A Spanish Company in the Battle for France and Germany (1944-45) Raymond Dronne. Translated by Paul Sharkey. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

DronneCoversmallA Spanish Company in the Battle for France and Germany (1944-45) by Raymond Dronne (Translated by Paul Sharkey) 

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Captain Raymond Dronne‘s memoir of the regular army unit he commanded from the summer of 1943 to the spring of 1945, No. 9 Company of the Chad March Regiment, also known as ‘La Nueve‘, a company made up almost entirely of Spanish veterans of the civil war and social revolution of 1936-1939 — anarchists, socialists, republicans. It was Dronne’s column that was ordered by General Leclerc to liberate Paris, which it did — flying the Spanish Republican flag from their Sherman tanks and half- tracks — on 24 August 1944. Of the 146 men of ‘La Nueve’ who landed in Normandy, only 16 survived to be the first to enter Hitler’s Berchtesgaden Eagle’s Nest.

THE ANARCHIST PIMPERNEL. Francisco Ponzán Vidal (1936 1944) by Antonio Téllez Solá. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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The Anarchist Pimpernel. Francisco Ponzán Vidal (1936 1944). The anarchists in the Spanish Civil War and the Allied Escape Networks of WWII  by Antonio Téllez Solá (With the collaboration of Pilar Ponzán Vidal). Translated by Paul Sharkey. (

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(Originally published in Spanish in 1996 as: ‘La Red de Evasion del Grupo Ponzán. Anarquistas en la guerra secreta contra el franquismo y el nazismo (1936-1944)’. This e-edition has been translated by Paul Sharkey from Tellez’s subsequently re-written and updated (1997) typescript, which incorporates the memoirs of Pilar Ponzán Vidal (Francisco’s sister) and Tellez’s hitherto unpublished work on Agustín Remiro ‘El Guerrillero Anarquista Agustín Remiro y el Batallón de Ametralladoras “C” (Batallón Remiro)’.

Founder and organiser of the escape and evasion lines used by the ‘Pat O’Leary’ and ‘Sabot’ networks, the French security services (Travaux Ruraux), and local French Resistance organisations, from 1940 to 1943, Francisco Ponzán Vidal’s group, consisting mainly of Spanish anarchist exiles, saved the lives of hundreds if not thousands of resistance fighters, evadees and escaped prisoners of war. Between January 1942 and April 1943 (when he was arrested by the Vichy milice), Ponzán’s records, consisting of two notebooks, list the names, dates and some photographs of 311 Allied evaders who successfully escaped to Spain and Gibraltar through his network. The names in the books include those of Lt. Airey Neave (the later MI9 officer and Thatcherite Tory MP), and RAF sergeant John Prendergast (later Sir John, colonial police chief — Kenya, Cyprus and Aden — and head of the Royal Hong Kong Police Special Branch). (Interestingly, one of those evaders who owed their life to anarchists was the ungrateful psycopath Harold ‘Tanky” Challenor, a Commando during the war, who later joined the Metropolitan Police (West End Central) and famously — and unsuccessfully— attempted to frame anarchist cartoonist Donald Rooum by claiming to have found a piece of brick — ‘an offensive weapon ‘ — in his pocket at a demonstration against the unpopular Greek king and queen during their visit to London in 1963).  Other successful — and appreciative — evaders Ponzán’s anarchist network helped to make it back to Britain included Bill Sparks (my wife’s cousin’s brother) and major ‘Blondie’ Hasler, the sole survivors of ‘Operation Frankton’, the ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ Royal Marine commando raid on German ships in Bordeaux harbour.

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FRANCISCO PONZÁN VIDAL

The Anarchist Pimpernel (b. Oviedo, 1911- d. Buzet sur Tarn, 17 August 1944)

Francisco Ponzán Vidal, The Anarchist Pimpernel (b. Oviedo, 1911- d. Buzet sur Tarn, 17 August 1944)

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Around 6:30 pm on 17 August 1944 a number of trucks carrying some 50 prisoners left Saint-Michel prison in Toulouse heading northwest along the Albi road. Half an hour or so later, people living on the outskirts of the village of Buzet-sur-Tarn (Haute Garonne) saw a caravan of German military vehicles with an accompanying Gestapo touring car turn off the road and drive up a track into a wood. Shortly afterwards they heard shouts and the sounds of automatic gunfire and rifle shots coming from the woods. The shooting continued for 45 minutes. Some time later the vehicles emerged and returned in the direction of Toulouse. Two days later, informed by local residents, the authorities from Buzet-sur-Tarn visited the woods where they discovered the site of a chilling massacre. Beneath a still smouldering funeral pyre — and the debris of two burned-out barns, of which only smoke-blackened side walls bearing the pockmarks of bullets remained standing — they found what the carbonized remains of the 50 prisoners, all members of the Resistance. Among the blackened corpses was that of Francisco Ponzán Vidal, a lifelong Spanish anarchist and CNT union militant, one of countless unsung heroes of the Spanish Civil War and the anti-Francoist and anti-Nazi/Vichy resistance.

Founder and organiser of the escape and evasion lines used by the ‘Pat O’Leary’ and ‘Sabot’ networks, the French security services (Travaux Ruraux), and local French Resistance organisations, from 1940 to 1943, Francisco Ponzán Vidal’s group, consisting mainly of Spanish anarchist exiles, saved the lives of hundreds if not thousands of resistance fighters, evadees and escaped prisoners of war. Between January 1942 and April 1943 (when he was arrested by the Vichy milice), Ponzán’s records, consisting of two notebooks, list the names, dates and some photographs of 311 Allied evaders who successfully escaped to Spain and Gibraltar through his network. The names in the books include those of Lt. Airey Neave (the later MI9 officer and Thatcherite Tory MP), and RAF sergeant John Prendergast (later Sir John, colonial police chief — Kenya, Cyprus and Aden — and head of the Royal Hong Kong Police Special Branch). Among other successful evaders Ponzán’s anarchist network helped to make it back to Britain included Bill Sparks (my wife’s cousin’s brother) and major ‘Blondie’ Hasler, the sole survivors of ‘Operation Frankton’, the ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ Royal Marine commando raid on German ships in Bordeaux harbour.

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