Freedom fighters welcome honour, 70 years on

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Seventy years have passed since they marched out of Barcelona amid crowds of weeping, cheering Spaniards, but it is only now that the last few British volunteers who fought in Spain against General Franco's fascist-backed rebels are finally to be rewarded by the Spanish state.

The handful of British survivors from the 2,300 men and women in the International Brigades during the civil war are now in their 90s or have passed 100, and most are physically frail.

They still cling to the memories and spirit of battles fought seven decades ago and have welcomed an offer by the cabinet of the Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, last week, that would allow them joint nationality.

"It is a gesture to those of us who survived and I'll take it in memory of all those who paid the final price and who lie unknown under Spanish soil," said Sam Lesser, 93. "There are so few of us left now."

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