Edwin Greening was born and brought up in Aberaman, Aberdare at a very particular period in the history of the valleys, the mining industry, and the international spread of communism and hatred of fascism. He was a natural writer and chronicler and kept copious notes and diaries throughout his life. This book includes his own written memoirs and extracts from his numerous diaries. It gives a vivid account of life in the Cynon Valley during the harsh days of the mid 20th century depression, his conversion to communism and his heroic decision to volunteer for the British Battalion of the International Brigades of the Spanish Republican Army to fight in the Civil War in Spain.
The first part of the book is a personal history of a boy with a keen, intelligent mind having to leave school to go down the mines, being pitched from mine to mine as mining faltered, struggling to educate himself in order to improve his prospects, becoming a communist and taking part in local politics. His family history and circumstances are recorded frankly and provide a vivid picture of life in that close Welsh community in the 1920s/30s.
The rest of the book records his enrolment in the Brigade in 1937 and his horrifying experiences fighting a losing battle in the hot, arid areas of the Ebro valley in Spain through most of 1938 until the International Brigades were withdrawn from Spain at the end of that year. He was careful to send reports back to the Aberdare Leader of all the terrible events he lived through. Many of his comrades, some from the Welsh valleys, died in front of him and he sent back a sympathetic account to their relatives. Because Edwin Greening was such a meticulous diarist the details of their day-to-day existence is recorded with an immediacy and detail that only those who actually experienced it could know.
Edwin Greening went on to fight in the Second World War and in 1948 achieved his ambition of qualifying as a teacher. He died at the age of 92 years in July 2003.
As a personal record of the Welsh valleys and the Spanish Civil War this book is of great historical significance, but it will also be of tremendous interest to anyone who enjoys reading biographies of people who lived eventful, unusual and full lives.