Home Features History Letters from Spain New Arrivals Profiles Recipes Sightseeing Vocabulary Weather

The last British International Brigadier

Stan Hilton was one many members of the International Brigades established to fight Franco and he died in Australia with a ripe 98 years.

In October 1936, the International Brigades were created to agglutinate dozens of thousands of man and women from over fifty countries. Stan Hilton was the last British Brigadier to combat fascism on Spanish soil.
His death was confirmed by the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBNT) based in London.

Stan Hilton - Friends Association for the International Brigades

Born in 1917 in Newhaven (Sussex) he first became a merchant marine during the Second World War. Beforehand, when he was aged only 19, he decided to volunteer and to enrol, in November 1937, the 15th International Brigade, and abandoned a boat in Alicante as being part of the crew. ‘The Spanish people needed help. I was correct in what I did’ - his words quoted on the IBNT webpage.

His landing into the middle of the Spanish Civil War started with his advancing to some of the main battlefields where he fought in the name of brotherhood. A month after his arrival in Spain, Stan Hilton was witness to the Battle of Teruel. Later, in the spring of 1938, he joined battalions in Aragón and Cataluña.
Hilton was one of 2,500 British volunteers adhered to the International Brigades. Around 500 died in combat.

The secretary of the IBNT, Jim Jump, affirmed the death of Stan Hilton who had been helping him write a proud chapter in 20th century British History, ‘Stan and the other volunteers will pass into history as the first British soldiers to face Hitler and Mussolini in the battlefield. By doing so, they are an example of international solidarity and anti-fascism’. After the Civil War, in 1956, Hilton emigrated with his family to Australia, where he worked soldering metal in the construction sector. He died in a pensioner’s home Ocean Grove, close to Melbourne.

Precisely, the Friends Association for the International Brigades organised last month between the 27th and 29th several acts in homage to the eightieth anniversary. Madrid City Hall opened a garden in Vicálvaro, dedicated to the International Brigades, and emotional event, graced by the presence of Joseph Almudéver, one of the three last brigadiers alive.

The commemoration acts also served to remember the last to die, the very Hilton and Antoine Pinol, Catalan by birth, Pinol emigrated to France when she was an adolescent. However, the breaking out of war made her return to Spain to assist the Garibaldi battalion where she fought in the defence of Madrid, in the heroic republican episode of Alcarría and the butchery at the Ebro, a battle where she became commander of the third company of the second battalion. She was honoured for her ‘braveness in the shock attack affected by her Company’. Pinol died last September 2 in the French locality of Agen, aged 101.

Both Pinol and Hilton fought within a group which quintessence the ideals of liberty against the threat of fascism in Europe between wars. Historian Gabriel Jackson recorded 35,000 men and women, who voluntarily, fought in Spain in favour of the Republic. In 1995 the Spanish Congress approved unanimously a motion conceding Spanish nationality to all the members of the International Brigades.

This motion became a Royal Decree in January 1996, which obliged the brigadiers to renounce their nationality if they wanted to become Spanish. This previous requirement was abolished in the Law for Historical Memory. And in virtue of this in June 2009 seven British brigadiers met in London for a celebratory event in the Spanish Embassy. ‘Your fight was not in vain, our ideals form part of the foundations of our democracy’, proclaimed Carlos Casajuana – the former Spanish ambassador in London.