New Zealand had no official involvement in the Spanish Civil War and few people from this country took part. But two New Zealanders were in Madrid on 8 November 1936, when an International Column of anti-fascist volunteers marched into the city to bolster the Republican government’s defences against General Franco’s rebel armies.
Griff Maclaurin and Steve Yates were the first of perhaps 20 New Zealanders to serve with the Republican forces. They and four others would die in Spain. They were recognised by their comrades as our first casualties in the war against fascism that would eventually claim the lives of nearly 12,000 New Zealanders.
This was far more than an internal conflict. The Republican government received aid from the Communist Soviet Union while Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany gave considerable support to Franco’s Nationalist army. Other European powers like Britain and France took a non-interventionist stand. Officially New Zealand followed Britain’s lead; ‘where she didn’t go we didn’t go’. But for some New Zealanders, especially Communists, trade unionists and humanitarians, Spain was a vital cause.