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In the past few years we've been delighted to have a variety of talks on military history, both local and further afield.  These talks take place downstairs in a small room to the left hand side of the main hall.

Talks in 2023

11am - Shock Troops or Cannon-Fodder - The International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War

Alex Clifford is a local historian who has studied at the universities of Leeds, Munich and Northumbria.  His expertise is on Europe in the interwar period and he has made a particular study of the Spanish Civil War.  His publications include The People’s Army in the Spanish Civil War: A Military History of the Republic and International Brigades 1936-1939, Fighting for Spain: The International Brigades in the Civil War 1936-1939 and Hindenburg, Ludendorff and Hitler: Germany's Generals and the Rise of the Nazis

In the English-speaking world, the Spanish Civil War is best remembered through the exploits of thousands of foreign volunteers from across the globe who joined the International Brigades – leftists of all hues who took their opposition to fascism to extraordinary lengths. Yet their quality as combat troops is much contested; were they zealous dupes, tricked into serving as the cannon fodder of a doomed cause? Or were they the Republic's shock troops, an ideologically-driven elite who courageously fought overwhelming odds?

While much has been written about the political and cultural significance of the Brigades, less has been said about their performance as front-line troops. It is this military history that Alexander Clifford will explore in this talk, tracing the course of the conflict and showing the drastic changes the International Brigades underwent as the war progressed – from an untrained militia in 1936, to the tip of the Republican spear in 1937, to a shadow of their former selves by 1938 after the introduction of Spanish conscripts to fill their dwindling ranks.

1pm - A History of the Anglo-Scottish Border

John Sadler is a well known Military historian and lecturer with a special interest in the Anglo-Scottish Border conflicts.  He combines writing with lecturing in History at Newcastle University and working as a battlefield tour guide, living history interpreter, and heritage consultant.  He is a keen re-enactor and a long time member of the Sealed Knot Society, as well as the author of more than 40 books with his latest - The Hot Trod: A History of the Anglo-Scottish Border; examining the Anglo-Scottish border from Roman times to today.

"On 9th September 2013, the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden in North Northumberland, I was taking a tour group up to the monument on Piper’s Hill.  New pathways had been laid in anticipation of a big turnout.  We trudged along to the base of the conical mound where a rather nervous young community policewoman informed us there was a number of ‘Scottish’ people already on top and she hoped there wasn’t going to be any ‘bother’.  The folk in the group with me were all of pensionable age, so I was able to reassure her that we could either climb the hill, or start a fight, but not both together.  She seemed reassured and, as it turned out, the Scots bore no grudges, indeed they obligingly proffered whisky.  The borderers and me – it’s the fault of my ancestors, particularly my father and grandfather; they got me into the whole thing, together with the Reverend Borland whose Border Raids & Reivers was an exciting introduction!  George Macdonald Fraser with his seminal work The Steel Bonnets, stoked the fire.  Since then, and for easily the last five decades, I’ve had a love affair with the marches, the places, the history, the legends and the people.  I’ve walked or driven over just about every bit on multiple occasions, I know every hill fort, barrow, Roman and early medieval site, (as a lad I dug on more than a few), every castle, bastle, tower, monastery, and country house.  I know the coast, the hills, valleys, and settlements.  From quite early on I’ve been writing about the borders, and now Crucible of Conflict. I’ve taught the reivers for 25 years at the former Newcastle & Sunderland’s University’s Centre For Lifelong Learning.


Talks in 2022

11am - The Teesside International Brigade Memorial

The Teesside International Brigade Memorial is a wooden plaque produced in 1939 to commemorate ten local International Brigade volunteers who gave their lives during the Spanish Civil War. The memorial is currently held by Middlesbrough Town Hall.  The talk will tell the remarkable story of the memorial's production, loss, discovery and rededication. You will also hear about the 10 men named on the memorial and those associated with its production and commemoration

1pm - Otto Estensen: International Brigade Volunteer

Otto Estensen was born in Thornaby-on-Tees, the eldest of five children, and like his father he went to sea, serving in the Merchant Navy. Otto and his closest Friend Tommy Chilvers volunteered for the International Brigade, serving together in the XV International Brigade Anti-Tank battery.  This is their story, what they did during the Spanish Civil War and their subsequent service in the Second World War. As Otto is named on the Stockton International Brigade memorial we will also look at how they are remembered.

Talks in 2019

Civil Insolvencies

The Battlefields Trust are pleased to announce the launch of the publication Civil Insolences; poetry by Bob Beagrie.  Civil Insolences explores the events and characters involved in the lead up, conflict and aftermath of the Battle of Guisborough (16th January 1643). 


To accompany this, Phil Philo (Chair of the Battlefields Trust) will give a talk on the Battle of Guisborough, while the Battlefields Trust's Model maker in residence, Mark Hornsby, will also be revealing his latest model for the Battle of Guisborough downstairs in the main hall.

Ready to Bleed

Arran Johnston (Director of the Scottish Battlefields Trust) will be attending Battleground to speak on both the armies of the Scottish Covenant and the Battle of Newburn Ford.  He will be promoting his latest publication, Ready to Bleed: The Armies of the Scottish Covenant (1639-47) which describes the formation of the Covenant army, its campaigns, strengths and weaknesses, and will be released in December.  He will also have copies of Essential Agony: The Battle of Dunbar available to purchase (available through Helion here:

Useful Links

Battlefields Trust website:

Scottish Battlefields Trust:

Helion Books:

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