South East Wales

Memorial to Cardiff 'hero' of Spanish Civil War

Image copyright IBMT
Image caption Cpt Archibald Dickson died a few months later when his ship was torpedoed during WW2

A sea captain who rescued thousands of refugees fleeing Spain in the last days of its civil war will be remembered with a plaque in Cardiff Bay.

Archibald Dickson was waiting to load cargo at Alicante in March 1939 when he let those trying to escape Franco's forces on board the SS Stanbrook.

The Cardiff-born mariner is still regarded as a hero in Spain today, with his deed marked in Alicante's harbour.

A plaque commemorating his actions will be unveiled in Cardiff Bay next year.

The SS Stanbrook bursting with Spanish refugees in 1939
Image caption The SS Stanbrook bursting with Spanish refugees in 1939

The memorial is being supported by the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT), which recognises the efforts of the 2,500 men and women - many from Wales - who fought against Franco during the conflict, between 1936 and 1939.

"Wales made an important contribution to the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War, both as part of the International Brigade and as seafarers, whose role was vital," said Mary Greening, Wales secretary of the IBMT.

"Captain Dickson is rightly considered a hero in Alicante and it's both important and fitting that he is honoured in this way in his home city of Cardiff."

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Letter from Cpt Dickson Image copyright Sunday Dispatch Newspaper
Image caption An extract from a letter Cpt Dickson sent to the Sunday Dispatch newspaper at the time

"Amongst the refugees were a large number of women and young girls and children of all ages; including some in arms.

"Owing to the large number of refugees I was in a quandary as to my own position as my instructions were not to take refugees unless they were in real need.

"However, after seeing the condition of the refugees I decided from a humanitarian point of view to take them aboard...

"A troopship leaving England laden with troops was not to be compared with my vessel. In fact in all my experience at sea, covering some 33 years, I have never seen anything like it and I hope I never will again.

"We only just got clear of the port when the air raid rumour of bombardment proved to be true and within 10 minutes of leaving port a most terrific bombardment of the town and port was made and the flash of explosions could be seen quite clearly from on board my vessel and the shock of the exploding shells could almost be felt."

Cpt Dickson was killed, along with his entire crew of 20, when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in November 1939 as it made its way back from Antwerp, Belgium.

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