‘The Legionnaire’: an extract from the book ‘Cardiff and The Spanish Civil War’ by Professor Robert Stradling
piece of text: frank-thomas
Notes taken whilst reading it:
Frank Thomas fought in the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer for the Nationalist side, which was the norm as a lot of people fought for the republicans and communists. Thomas saw the war as a desire for adventure and glory. He was also very anti-communist, described by his Father as seeing communists to be ‘blamed for the worlds ills’. He was very pro-Franco and was welcomed by him to fight. He fought in the war for over a year, becoming a corporal with the 6th Battalion of the Foreign Legion. On one his final battles he nearly faced death after being shot in the cheek and leg. Incredibly he survived, after crawling a very long journey to a field hospital. After being sent to hospital in western Spain, it was here that he made friends with Irishman from the 5th Bandera – who were also volunteers. The Irish brigade had been sent home so after making friends with the General, Thomas was smuggled out Spain and was able to go back home to Cardiff.
He had deserted the war but it was a decision not taken lightly. He regarded himself as a professional soldier but he had received little recognition for heroism on the battlefield. He had witnessed decline in standards in the legion which contributed to his near death. Though he did not change his opinion on the enemy’s cause (communists), he did have less admiration of the nationalist side, resentful of the anti-British element in their attributes and propaganda. He had feelings of disillusion, realising that war, if necessary, is not glorious or romantic which inevitably comprises the reason why he was fighting.
I find his story quite sad. How he went out to Spain with a passion and wanted to become this hero that everyone knew. But he didn’t get that, instead his opinions of war changed after seeing the hatred and hurt it bought among the country. I think after everything he did and his heroic near-death experience, it’s sad that he never got true recognition for it. Within my work, I want to tell his story as truthfully and sincere as I can, so if I use imagery I will use found imagery of Frank Thomas himself. It is a zine I want to create which I think will be perfect because I can express the story in the most simplest of ways, such as just using quotes from the text. I will use inspiration from posters of the time to help me with designing it.