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Esmond Romilly and the International Brigade

http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:b5wkofXgnO8jMM:http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SPromilly.jpgEsmond is the perfect example of the English eccentric from a privileged background. Educated at Wellington College he was a rebel from early days, refusing to take part in cadet training and then trying to convert fellow pupils to pacifism. He ran away from school and worked in a communist book shop in central London helping fellow run-away public school boys!
He was in fact the nephew of Winston Churchill – the press referred to him as the ‘red nephew’ These must have been rather odd times – he managed to combine  strong anti-fascist, pro left wing sympathies whilst maintaining a strong relationship with the Churchill’s. He spent Xmas holidays at Chartwell – his mother Nellie was the sister of Winston’s wife Clementine.

In 1936 with the outbreak of the war in Spain and only 18 years old he decided to cycle to join the government forces. Half way through France and totally unprepared he lost his passport, warm clothes and his money. This was typical of him – he was renowned for his lack of practicality – he had draped his jacket over the handlebars. Arriving hungry in Marseille he had to rely on handouts.

Joining the International Brigade and with only minimal training he was thrown into the defence of Madrid and saw the almost total annihilation of his comrades.Spartacus says he and 15 other Englishman were attached to the Thaelman battalion and he saw the almost total annihilation of his comrades. His brother Giles was another volunteer. He survived but had to be sent to Britain in January 1937 after a severe bout of dysentery. See his book – Boadilla (if you have an original copy let me know!).
He entered another almost bizarre phase of his life by falling in love with his 2nd cousin Jessica Mitford. Bizarre because one rumour had it his mother and her father were half brother and sister (a later second rumour suggested Esmond was in fact Winston Churchill’s son). To confuse matters further Jessica’s sister Diana Mosley was married to the fascist black shirt leader Oswald Mosley, and another sister Unity was a friend of Hitler. Esmond’s life was one of extremes!

By 1937 he was back in Spain reporting for the News Chronicle and then crossed over into France to get married. After moving back to Britain and losing a child (it was reported their baby had no natural defences due to its parents having had such a germ free background) they left for the USA and tried such things as running a bar in Miami. With the outbreak of WW2 he joined the Canadian Airforce and died in 1941 over the North Sea.
Years later Esmond’s Grandson, Chaka Forman is an American actor who has appeared on CSI – Crime Scene Investigations. His mother Constancia (Esmond’a daughter) married a famous black civil rights leader - an associate of Martin Luther King. This family do not know what an ordinary life is!