Dr Norman BETHUNE, undoubtedly the most famous Canadian there, created and led a blood transfusion service. The "Mac-Paps" fought in 5 major campaigns, including the assault on Fuentes de Ebro on 13 October 1937, the defence of Teruel in December-January, the "Retreats" in March-April 1938, and a counterattack across the Ebro River in the last summer of the war. The battalion was led by Edward Cecil-Smith, the military commander and a Toronto labour journalist, and Saul Wellman, a New York union organizer and the unit's political commissar. When the Mac-Paps withdrew from the conflict in September 1938, it is said, only 35 men were left on their feet.
Although celebrated by well-wishers on their arrival home in early 1939, the survivors, half the original number, received no official welcome. In April 1937 the Canadian government had passed the Foreign Enlistment Act, outlawing participation by Canadians in foreign wars, and the Customs Act, which provided for government control over arms exports. The Mac-Paps were an official embarrassment, and so languished in obscurity until the 1970s when a number of books, films and plays documented their history.
Author VICTOR HOWARD