The Gallant Cause: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War
By: Mark Zuehlke
Somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen hundred Canadians went to fight in Spain in the
late 1930s. That is nearly half the number of Americans who volunteered, despite the
Canadian population being only a tenth its size.
Looking at the Spanish war for a specifically Canadian history, there is a danger in simply
detailing each and every battle in which Canadians fought. This book doesn’t make that
mistake: Zuehlke is writing a Canadian history, but he describes the war’s significance for all
Western peoples. He spends as much time discussing the American, British, and French
naval blockade of Republican Spain and the German, Italian and Portuguese support for Franco as
he does the Foreign Enlistment Act, which officially forbade all Canadians from joining the
Republican struggle. In addition to describing all the most important battles in which
Canadians fought - like the twenty-day defence of Teruel, which only 200 out of 650 Mac-
Paps survived - Zuehlke also includes Mackenzie King’s tour of Nazi Berlin, and how upon
his return the Canadian government banned all travel to Spain. Around the same time, King
wrote the following in his diary:
Looking back over the German visit I can honestly say that it was as enjoyable,
informative, and inspiring as any visit I have had anywhere. The German people seem
much easier to understand and more like ourselves than either the French or the English.
Fear of Germany in other lands is that of ideas. That liberty and equality of the classes
may spread from Germany to their own lands. One does not like regimentation, but it is
apparently the one way to make views prevail. I have come away from Germany
No doubt the Western powers have since learned a lot from Germany under the Nazis, and it is important to remember that the modern propaganda (whether political or cultural)
we are all up against today is largely the result of the fascist worldview.
This book is actually a work of 'historical literary non-fiction,' and except for two or three passages of battlefield romance, it is well written and well organized. There is probably
detail enough to satisfy the military enthusiast, but it is also fast-paced and engrossing.