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John Cornford - in memory

Jane Bernal reads John Cornford's poem, 'Full Moon at Tierz: Before the Storming of Huesca' in the location it was written in 1936 - in the Estrecho Quinto Trenches.


The trenches overlook the valley - in the poem he describes "the glacial wall" - and the town of Tirez, with city of Huesca further away, and the Pyrenees mountains in the distance.


Jane Bernal is the daughter of Margot Heineman, who was John Cornford's partner during the period he was in Spain. In this clip Jane is reading the final lines of the poem.


John Cornford , a student at Cambridge and member of the Communist Party, was one of the first British volunteers to go to Spain on hearing of the out-break of fighting and the military attacks on the Republic. From Barcelona he made his own way to the Aragon front joining a unit of the POUM militia. A short time after taking part in an attack on the enemy-held town of Perdiguera he became ill and was sent home to England to recuperate. He returned to Spain, with a small group of volunteers he had recruited where they joined the International Brigades at Albecete. He served with a machine-gun unit of the Commune de Paris Battalion, and fought, and was wounded, in the defence of Madrid through November and December 1936. Having transferred to the recently formed British Battalion he was killed at Lopera on 27th December 1936 , aged twenty-one.


To Margot Heinmann, in the poem that memorable begins "Heart of the heartless world", he wrote "And if bad luck should lay my strength / Into the shallow grave, / Remember all the good you can; / Don't forget my love."

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Uploaded on February 9, 2015