Hill 666: A search for a lost relative ends on a blasted hillside in Catalonia

Posted in Spanish Civil War by Deputy city editor on June 6, 2007

Please visit for a substantially revised and updated version of this posting.

23 Responses

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  1. Vicky Palmer said, on June 30, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Your article is one of the most interesting and well written that I have found over the inernet, I will read it again at leisure when I have more time! I moved to Gandesa two months ago with my family and I became interested in the Civil War in the process of researching the area before we moved here. I visited the memorial at hill 705 for the first time three years ago and although I have no relations that fought there I found it to be a very emotional experience that effected me deeply.

    About a month ago I was walking my children back from school in Gandesa and I saw a fairly eledrly couple sat outside the civil was museum. We got chatting ( she was Scottish) and she told me that they had taken a bus from Salou and were hoping to visit the memorial as e relation of hers had died fighting there. However, there return bus was due in half an hour and they had no transport. I offered to go there at some point on her behalf, take some photographs of the memorial and put some flowers there.

    Yesterday I finally found time to do this. My mother was visiting with her husband and we had spent a lovely day at Fontcalda. On the way back I suggested we detour and drive up to Hill 705. My mother has read little about this period but as she walked about I noticed that she looked strange and was covered in goosepimples. She said she could feel the human suffering. This was just how I felt when I first visited. Also the site of human bones that are still found in the area and left at the site added to this greatly. My husband looked at a human thigh bone and said it was the same length as his own and that the man must have been tall. I felt very sad thet even today the bones of these men are littering the area and have not been identified or buried. I laid the fllowers for the relative of the woman I spoke to and looked up at the hill where a house used to stand. I said to my husband that the lady might like a photograph of the cross that I could see. When I walked up the cross had vanished. It was just a metal pole that somehow I had seen from below as a cross. I am not a Christian but this certainly made me think!

    I will try and visit the area when I can and remember the men that fought and died there.

  2. […] story of Morris Miller is told here. Explore posts in the same categories: Spanish Civil […]

  3. Hershl Hartman said, on July 26, 2007 at 1:17 am

    A minor footnote on the comment that “So many International Brigade volunteers were Jews that they would joke that yiddish was the common language.” Yiddish did, indeed, play a role in the XV Brigade. There’s a photo of a Lincoln Battalion volunteer reading the N.Y. communist Yiddish newspaper “morgn frayhayt” (Morning Freedom). The Yiddish-speaking Butwin company of the Polish Dombrowski Brigade published a newspaper that was read by Jews from many countries, including Palestine. And the SCW had its echo in Yiddish poetry, as well. One, by M.A. (Yuri) Suhl, is titled “From Kol Nidre to No Pasaran,” making the point that Jews had returned to Spain for the first time after the 1492 expulsion to defend the Spanish people from the same forces that had driven out the Jews — the Church, the Crown and the landowners.

    Hershl Hartman, Secular Jewish vegvayzer/Leader
    Education Director, The Sholem Community, L.A.

  4. Uneasy peace « said, on October 12, 2007 at 9:25 am

    […] “the Falange – still in struggle.” The missing plaque included the name of my kinsman Morris Miller. There are intentions to repair and replace it but difficult to know how to prevent further […]

  5. ‘Blinded by anti-communism’ « said, on October 16, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    […] kinsman Morris Miller was killed in the Ebro offensive. His story is here.   Explore posts in the same categories: Spanish Civil […]

  6. SCOTT KIRSCH said, on March 8, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Your story hits home with me! My grandfather was also killed in this battle his name was Vincent Deegan. I don’t know what battalion he was in and unfortunately when he died so did any information about him and his side of the family. My mother was only 5yrs when he died and it would be wonderful if you can give me some tips on areas I could research. We have only one picture of him and it was touched up with color paints and she has a translation of his death certificate from Spain. My grandfather’s death not only affected my mother’s life but also left a huge void in my ancestral history that I would like to discover. Thank you for this inspiring story.

  7. J. L. Wainwright said, on April 1, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    A fascinating and moving account of your relative’s journey through the civil war, I congratulate you on the depth of your research. In the Griffiths memoirs section there is mention of the chief of observers, Hickman. This is in fact Ivor Rae Hickman who was killed shortly after Morris on September 22/23. I am a writer researching Ivor’s life and would be grateful if you could pass me on any other details or mention of him from your papers/research. There is a small memorial plaque to Ivor on a bench at Peter Symonds College where he went to school (I presently work at Peter Symonds and am an ex-pupil) and a slightly larger memorial plaque near the Cenotaph in Ivor’s hometown of Southampton (Where I also live). I have a brief outline of the events of his life but would love to fill in the many gaps that I have.
    All the best.

  8. Jonathan Miller said, on April 1, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Alan Warren you probably know is the go-to guy – – and helped me enormously. I’ll also gladly look to see what I’ve got and would be very happy to chat with you off-list if you wish.

  9. Geoff Lawes said, on April 21, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Thank you very much for your very interesting work on Morris Miller. I live in Hull and my interest in the eight Hull volunteers took me to our city’s excellent Local History Library but I was disappointed to find that they do not hold any information on the Hull volunteers themselves. They only had one file card referring to Rob Wardle who, as you probably know, died a few years ago. I shall bring your site to their attention and am trying to amass and write down information about the other Hull men so that other people enquiring at the library will have something tangeable to get started on. In my so far perfunctory enquiries I have come across somthing that I thought you might be interested in should you not have already discovered them yourself.

    On this site,

    there is reproduced an account by John Charnley, an unrepentent fascist, of the disruption of an open air meeting in Hull by Oswald Mosley in July 1936. You would probably agree that it is a likely that Morris Miller was numbered among the “reds” who broke up the meeting. This action against the blackshirts pre-dates the iconic Battle of Cable Street that took place later in October 1936.The meeting was in Corporation Fields which no longer exist but I have discovered that they lay in the area between the back of the new St Stephen’s shopping Centre and Park Street in the centre of Hull. The site hosting this extract is by the way a vile right wing racist site.

    If your have any information about any of the Hull volunteers that doesn’t appear on your web site I would be grateful to hear of it.

    Regards, Geoff Lawes

  10. Martin Sugarman said, on April 22, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Excellent item!! Mazeltov!! Please see my article on net , “Against Fascism – Jews who served in the SCW” on the Jewish Virtual Library site. Am constantly updating it. Also contstantly arguing with the anti-Zionist and in my view anti-Semitic IBMT keepers of the memory of the IB in Britain, that they continue to marginilise – and justify this marginilisation – the part played by Jews in the SCW – 25% of IB were Jews. And if we rightly celebrate the Black and Irish partcipants etc, then we MUST do the same OPENLY and FREQUENTLY , for the Jews! The passe Marxist views on Jews need to be revised but if the Jews are acknowledged, then it means acknowledging that many were not only Zionist too but that the approx 350 Jews from Palestine Mandate made up the largest % group of volunteers compared to any other nation – so this means acknowledging Zionism ,and the hard Left cannot bear to do this! Whenever I am invited to SCW conferences therefore, I always make this case and it gets a warm reception I can tell you. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable – anti-Semitism on the Left fuelled by irrational hatred for our National Liberation Movement in Israel – but mature Socialsts can admit it , which is my kind of Socialism, balanced, and with scruples!!

  11. Martin Sugarman said, on April 22, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Jonathan – did Morris ever have a middle name as I came across a reference to him using Sam as a possible alterative first name

    Martin Sugarman (AJEX Archives)

  12. Geoff Lawes said, on April 28, 2008 at 12:38 am

    This site shows some Edwardian postcard photographs of Corporation Fields which might give some idea of what the site might have looked like in 1936.

  13. Jonathan Miller said, on April 28, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I thank mr Sugarman for his contributions and agree that it is remarkable that so many Jews were involved although maybe not too remarkable as these young men (mostly) were intelligent and well able to read the portents of fascism. I think it is wrong to say Zionism deserves credit even if some of the volunteers were also Zionists or Yiddish was sometimes a common language. There were also many non-Jews in the IB and what many of them had in common was not zionism or being Jewish but the fact that they were communists. I do not know what Martin means by ‘acknowledging Zionism’ – does he mean that Zionism is justified by the participation of Zionist volunteers for the Republic? I do not want to get into a big argument about Zionism here. Or any argument. I am against it. There are other places to argue its lack of merit. I will limit myself to defending those who are its victims.

  14. Jonathan Miller said, on April 28, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    On the point of the name Sam – I am pretty sure there was also a Sam Miller. I have never heard Morris referred to as Sam.

  15. Jonathan Miller said, on May 6, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Geoff Lawes has sent me this interesting e-mail which he has given me permission to post:

    Hi Jonathan, a quick e mail to alert you to confusions around the second song to which you provide a link on your site. The song you play is the same recording as the one on this site where it is given the title Viva la quinta brigada .

    The singer certainly seems to be singing quinta and this version of the Ay Carmela song refers to the Fifth Brigade which was not one of the International Brigades. Debate about this leaves me somewhat confused as I understand that there might be a version of essentially the same song called Viva La Quince Brigade referring to the Fifteenth Brigade. The Wikipedia entry here seems to suggest that there is,

    but I am left confused because it prints words to Quince Brigade but its link is to the same version of Quinta Brigade as your site plays. I have not managed to hear a Spanish language version of the song where they are actually singing Quince and wonder whether the idea that there is a version of this song referring to the 15th brigade is not just a mistake made by non-native Spanish speakers. I have come across the confusion elsewhere on folk music sites where it is further muddled with the modern and completely different Christy Moore song Viva La Quince Brigade which is about the Irish Connolly Column which was part of the 15th brigade. If I can get a clearer lead on this I will let you know. Regards, Geoff

  16. Geoff Lawes said, on May 17, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Hi Jonathan,
    An exciting discovery. In my quest to trace what I can of the eight Hull volunteers I have been to visit Stan Suddaby who is a former secretary of Hull Trades Council and a former member of the Communist Party. He was very active in local trade union activity and knew two of the Hull brigaders who returned from the Spanish Civil War; Sam Walters and Joe Latus,who is shown in your second picture from the top standing next to Morris Miller. Stan has a song book given to him by Sam Walters which Sam seems to have used as an autograph book while in Spain. I have found Morris Miller’s signature in the book and I am E mailing a photograph of it to you so that you can put it up on your site if you wish. You will see his name on the right hand page above the book title ‘Kampflieder’. The signature of Joe Latus can be seen, second from the top on the left hand page.

  17. roy ormond said, on May 31, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    80% of the volunteers were members of the YCL and/or communist party.The communists marched in the vanguard -and ‘is sure to triumph in the end’. The alternative? Fascism as seen as the life under Franco. That Franco Spain was allowed to continue after WW2 ,by the West, is a disgrace to the memory of all who fought, suffered and died under fascism.
    Today,s message – ‘they shall not pass’.

  18. Geoff Lawes said, on June 6, 2008 at 1:00 am

    Hi Jonathan, I sent photographs of the songbook to Jim Carmody of the International Brigades Memorial Trust who through his extensive knowledge and research concluded that the signatures were written at Tarazona,near Albacete which was the main training base of the English speaking Battalions. He says that some of the signatures in the songbook are of base personnel such as instructors and that most of the British men who signed will have arrived in Spain between September 1937 and November ,1937.

  19. […] Hartman Says: July 26, 2007 at 1:17 am eA minor footnote on the comment that “So many International Brigade volunteers were Jews that […]

  20. Ray Andrews said, on August 20, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Hello, I am the great nephew of Samuel Walters (Sam) referred to above and of the songbook. Uncle Sam was a merchant navy officer before going to Spain as part of the CP group. He is listed in the Hull Guildhall Plaque. Uncle Sam died in the 1970’s and rarely spoke of Spain. On his return and on the outbreak of the 2nd World War he moved to Cowden on the east yorkshire coast and spent his cash buying up food store as he thought that, as in Spain, food would be short.

    Uncle Sam was part of the Walters (Welsh roots) and Andrews family who were working class and politically active in the CP, LP and Co-op movement and in the T&G union on the fish dock and docks. There are still a lot of us around. If anyone wants more information on Uncle Sam pleasae let me know and I will do what I can. We are very proud of him.

    This is the first time that I have been able to get specific information on him. This seem to be due in part to the number of sites dealing the the American figher and phototgraper of the same name.


    Ray Andrews

  21. Sammy Sullivan said, on June 30, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Kewl site man…

    keep up the good work man…….

  22. Albert said, on September 6, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Thank you for rembering our beloved fighters. Catalan people will always remember this war, so we will remember those fighters too. They were the only who helped us.

    From Catalonia: Thank you so much!

  23. Andy said, on October 17, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    A wonderful piece of dedicated Research…… I hope you find more information. As an organisation dedicated to the People of Hull During WW1 and WW2 it was interesting to read of the City just before the WW2

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