On the 85th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, Fiona Keating honours the British volunteers who defied the government by fighting in this savage conflict to stem the tide of fascism sweeping through Europe

Ona blustery day in April this year, wreaths and flowers were placed beside a small memorial in Wigan town centre. The commemorative event was to pay tribute to the 12 local men who had travelled across Europe to fight in the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

The small crowd who gathered around the memorial listened to speeches by local historians, who spoke about the conflict and the men who went to the Iberian peninsula against the express wishes of the British government at the time, which remained neutral in the conflict. They risked their lives fighting for their beliefs, then faced potential prosecution on their return home.

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