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Max Collins

Max Collins born in Stepney in 1912, a retired Laboratory Technician, interviewed in 1996, recalled how he went to Spain:

"I thought I might as well risk my life for some-thing I believed in, so I came up to King Street, to the Communist Party office. The man asked me if I'd had any previous military experience, and I said no. He said: "Well, what the bloody hell have you come here for? Do you think it's going to be a bloody holiday? 'He told me to leave my name, address and occupation. I was a motor mechanic, so when, weeks later, they were forming an ambulance unit to go to Spain, I got a telegram."

"On 28 December 1936, with a mate, I picked up the ambulance from a medical suppliers in Gray's Inn Road. We crossed over to Dieppe, drove through the night and got to Barcelona. My experiences to some extent justified the reports in the Daily Worker about the welcome given to the International Volunteers by the Spanish people."

"Everywhere we travelled, Salud! Salud! A tremendous feeling... I operated as an ambulance driver for a while, then I became mechanic to the unit. At Brunete I�d run out of spare parts and so I was idle, but the ambulance drivers were busy. So I said let me take the ambulance for a couple of trips. I got down to the first aid post, loaded in the wounded and hadn�t gone far when four Italian planes came over the brow of the hill."

"Something hit me in the head ... I took the helmet off ... blood and everything, the ambulance was on its side. I had to come back to England, but I went back to Spain in 1938. I did a survey of all the ambulances to see what was needed. I thumbed a lift back to England, got the spare parts together and went back to Spain."

"I met so many wonderful people I would never have had the opportunity to meet in ordinary civilian life. I met Pandit Nehru; and Ernest Hemingway, who bought me a drink in Madrid. Despite all the hardships and difficulties, I wouldn't have missed it."

Transcribed by Michael Walker; Source: Independent on Sunday 21st July 1996