Two Hundred Brigaders Pay Homage to Orwell

Over 200 people assembled at the Manchester Conference Centre on Saturday 2 March to take part in the annual IBMT (International Brigade Memorial Trust) Len Crome Lecture. The title of the day’s conference was ‘Homage to Catalonia 75 years on’. CHRISTOPHER HALL reports.

Peter Crome, son of Len Crome, a leading doctor in the International Brigades, began the conference with a brief talk about his father before the chair, Mary Vincent, introduced the first of day’s four speakers, Richard Baxell.Orwell conference poster

He talked about the effect of the May Day events on the British Battalion of the International Brigades and was followed by IBMT secretary Jim Jump who read a paper by Paul Preston, who was unwell and could not attend. His paper looked at the general importance of Orwell’s book.

Debate after each speaker was lively, although respectful, with many divergent opinions from the libertarian to old school Communist and much in between.

After dinner Orwell’s adopted son Richard Blair and Quentin Kopp, son of Orwell’s commander in Spain, George Kopp, were introduced to the conference and delivered well received speeches about the Orwell Society.

Tom Buchanan then talked about the impact of Orwell’s book, before I spoke about Orwell’s fellow volunteers in the ILP contingent and quoted from my new book on the ILP volunteers, In Spain with Orwell. The day ended with an hour-long plenary session where many interesting insights were made by the audience and many probing questions asked.

The room was festooned with images from the Spanish Civil War, including POUM and ILP banners, while the plaque honouring the ILP volunteers who fought in Spain was also on display.

Some people’s views on the war will never change, but one son of an International Brigader who heard my talk asked me a very simple question: “So the lads who went to fight with the ILP were no different from our lads?”

“Yes,” I replied.


In Spain with OrwellChristopher Hall’s book ‘Not just Orwell’: The Independent Labour Party Volunteers and the Spanish Civil War was published by Warren and Pell, in May 2009.

His new book, In Spain with Orwell: George Orwell and the Independent Labour Party Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, is £11.25 from Tippermuir Books Limited. Email:

See also: ‘Not Just Orwell’


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  2. Barry Winter
    10 March 2013

    Congratulations to Chris Hall and his colleagues in the International Brigade Memorial Trust for organising a lively, wide-ranging and tolerant event focussing on the 75th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

    Given the long history of acrimony over the civil war this was an amazing achievement. It was particularly heart-warming to see ILP and POUM banners alongside those of the Communist Party at the event. Of course, that does not mean that consensus has emerged but rather that it has become possible to debate issues in ways that once would have seemed unimaginable. And not that long ago!

    Of course, it does not mean that it’s always possible to remain completely placid. I found myself irritated by Paul Preston’s concluding depiction of the POUM as “semi-trotskyist” because it is both dismissive and crude. However, I could simply smile when one comrade told us how grateful we should be to Stalin…

    Following Chris’s interesting review of the ILP volunteers one member of the audience asked why she had not heard about them before. Thanks to Chris more people now have the opportunity to do just that.

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