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Adventure of Quorn man in Spain - Arrested by frontier guards - Hunger strike in prison

Loughborough Echo 18th November 1938

An interesting adventure in Spain, recently befel a Quorn resident, while on a short holiday in France, near the Spanish border.

“I was staying at Luz St. Saveur,” Mr. C. Flanders, of Beaconsfield Cottage, Quorn, told our representative,” and set off to walk up the mountain road, hoping to reach the Spanish frontier. As far as Gavernie, the road was very easy, but from there it became a rough mountain track, reaching an altitude of about 7,000 feet, and I was thrilled to see several eagles flying overhead, huge birds with a wing span of probably eight or nine feet. Soon after I passed the skeleton of a cow, picked clean, and began to wish I had something with me more useful than my penknife.

“I proceeded up the path, looking all the time for the frontier guards, and although surprised that I had not seen any by the time I got to the top of the track, I still kept on, not liking to be beaten in my wish to see the frontier. I began to wonder if I had passed it, and as it had begun to darken, and I was uncertain as to whether the eagles might attack me, I thought it better to proceed down the valley, than to run the risk of getting lost on the mountain by turning back.

“When I had gone about two miles, I was detained by guards at their billet. I was searched by the officer, but had to remain there all night, and was sent in the morning to the military headquarters in Jaca, 20 miles away, along roads with deep precipices on either side. On arrival I was again detained, this time in the offers’ quarters, for another night, and was very well treated. Then I was handed over to the civil guard, and that (Friday) night was taken to Huesca, where we arrived at midnight. I was given supper, a sack bed and blanket in a large room containing about 200 other men sleeping on the floor. I made up my bed on the cobbled floor and slept well. I found that my fellow prisoners were civilians who had supported the government.

“Next morning,” continued Mr. Flanders “they gave me breakfast and I was closely questioned. My request to write home was refused but I was allowed to write to the British representative at Burgos, and did so. But I was told I must remain in the prison for three days, so I went on hunger strike, and though my fellow prisoners offered food, I refused it, continuing my strike all the next day. On Sunday afternoon, the officer in charge, afraid I should be ill, came and had a long argument with me. I asked to be allowed to go into the city for my meals. This request was also refused, but I was put into a better part of the prison. Meanwhile, I had succeeded in making friends with some of the other prisoners, but as we could not speak each other’s language, we had to make signs and use the few words which we knew. Early next morning, I was told I must now go to Zaragoza, and the guard took me to the train, which arrived at about midday. I was taken to the Justice’s offices, and received a sympathetic official who immediately placed me on parole, and gave me a typed letter authorizing me to go about the city, and to stay at a hotel which lodged the Swiss Legation, and where I found that the booking clerk could speak English.

“I remained at Zargoza till the following Friday, and spent the time looking round and inspecting the town. Early on the Friday morning the guard took me to Burgos, as I wished to see the British representative there and ask him to advance me some money. We were all day in the train and passed through the wine making district of Llo Grona, the purple grapes hanging on the vines being a beautiful sight.

“We reached Burgos at about 8-30p.m., and I was taken by the civil guard to the police station, and after more questioning, was again taken to prison in a separate cell, with a board bed and a rug. In the morning I was told to join in the exercise of prisoners in the yard. I asked to see the British representative, but as this request was again refused, I refused to join in the exercise, so was taken back to my cell. I refused to eat the dinner they brought me and was taken, first the police station, and then to the British representative, who advanced me 100 pesetas (about £2 10s.).

“The representative told me that the Consul at St. Sebastian would pass me out and once again I was taken back to my cell. Here I was interviewed by a lady reporter of an agency, and was taken next morning (Sunday) to San Sebastian, my guard this time being a private detective who took me by a fast train. We went to the Consul’s office, but as he was out I was again lodged in a cell, this time with four “drunks,” the cell being filthy. I was given a plank bed and some food was supplied from a neighbouring cage, but my request for blanket was not granted. On the Monday morning I at last found myself with the Consul, and was told I must not take Spanish money out of the country; so I had to leave my pesetas with him, and was taken to the French Consul, who gave me the necessary permission to return to France, and he stamped my passport. From San Sebastian I was taken to Irun, a frontier town, to the Villa, where all passports are examined.

“The passport officials being away at lunch, we turned back to the police station at Irun, where we had to stay for an hour and a half till 3-30. So far I had not eaten since about 7 o’clock the previous evening, and what with the feeling of hunger, brought on by the sea air, and the uncertainty that there might be a snag at the last moment, and I should not be liberated, I became thoroughly dejected and passed the most miserable hour of the whole of my twelve days in the country. Most of the time the novelty of the situation kept me amused and I had no difficulty in keeping my spirits up.

“But on returning to the passport office, I was quickly passed through and preceded up the road to the frontier guard house. Here I was again searched and made to show all the money I had, 30 pesetas. There was an exchange office, but the official said he was not allowed to change Spanish money for French. Fortunately, however, the officer in charge of the guard overruled this, and I was given 50 francs in exchange for my pesetas. Further formalities were soon over and I was allowed to cross the frontier over the river to Hendaye, the French frontier town, where I arrived on Monday afternoon, my troubles practically over.

“I must say that all through I received no rough treatment, and only when I refused to join in the prison exercise did I receive so much as a push. I picked up some tiny companions while at Huesca, and had to wash my shirt, for all I had with me was a knapsack with an alpaca coat and a rolled up raincoat. I soon got into communications with my friends, and as soon as money arrived I was able to leave for England from Bordeaux on October 14th, arriving home on October 18th.”

 Submitted on: 2011-07-14
 Submitted by: Christine Sibcy
 Artefact ID: 1342
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page or just on its own.

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