Frank Thomas

When the Spanish war began  Frank Thomas was 22 years old working as a commercial traveller for his dad. A main reason for volunteering for the war was the desire of adventure and glory compared to his ordinary life in Cyncoed. In the western mail his father said that Frank had always believed that communists are to blame!

He joined the Francoist army of Africa where they helped the Nationalist Spain in October 1936 fight against the government. Frank Thomas was an idealist and wanted to prevent the spread of Communism. The British government threatened that any British person to go and fight on either side of Spain would spend two years in prison. Due to this threat by the British government he travelled by holiday cruise ship to Burgos then onto Lisbon. Thomas took part fighting with the nationalists in the capital city, Madrid. He then became a batman to his company captain so did not go and fight for the Jarama engagement in February 1937, which was seen to be one of the most horrific battles. Therefore he watched from the outside rather than being in the battle field witnessing the unglorified element of war that he had not previously seen, changing he perspective on war as a whole.

frank thomas 1936.jpg

The previous October a British photographer who took a photo of him in the nationalist advance in the town of Navalcarnero which appeared in some newspapers. Due to Thomas not going to fight for a particular side and joining the war as an idealist this is the small bit of fame he experienced. On his return to Navalcarnero for a rest Thomas noted that 127 men survived out of 550 who made up his bandera when it marched towards Madrid. The sixth bandera was sent south to help stop republicans against the battle in Toldeo. Thomas was promoted to corporal and found himself in a trench where he got hit by a bullet in his face which splintered his cheekbone. And as he quickly made his way to the main lines took another bullet in his leg, he rolled uphill through barbed wire to regain safety. This made his time in the war a short journey when he hung across the back of a mule heading down to Montes de Toledo field hospital.

Frank Thomas was sent to recover in hospital in Extremadura which was close to the Portuguese boarder. This town was another headquarters of a battle composed of Irish men who fought for Spain. Most of the Irish were religiously motivated to join the war to help defend the Catholic clergies which were committed by the republicans. The Catholic Irish were nationalists fighting for the safety of religious people in Spain. Thomas became friends with the Irish volunteers who were treating him in the hospital. He managed to get an introduction to their commander General O’Duffy who promised to help him. They smuggled him out of Spain in mid-june through Lisbon. They caught a Ireland-bound ferry ship via Dublin when he reached Cardiff in a fortnight.

spain-in-1939
Spain in 1939, the end of the Spanish Civil War.

Frank Thomas left the war early and snuck out, he was not the only person on either side to do so. As a professional soldier he felt guilty about his actions and it was not an easy decision. He received very little recognition of his time in the battlefield as he was disillusioned with the idea of war. He began to realise that the ideology of becoming a war hero doesn’t always exist and it is not as honourable as he was expecting. He became less enamoured and resentful of the nationalist side. At 23 Frank Thomas was hard-bitten war veteran who was disillusioned which many from both sides of the war were. As a young activist his idea’s have changed as he has experienced the reality of war and realise it is not glorious!

frank thomas today.jpg

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