In 1936 civil war erupted in Spain. Right-wing generals tried to overthrow a leftist government and the violence quickly turned into a symbolic battle between fascism and communism. The fighting dragged in foreigners from many different countries.
The left-wing volunteers who came from around the world to fight for the Spanish government are well known, but foreigners also joined the other side. I wrote a book about it.
More information about Franco’s foreigners is coming to light every day. The niece of a British volunteer got in touch about her uncle, who deserted the Royal Navy at Gibraltar to join the Foreign Legion. An aristocratic Belgian pilot is commemorated on a memorial in the centre of Brussels. Now a new book is out about South African Pieter Krueler, a far-right Boer embittered by the deaths of his family in the Anglo-Boer War. In June 1937, already in his fifties, he offered his services to Franco.
The experience disillusioned Krueler so badly that he joined the other side. So he claimed.
Sunday, 22 January 1950. Turk Westerling was the most casually dressed warlord the press men had ever met. Reuters and Australia’s The Herald had a man each at this exclusive interview with Indonesia’s public enemy number one. No guards, no guns, just an old-fashioned colonial bungalow somewhere outside sweaty Bandung and a tough, sun-tanned Dutchman crushing the life out of one cigarette and lighting another.
Westerling wore a white polo shirt and khaki trousers. One journalist noted the brown socks and street shoes. The other jotted shorthand about the expensive gold watch and the gold ring set with a black stone.
The Turk had spread himself all over the international press with his threats to the new United States of Indonesia government. The country was independent, the Dutch had gone home, and everything was supposed to be peace and liberty. Then Westerling (‘a mystery man‘ according to local politicians) came out of nowhere and tore the place apart. The news agencies wanted a closer look.