The garden of the English poets

The Francoist army conquered Lopera on Christmas Day of 1936 without being prevented by the blasting of the bridge over the Salado stream by the Republicans. In the following three days, troops of the Republican XIV International Brigade under General Walter tried to recover the population without success. During the attacks and counterattacks, the British company of the La Marsellesa battalion, reached the first houses of the town, but was forced to retreat. The Republicans suffered about three hundred dead and more than twice as many wounded. A considerable number of casualties, the knowledge of which greatly affected our Oriolan poet. Among the seventy-eight fatalities of the 145 men who made up the British company were the poet Rupert John Cornford and the novelist Ralph Winston Fox. Their bodies were never recovered.

Cornford came from a well-known intellectual family – his father was Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Cambridge University and his great-grandfather was none other than the naturalistic scientist Charles Darwin. Following his convictions and strong communist ideals, he volunteered with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. He was killed by a machine gun blast when, heroically, he tried to help a comrade in the Battle of Lopera on December 28, 1936. He had just turned 21 and had a promising literary career ahead of him. Among the poems written in Spain we can highlight Full Moon at Tierz, A Lefter from Aragón, To Margot Heinemann, Grieve in a New Way for New Losses and On a Lost Battle in the Spanish War.

Fox also came from a wealthy English family, but as a result of a trip to the Soviet Union, his social and literary commitment is marked forever. In the summer of 1936 he enlisted in the International Brigades, of which he would be the Deputy Political Commissioner of the 12th Battalion. He died in the Battle of Lopera, on December 27, 1936 when he tried to conquer the place known as “Cerro del Calvario”, when he was only 36 years old. His published books include the titles Capitan Youth, A comedy in three acts, People of the Steppes, A Biography, Marx and Engels on the Irish Question and Genghis Khan.

The town of Lopera pays a proud tribute to these British volunteers with a simple monolith to both writers and a commemorative bronze plaque to the poet John Cornford, made by Scottish sculptor Frank Casey and donated to Lopera Town Hall by British historian Alan DP Warren.