Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Johnny Longstaff

This photo of Cliff Rigg quarry looks along the whinstone ridge of the Cleveland Dyke towards Stockton-on-Tees where it crosses the Tees at Preston. I’ve posted about the Dyke many times before, so today I will write about a Stocktonian — Johnny Longstaff, who on this day in 1938 was shot and seriously wounded while fighting for the International Brigades in Spain against Franco’s fascists.

Longstaff was born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1915 and followed the 1934 hunger march to London, aged just 15. Three years later he joined the british Battalion of the XV International Brigade and left for Spain1The Young’uns. 2018. ‘The Young’uns – the Ballad of Johnny Longstaff’, The Young’uns <https://www.theyounguns.co.uk/johnnylongstaff> [accessed 22 August 2022].

On 22nd August 1938 , the brigade attacked Hill 666 during which  a bullet entered through Longstaff’s nose and lodged in his left cheek bone. Blinded and unconscious, he was likely taken first to a hospital in a cave at Mora del Ebro where he received emergency medical treatment. A fragment of that bullet remained in place for the rest of his life.

Returning to the UK, he enlisted and fought in North Africa and Italy, including the Battle of El Alamein and Monte Cassino, becoming a sergeant and awarded for gallantry. He died in 2000, and his life has inspired a musical theatre production, The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff, by folk singers The Young’uns2Kelly, Mike. 2020. ‘Theatre Review: Folk Stars the Young’uns Captivate Newcastle Audience’, ChronicleLive <https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/theatre-review-folk-stars-younguns-17736296> [accessed 22 August 2022]3Guardian staff reporter. 2019. ‘A Working-Class Hero: How a Scruffy Teenager Fought Fascism’, The Guardian (The Guardian) <https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/feb/04/johnny-longstaff-a-forgotten-hero-the-spanish-civil-war-fighter-the-younguns-folk> [accessed 22 August 2022].

An  interview with Johnny Longstaff is available from the Imperial War Museum.







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