Bob Doyle (activist)

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Robert Andrew Doyle
Nickname(s) Bob Doyle
Born 12 February 1916
Dublin, Ireland
Died 22 January 2009
Allegiance Republic of Ireland Irish Republic
Spain Second Spanish Republic
 United Kingdom
Service/branch Republic of Ireland Anti-Treaty IRA
Flag of the International Brigades.svg International Brigades
United Kingdom Merchant Navy
Years of service 1937-1938 (International Brigades)
Battles/wars Spanish Civil War
World War II

Robert Andrew "Bob" Doyle (12 February 1916 – 22 January 2009)[1][2] was a communist activist and soldier from Ireland. He was active in two armed conflicts; the Spanish Civil War as a member of the International Brigades and the Second World War as a member of the British Empire's Merchant Navy.

Early life[edit]

Doyle was born in a North King Street[1] tenement in Dublin, Ireland and became interested in politics during the 1930s. In 1933, he was part of an anti - communist mob that attacked Connolly House.[3] He joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA) after losing his left eye in a brawl with Blueshirts. He quickly became more interested in social rather than Irish nationalist issues and in 1937 decided to volunteer for the International Brigades, motivated in part by the fact that his friend and IRA veteran Kit Conway[4] had been killed in action in the Battle of Jarama on Doyle’s 21st birthday.

Service in Spain[edit]

He initially attempted to travel to Spain by stowing away aboard a boat bound for Valencia,[5] where he was detained and expelled. He eventually returned by crossing the Pyrenees from France. After he returned to Spain, he reported to a battalion at Figueras. He was initially required to train new recruits because of his IRA experience, but disobeyed orders to get to the front.

Capture and release[edit]

After fighting at Belchite, he was captured at Gandesa by the Italian fascist Corpo Truppe Volontarie in 1938, along with Irish International Brigade leader Frank Ryan.[6]

He was imprisoned for 11 months in a concentration camp near Burgos. There he was once brought out to be shot and he was regularly tortured by Spanish fascist guards and interrogated by the Gestapo[7] before being released in a prisoner exchange.

World War II service[edit]

Doyle enlisted in the British merchant navy during World War II before settling in London with his Spanish wife, Lola. He became active in the Fleet Street print trade unions.

A regular visitor to Spain and Ireland for International Brigade commemorations, he published an account of his experiences in Spain in Brigadista: An Irishman’s Fight Against Fascism.

In an interview with The Irish Times, he said: "I thought there was a danger that Ireland would go fascist and that was one of the motivating factors in making up my mind to go to Spain."


Doyle and his wife Lola later gave birth to a son, noted film editor and special effects wizard Julian Doyle, who worked on such films as "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "Time Bandits".


Doyle's ashes in the funeral procession, Dublin 2009

Bob Doyle died at the age of 92 on 22 January 2009. His ashes were carried at the head of a funeral procession through the streets of Dublin. Large numbers of people, including members of the Irish Labour Party, the Communist Party of Ireland and Sinn Féin, were in attendance.


  1. ^ a b Arthur, Max (2009). The Real Band Of Brothers – First hand accounts from the last British survivors of the Spanish Civil War. Section 5 – Bob Doyle, Page 167, reference to Doyle's date and place of birth. Collins. ISBN 9780007295098. 
  2. ^ Baxell, Richard (2009-02-16). "Bob Doyle: International Brigader and shop steward for the print union Sogat". The Guardian. p. 24. 
  3. ^ ""Dublin ‘Red’ Headquarters Set On Fire, Twenty Injured In Riots" | Come here to me!". Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  4. ^ Baxell, Richard (2012). Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle Against Fascism. Chapter 8, Their Finest Hour, Page 147, battle of Jarama, reference to the death of Kit Conway. Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 9781781312339. 
  5. ^ Arthur, Max (2009). The Real Band Of Brothers – First hand accounts from the last British survivors of the Spanish Civil War. Section 5 – Bob Doyle, Page 179, reference to Doyle’s arrival at Valencia on 8 July 1937. Collins. ISBN 9780007295098. 
  6. ^ Arthur, Max (2009). The Real Band Of Brothers – First hand accounts from the last British survivors of the Spanish Civil War. Section 5 – Bob Doyle, Page 188, reference to Doyle’s capture by the Nationalists. Collins. ISBN 9780007295098. 
  7. ^ Baxell, Richard (2012). Unlikely Warriors – The extraordinary story of the Britons who fought for Spain. Chapter 19, You’ll all be shot, Page 147, reference to beatings and Gestapo interrogation of Doyle atSan Pedro POW Camp. Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 9781781312339. 

External links[edit]