During the 1930’s, more than 1700 Canadian men volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
The men were mainly in the Mackenzie Papaneau Battalion.
“No other country outside of France supplied more fighters, as international soldiers, in this conflict” explains Royal BC Museum archivist, and passionate historian, Raymond Frogner.
But how, you may wonder, did so many men find the resources to travel and fight in Spain, during the deepest Depression in the 20th Century?
The unrest and frustration of the Great Depression may have played a role in helping these men fund their journey to Spain to join the fight.
“In 1931, there was 15,000 people in Vancouver on relief, 2500 families,” says Frogner.
“By 1932, a tenth of the population of Vancouver was living on relief, and in response to this there actually became a relief hunger committee that was established.
“This kind of unrest had sort of a hothouse effect on the possible volunteers that were willing to go to Spain to fight fascism.”
Funds were raised across British Columbia to send nearly 350 fighters from this province.
“The friends of the Mackenzie Papaneau Battalion was probably the most active group…
“And they weren’t trying to raise funds for military equipment, they were raising clothing for Spanish citizens…
“They were supplying money for people to travel abroad.”
The friends of that Battalion raised more than $5000 dollars.
“This” says Frogner, “in the midst of the deepest Depression of the 20th Century, so it was quite a remarkable achievement.”
“And at the end of the Spanish Civil War,” adds Frogner, the Mayor of Vancouver “actually greeted Mackenzie Papaneau Battalion veterans at the Vancouver train station as they returned to Vancouver.”
Because per capita, no other foreign city in the world contributed more volunteer fighters to the Spanish Civil War than Vancouver, British Columbia.