Lou Kenton

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Lou Kenton (1 September 1908 – 17 September 2012)[1] was an English potter, who served as an ambulance driver with the International Brigade and was its oldest surviving member at the time of his death.

Early life[edit]

Kenton was born in Stepney, east London to a Jewish Ukrainian family who had escaped the Tsarist pogroms.[2] His father died from Tuberculosis when he was young, and as he left school aged 14 he worked in a paper factory where he first encountered anti-semitism. This led him to join the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1929.

Spain[edit]

In early 1937, Kenton left Stepney to join the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. His wife, an exiled Austrian nurse from Nazi Germany, shortly followed him. When he arrived at the International Brigades headquarters in Albacete, he applied to join the International Brigade's Medical Unit. It was from there that he spent nearly two years in action as an Ambulance driver on the front lines, as well as distributing medical supplies to hospitals across the country. He left for Britain in late 1938 on an 'Aid for Spain' fund-raising mission to raise money for a new Ambulance but by the time his tour was over, the International Brigades were withdrawn.

Later life[edit]

After the International Brigades were withdrawn, Kenton was hugely depressed.[3] One of his missions was to hand the Basque refugees given asylum in the United Kingdom back to the Spanish authorities. It was "the first time I saw the fascist police in their three-cornered hats. All the children were in tears and all of them were hanging on to me as we checked each one and handed them over."[4]

After the Lidice massacre in Czechoslovakia in 1942, Kenton joined the British "Lidice Shall Live" organisation. He was an active member for many years and in the 1990s served as its chairman.

Kenton remained a devout communist, working tirelessly on trade union organisation, unemployed marches and party activities until 1968 when the Prague Spring was suppressed by the Soviet Union. He then joined the Labour Party and remained a member for the rest of his life.

Commemorative potter[edit]

From 1980 Kenton produced commemorative pottery for the trade union movement and for radical causes. His work has been commissioned by Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, Tobacco Workers' Union, Society of Graphical and Allied Trades, Trades Union Congress, areas of the National Union of Mineworkers, the People's March for Jobs, the International Brigade, Greater London Council Peace Year, National Council for Civil Liberties, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the Greenham Common women's campaign.

Kenton had two children and two grand daughters.

Spanish passport[edit]

On 26 May 2009, it was announced[5] that Kenton, aged 101, was to be the oldest of seven British pensioners who were awarded Spanish passports at the Spanish Embassy in London on 9 June 2009.[6][7][8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lou Kenton is 100!!!
  2. ^ Arthur, Max (2009). The Real Band of Brothers – First hand accounts from the last British survivors of the Spanish Civil War. Section 1 – Lou Kenton, Page 21, reference to Kenton's place and date of birth (Collins). ISBN 9780007295098. 
  3. ^ Baxell, Richard (2012). Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle Against Fascism. Chapter 21, From Spanish War to World War, Page 409, reference to kentons depression following the republics defeat (Aurum Press Ltd). ISBN 9781781312339. 
  4. ^ Lou Kenton
  5. ^ Deborah Haynes Spanish Civil War volunteers are granted citizenship 70 years on The Times
  6. ^ Lou Kenton holds his Spanish passport
  7. ^ Spain Honours Foreign Veterans Of The Spanish Civil War (Lou Kenton)
  8. ^ Thomas Walters; Lou Kenton; Joseph Kahn; Sam Lesser; Penny Feiwel; Jack Edwards; Patrick Cochrane

External links[edit]