Thursday, 21 June 2018

On the trail of a bullet holed ambulance ........ somewhere in Stalybridge

Now the connection between a bullet holed ambulance in Stalybridge, and a British nurse caught up in the Spanish Civil War is intriguing. 

Miss Addy in Spain, 1938
I first came across the presence of the ambulance while writing about Madge Addy who in her early 30s went out to Spain and served as a nurse on the Republican side in the Civil War which had begun with an army insurrection against the democratically elected legitimate Government.*

She was the last British nurse out of Spain just before the Government was defeated by General Franco and his allies.

She then went on to serve as a secret agent in the S.O.E in occupied France smuggling vital information across Europe and was awarded the OBE, for her work.

Miss Addy, 1938
But history hasn’t been kind to this remarkable women and it has taken  a few of us to begin to bring her out of the shadows.

It began with an approach to help research the early years of her life as a part of a campaign to get a plaque installed in a house in Chorlton where she had worked a hair dresser in the 1930s.

That campaign was co-ordinated by Chris Hall and I am pleased to say was successful and that in turn has led to the idea that there should be a book about Ms Addy.

It is in its very early stages, and will involve Chris, myself and her grandson who lives in Norway.

And that brings me back to the ambulance, which was seen by a very young Margaret Riley who told me, “I saw her bullet holed ambulance when she returned from Spain. Always remembered it.

The only ambulances I’d seen were the Disney printed ones, which would pick children up for tonsillectomies in the morning and bring them back in the afternoon.  I couldn’t see why this one had holes in it, and I can’t remember where I saw it, as I was taken to Stalybridge via Dukinfield and Ashton”.

Unveiling the plaque in Chorlton, 2018
Now we know that Ms Addy had both written about her experiences while still in Spain and that she also took part in tours across Britain, highlighting the plight of the Spanish people and the atrocities committed by the Nationalist forces of Franco.

So the Stalybridge ambulance story is a find which must be followed up.

Given that she was from Manchester, there might be a reference to the event in the Manchester Evening News, the Manchester Courier, and Manchester Guardian, but I am betting there will also be something in the newspapers covering Tameside.

So, in the fullness of time I will take the tram from Chorlton up to Ashton to investigate.

That said if there is anyone who want an important walk on part in the project and is happy to while away the time in the library pouring over copies of the local papers from 1937 through to 1938, we would be very happy.

Bath, 1939
And just after the story went live, Chris sent me an extract from a bath newspaper dated January 1939 which described a concert held for Basque children who had been brought to Britain from Catalonia the previous year.  All were orphans and they took part in the non political concert to raise money to support the children and cover the cost of their final settlement in Switzerland.

The concert was part of a national tour involving the children who travelled through Bath in a bullet riddled ambulance.

Location; Stalybridge, Spain, and France

Picture; Nurse Madge Addy giving a blood transfusion; Daily Worker, November 11, 1938 and Madge Addy, 1938, the plaque unveiling ceremony on May 12 2018,  from the collection of Andrew Simpson and the newspaper article supplied by Chris Hall.

*Madge Addy;

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