THE SCOTSMAN WHO FOUGHT FRANCO

The last Scots veteran of the Spanish Civil War, Stevie Fullarton, died in a nursing home in Edinburgh last week. He was 87. Mr Fullarton, who was born in Glasgow, joined the International Brigades fighting alongside the Republican government forces against the Nationalist insurgents under Francisco Franco. By 1938, when he walked across the Pyrenees in rope-soled sandals, the British and French governments had banned their citizens from taking part in the conflict. He was just 18, and had lied about his age. In the five closes near his tenement home in the Shettleston district of Glasgow, four men had already gone, persuaded by the oratory of a local Communist, James Maley, who had recently returned from Spain where he had been captured during the Battle of Jarama. Training in Spain was rudimentary and interrupted when he was sent to the Battle of the Ebro, the last desperate counter-offensive by the Republican forces as they tried to halt Franco’s advance. During fierce fighting on Hill 481 at Gandesa he was shot in the leg after his machine-gun ran out of ammunition. He was evacuated by boat across the river, and was operated on without anaesthetic. After recuperating, he returned to Britain and saw service with the RAF in World War II. In the last years of his life, Mr Fullarton was almost blind and deaf, but he continued to declare he had been right to volunteer to fight in a civil war in a country few Britons had visited. Ten years ago, Mr Fullerton attended a ceremony in Parliament in Madrid to collect the honorary Spanish citizenship the government had granted to all those who had fought in the International Brigades. On the black Spanish peasant’s beret he always wore at such occasions were badges commemorating his returns to Spain for the 40th, 50th and 60th anniversary of the civil war. Beaming with pride, he said: “This is one of the proudest moments of my life. I have been honoured by the people I came to help.” His death marks the end of an era – when men would volunteer to fight for freedom, rather than go because they were conscripted.

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