“How We Went to War” ~the trajectory & photography of Bill Williamson


REEL 1 Upbringing and political influences, Winnepeg, Canada, 1907-1920: recollections of Irish family friend; hearing of Russian Revolution, 1917; reading novels of Jack London; reaction to stories of Irish nationalism; reaction to schooling, religion, British imperial history; decision to go hoboing by freight train, ca 1920. Aspects of period as hobo seeking agricultural work in Canada, ca 1920-1923: joining Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies); hobo songs; harvesting work, wages; story of dispute for better conditions, Saskatchewan.

spain16e002712806-v6REEL 2 Continues: labour relations; winter ranch work in Southern Alberta; duties, conditions of work in lumber camps, 1922; trade unionism; period spent hoboing around America; working on hacienda in Mexico; question of political reading and other literary influences

spain8e002712792-v6REEL 3 Recollections of period as seaman and stoker with merchant navy, 1923-1931: his attitude towards seafaring; background to employment aboard windjammer sailing from America to Australia; conditions; rations; cargo; duties; relations with crew; arrival in Sydney, Australia; story of attending clandestine screening of film ‘Battleship Potemkin’ in Sydney.

spain14e002712802-v6REEL 4 Continues: reactions to ‘Battleship Potemkin’; period of work on passenger ship sailing from Cairns, 1930-1931; decision with other crew members to stowaway on ship sailing for Shanghai, 1931; stay in International Settlement, Shanghai; attempts to join 8th Route Army [?]; impressions of Shanghai; decision of German Communist crew member to return to Germany, ca 1932; conditions of work as stoker on ship sailing to Australia.

spain10e002712813-v6REEL 5 Recollections of period as hobo and relief worker in British Columbia, Canada, 1934-1935: description of relief camps for young men; view of hobo camp at Sioux Lookout, Northern Ontario; jumping freight trains with other hobos; joining relief camp in Halifax.

spain15e002712801-v6REEL 6 Continues: description of relief camp in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; story illustrating attitude towards British sovereignty amongst relief workers in Canada; aspects of life in relief camps including political organisation, conditions, routine, background of camp workers, strikes to improve conditions, nature of work.

spain1e002712800-v6REEL 7 Continues: striking for unemployment relief with other workers in department store in Vancouver, British Colombia, canada, ca 3/1935; journey with relief workers by freight train to join mass relief workers’ strike in Ottawa; reactions in towns to travelling strikers; reception from prime minister in Ottawa; being attacked by mounted police, escaping with other strikers by train, Dominion Day, 1/7/1935; question of Communist Party membership; mass movement of strikers by bus from Winnepeg to Kenorra.

spain17e007151977-v6REEL 8 Background to journey to Spain, ca 5/1936: hearing of Spanish situation during stay in GB; stowing away aboard ship to Spain; question of kit; impressions of street scenes on arrival in Portugalete, 18/7/1936. Recollections of period as Republican militiaman in Northern Spain, 21/7/1937-30/4/1937: recruitment to Columna Ochandiano in Bilbao; aspects of action in San Sebastian including command of militias, reaction to issue of brandy before action, composition of unit, 21/7/1936-25/7/1936.

spain21e007151978-v6REEL 9 Continues: opinion of Anarchist soldiers; retreat from mountain fighting in Tolosa, 8/1936; nature of action in defence of Irun, 9/1936; dynamite bombs; militia-women; receiving machine-pistol; composition of militias; question of discipline, strategies, conditions in mountains above Irun, 20/8/1936; fear; question of Anarchist-inspired explosions in Irun; medical provision; supplies; artillery guns; rations; opinion of militia-women; voluntarism of militia.

spain26e007151983-v6REEL 10 Continues: review of movements with unit, 7/1937-9/1937; change of unit’s composition, name to Columna Perezagua, 1/9/1937; relations between Basque Nationalists and Communists; reaction to decision to withdraw from San Sebastian, 13/9/1936; duties of militiawomen; recollections of Spanish militiawoman, ‘Dolores’; question of routine; background to attack on Oviedo; positions, appointment as armourer, armaments, repulsing Moorish advance at Oviedo, 10/1936.

spain22e007151979-v6REEL 11 Continues: action against Moors; acquiring machine-pistol; wounding in attack on Oviedo, 3/1937; air attacks during hospitalization in Durango, 31/3/1937; casualties among comrades; learning of presence of international volunteers in Spain; view of air attack on Guernica, visiting town during night, 26/4/1937; transfer to International Brigade, journey to Paris, France, 5/1937.

spain29e007151987-v6REEL 12 Continues: story of reaction of Communist Party in GB to his request to go to Spain, 7/1936; impressions of International Brigade volunteers travelling from France to Spain; crossing Pyrenees; IBs at Figueras Castle; refusing to go to officer’s training school; recruitment to Washington Battalion, 5/1937. Recollections of period with Machine Gun Company, Washington Bn, 15th International Brigade at battle of Brunete and during Republican Aragon Offensive, 7/1937-9/1937: Finnish volunteers in unit; opinion of Oliver Law; background to Brunete offensive, 7/1937; opinion of Soviet armaments, Nationalist air forces; action at Mosquito Ridge, 7/1937; opinion of Battalion.

spain27e007151984-v6REEL 13 Continues: composition of Battalion; merge of Lincoln and Washington Bns; casualties in attack at Quinto, 8/1937; street fighting at Belchite, ca 9/1937; opinion of Nationalist forces; story of shooting of surrendering soldier on Basque front in 1936; stories of atrocities; fighting at Belchite, 9/1937; opinion of air forces; being transfered to Machine Gun Company, Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion; opinion of formation of Mackenzie-Papineau Bn; recollections of volunteers including American Jew, Canadian merchant seamen, battalion commander.

spain34c067469 (1)REEL 14 Continues: recollections of black Company Sergeant; opinion of Bob Thompson; terrain, conditions at ravine position behind lines on the Aragon; story illustrating company discipline; flash-flooding of vacated position; reaction to introduction of new measures of discipline; size of units; arrangement of bivouacs; opinion of saluting, discipline; opinion of Geoff Mildwater; attending political meeting of British Anti-Tank Battery.

spain28e007151985-v6REEL 15 Continues: his opinion of meeting; topics of discussion amongst comrades; nicknames; opinion of strategy and tactics in action at Fuentes de Ebro, 13/10/1937; description of Republican tank attack at Fuentes de Ebro, 13/10/1937; appointment of coy commander, Leo Mendelowitz (Gordon); being wounded whilst on patrol, drinking cognac.

spain11e002712812-v6REEL 16 Continues: receiving medical treatment at Murcia and Benicasim, 11/1937; Christmas at positions on Basque front, 1936; Christmas at trench positions near Teruel, 1937; role of unit in action at Teruel, 1/1938; question of attack by Moorish cavalry; reactions to cold at Teruel; nature of retreat south, 2/1938; story of drinking with Ernest Hemingway in Hotel Florida, Madrid, 12/1937; story illustrating Hemingway’s attitude towards writing in Spain; story of death of Leo Menelowitz.



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