary on Bombing,‖ January,
She writes: The idea of ‗strategic‘ bombing filled the military mind up to the end of the
Second World War. What are strategic objectives? The British and Americans lost about
20,000 aircrew, ‗strategically‘ bombing Germany, which in practice meant sending those
young men to a certain death while trying to kill German civilians and blow their houses
to smithereens. The saturation bombing so enraged the ordinary German that they worked
24-hour shifts, instead of eight hours as before. German fighter plane production went
                                              rep                                    109

from some 5,000 planes a year to 44,000 in the last 12 months of the war before the
German surrender – this in the middle of ferocious bombing. Tank and gun production
broke all records.
          Then the British sent in the wooden Mosquito fighter-bomber, which hit railway
marshalling years and synthetic oil plants only – and in a few months halved the German
war effort. This with hardly any loss of aircrew. While years of saturation, ‗strategic‘
bombing, with the loss of 20,000 young men, multiplied the German war effort out of
          In a future war, could ‗strategic‘ bombing bring a country to its knees? It depends
on what they decide is strategic. Because now, no one seems to know.
          I‘m not talking about a massive nuclear attack, which would wipe out all major
cities and half the population. Now, that is what I would call strategic!
          Like all bombers, the Katiuska in the Spanish Civil War had to ‗line up straight‘
in its flight to drop its bombs.
          A sitting target for enemy fighters, and above all, for anti-aircraft ‗flak‘ …
          That is how 20,000 aircrew got killed over Germany. A large part of them were
hit, ‗lining up‘ for dropping their bombs.
The text of March, 1937, now continues.
          It seems to me that unless you have a bomber like the Katyuska flying at 9,000
meters, you are finally going to lose the plane and the crew.
          For raiding the front lines, you need a very large fighter, carrying bombs, which
dives to aim its bombs. A fighter can defend itself against other fighters.
          I have heard that the Germans are building a dive-bomber, called the Stuka, or the
Sturz – I don‘t know – but that will not solve anything. If it can‘t dogfight with the best
fighters, its life will be short.
          But coming back to this fantastic new bomber, the Katiuska. It has only one wing,
two engines. The centre of the wing goes through the middle of the fuselage and carries
the engines, has a housing to pull the wheels up into. contains two petrol tanks of 390
litres each. The two outside parts of the wings are fitted to this, and they carry the
                                      rep                                           110

ailerons and trimming flaps. The centre of the wing holds the landing flaps.
         Now, this bomber has three separate cabins, but all joined together. Up in the
nose, covered with armoured glass, you have the bomb-aimer and machine-gunner.
Behind him, is the pilot, and behind the pilot, the ___________ observer-machine-
gunner. This last member of the crew can pull back his canopy and look out in the open
         The three men keep in touch by telephone and by lights. Green light- turn right.
Red light- turn lift. White light- straight ahead.
         The man in the nose navigates – using two compasses and, I suspect, a lot of
intuition, depending on what he can see on the ground. For aiming the bombs, he has a
sort of vertical telescope, on a swivel, and looking through, he sees a circle with a cross
in the middle to centre his aim.
Dawn Spencer has written in by hand ‗see my commentary on bomb-aiming‘.
She has stapled in a sheet, with the heading ‗Commentary, Bomb-aiming. September,
She writes: When the Republican aviator, Rafael Ballester, was short down near the La
Cenia aerodrome – just inland from San Carlos de la Rapita, which is about 30 kms north
of Benicarlo, before he jumped out of the plane, he threw out the ‗telescope-aimier‘ into
the air, then took to his parachute. This was near the end of the war, when the fascists had
almost reached the Mediterranean. The Condor Legion took him prisoner, and they first
thing they asked him was what had he done with the bomb-aimer.
         This was not the best bomb-aimer the Russians had – pilots and aircrew who
trained in Russia used a much more modern one.
         But the world‘s greatest bomb-aimer was the U.S. Norden bombsight. The Yanks
would not give it even to the British. The British, later, developed a superior radar
bombsight. But the Nazis wanted the Norden bombsight, and the Tanks knew it. They
guarded it jealously, but working in the Norden factory, was an engineer of German
descent, a secret Nazi. He made
                              rep                                                  111

photos of all the plans.
        A German luxury liner plied between Germany and New York, arriving back in
New York every twenty days. A German steward on board always came shore and over
the years was known to all the customs, immigration and police officers on the docks.
        One day, he came down the gangway, limping. Instead of a cane, he carried a
rolled up umbrella. He went back and forth several times, getting painfully up and down
the gangway, leaning on his umbrella.
        Everytime he went up the gangway, the Norden bombsight photos were rolled up
inside THAT umbrella.
        In the last days of the war, the American Army knew were near a crack German
bombsight factory. An armoured column raced to capture it – and its advanced secret
        The U.S. experts were unbelieving. It was mass-producing the Norden bombsight.
Dawn Spencer‘s entry for March, 1937, continues:
The Katiuska had two machine guns in the nose, with 4,000 cartridges. The bomb-aimer
had one machine gun affixed to an electrically mounted seat. He had a second machine-
gun pointing downwards, which covered the belly of the plane.
        The pilot‘s seat had a backing or armour plate, up to the height of his head.
        The observer behind the pilot was the sentry for the plane and for the Squadron.
Everyone‘s life depended on his sharp eye and intuition. He got no rest – he had to watch,
every second.
        Most of the Katiuskas have superchargers in their engines, to fly above 6,000
meters. At those heights, the crew use oxygen masks, which work off an altimeter, and
electric heating, which works off a battery of 24 volts.
        Moscas fly over for the Katiuskas, and the fighters have put in superchargers too,
to get to the same heights as the bombers.
        The bomber has engines of 12 V-cylinders, each of 860 hp. They are water-cooled
with frontal-radiators. There is double-ignition with two high-tension magnetos. It carries
                                      rep                                            112

an air compressor for the engines at great altitudes. Each two cylinders have their own
carburator. A colourless liquid called Etilengicol is added to the radiator water, to stop it
from Freezing at great heights.
The Russians built the plane with two more petrol tanks in the centre, bringing the
capacity up to 1,500 liters. These petrol tanks were made of duroaluminium, and as with
the Moscas, lined with rubber.
        You have two ways to start up the engines. One is with compressed air, carried on
board. The other – a truck with a metal scaffolding in front, drives/up to the propellers.
The scaffolding carries a long metal arm, the end of which fits onto the hub of the
propeller. The truck engine spins the rod, which spins the propeller, and so cranks the
plane engine.
        The bomber is about 12 and half meters long, the propeller about four meters in
length. Top speed is 430 km/hour. It lands and takes off at 120 km/hour. Only a Mosca
can outfly it. It can fly 1,200 km without refueling, and its very top ceiling is 11,300
        On landing, the wheel brakes are worked from the tank of compressed air.
        Amazing, unbelievable technology.
Dawn Spencer, has stapled another sheet onto this entry:
September, 1951
The Republican Air Force got 93 of these bombers. Eighteen were left at the end of the
Civil War, and they were in service with Franco‘s Fascists until 1948 – at Los Llanos
aerodrome, just south of Albacete.
        The Russians manufactured 6,666 units, of which 200 were dive bombers, with
smaller wings, named SB-RK. In 1937, the Russians were making 13 of these planes a
When the Messerschmitt-109 arrived in Spain, they would climb above the Katiuskas and
pick up speed by diving on them.
                                     rep                                           113

28, June, 1937

         Some 30 young pilots have come back from training in France. Yesterday, they
were practicing dog-fighting with Nieuports and a pilot with not many hours in his log
book went into the Mar Menor and was killed.
         We are at La Ribera (Murcia), and I talked to José Torrecillas.
         ―What happened was the sea was dead still and like glass. The pilot who got
killed was Fernando Soriano. He was on the tail of his ‗opponent‘, and didn‘t want to let
go. He couldn‘t see the surface of the sea properly – he thought he still had air-room.‖
         I looked at him miserably.
         Then, I pulled myself together, and asked, ―You‘re all back from France, from
Pilots‘ School there. What was it like?‖
         ―That‘s a long story,‖ he warned. ―But an enjoyable one.‖
         ―I like long stories,‖ I told him.
         ―Let‘s go to the Canteen,‖ he offered.
         As we walked across, he said, ―First French girls, and now Australian. There‘s no
life like that of a pilot.‖
         When we were settled down, he said,‖ Last year, in December, at this very
aerodrome, we passed selection for pilot instruction in France. There were 30 of us, or
31, and we each had a smattering at least of French. Most of us were students, save three
sergeants – most were 18, although Salvador Tortajada was 17. He said his records had
been destroyed, in his village, and he gave a false birth date.
         ―Before we left, they gave us a princely 160 duros! (800 pts) for our equipment,
and so we‘d make a good impression on the French. You know Spanish saying?‖
         I shook my head.
         ―‗The habit makes the monk‘.‖
         I laughed. ―That‘s a good in.‖
         He went on, ―So after leaving La Ribera, we stopped in Valencia to buy our stuff,
and then went on to Barcelona to collect our passports. From there, to Port Bou and
Cerbere, to catch the Paris Express.
                                      rep                                           114

         ―We waited in Cerbere while our Group Leader went up to Perpignan to collect
money for us. Meanwhile, we had to manage as best we could till he came back. I
changed my pesetas into francs, and had only enough to buy a long loaf of French bread,
a tin of sardines and a packet of Gitane cigarettes. But when I opened the tin of sardines –
ugh! What a smell! They were in peanut oil. When I was boy, sometimes they purged me
with castor oil, and the peanut oil reminded me of that so much I didn‘t even try to eat
them. I ate the bread, and waited for Jesús to get back from Perpignan.
         ―But that night, we ate in the wagon-Restaurant, and everybody with a voracious
appetite. We began with hors-d‘oeuvre, with cheeses and butters of different sorts. Briz
blinked, dazzled, at the this spread, so he covered a piece of bread with butter and took a
rapturous bite. His face and body went rigid, his eyes starting, and we all stopped and
gazed at him. When he recovered, he croaked that it wasn‘t butter but mustard. Everyone
had the time of their lives pulling his leg and laughing at him.
         ―We reached Paris and saw station, Quai d‘Orsay, and when our friend Briz got
on to the escalator, he tripped up and he and his luggage went flying. So more jokes and
good humor.
         ―An omnibus took us to Esbly. It was midday, and not a soul moved in the main
street. The French Fascist Party, ‗The Cross of Fire‘, had done a good job, and people
watched us scared from behind their curtains.
         ―Then a group of young men, well-dressed, set things right. They came to the
Hotel in open comradeship, and soon, out of curiosity, people came in to see these future
pilots of ‗Largo Caballero‘, as they called us, and some wished us well and others sail
that few of us would survive.
         ―The first Saturday, we went to a dance, and there weren't many girls, so we
couldn‘t just dance with anyone. I could only stumble over a few steps, so I asked
Samper to teach me. He agreed in exchange for a weekly packet of ‗blonde‘, not ‗black‘
cigarettes. In a couple of months, I was able to dance everything going. At the School, we
trained by the ‗English‘ week – work stopped at midday, on Saturday, and we were free
till next Monday morning.
         ―They trained me on the Potez-60, with a high
                                      rep                                            115

wing and a radial engine.‖
         José Torrecillas paused a moment.
         ―Well, there are really two sorts of engine – the ‗star‘ and the ‗radial‘. They‘re
more or less the same. Do you want me to –‖
         ―No,‖ I said hurriedly. ―Don‘t bother. The engine turned the propeller, that right?‖
         He smiled. ―You understand basic mechanics, then.‖
         He looked around the canteen, gathered his thoughts, and said, ―One Instructor
was Monsieur François Decrós, another, Archamban. We flew on dual controls, and went
solo after 9 to 12 hours. Some pupils did it in less time, others took longer than 12 hours.
         ―We took it very much as a sport, till the first accident. The student pilot was
practising acrobatics, went into a spin, couldn‘t pull out of it and crashed. Tragic. Then
we realised that the least human failing, the least mechanical slip, you could pay a really
high price.
         ―After four months we were ready but we got orders to train in fighters for
combat, so we flow the Morane two-seater, and then the Morane single-seater.‖
         ―Did you see any fighters that could stand up to the German Messerschmitt?‖
         He shook his head gloomily.
         ―So what did you do in the Morane?‖
         ―Everything. Looping, rolling, looping and rolling at once, flying upside down,
vertical dives we had to learn to handle the machine like a knife and fork.‖
         He looked thoughtful.
         ―You know, the political situation in France is badly divided. A lot of pressure to
stop us going there to train. In our village, people had collected signatures to stop us
coming. We were warned to go about always in groups of three, at least, and more than
once, cars would drive past with cries of vivre Franco!‘, or ‗mort Largo Caballero‘.‖
         I said, ―I wonder what they‘ll shout when they see Messers and Heinkels over
their heads?‖
         ―Once we went to a village called Lagny to a dance. We paid to go in, with our
girl friends. Then they invited us to leave the place when they found out we were part of
Largo Caballero‘s ‗gang‘. Our French girl friends were vociferous. Things calmed down,
                                       rep                                            116

but it was a right-wing place, and after a time, we left of our own accord.‖
        I said, ―The time will come when they‘ll want you all to fly for them against the
Germans, to protect the skies of France.‖
        He shrugged his shoulders.
        ―The country is so divided, it isn‘t true. The only way we got there was thanks to
money. Colonel Garcia Larrea told us bluntly once. The Republic paid them 250,000 gold
francs for each one of us. The Colonel told us that we had a responsibility to get the most
out of the instruction at that price. Our behaviour was closely watched. Anyone who
stepped out of line in the theoretical classes, in the practice flying, or in questions of
discipline, they were packed back to Spain.
        ―But we made important friendships …‖
Dawn Spencer has written in by hand:
These friendships served to get safe conducts for their release from the French
concentration camps, after the Republic lost.
        ―… in fact, some pilots married their fiancees, and left them behind when they
went back to Spain. I‘m getting Postal Cards from a very dear friend, daughter of the
owner of a Hotel, mademoiselle Marcelle Henaux. Thanks to her, we got meals that
suited our tastes better. The pilots in the group from Valencia missed the famous
Valencian paella, so we put it to Marcelle. Enrique Garcia and Jose Ortiz undertook to
cook it and look for all the ingredients and spices, and other Valencians helped them.
Well, I don‘t know what happened, it was like the miracle of five loaves and fishes –
instead of a paella of 33 people, we got one for about 300! We ate our fill, and then didn‘t
know what to do with the rest, but my charming friend, Marcelle put our minds at rest.
She was furious. I got the brunt of her ire for having suggested the idea in the first place,
and she warned us that we‘d never get another crumb to eat unless we first finished that
paella down to the last grain of rice.
        ―We had paella again next day, but there was still a lot left that we couldn‘t finish.
        ―That was the end of our cooking experiments.
        ―This month, we got orders to come back to Spain.
                                      rep                                           117

30, June, 1937

        José Jové telephoned me to say he had information on the Fiat fighter, and this
morning I landed at his aerodrome.
        They call the Fiat the Chirri.
        Mussolini has sent his Aviazione Legionaria to Spain, and Jové reckons he‘s sent
about 390 Fiat fighters.
        It does 375 km/hour and is a very agile dogfighter. But it can‘t dive steeper than a
certain angle or you can‘t pull it out because of the plane‘s profile and the heavy weigh of
the engine with the cylinders in line.
        The aeronautic engineer, Celestino Rosatelli, working for Fiat, prepared designs
in 1929-30 for a C.R.-30 fighter.
        In 1931, this engineer projected a Fiat C.R.-32, from what they learned from
flying tests on the C.R.-30.
        This new plane has a Fiat A/30-RA engine of 600 hp, Jové tells me, and they built
380 of them, the first being ready in 1935. The Italian Stormo Squadrons get them. This
year they ordered another 328 units
        The fighter has an all-metal framework, covered with cloth. The top wing is one
and half times larger than the bottom, both covered in cloth.
        It can climb to 9,000 meters. Carries two machine-guns, and can take bombs.
        The machine-guns shoot a very heavy calibre bullet, 12.7 mm, which blow big
holes in our planes and give our mechanics a lot of hard work.
        The engine burns 94 octane petrol in this mixture: 55% petrol, 22% benzol and
23% alchohol. The engine starts with compressed air, but in later models, they have put
in a small two-stroke petrol starter engine. Some p_retty fancy technology.
        Some planes have landed by mistake at Alcalá de Henares, Don Benito (90 kms
west of Badajoz), Los Alcázares (on the coast, south of Murcia) and others with engine
trouble or damage from combat have landed in Republican Territory. All these Fiats have
formed Group 71, for coast protection, or are used at Carmoli of Flight Instruction (50
kms south-west-south of Murcia).
                                      rep                                            118

         ―There were tears, kisses, frantic hugs, and the girls were saying, ‗Reste-ici avec
moi.‘ One group listened to them, and didn‘t come back to Spain.
         ―At the frontier, they asked us who knew how to drive lorries. They had to send a
lot of them to Valencia, and didn‘t have enough drivers. Ortiz, Garcia and myself – the
three main cooks of the paella – offered to do it. It was pretty nerve-wracking. Ortiz
hadn‘t held a wheel in moths, and the road down to Figueras ran above with a sheer drop
down to the sea. We were sweating it out on the curves, when Ortiz put his foot on the
accelerator instead of the brake and we teetered on the very edge of a precipice. Someone
wrenched the wheel and we ended up in the ditch on the other side. I‘ll never forget that.
We were saved by a hairsbreadth.
         ―Further on, a rifleman asked for a lift. He had taken French leave, his car had hit
a tree, and his rifle had broken in two. There he was without authorised leave, and a
broken rifle. He was weeping like a child. He took no notice of his injuries – all he
worried about was the rifle. We dropped him off in Barcelona.
         ―After delivering the lorries, we took the train here.‖
                                                    rep                           119

20 July, 1937

        I think history was made last night.
    In the Great War, German Zeppelins bombed London by night. The British sent up
patrol scouts to shoot them down, but I seem to remember the scouts could never find
        The rebels have been bombing Madrid and the aerodrome at Alcalá de Henares,
30 kms from Madrid, in the safety of darkness.
        Many of the Russian Chato fighters which have arrived for the defense of Madrid
are flown by Russian pilots, while the Republican aviators gain experience in handling
        Five Russian pilots have set up a nighttime team, which prowls the night skies
looking for the bombers.
        And last night, the Russian pilot Mikhail Yakushin took off from Alcalá de
Henares. Fascist bombers were attacking the Brunete front.
        And in the darkness, he saw a bomber. He attacked it again and again, till he ran
out of ammunition. He may have shot it down, near Robledondo. He is sure he did.
        It‘s the first night attack in the Spanish war.
Dawn Spencer writes in a stapled note:
Today, Yakushin is a General in the USSR Air Force. In the Second World War, he was
awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
                                     rep                                          120

22, August, 1937

Oh, my God! We‘ve lost Miguel Galindo, that merry, gallant pilot, recently promoted to
Squadron Leader.
         They had to fly from the Centre to the surrounded and embattled north. Across the
mountains, a storm hit them and they lost planes. Buyé was wounded when he had to take
to his parachute, but no one else was lost.
         Today, they flew a foray to attack the Italians under General Bástico who were
advancing on Santander. They attacked them at Puerto del Escudo, about 60 kms east of
         Miguel was hit by a shell that turned his plane over.
         He fell out, but no one knows whether his parachute opened or not.
         Oh, Miguel, I hope you‘re all right.
Dawn Spencer stapled in a sheet of paper, dated June, 1946.
It says:
         A letter has reached me, posted in Perpignan (I suppose surreptitiously) from
Miguel Galindo!
         He writes, among other things –
         ―Our Sector in the north was completely, surrounded, beleagured by the enemy.
We had few resources and little hope of sending help from the Republican half of Spain.
The fascists had an utter, overwhelming, massive superiority – they wanted that steel
industry. The seige was pushed hard, implacably. Our men fought and fought, to the point
of exhaustion. The battlefields were hell on the earth.
         ―On the 22 of August, a Squadron of Chatos flew to the front so we could
machine-gun a column of Italians advancing on Santander. We made several passes, and
climbing out of the dive, an AA shell (as I believe you English now call it) exploded at
my tail and destroyed my rudder and elevators. The momentum of the plane threw it
upside down, and it dropped into a spin – but an appalling spin where the wheels were up
above me and I was upside down.
         ―I shut off all the electrical contacts, pulled off my goggles and …
         ―When I recovered consciousness, I found myself lying at the foot of some trees
which had saved my life, in a shredded and bloodied flying suit, in the power
                                     REP                                          121

of that selfsame Italian unit I had been machine-gunning a moment before. The Italian
soldiers who surrounded me savoured their victory … while I suffered in body and mind
my bitter defeat.
        ―Before me were to stretch 17 months as a prisoner of war, and a lot of grief and
harassment when the war ended …‖
                                      rep                                           122

   28, August, 1937

        I‘m a bit dizzy with all the different sorts of planes, and the weird language they
use to describe the sorts of wings. I‘ve been struggling with a list, and here it is…
biplanes – both wings are the same, top and bottom
seXquiplanes – the top wing is six times bigger than the bottom one
seSquiplanes – the top wing is one and half times bigger than the bottom
high-wing monoplane – one wing, on top of the fuselage (like the Spirit of St. Luis)
low-wing monoplane – one wing on the bottom of the fuselage
parasol monoplane – one wing separated from the top of the fuselage by struts holding it

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