Crespo, Carmen (1916-1936)

A short biography of the Spanish anarchist militia woman Carmen Crespo who died at the age of twenty.

Submitted by Battlescarred on July 16, 2014

Carmen Crespo was born in Spain in 1916. She went with her family to live in France.

She returned to Spain in July 1936 to take part in the People’s Olympics in Barcelona. These games had been arranged as a counterblast to the Olympics to be held in Nazi Germany. They were scheduled to take place from 19-26th July ending six days before the Berlin Games. Six thousand participants from different parts of the world, from different socialist parties, unions, and workers sports and cycling clubs were to attend. However these games never took place because of the fascist attempt to overthrow the Republic.

Carmen appears to have already become an anarchist, and was described as educated and cultured. She took part in the street fighting in Barcelona. She then engaged in the militias where she became known as La Francesca (The French Woman). The anarchist Lola Iturbe in her book La Mujer En La Lucha Social (Woman in the Social Struggle) published in Mexico in 1974 then tells how she first met Carmen on the Aragon front after the town of Caspe was freed from the Francoists.

“In the tower of the church, located at the top of the village, waved the anarchist flag”. Lola Iturbe describes the arrival of a trainload of anarchist militia and that Carmen was among them. She talked to her at the militia headquarters and described her as “a very beautiful girl, slim, dark with beautiful eyes. She wore blue overalls.”

She was part of the Sur-Ebro Column also known as the Ortiz Column after its commander the anarchist Antonio Ortiz. He requested that she work in the secretariat of the militia at Caspe because of her intellectual preparation. She refused because she was determined to take part in the fighting on the front lines.

One day she escaped and turned up at Lécera where she was incorporated into the forces commanded by Valeriano Gordo. She then took part in all the fighting in that sector. During an attack on Belchite, enemy fire swept the plain where the only shelter was some olive trees. The militia were forced to retreat. Carmen was retreating whilst firing her rifle. Suddenly it jammed. She sat down very calmly in view of the enemy and fixed the rifle. She then stood up and continued firing.

A few weeks later in December of 1936 she was involved in the battle to take the Sierra de la Serna. She moved forward through a hail of grenades. One burst on her chest and she was blown to pieces.

Nick Heath