Ben Murray returned to Canada where he worked in Montreal (Mem).  He started a communist paper in Toronto, but the paper went under, he then worked for the "Herald Tribune" (SC)

1920-22 - Belfast pogroms

April 1930 - the Irish Workers Voice launched

1930 - Ben Murray falls out with Benjamin Moore (SC)

1932 - Ben Murray "received his baptism of fire in his own native Belfast in 1932, when he played a prominent part in the United Catholic-Protestant unemployed movement" (MO'R) - Note this conflicts with the comment in Ben's memorial service programme which states that he returned from Canada in 1933.

3/14 October 1932 - Belfast outdoor relief riots

1933 - Belfast rail & transport strike

1933 - Ben Murray returned to Belfast (Mem) via Liverpool on a cattle boat (SC)

3 June 1933 - the Communist Party of Ireland was reformed

1934 - Ben Murray joined "the movement" (CPI?) (B.McCullough)

September 1934 - the Republican Congress, which united the left republicans, the tenant and unemployed associations, the small farmers and other organisations, was founded

October 1934 - a revolt by the miners of Asturias was crushed by troops led by Franco with 2,500 killed.

9 January 1935 - Ben Murray speaks against arrest of Republicans at Customs House, Belfast (IWV)

March 1935 - Ben Murray sells 221 copies of the Irish Workers Voice last week (IWV)

April 1935 - Ben Murray speaks against the new Unemployment Act at Customs House, Belfast (IWV)

July/August 1935 - loyalist pogrom against Catholics & Leftists (CC)

Post August 1935 - Ben Murray asked for permission from CPI to go to Britain.  He joined the CPGB and became the Secretary of the Willesden Branch.  He lived at 21 Winchester Avenue, London NW6 (CC/Mem).  He left for Liverpool with Fred Curragh's help, cycled to London, where he spoke at Speaker's Corner (SC)

16 February 1936 - Spain elects a Republican Government

18 July 1936 - Franco leads a military uprising against the Socialist Popular Front government

27 July 1936 - The first clear exposition of the real issues of the war was given on by The Worker

August 1936 - the annual conference of the Irish Trade Union Congress

September 1936 - Cardinal MacRory, Archbishop of Armagh, publicly denounces Ryan & the Republican Congress for sending Donnelly's suggested message of support to the Spanish Republicans

September 1936 - the decision is taken by the CPI to form an Irish unit for the Spanish republican army. The task was given to Bill Gannon, a member of the party who has considerable experience as a Republican fighter against the British & Free State forces.

8 November 1936 - First International Brigade arrives in Madrid (XIth Brigade - French/Belgians, German & Polish battalions)

12 November 1936 - the XIIth International Brigade arrives (German, French & Italian)

12/14 December 1936 - the 80 strong Irish contingent led by Frank Ryan left Dublin (40), Belfast and Rosslare travelling through London and France to Albacete.  The first Irish group went to Madrigueras on 16 December

23 December 1936 - Charlie Donnelly left London & joined the contingent 15 days later, travelling to Spain on his own.

24 December 1936 - the first Irish volunteers to fight saw action on the Cordoba front, along with the British and the French 12th Battalion of the 14th International Brigade.

28 December 1936 - An Irish unit marched with the IXth French Battalion and No. 1 Company of the British Battalion, a total of 145 men whose objective was to capture the town of Lopera.  Nine Irishmen died during this action, all of whom were from the South.

8 January 1937 - the British Battalion went into action at Las Rozas

11/14 January 1937 - The Irish were in action in the counter-attack on Majadahonda

17 January 1937 - Supporters of the Spanish Republic held a meeting in the Gaiety Theatre, one of Dublin's largest halls. The main speaker was Father Ramón Laborda, a Basque priest

January 1937 - James Connolly Unit disbanded because of the high rate of casualties, the Irish volunteers were divided between the British & American battalions.

19 January 1937 - having decided not to amalgamate with the British contingent, the Irish moved to the village of Villanueva de la Jara and joined the American Lincoln Battalion

February 1937 - the London Non-Intervention Committee closes the borders of Spain by a blockade on land & sea

5/27 February 1937 - battle of Jarama

6 February 1937 - Franco's army advanced into the Jarama valley in an attempt to capture the road between Madrid and Valencia.  Jarama was to become one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, lasting for a month

9 February 1937 - British Battalion left Madrigueras for Chinchon (15m south of Madrid) (IB)

11 February 1937 - Ben Murray joined the British Battalion (CC)

12 February 1937 - British Battalion arrive at Morata de Tajuna 12/14 February - British Battalion in action at Arganda

13 February 1937 - , the Lincoln Battalion received orders to cut short its training and move immediately to join the battle

14 February 1937 - British Battalion strengthened by the arrival of 60 fresh Brigaders, who had been acting as guard for Brigade HQ (RAS)

20 February 1937 - the enactment of London Non-Intervention Agreement

23 February 1937 - the Lincolns arrive at Jarama

8/18 March 1937 - Battle of Guadalajara

March 1937 - many of the Irish wounded at Jarama, arrived at the base in Albacete, where new recruits were being formed into a unit.  This was the Anglo-American Company, which had sections of Americans, Latin-Americans and a section composed of Irish and British.  This company was attached to the 20th Battalion.

Ben Murray letter, 8th April 1937

Socorro Rojo 161 Plaza del Altagona Albacete

April 8th

Dear Cde Hay

As you may well guess from the Springhall-Kerrigan report, the lads are feeling the strain a bit - but I have had the occasion to notice that some of those who appeared to be suffering most - had a sudden and remarkable change after having received letters from home.  I have read - or heard extracts read from many of these - and like the letters I have just received from you.  They are all eloquent with a courage and faith as great - if not greater than our own.  News of grievous loss is accepted without a murmur of complaint - although one can read "heart-break" between the lines and all of them express the same sentiment of confidence and trust in ourselves - and the Brigade as a whole.  I can only say Comrade - if you are as proud of us - we are no less proud of you and your letters are one of the most important factors in maintaining morale in the face of all the discomfort and dangers which beset us.  About ________ - the details are briefly told.  After an unsuccessful attempt to take a strongly fortified Fascist position, having advanced some distance from tree to tree through an olive grove (the trees were planted in even rows approximately 20 paces apart) the order was given to return. ______ was still safe at this time - behind one of the trees - and unencumbered might have been able to get back to our original position without harm - but there was a wounded Comrade (I'm sorry - I have not been able to find out his name yet) lying near him in an exposed position and as you know - ______ was not the sort of man to leave him there (and there are very few in our Battalion who would have done so) and in assisting him to cover - received a bullet which passed clear through his body piercing his heart. This is the information as I got it on the same day from a comrade who was in his particular group. I was with a different company on this day and did not see the incident - but I took the greatest pains to verify just what had taken place. Not knowing whether or not Alec was dead - another comrade - or more than one - managed to get him back shortly afterwards - and a chap who knew of my acquaintance with him - came to me almost at once with the information. That night - with the help of another Comrade, I dug out his grave under an olive tree - and when the mound over his blanket-shrouded body was complete - two other cdes and myself conducted the simplest ceremony of standing in silence and giving the clenched fist salute. The only words spoken were in a repetition of the pledge "They shall not pass". ______'s grave is now surrounded by others - comrades of many nationalities lying side by side and symbolically on each grave has been planted an olive branch. All of your parcel did not reach him - but he was delighted to get the socks and the chocolate in particular. He was very concerned about your position. Knowing how anxious you would be in your desire to get out here - and being obliged to stay at home - he was thinking of arguments to show that because of your working class connections in the T.U. etc - your service at home was vastly more imperative and valuable - than even the valuable work you might accomplish here. His last notable action - that I remember, was when he handed £3-0-0 over to Kerrigan to be sent home to you or to his sisters. I'm sorry I have so little information to give you - but this is due to the excitement of continuous action which lasted during the three days after I had joined the Battalion up till his death. There is a blazing hot sun today - and most of the boys have been stripped to the waist - I wonder what it is going to be like when the summer comes in? Heat does not bother me - I was used to it in Canada - but it may well make it difficult for some of the chaps. I suppose you see some of the friends in Kilburn once in a while. If so, you will have heard some news of me. I try to write one or two letters a week - some of which must get through. It is good to read of the fine work being done at home - the "Unity" campaign in particular seems to be making marvellous progress. "More power to your elbow" The job you are doing is our guarantee - that Franco's day will soon be done. With deepest sympathy

Yours fraternally Ben Murray

Note - the blanked out name is probably Alec Muir who was killed in action at Jarama on 23rd February 1937.

26 April 1937 - Guernica is bombed by German planes

13 June 1937 - Jack Nalty letter "back in the line since about mid-May. Duff is also with me and Ben Murray from Belfast. O'Connor and the three Powers from Waterford are in the best of form and in the line"

17 June 1937 - the XV Battalion left Jarama for Albacete

6/26 July 1937 - the Irish volunteers took part in the battle of Brunete, where they lost Thomas Morris; two comrades from Belfast, William Laughran and William Beattie; the Dubliner William Davis; and Michael Kelly of Ballinasloe. Another Irishman, George Brown, who was a leading figure in the communist and working-class movement in Manchester, was shot by the fascists as he lay wounded on the roadside. After Brunete, where there was a further reorganisation of the various battalions of the 15th Brigade, Peter Daly was appointed commander of the British Battalion. During the capture of Quinto on the Aragón Front, he was seriously wounded and later died in a hospital in Benicasim. Ben Murray wounded in the back at Brunete (Mem)

6 July 1937 - British Battalion capture Villanueva de la Canada

Irish Democrat, 10th July 1937

"From a well-known figure in the North, Ben Murray, a member of the Belfast Branch of the Irish Communist Party, comes an informative and chatty letter which his friends will be glad to read. Ben writes:

 I have just had the great pleasure of reading my first copy of the 'Irish Democrat', and I am delighted to know that such a splendid new fighting weapon has been forged to serve the cause of democracy in Ireland and to cut the ground from under her fascist and Imperialist enemies.  Please accept the sincere congratulations of all anti-fascist fighters in the International Brigades, and particularly from the Irish Unit. "Irishmen, both from North and South, Irish exiles from Canada, Australia, USA from Great Britain, and other parts, schooled in the tradition of Ireland's centuries old history of oppression have flocked to the aid of Republican Spain.  They fully realise that the defeat of Franco and his German and Italian allies is merely a prelude to the defeat of Ireland's traditional enemies at home and abroad.  "Spain will not only prove the grave-yard of Spanish fascism, but also will provide a tomb for the hopes of O'Duffy and all Irish reactionaries.  The struggle for freedom and democracy here is indissolubly linked with your struggle - and so, comrades, we salute you.  "The 16th, an Anglo-Irish Battalion, is now out for a well-earned rest, after four months in the front line.  We may well be in action again before this letter reaches you, but in the meantime, life is enjoyable.  Boxing tournaments, football, concerts, swimming, glorious sunny days in a peaceful little Spanish village; on forty-eight hour leave to Madrid for all in town.  "We have plenty of good food, cigarettes, beer and wine, and opportunity for social contract with the Spanish civil population, the kindliest, most amiable people the world.  They are delighted if one can speak a few words of their language.  "Although a wonderful experience and more likely to inspire greater and more determined efforts than ever to bring the war to a speedy and victorious close. Best wishes to the 'Irish Democrat' and all its supporters."

Ben encloses a copy of 'Nuestro Combate', the paper published by the 15th Brigade, of which the 16th Battalion is now part.  The paper includes an article by himself on his visit to wounded members in hospital behind the lines and a photograph of Isaac Hillen, of Belfast, playing a guitar solo at a Battalion concert.  He says the Irish boys are hungry for reading matter, and suggests that readers with 'Democrats', 'Labour News,' and magazines to spare, should forward them to Frank Ryan or himself at Socorro Rojo, 161 Plaza del Altazona, Albacete, Spain."

9/18 July 1937 - British Battalion is involved in a fierce contest for Mosquito Crest/Boadilla del Monte

18/26 July - a fierce Fascist counter-offensive

Irish Democrat 7th August 1937

"Irishmen in Action in Spain - Take part in capture of Villaneuva de la Canada

During the recent offensive of the Spanish Republican forces on the Madrid (centre) front, the Irish Unit, under Frank Ryan, went into action, and participated in the capture of Villaneuva de la Canada and the heavy fighting at Brunete. Elsewhere we report the deaths of two members of the Irish Unit, who were killed during the fighting. Among the members of the Irish Unit wounded in this fighting were: Paddy Duff, Dublin; Jackie Power, Waterford; Paul Burns, Boston; Marin Hourihan (Irish American); J Tierney, Dublin, and Ben Murray and Tom Murphy of Belfast. Frank Ryan in a letter says he has visited the wounded and they are all progressing favourably."

24 August 1937 - 35th Division (inc British Battalion) transferred to Aragon

24 August 1937 - Republican assault on Quinto, Aragon (Porburell Hill)

End-August 1937 - British Battalion marched north to Mediana

6 September 1937 - Belchite surrenders to the Republican Army

End-September 1937 - XV Brigade was moved into reserve positions in the mountains north of Zaragoza

12 October 1937 - XV Brigade ordered to return to the Aragon front

October 1937 - British Battalion took part in the over-ambitious plan to capture Fuentes de Ebro, remained in the trenches until they were relieved & moved back to Mondejar for re-organisation

November/December 1937 - XV Brigade in the rest village of Mondejar

November 1937 - Battle of Teruel

December 1937 - XV Brigade moved to Aragon, stopping at Alcaniz & Mas de las Matas

15 December 1937 - Republican attack on Teruel

29 December 1937 - Franco counter-attacks to lift the siege of Teruel

17 January 1938 - British Battalion moved into position to defend Teruel

16 February 1938 - British Battalion advanced on Segura de los Banos (40/100m ? north of Teruel)

21 February 1938 - Teruel is lost

8/9 March 1938 - the fascist offensive at Aragon begins on a 50 mile front, taking Belchite, Alcaniz & Caspe

10 March 1938 - Belchite falls to the fascists, XV Brigade march through Belchite to a spot a couple of kilometres north of the town to take up a Reserve position

11 March 1938 - After a fierce rearguard action, the XV Brigade withdraw along the river-bed then silently march through the night to reach Vinaceite by the morning of the 12th; the line was in retreat & the order was given to fall back to Hijar (Rust); retreat from Belchite to Lecera (Cronin)

12/14 March 1938 - a further retreat - from Lecera through Albalate, Hijar to Alcaniz (Cronin)

13 March 1938 - with Hijar already taken by the Fascists, the XV Brigade reach their new position on a hill on the Hijar/Alcaniz road by 8am. Taking cover during the day, the hill is fortified during the night of the 13th but to avoid the danger of encirclement, the Brigade set off along the road to Alcaniz. (Rust)

14th March 1938 Ben Murray is killed in the Battle of Aragon

"He met his death instantaneously in the heroic stand on the banks of the Ebro, March 1938" (Mem).

Brendan Moroney

"I buried Ben Murray from Clones, Monaghan in an olive grove and in the crater of the bomb that killed him" (IPost).

International Solidarity with the Spanish Republic 1936-1939

"In Aragon during the fascist offensive that began on March 9, 1938, Ben Murray, a Belfast worker, died a hero's death in an attempt to stop the advancing Franco troops."

15 March 1938 - As Alcaniz had been captured by fascists, IB retreat from Alcaniz across country to Caspe fighting a rearguard action. This ended in an olive-grove 2km "beyond" Caspe but the order came through to return back through the town to take up a position facing the enemy (Rust)

16/19 March 1938 - Barcelona bombed by Italian planes, 1,000+ casualties

17 March 1938 - British Battalion reach Batea to rest & re-organise

23 March 1938 - the second phase of the Fascist offensive begins - along a front between Saragossa & Huesca

26 March 1938 - XV Brigade passed through Calaceite & "came face-to-face with a column of enemy tanks… losing more than 150 killed & wounded and 100+ captured including Frank Ryan (MO'R)

30 March 1938 - the Fascists strike at Gandesa

31 March 1938 - XV Brigade marched into a column of Italian soldiers - 150 are killed or injured, 100 taken prisoner out of a total of 650 men (McGarry). 80 volunteers made their way back to Gandesa

April 1938 - British Battalion survivors retreat over the Ebro at Cherta

Irish News, 6th April 1938

"Tyrone Man Killed in Spain

Intimation has been received by Mr Thos Murray, ex Sgt RIC, Crilly, Aughnacloy, of the death of his son, Ben Murray, who was killed fighting for the Government forces in Spain. Deceased, who was formerly engaged in newspaper work in Canada, served during the Great War, and in recent years was a familiar speaker at the Custom House Steps open-air meetings in Belfast" (CC)

15 April 1938 - the Fascists reach the coast at Vinaroz - cutting the Republic in two

22 May 1938 - XV Brigade was moved to the Balaguer area & placed in Reserve at "Chabola Valley" (Chabola = shelter) until the end of July 1938

24 July 1938 - Republican Ebro offensive commences; XV Brigade have battle plans outlined to them

25 July 1938 - At night, the British Battalion crosses the Ebro at Asco & captures Corbera.  Attempts are then made over the next five days to capture the heavily fortified Hill 481 - "The Pimple."

3 August 1938 - Attempts to capture Gandesa are abandoned & the battalion is moved back into reserve. A fascist counter-attack begins.

6 August 1938 - XV Brigade is moved back into Reserve for 8 days

15 August 1938 - XV Brigade is in action again in the defence of Hill 666, situated over 2,000 feet up in the Sierra Pandols, south of Gandesa

24 August 1938 - British Battalion takes over the American position on Hill 666, Sierra Pandols, near Gandesa

26 August 1938 - XV Brigade is moved back into Reserve

6 September 1938 - British Battalion is moved up to Hill 356 near Sandesco, Sierra Caballs

September 1938 - the last action of the 15th Brigade on the Ebro

9 September 1938 - At the Willesden Branch, a Communist Party Memorial Meeting is dedicated to Ben Murray (Prog)


"He was a reliable worker for the Cause. He will be missed sorely by the movement" -Councillor Hector Marshall

"If every worker in Britain devoted his activities against Chamberlain with the same selfless devotion as characterised the work of Ben Murray against Franco, the world would now be freed from the menace of Fascism and war." - Harry Pollitt (General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain)

"A magnificent pal, a daredevil fighter and a fine comrade" - Jack Kirkpatrick (fellow Brigader)

13 September 1938 - XV Brigade is relieved & moved back from the front


21 September 1938 - Negrin, Republican Prime Minister, announces the withdrawal of all international troops

21/3? September 1938 - British Battalion replaced the 13 (Dombrowski) Brigade at Sierra de Lavall de la Torre, then withdraws under "murderous rebel cross fire" with 200 causalities.

22 September 1938 - the last two Irish deaths in action - Liam McGregor & Jack Nalty

25 September 1938 - the final withdrawal of the XV Brigade

17 October 1938 - all the foreign volunteers in the 35th Division were paraded

29 October 1938 - the farewell parade in Barcelona for the 2,000 men of the International Brigades Ebro … Marsa … Guiamets … Ripoli demobilisation centre … train through France to Dieppe … boat to Newhaven … train to London

7 December 1938 - the volunteers arrive back at Victoria Station, London

10 December 1938 - 7 of the Irish volunteers arrive at Dun Laoghaire

Belfast Telegraph, 13th December 1938, p15

"Ulstermen Home From Spain - In International Brigade - Seven Made Supreme Sacrifice

Seven Ulstermen who fought in the International brigade in Spain have been repatriated, and four of them reached Belfast on Monday. They are: Hugh Hunter, York Street, Belfast; W. Lord, Upper Library Street, Belfast; Richard McAleenan, Sheeptown, Newry, and a Lurgan man, whose name has not been ascertained. Today R Boyle, Falls Road, Belfast; J Hanlon, Woodstock Street, Belfast, and W Fulton, who joined the Brigade while in Australia, arrived. Seven Ulstermen, who fought for the Republicans, lost their lives in the conflict and one is missing. The seven killed were:- W Beattie and W Loughran, Shankill Road; W Henry, Bradford Street, Old Lodge Road; Ben Murray and W Tumelson. Newtownards Road, and R O'Neill, Falls Road, all of Belfast. The seventh man was P Haughey, Lurgan, and J Straney, Falls Road, Belfast, is missing.

23 December 1938 - the Nationalists begin an offensive in Catalonia

26 January 1939 - the Nationalists capture Barcelona

27 February 1939 - Britain & France recognises the Franco regime

28 March 1939 - Fascist forces enter Madrid

30 March 1939 - the end of the Spanish Civil War...