VOLUNTEERS from Bolton who defended democracy and fought fascism during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 have been honoured at a memorial event.

The Manchester event, which remembered volunteers from across the North West, was part of a number of commemorations held across the UK last week to mark the anniversary of the October 1938 passing-out parade of International Brigade volunteer soldiers, doctors and nurses in Barcelona.

The International Brigade consisted of military units of volunteers from various countries and was set up to help the democratically elected Spanish Popular Front government during the Spanish Civil War. It existed for two years from 1936 until 1938 with over 2,500 men and women from Britain and Ireland volunteering as soldiers, nurses and other roles.

Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy supported the coup and faced no military opposition from western European governments as they sent troops and weapons to help General Franco. They also tested new warfare techniques, such as the aerial bombing of civilians in the Basque town of Guernica.

The Spanish Civil War partly paved the way to the Second World War, but International Brigade volunteers held the line for nearly three years and bought precious time for forces opposed to fascism and war to prepare. Franco remained in power as dictator until his death in 1975.

Around 500 British volunteers were killed in the conflict.

James Alwyn is thought to be the only International Brigade volunteer from Bolton who was killed in the conflict, although little is known about him other than the fact that he died at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937.

Other International Brigade volunteers who either lived or were born in Bolton include Joseph William Moran, Philip Neville Harker, John Kremner, and Henry Saunders Bury, a doctor who was in charge of the hospital train repatriating the British wounded.