Taith i Dunkirk: Llythyrau o Ryfel Cartref Sbaen

Gadawodd Gilbert Taylor Gaerdydd am Sbaen ym mis Tachwedd 1937 er mwyn ymladd dros Fyddin y Weriniaeth yn y Rhyfel Cartref a ddechreuodd wedi ymgais  grymoedd y cenedlaetholwyr ym 1936 i ddisodli’r llywodraeth. Mae’r llythyrau a anfonodd at ei wraig, Silvia a’i gyfeillion a chyd-weithwyr yng Nghaerdydd yn sôn am ei wasanaeth â’r Frigâd Ryngwladol o fis Tachwedd 1937 tan fis Mawrth 1938. Mae’r wybodaeth isod yn rhoi syniad i ni am ei gyfnod yn Sbaen, ac yn arbennig y daith i Sbaen a’i argraffiadau cyntaf o’r wlad a bywyd yn y fyddin. Mae’n defnyddio gwybodaeth, gan fwyaf o lythyrau a ysgrifennodd ym mis Tachwedd a mis Rhagfyr 1937.

Mae amcangyfrif bod 35,000 o ddynion a merched ledled y byd wedi ymateb i alwad y Communist International – y Comintern – i ddod i ymladd dros y Weriniaeth er mwyn ceisio gorchfygu coup milwrol a lansiwyd ym 1936 gan Genedlaetholwyr y Cadfridog Franco. Daeth tua 2,300 o Brydain, Iwerddon a’r Gymanwlad. Recriwtwyd y rhan fwyaf gan ganghennau lleol Plaid Gomiwnyddol Prydain Fawr a threfnodd y blaid y daith i Sbaen.

Gilbert oedd rheolwr Siop Lyfrau Collets yn Arcêd y Castell ac i raddau, roedd yn nodweddiadol o’r math o berson yr oedd y Blaid Gomiwnyddol yn eu dewis ar gyfer y Frigâd Ryngwladol. Roedd e’n ifanc, yn heini ac yn aelod o’r Comiwnyddion Ifainc. Fodd bynnag, doedd dim prinder o wirfoddolwyr ac roedd y blaid yn dewis recriwtio dynion sengl yn eu hugeiniau hwyr neu eu tridegau cynnar pan oedd hynny’n bosibl, oherwydd y gwyddant na fyddai’r rhai a oedd yn dibynnu ar y gwirfoddolwyr yn debygol o dderbyn unrhyw gymorth ariannol pe lladdid neu anafid nhw yn Sbaen. Felly, byddai amheuon ynghylch derbyn Gilbert oherwydd ei fod yn ŵr priod. Fodd bynnag, mae’n bosibl nad oedd y rheol hon mor llym erbyn mis Tachwedd 1937, pan ymunodd y rheolwr siop lyfrau yng Nghaerdydd â’r fintai Gymreig yn Sbaen (a oedd yn cynnwys, gan fwyaf, dynion o gymunedau’r pyllau glo).

Byddai Gilbert wedi ei recriwtio gan y Blaid Gomiwnyddol i ymladd yn Sbaen a byddai’r blaid wedi rhoi tocyn trên iddo deithio i Lundain, fel cam cyntaf y daith i Sbaen. Mae ei lythyrau’n cyfleu’r cynnwrf a’r ofn yr oedd yn teimlo wrth ymuno â’r frwydr yn erbyn Cenedlaetholwyr Franco; dyma frwydr a ystyriai llawer fel brwydr democratiaeth yn erbyn ffasgaeth. Roedd Prydain a Ffrainc wedi mabwysiadu polisi niwtraliaeth a chafodd y gwirfoddolwyr orchymyn i ddweud eu bod ar daith i Dunkirk, petai rhywun yn eu herio. Y gwir oedd eu bod dan wyliadwriaeth heddlu Prydain a Ffrainc yn aml. Roedd y ddwy wlad yn eithaf goddefol o’r gwŷr ifainc yn teithio i Sbaen i ymladd dros achos y Weriniaeth.

Ysgrifennodd Gilbert y llythyrau at ei wraig, Sylvia a Phyllis Greatrex yn frysiog ar 7 Tachwedd 1937 yn ystod noson ym Mharis. Ynddynt mae’n adrodd hanes cam cyntaf ei daith. Mae’r llythyr cyntaf, at Phyllis Greatrex, yn trafod y daith ei hun, yn cychwyn gyda phan gyrhaeddodd yn Llundain.

Phyllis, 7 Nov,1937-1

‘I’m here!’ Part of the way at least and it’s all very strange and exciting. I met at 3 o’clock as arranged with 16 other comrades and we waited and were talked to for what seemed hours. Harry wasn’t there but the comrade who did all the talking was really ever so nice. The 17 were divided into three groups and I was put in charge of one of them. When I thought all the talking must be finished I was called into the office by myself and had a brand new and much longer talk – I was to be in general charge of the whole Party! – My chief job is (a) to take letters across (b) that nobody gets drunk (c) to see that nobody does anything with women (d) to look after all the money. You may think all that’s rather funny – I laughed a lot. The second part of my special talk was to explain in great detail the political situation there, so that I would be able to allay and answer queries that might be raised. We left Victoria at 10pm… The journey was uneventful, very tiring but often very amusing. My efforts to keep the comrades away from drink and women would have raised a laugh anywhere, but on the whole they were successful. We arrived in Paris as 10 o’clock this morning without having had any sleep at all [Llythyr at Phyllis, Paris, 7 Tachwedd 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/2].

Phyllis, 7 Nov,1937-3

Pan mae’n sôn am Harry, mae bron heb os yn cyfeirio at Harry Pollitt, Ysgrifennydd Cyffredinol Plaid Gomiwnyddol Prydain. Pan gyrhaeddent yn Llundain, byddai’r recriwtiaid yn mynd i’r swyddfeydd yr oedd y Blaid Gomiwnyddol yn eu defnyddio, mae’n debyg yn ardal Covent Garden, er mwyn eu cyfweld ac iddynt dderbyn cyfarwyddiadau ar gyfer cam nesaf y daith. Byddai’r daith wedyn wedi parhau o Orsaf Victoria i Dunkirk mewn trên gwch dros nos, ac yna byddent yn mynd i Gare du Nord, Paris, mewn trên.

Mae hi bron yn sicr mai dyma fyddai’r tro cyntaf i Gilbert ymweld â Pharis, ac yn yr amser prin a oedd ganddo, aeth i weld ei mannau enwog, yn cynnwys arddangosiad, mae’n debyg yr Arddangosiad Rhyngwladol ar Gelf a Thechnoleg mewn Bywyd Modern a oedd yno o fis Mai tan fis Tachwedd 1937. Roedd llawer o wledydd yn cynnal pafiliynau ar gyfer yr arddangosiad, ac yn ôl sylwadau Gilbert, mae’n debyg mai i’r Pafiliwn Sofietaidd yr aeth. Efallai hefyd ei fod wedi mynd i’r Pafiliwn Sbaenaidd.

Os felly, byddai wedi gweld darlun Picasso, Guernica. Daeth y darlun hwn yn symbol o arswyd y Rhyfel Cartref yn Sbaen. Mae llythyr Gilbert at ei wraig, Silvia, yn cyfleu’r argraff a gafodd Paris a’r arddangosiad arno.

Sylvia, 7 Nov,1937-1

Sylvia, 7 Nov,1937-2

Just a very hurried note to say that I’ve got this far safely and without intervention. There’s lots to tell you already but no time to write. I leave tomorrow night, all being well and I’ll do my best to get a letter in before I go. After I leave I shan’t be near a PO for at least a week, maybe more, so don’t be worried if you don’t hear for some time. I’m in the exhibition at the moment – its lovely. Here’s a very small likeness of our comrade and leader the great Staline (as the French people so quaintly say). I wish you could see the Ex. Couldn’t you? You can get a day trip for £1.16. You’d love it. Must go now. Lots of love and thanks to everyone. You most of all. Yours Gilbert [Llythyr at ei wraig Silvia, Paris, 7 Tachwedd 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/2].

Byddai Gilbert a’i gyd-deithwyr wedi cwrdd ag aelod o Blaid Gomiwnyddol Ffrainc ym Mharis ac wedi derbyn Francs a thocyn trên i Marseille ac yna ymlaen i Perpignan.  Yn nyddiau cynnar y rhyfel, byddent yn teithio cam olaf y daith, ar draws y ffin rhwng Ffrainc a Sbaen, mewn bws. Fodd bynnag, yn hwyrach yng nghyfnod y rhyfel, roedd awdurdodau Ffrainc yn rheoli’r ffin yn llymach.  Felly, i’r rhai a deithiai o Brydain neu rywle arall, canlyniad hyn oedd siwrne hir a chaled, ar droed weithiau, trwy dirwedd fynyddig. Wedi croesi mynyddoedd y Pyreneau a chael mynd i mewn i Sbaen, byddent yn teithio tua’r de mewn trên neu fws i bencadlys y Frigâd Ryngwladol yn Albacete ac yna ymlaen i Tarazona, lle’r oedd gan y Bataliwn Prydeinig wersyll hyfforddi.

Anfonwyd llythyr nesaf Gilbert o’r gwersyll Prydeinig, ar 16 Tachwedd, naw diwrnod yn ddiweddarach. Er bod y criw wedi dechrau’r daith yn llawn hwyliau, roedd hi’n daith hir, anghyfforddus a llafurus.

Silvia 16.Nov.37 pg1

Silvia 16.Nov.37 pg2

We arrived here yesterday after a long and very tiring journey – miles of walking, 12-24 hours continuous stretches in Spanish trains and endless waiting.  The journey has been harder than anyone had anticipated but we have enjoyed every minute of it: our spirits and enthusiasm have grown, snowball like, with every difficulty and trial we’ve had to meet. Certainly the journey would be impossible for anyone whose determination wasn’t cast iron – one or two comrades have suffered badly because of this, and should never have been allowed to come. I have written a very long account of the trip, but after having seen the long list of things which can’t be mentioned I have come to the conclusion that it would probably not get through. Perhaps I’II rewrite it, see what happens. Perhaps it can wait until I get back [Llythyr at ei wraig Silvia, 16 Tachwedd 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/1].

Ysgrifennodd Gilbert am ei argraffiadau cyntaf o Sbaen yn faith. Efallai ei bod yn syndod ei fod yn gweld tebygrwydd rhwng y dirwedd yno a’r bryniau tua’r gogledd o Gaerdydd, er bod y rhan fwyaf o bethau yn newydd ac yn wahanol iawn.

Silvia 16.Nov.37 pg2 part 2

The mountain scenery is really glorious – the sides of the hills are heavily wooded, with occasionally a vast slab of bare rock. In shape they are very much like the hills around Cardiff, Caerphilly mountain and the Wenallt. In striking contrast to England, all the hills seem to be concentrated  – all the roads that I have seen are straight and flat with scarcely an incline anywhere. In the early part of our journey we saw olive trees and oranges everywhere and usually side by side, but we have not seen any here. Spanish buildings are ugly I think, they seem all side and no roof – most of them are detached being different from French houses, which seem to be all roofs, no sides… [Llythyr at ei wraig Silvia, 16 Tachwedd 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/1].

Cafodd y tlodi a welodd Gilbert yn ardaloedd gwledig Sbaen argraff fawr arno, ac ar lawer o’i gydweithwyr. Fodd bynnag, sicrhaodd ei fod yn pwysleisio ar y gwelliannau yr oedd Llywodraeth y Weriniaeth yn eu gwneud, yn arbennig ym maes addysg, ac yn dweud fel yr oedd y Rhyfel Cartref yn fygythiad i’r cynnydd.

Silvia 16.Nov.37 pg3 edited 1

Here in this village practically all the buildings are made with mud and straw – many are 400 to 600 years old and it is said that the mud bricks become increasingly lasting by the continual baking of the sun. On the top of the hill just outside the village stands the only modern building the village has ever seen. It is to be a school, not yet completed and now waiting for the war to end. It is a beautiful building even now, in the shining white concrete which looks so well in the Spanish countryside. The school was part of the splendid work of the Popular Front Government – standing there on the hill uncompleted it is tragic indication of work suspended, almost a symbol. Soldiers parade on the square beneath it [Llythyr at ei wraig Silvia, 16 Tachwedd 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/1].

Ond eto, nid oedd popeth at ei ddant, yn enwedig y bwyd!

Silvia 16.Nov.37 pg3 edited 2

Silvia 16.Nov.37 pg4

Spanish food is awful and has been the most difficult thing we’ve yet had to meet. Certainly we have not seen Spanish food under ideal conditions but even so I don’t think I should like it. It may be thick or thin, fried, boiled or stewed but however it is done it tastes and smells the same , terrible… here at the base we have English food – or if it isn’t English it certainly isn’t Spanish, and that is all we ask for. The only meat we have had since we came to Spain is Donkey , occasionally Mule. It is incredibly tough but quite good [Llythyr at ei wraig Silvia, 16 Tachwedd 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/1].

Er mai newydd gyrraedd yn Sbaen yr oeddent, roedd pryder mawr ynghylch sicrhau bod y moethus bethau bychain ganddynt er mwyn torri ar undonedd a chaledi bywyd milwrol.

The greatest shortage here is cigarettes. You can’t buy them in the shops or Canteen for love or money – there just aren’t any to be had. Government issue to the International Brigade is irregular. Even then the cigarettes are lousy – at the best they are the cheapest French kind, but more often than not we understand they are Spanish…

So will you please try and get everyone who is the least bit sympathetic to send even a few cigarettes or some tobacco as regularly as possible. Whatever you send will be shared around among the comrades in the Group. Try to get people to send the cigarettes themselves – I will acknowledge them and we are anxious to do as much propaganda in this way as possible – but if they won’t will you please do it for us? Where there is any choice it is better to send cigarette tobacco (and cigarette papers) – it lasts much longer.

I also badly need writing paper and envelopes and Ever Ready razor blades. Paper here is scarce and very expensive. Could you send one of those Woolworth ‘Canadian’ pads, octavo size, say once a fortnight? I think it would get through.

Silvia 16.Nov.37 pg5

Silvia 16.Nov.37 pg6

Finally and almost above cigarettes, we need news of home. We are terribly isolated here from activity in the rest of the world and we feel it keenly. Tell us what is happening in the party, in the LBC, in Parliament, in Cardiff, London – anywhere. Let me know as much as possible about all the comrades at home, what they are doing and when, where, why. Send me newspaper cuttings and reports of meetings that are held. Do you think you could send me the New Statesman, Labour Monthly and Left Review on the day of publication? We see newspapers in the library here, but most of them are ancient history… [Llythyr at ei wraig Silvia, 16 Tachwedd 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/1].

Mae’r straeon am y gwŷr ifainc yn cael eu hanfon yn syth i’r rheng flaen i ymuno â Byddin y Weriniaeth dan bwysau, ar y cyfan yn anghywir. Cafodd rhan fwyaf y recriwtiaid a oedd yn cyrraedd Sbaen gyfnod hirach o hyfforddiant sylfaenol. Doedd Gilbert ddim yn eithriad, ac roedd e yn Tarazona am bron i dri mis. Yn ystod y cyfnod hwn, byddai’r hyfforddiant milwrol wedi bod yn ei anterth, gyda driliau di-baid, dyletswydd gwarchod ac ymarfer gynnau ar gyfer y recriwtiaid ifainc, brwdfrydig. Ond byddai’r profiad wedi bod yn un rhyfedd i’r gwŷr gan nad oedd ganddynt unrhyw, neu brin ddim profiad milwrol, ac mae’n bosibl bod rhai yn cydymdeimlo â’r heddychwyr.

Silvia 5.Dec.37 pg2

I find a great contradiction in my make up! There is a serious danger of my making a really first rate soldier. I am obedient. I respond easily to discipline. I can shoot as accurately as anyone else and I can pick up the mechanics of rifles, machine guns etc more quickly than most. Finally, my Spanish pronunciation is definitely not worse than anyone else’s. And yet I’m still too much of a pacifist to make a really effective soldier. I can become politically vicious about fascism, but I can’t get really vicious about shooting fascists. It is all very difficult [Llythyr at ei wraig Silvia, 5 Rhagfyr 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/1].

Fodd bynnag, fel ymgyrchydd gwleidyddol, daeth Gilbert o hyd i ffordd o ddefnyddio ei dalentau wrth gynhyrchu papur newydd y gwersyll a chafodd gyfleoedd i weithio fel comisâr gwleidyddol.

As soon as we arrived in Spain I was elected Political Commissar, or Officer, by the comrades in the English Speaking Group. This includes English, American, Canadian comrades and I was officially re-appointed at the political meeting held last night. The vote was unanimous and there were no other nominations and I felt highly flattered. I think I get 3 pesetas a day extra pay – also a badge! But is not as important as it sounds; it’s just about the lowest form of political appointment in the army and the only one that is elected [Llythyr at ei wraig Silvia, 18 Tachwedd 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/1].

Bu ei geisiadau am fanion moethus yn llwyddiannus a Noswyl Nadolig 1937, ysgrifennodd at Silvia ac aelodau eraill ei deulu yn diolch iddynt am yr anrhegion a anfonont i Sbaen.

Dear Mother, Silvia, Ruth, Ray, Ivy, Phyllis, Gladys, Mrs Shaxby, Aunt Connie, Mr Shaxby, Frank and Vera, Auntie Alice and Lilla – and anyone else I’ve forgotten to name.

Here I am in the draughty barracks sitting on my wooden bed and single blanket: – I’m wearing the best leather jacket in the Spanish Army, smoking a pipe of real English tobacco, wearing thick woollen gloves and brand new socks. I have just eaten a piece of Cadbury’s chocolate, smoked an English cigarette, blown my nose on a real handkerchief, shaved myself with a new blade and soothed my chin with Nivea cream! And spread out before me are dates and figs and Horlicks milk, more handkerchiefs, socks, razor blades, cocoa, chocolates, sweets, tobacco, writing paper, envelopes, Marmite and Halibut liver oil capsules…

How can I thank you all and tell you what it means to have these good things.

24.Dec.37 pg3

24.Dec.37 pg4

Please, please, understand comrades that these thoughts and tokens of your sympathy and support are as important to us here in the International Brigades as our training and guns and ammunition. Give us the certain knowledge that you are with us, that you remember us and wish us well and there’s nothing we will not do, and no sacrifice we will not make, to defeat Fascism in Spain and throughout the world [Llythyr at ei wraig Silvia ac eraill, 24 Rhagfyr 1937; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/1].

Cyfeiriodd at aberth personol, heb ddeall mai darogan ei dynged yr oedd. Ar gerdyn post at Silvia, o Ysbyty’r Frigâd Ryngwladol yn Benicassim, ar 13 Mawrth 1938, dywedodd Gilbert Taylor ei fod yn teimlo ei fod wedi cael ysgytwad.  Dyma, bron heb os, oedd ei lythyr olaf. Wedi cwblhau ei hyfforddiant milwrol, roedd Gilbert yn gobeithio y cai ei ddewis i wneud rhagor o hyfforddiant fel Comisâr Gwleidyddol. Ond, gan fod ymosodiad milwrol y Cenedlaetholwyr yn dod yn fwy grymus, anfonwyd ef i’r rheng flaen ym mis Chwefror 1938. Roedd eisoes yn wael pan adawodd y gwersyll, ac yn y pen draw, anfonwyd ef i’r ysbyty yn Benicassim cyn iddo gyrraedd maes y gad. Bu iddo wella’n fuan ac roedd ar fin cael ei ryddhau o’r ysbyty ym mis Mawrth 1938 pan ddaeth y neges bod byddin y Weriniaeth yn galw ar bob un a oedd yn ddigon iach i wasanaethu yn y gwrthwynebiad i ymosodiad llwyddiannus y Cenedlaetholwyr ar ffrynt Aragon ar 7 Mawrth.  Yn amlwg, doedd dim amser i ysgrifennu llythyr hir, ond llwyddodd anfon neges fer at Silvia.

Postcard 13.Mar.38 back

I’m just off in about 10 minutes, but I still don’t know where for certain. But I think it will be to the Brigade. Write to 161 GP anyway. Your tobacco of the 5th and letters and woodbines of the 6th arrived last night, just after I had posted my letters to you. Nice to hear from you just before I leave. There’ll be a gap for some days now I expect. The coltsfoot is lovely and arrived in perfect condition. I shall keep it with my few others transportable treasures, which include a shilling, a photo of Erith and Barbary and two French postage stamps!

I’m feeling just a bit churned up inside to be quite frank! Love, Gilbert [Cerdyn post at ei wraig Silvia, 13 Mawrth 1938; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/1].

Ni chafwyd llythyrau ganddo na newyddion amdano wedi hynny. Credwyd ei fod wedi ei anafu a’i fod yn yr ysbyty neu ei fod yn garcharor rhyfel. Ceisiodd Silvia a’i rhieni ddod o hyd iddo droeon trwy anfon llythyrau at aelodau o’r Frigâd Ryngwladol ac awdurdodau Sbaen. I ateb eu hymholiadau, ysgrifennodd awdurdodau Sbaen atynt ym mis Mehefin yn dweud y canlynol:

Certificate, 24 June 1938-2

Gilbert Taylor of the XV Brigade, disappeared between 10th and 17th March 1938 during sustained fighting against the enemy in the defence of the Republic in the Caspe- Belchite section [Tystysgrif gan y Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn Genedlaethol, 24 Mehefin 1938; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/4].

Mae’n debyg bod pob gobaith o ddod o hyd i Gilbert wedi pylu bum mis wedi ei weld ddiwethaf pan ysgrifennodd Peter Kerrigan, comisâr gwleidyddol â’r Frigâd Ryngwladol, at dad Silvia o Barcelona.

…I have been trying to investigate the position regarding Gilbert Taylor. There seems to have been some confusion as to what happened to him. He was marked with the Battalion April 1938. On the records this was crossed out and the words ‘hospital’ inserted with a query. I have investigated the position with the responsible people in the Battalion with the following result. He is not with the Battalion. He had not been with the Battalion since March. As he is not in the list of prisoners issued by Franco and not in any Hospital as far as we can trace, it seems pretty conclusive that he must have been killed.

In conclusion I must say that I’m sorry if this is not as definite as you may expect. My personal opinion, for what it is worth, is that Comrade Gilbert Taylor was killed in action in March during the retreat. It may interest you to know that in records I saw, he was ranked very highly for his qualities as an Anti-Fascist soldier [Peter Kerrigan at Dr J H Shaxby, 9 Awst 1938; Papurau Gilbert Taylor, D748/4].

Gyda’r nod o geisio gallu trafod heddwch, cyhoeddodd Llywodraeth y Weriniaeth yng Nghynghrair y Cenhedloedd ar 21 Medi 1938 y byddai’r Brigadau Rhyngwladol yn rhoi’r gorau iddi. Dadfyddiniwyd y Brigadau yn ffurfiol wedi gorymdaith ffarwelio yn Barcelona ym mis Hydref 1938.Roedd y rhan fwyaf, yn cynnwys y 300 milwr o Brydain a oedd ar ôl, wedi gadael Sbaen erbyn mis Rhagfyr 1938. Serch hynny, bwrw ymlaen i ryfela a wnaeth byddin Franco, a threchu’r Weriniaeth yn nhymor y gwanwyn, 1939.

Roedd Gilbert Taylor yn un o’r 33 gŵr o Gymru a fu farw wrth wasanaethu â’r Frigâd Ryngwladol yn Sbaen. Mae cofebau yng Nghaerdydd, Abertawe, Aberdâr, Pentre a Phenygroes yn coffáu’r gwirfoddolwyr Cymreig a fu’n ymladd yn Rhyfel Cartref Sbaen.

Yn ystod ei gyfnod yn Sbaen, ysgrifennodd lythyrau hir at ei deulu, ei gyfeillion a’i gyd-weithwyr.  Mae papurau Gilbert Taylor yn Archifau Morgannwg.

Tony Peters, Gwirfoddolydd Archifau Morgannwg

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