Oldershaw Tom

Tom Oldershaw

A carpenter by trade Oldershaw was a member of the Battersea Number 2 branch of the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers. He seconded a motion to the local Trades Council to establish an Aid to Spain committee and was a member of the Aid to Spain sub-committee of the Trades Council, as well as its Secretary, for a period.


He left for Spain some time after this, in May/June 1937.  At the time of his departure he lived at 74, Balham Park Road SW12. The house was known as a 'Community House' and was shared with other Communist Party members.


He completed his training in November 1937 and became a Political Commissar in the International Brigade. Commissars were an integral part of the army with the job of inspiring their unit with discipline and loyalty. They worked in conjunction with the military commander, and were often elected.


Oldershaw’s first role as Political Commissar had been for the Machine Gun Company. At the start of Franco's Aragon offensive he took over from Wally Tapsell as Political Commissar because Tapsell was on sick leave. Wounded in the advance from Caspe on March 16th, 1938, Tom Oldershaw was given first aid and left in a small archway. He was not there when a group returned to carry him to the rear, and he was never seen again. Political Commissars were usually shot by the Fascists.

It was wrongly announced at the Trades Council meeting of May 1938 that Tom Oldershaw had been captured. It is an indication of the lack of proper information that was being received in Britain about the fate of the volunteers (Trades Council Minutes May 5th, 1938).

Oldershaw was also a member of the Clarion Cycling Club and his death was reported in its journals.

Michael Walker


The Aid to
Spain Movement in Battersea by Mike Squires; BOOTS the journal of the London and Southern Counties Union of Clarion Cycling Clubs October 1938


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