XV International Brigade

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XV International Brigade
Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Flag of the International Brigades.svg
Active 1936–1939
Country United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia, France, Belgium, and Cuba
Allegiance Flag of Spain (1931–1939).svg Spain
Branch Emblem of the International Brigades.svg International Brigades
Type Mixed Brigade – Infantry
Role Home Defence
Size Four battalions: The 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th (January 1937)
Part of 35th Division (1937–1939)
Garrison/HQ Albacete, Barcelona
Nickname(s) Brigada Abraham Lincoln
March Jarama Valley and Viva la XV Brigada

Spanish Civil War

Janos Galicz
Vladimir Ćopić

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, officially the XV International Brigade, was a mixed brigade (Brigada mixta) that fought for the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War as a part of the International Brigades.

Nicknamed Brigada Abraham Lincoln, it mustered at Albacete in Spain, in January 1937, comprising many English-speaking volunteers – arranged into a mostly British Battalion and a mostly North American Lincoln Battalion. It also included two non-English-speaking battalions, the Balkan Dimitrov Battalion and the Franco-Belgian Sixth February Battalion. It fought at Jarama, Brunete, Boadilla, Belchite, Fuentes de Ebro, Teruel and the Ebro River.

The brigade's songs were "Jarama Valley" and "Viva la Quince Brigada".[1]


The XVth Brigade first fought at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937 and suffered many casualties. The British lost 225 men from 600;[2] the Lincolns 120 from 500.[3] After the battle, the brigade was seriously understrength.

At the end of March, a Spanish battalion, Voluntario 24 (the 24th Volunteers), joined the brigade. Over the next few months, under the close supervision of Janos Galicz, the brigade was re-organised into two regiments of about 1,200 men. He appointed "the gallant major",[4] George Nathan, as brigade Chief of Staff.

The first regiment, commanded by Jock Cunningham, with Harry Haywood as political commissar,[5] was English-speaking and comprised the depleted British and Lincolns; as well as the recently formed but understrength second battalion of American volunteers, the George Washington Battalion. The second regiment was commanded by Major "Chapaiev" (Mihaly Szalvay)[5] and consisted of the Dimitrov Battalion, the Sixth February Battalion and the Voluntario 24 Battalion.

This was the composition in July 1937 for the Battle of Brunete. As with the Battle of Jarama, the brigade suffered huge casualties; the brigade strength was reduced from six to four battalions. In particular, the two American battalions were so depleted that they merged to form the Lincoln-Washington Battalion.[6] (This name did not last: it was renamed the 'Lincoln' Battalion in October 1937.) The 6 February, which also suffered severe casualties, was transferred after Brunete. After Belchite the nominally Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, joined the brigade while the Dimitrov Battalion departed.

During the fall of 1937 the units of the International Brigade were integrated into the Spanish Popular Army and the Battalions were re-numbered. The British Bn became the 57th, the Lincoln-Washington the 58th, the Spanish (formerly known as the 24th), became the 59th and the Mackenzie-Papineau the 60th. The battalion line-up remained stable through the withdrawal of the Internationals during the Ebro Campaign.

The XVth International Brigade also included volunteers from Latin America,[7] who after multiple incidents of bad treatment by the Americans left the international brigades and joined other units such as El Campesino's First Mobile Shock Brigade.[8][9]

On March 13, 2015, Dan Kaufman interviewed Del Berg, a 99-year-old veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, who he described as the last known survivor of the Brigade.[10] Berg died February 28, 2016.[11]

Battalions: overview[edit]

Flag of the 17th battalion of the brigade. It was also known as the 1st American Battalion; the 2nd American Battalion was the Washington Battalion.
Date joined Number Battalion Name Composition Date left Comments
31 Jan 1937 16th/57th British Battalion British, Irish, Dominion 23 Sep 1938 Demobilized
31 Jan 1937 17th/58th Lincoln Battalion US, Canada, Irish, British 23 Sep 1938 Demobilized
31 Jan 1937 18th Dimitrov Battalion Balkan 20 Sep 1937 Moved to 45th Div. Reserve
31 Jan 1937 19th Sixth February Battalion French and Belgian 4 Aug 1937 Moved to 14th Brigade
14 Mar 1937 24th/59th 24 Battalion Cuban volunteers 10 Nov 1937 Moved to a Spanish Mixed brigade
29 Jun 1937 60th Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion Canadian and US 23 Sep 1938 Demobilized
4 Jul 1937 20th Washington Battalion US 14 Jul 1937 Merged with Lincoln Battalion[12]
  • Sub-battalion units attached to the Brigade
    • Brigade Anti-Tank Company
    • XVth Brigade Photographic Unit (Aug 1937 – Sep 1938) Archive

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Viva la Quinta Brigada was unfortunately misnamed in the 1970s song "Viva la Quinta Brigada" by Christy Moore.
  2. ^ Beevor (2006), p. 211
  3. ^ Beevor (2006), p. 214
  4. ^ Thomas (2001) p693
  5. ^ a b Eby (2007), p174
  6. ^ Eby (2007), p 196. "... losses in killed and wounded approached four hundred out of close to eight hundred just eight days before..."
  7. ^ "Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Spanish Civil War History and Education: The War in Spain". Alba-valb.org. Retrieved 12 October 2017. 
  8. ^ "Spaniards and Latinos in the International Brigades - The Volunteer". Albavolunteer.org. Retrieved 12 October 2017. 
  9. ^ Petrou, Michael (2008). Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, p. 109-110. UBC Press. ISBN 9780774858281. 
  10. ^ Kaufman, Dan (2015-03-13). "The Last Volunteer". The New York Times Magazine. p. MM38. Retrieved 2015-03-16. Del Berg, 99, is the last known surviving veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a contingent of nearly 3,000 Americans who fought to defend the democratically elected government during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. 
  11. ^ Roberts, Sam (2016-03-03). "Delmer Berg, Last of American Volunteers in Spanish Civil War, Dies at 100". The New York Times. p. A21. Retrieved 2016-03-03. 
  12. ^ Briefly known as the Washington-Lincoln Battalion