Richard Harrington, star of Hinterland and Poldark, sets out to trace the journey of his grandfather, who went to Spain 80 years ago to fight fascism in the .
The men who left the Valleys to fight fascism in Spain
Timothy Harrington trekked through the Pyrenees, one of 4,000 British volunteers to join the cause. Now, 80 years after he left wife Sally and five children, his grandson - actor Richard Harrington - has retraced his steps. His diary forms the basis of
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Leaving a note simply saying "gone to Spain", a Merthyr Tydfil man left his family to go and fight General Franco and the rise of Fascism in 1937. Timothy Harrington trekked through the Pyrenees, one of 4,000 British volunteers to join the cause. Now, 80 years after he left wife Sally and five children, his grandson - actor Richard Harrington - has retraced his steps. His diary forms the basis of the BBC documentary My Grandfather's War. Such disappearances to join the International Brigade were not uncommon across the South Wales Valleys, where the plight of the democratically elected left-wing government in Spain resonated with the Labour movement of the mining and steel-working... Research for the programme showed other instances, such as one woman waking up to find her husband had left, with a note saying "gone to the grocery shop". The coup d'etat which carried General Franco to power in Spain and sparked the civil war arose because the land-owning class in Spain objected to the republican government's plan to redistribute farming land to the poor. Unthinkable to the fascist parties and the Catholic Church, they launched an attack on the republican government. The war would claim more than 500,000 lives. The British government was so keen to remain as far away from the war as possible, it made it illegal for anyone to travel to Spain and lend their services to the republicans. They also sent warships out to sea to intercept any supplies which may have been on their way to the left-wing forces. Yet miners of Wales risked their lives to travel to Spain and fight the spread of fascism. "We are going on a jolly weekend to Paris," one of the Welsh men who travelled to Spain told a policeman, who questioned him and his friends as they left Britain via train. The men did go to Paris but, needless to say, they were not back by Monday. Timothy Harrington and his 4,000 comrades who travelled to Paris were met there by communist agents, who would organise accommodation and protection from French spies. They were transferred to Perpignan in the foothills of the Pyrenees where an old smugglers pass led them over the border without being detected by nationalist forces. Once there, Timothy Harrington and his comrades joined the International Brigades, a group of about 30,000 foreign fighters from all over the world. These men were given basic training in a town called Figueres. Harrington had been in Spain for four days before he was sent to Madrid to defend the city on 3 June 1937. The bullet holes from the battle can still be seen today. "Literature saved their lives," Richard Harrington says in the documentary. After a 10 day battle, Timothy Harrington moved out of the city, as the republicans sought to cut off supplies to the fascists in the west by claiming the strategic villages of Brunete and Villanueva de la Cañada. Brunete was taken by the republicans but Villanueva de la Canada was harder to conquer. Harrington was 35-years-old and only had half of his original lung capacity, when the Germans started dropping napalm on him and his fellow soldiers. He collapsed with exhaustion and on 6 July 1937, his war was over. He went back to Merthyr Tydfil and his wife and family. Timothy Harrington may have been back with his family, but the war in Spain raged on for another two years before Franco established full control. By that point, more than half a million people had been killed and 100,000 more would be murdered in the years immediately after the war. Children were taken from their parents and given to pro-Franco families. To this day there are still 150,000 people who have not been found. What memory does Spain hold of its fascist past and the civil war. Well, there are graves to the fallen soldier, but only on one side, and a huge shrine to General Franco made completely out of grey stone, which Richard Harrington visits towards the end of the documentary. While he is there, he meets modern-day Franco supporters paying homage to their icon but there are also school children there, ignorant to the level of the atrocities committed in their grandparents' lifetime. The stark contrast has a striking impact on Richard Harrington. "This is not the sunny Spain you see when you fly over here.
Richard Harrington (actor) - Wikipedia
Richard Harrington; Born (1975-03-12) 12 March 1975 (age 42) Merthyr Tydfil, Wales: Years active: 1987-present
Richard Harrington | Working Hard for Watford
Latest news and campaigns from Richard Harrington, the Conservative MP for Watford.
Richard Harrington - GOV.UK
Richard Harrington was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions on 17 July 2016. He was elected ...