Jack Shaw was born in Stepney in 1917; as a retired London cab driver, he recalled his time in the Spanish Civil War in 1996:
“All Dad wanted us to do was to be good Yiddisher boys and always turn a cheek, but we never would. We used to wait for Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in Whitechapel and give them a bloody good hiding. I was arrested at the Battle of Cable Street and got three months’ hard labour."
"I wanted to go to Spain but the Communist Party wouldn’t let me. I was 18, and had just come out of prison. But I got a job on a boat going to Alicante, jumped ship and made my way to Albacete, which was the International Brigade base. Errol Flynn was at the base and bought us drinks. Now I read he was a spy. I was sent to Madrigueras, where we did six weeks’ training and then went to Jarama – a hell of a battle. We fought Franco’s troops, Germans, Italians… I was brought home by the Communist Party when there was a stink in the press about too many youngsters getting slaughtered.”
I believe there were 10,000 Jews in the International Brigades. There’s a memorial to them. But Franco wasn’t anti-semitic: a Jewish millionaire from Sweden backed him. The war stays with me. I used to get into arguments with other cab drivers: they believed we killed nuns and priests in the war."
Transcribed by Michael Walker; Source : Independent on Sunday 21st July 1994
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