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Reading and the Spanish Civil War

John Simkin

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In 1936 a small group of young people were politically active in Reading. They were in two different groups. Reg Saxton, William Ball and Thora Silverthorne were in the Young Communist League and Roy Poole, John Boulting, Josh Francis and Rosamund Powell were in the Labour Party Labour League of Youth.

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War they all decided to volunteer their services in the fight against fascism. Saxton, Silverthorne, Poole, Boulting and Powell joined the British Medical Unit that served behind the front-line helping the forces of the Popular Front Government, whereas Ball and Francis joined the International Brigades.

Although the BMU did suffer casualties, all five survived the war. However, the casualty rate of the International Brigades was much higher and both Ball and Francis were killed.

On their return Roy Poole married Rosamund Powell. Reg Saxton and Thora Silverthorne played an important role in the development of the National Health Service. John Boulting became a significant figure in the history of British cinema, producing and directing films such as Brighton Rock (1947), Fame Is the Spur (1947), Seven Days to Noon (1950), Lucky Jim (1957), Brothers in Law (1957), Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959), I'm All Right Jack (1959), Heavens Above! (1963), The Family Way (1966) and There's a Girl in My Soup (1970). These films helped to make stars of Ian Carmichael, Richard Attenborough, Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers.








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