FELICIA BROWNE – A STRANGE CASE OF NEGLECT

Felicia Browne died age 32 on August 25th 1936. She had volunteered to fight on the Aragon front with a communist militia. Her unit was to ambush a fascist munitions train but they themselves were ambushed. Felicia went to the aid of a wounded Italian comrade and was shot dead by the fascists. She was the first English fighter to die in Spain, the only woman from outside Spain to die in active combat. Yet she is hardly remembered – I can’t even find a photo of her on the internet.  I think many people will be astounded to hear of an English woman fighter being killed so early in the war. ‘Why weren’t we told?’ It seems incredible that the International Brigaders are rightly honoured but Felicia is ignored despite her heroism.Why? She was a member of the Communist Party yet with a golden opportunity to eulogise a dead woman hero the CP ignored her death. They had not wanted her to fight on the front line but she had insisted. Then she was ignored by those who mythologised other fighters from abroad.

She was a talented artist and sculptor – and yes middle class -who attended the Slade and designed the TUC Tolpuddle Martyrs centenary medal. She went with Edith Bone (no relation) to Barcelona in 1936 to attend the PEOPLES OLYMPIAD –  designed to rival Hitler’s Nazi olympics. She was in Barcelona in the July days at the start of the revolution and long before Orwell and others arrived. She immediately volunteered to fight at the front unlike many other artists who were radical tourists. She fought courageously with hardly any military training – one week in fact. I think it’s about time Felicia Browne was rescued from oblivion.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “FELICIA BROWNE – A STRANGE CASE OF NEGLECT

  1. ianbone

    Cheers Tom – but the figure on the left is a drawing by Felicia and the photo on the right is her mother. Comrade P tells me there is a photo in the MI5 archives which can be obtained for a small fee.

  2. Ashe

    There is a self-portrait of Felicia reproduced in Tom Buchanan’s book: the Impact of the Spanish Civil War on Britain, page 69. He devotes a chapter to her in this book:

    http://tinyurl.com/pxye2p

  3. This is great Ian, well done.

  4. Christopher Short

    Ian: I would be interested to see the file on Felicia Browne. Please let me know if this is still possible.

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