Captain Dickson and the SS Stanbrook
A Welsh hero of the Spanish Civil War, who rescued thousands of Spaniards from advancing fascist troops, is honoured both in Spain and Wales.
Captain Archibald Dickson was the master of the Stanbrook, the last ship to leave the port of Alicante before it fell to General Franco’s forces in March 1939 during the last days of the civil war. On board were 2,638 civilian refugees, who were taken to safety in Algeria.
Thousands more remained in Alicante. They were rounded up by Franco’s and Mussolini’s troops and taken to the notorious Campo de los Almendros concentration camp. Many were executed or died in appalling conditions.
A memorial to Dickson and the Stanbrook was unveiled in Alicante harbour in March 2015 – 75 years after his last voyage from the port.
In 2016, a delegation from Alicante’s Civic Commission for the Recovery of Historical Memory visited Dickson’s home port and presented a memorial plaque for the Stanbrook crew to Cardiff City Council. It was attended by the children of captain Dickson, Arnold Dickson and Dorothy Richardson, and the great grandchildren of ship’s engineer Henry Lillystone, David Lillystone and Sandra Robinson.
The plaque is in English, Spanish and Welsh, and there are hopes that it will soon be installed on the Cardiff waterfront.
Tragically Dickson and his crew would lose their lives soon after their rescue of Spanish Republicans. The Stanbrook was torpedoed and sunk by a German u-boat in November 1939 in the early months of the Second World War.
The IBMT is campaigning for greater recognition for the role played by British seafarers such as Archibald Dickson in running the fascist blockade of Spanish Republican ports.
Some 29 British ships were wrecked or lost during the civil war as a result of fascist aerial bombardment and submarine attacks and dozens of seafarers were killed.