Alien not Shaken and certainly not Stirred

Eduardo Martinez Alonso

Written and researched by David Bohl, with the kind help of the Rule family tree and historians world wide.

The intruguing story of E.A.Martinez starts with his Uruguayan father, also Eduardo, moving from his Consular post in Vigo, Spain to Glasgow in 1912.
Eduardo Snr became Consul in Liverpool in 1917, and his relations with the shipping and commercial community of Merseyside were always most cordial. He reached retirement age but in appreciation of his valued services, his Government asked him to continue in office (he completed 25 years in total). He was greatly attached to Liverpool, and had intimated that he would not accept promotion involving his departure from the city. For many years, he and his family lived in Alexandra Drive, Sefton Park with his wife, eight sons, and three daughters. Seven of his sons were educated at Liverpool University.

["Alhambra" - Photo courtesy of the Rule Family tree]

[Photo courtesy of the Rule Family tree]

Back Row: Sarah, Eduardo Alonso, George and elder brother

[The children going on holiday to Vigo in the summer of 1914]

Born in Vigo in 1903, Eduardo Martinez Alonso entered Liverpool University to study medicine in 1918 and together with elder brother George (b.1902), joined the Aliens shortly after their reformation in December 1919. Their younger sibling Alejandro Juan started playing at the first opportunity in 1920 with Arthur(perhaps a cousin) playing in 1923-24.

[1XV - 1920/21 Eduardo and George]

[1XV - 1920/21 Alejandro]

[1XV - 1923/24 Arthur]


Played at West Derby, ending in a pointless draw.

Teams:- Sefton "A": Kidd, Ovey, Scotson, Morrisey, Fraser, E A. Martinez (captain), G. Martinez, Kay, Darbyshire, Cornick, Simpson, Snape, H. W. Jones, V. Jones, and Price.

Wigan Old Boys 'A': F. Payne, I. Dodson, G.Scott, H. Scott, H. Booth, J. H. Roberts, H.Baxendale, A. H. Crawshaw, W. Lang, A. R. Martland, J. Lea (captain), H. Peacock, H. Leyland, E. Lupton, and A. Goodyear.

The Wiganers were up against a stiff proposition in that their opponents had not lost a match this season. The game was of a gruelling nature, and only the determined tackling of the visitors kept Sefton out. The brothers Martinez were a clever combination and took a lot of stopping. The Old Boys certainly deserved all praise, especially as they had two tries disallowed.

Wigan Examiner 24/10/1922

When Eduardo qualified in Medicine he was uncertain what his next step should be, and his mother, possibly keen to free up a little space in the house where he lived with his two older and eight younger siblings, suggested that his grandmother in Madrid would be delighted if he went to stay with her. In September of 1924 both Eduardo and George resigned from the club.
Taking the huge hint off his mother Dr Martinez set off for Madrid and took further medical degrees. He was soon in high demand as an English speaking physician, one of his patients was Queen Ena, the British wife of King Alfonso. 

In normal circumstances we could usually finish this life story off with one sentence and say he continued to be a successful thoracic surgeon in Spain, but, he published a book in early 1960's illustrating heroic service to the Allied cause in the Second World War.

'Adventures of a Doctor' is a very rare book to find, but luckily a precis has been written recently by Caroline Angus Baker
Just in case the link disappears in the future here is the review in full, our great thanks to Caroline:-

SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: ‘Adventures of a Doctor’ by E. Martínez Alonso
PUBLISHED ON February 18, 2014

[Adventures of a Doctor by Eduardo Martínez Alonso seems to be so rare, I can’t find any cover art or a blurb about this book. I managed to purchase a damaged copy from the New Zealand parliamentary library, and when they tossed this book to me for a mere $6 (about €3.60), they obviously didn’t know what a treasure they had. Eduardo Martínez is quite an extraordinary man with a story that seems to have been largely lost. With the market flooded with 1001 Spanish civil war books, it comes as a great surprise that this book doesn’t get more recognition.
The story starts with the author born in Vigo, Galicia in 1903. His father was from Uruguay, and was the consul in Vigo. As a young boy, Martínez travelled to his father’s homeland, along with his family (he was one of eleven children, and talks of his mother constantly having to nurse his siblings). The story tells of life in northern Spain in the era, and exploits with his brothers and attending a boarding school with mixed success. In 1912, Martínez’s father received a post to Glasgow, and the whole family moved north for a new life. Martínez dreamed of working in hotels or on ships, able to meet people and travel far and wide. He became bilingual at a young age, seeing the benefit of speaking Spanish, English, French and more. But it was his father who said he would be a doctor, not a sailor. As each of the eight boys grew and carved out professions (sisters, of course, were to be wives and caregivers), the prophecy of the hard-working consul came true. The family and Martínez recalls the first world war, his school years and an eventual trip back to Uruguay.
As a trained doctor, Martinez moved to Madrid with his grandmother, and speaks of seeing Anna Pavlova dance at Teatro Real, with the King and Queen in attendance. He quickly took up a post at Red Cross Hospital, and met Queen Ena, British wife of King Alfonso XIII, and the Duchess of Lecera, who were delighted to have an English-speaking doctor. News travelled of an English-speaking doctor in favour with the queen, and Martínez was in hot demand. Just eighteen months later, Martinez graduated from San Carlos Medical Facility and while meeting the King and Queen socially and professionally, was appointed the medical adviser to the royal family. This proved to be an amazing and dangerous post.
When the Second Spanish Republic was founded in 1931, Martínez was in the palace in Madrid with the royal family as they were deposed. He tells of sitting casually with Queen and princesses as the monarchy fell. As the family were forced into exile and as Spain underwent revolution, Martínez’s position as a monarchist him an easy target. As civil war came five years later, things changed dramatically. Martínez got his family out of Spain in July 1936, or off to the safety of Vigo, and knew he would be in danger as a former royal family aide. Through his work for the Red Cross, he was ordered by a Communist faction to work as a doctor for the Republican side of the war.
On Saturday morning the shooting started. We sat in a bar and heard the crackling of machine guns, the burst of hand grenades, and I saw smoke arising from many quarters of Madrid. By Monday morning a general strike had been called. Everything was paralysed except murder, arson, and rape. The Spanish civil war had commenced – Pg 70
Martínez talks of watching a church burning as priceless works of art were set alight along with the riches of the churches of Madrid. He saw a priest thrown on the flames but was unable to save his life when he pulled the screaming body from the blaze. Most priests were taken out to Casa del Campo to be shot. Men were burning priests but trying to revive pigeons which fell from bell towers, overcome by smoke. Martínez had an apartment in Madrid, and he hid as many people as he could throughout the war. Nuns and priest were hidden, and forced to serve meals to men who sat and spoke of vicious murders they had committed against the clergy.
Martínez was posted to a town outside Badajoz, Cabeza del Buey, in the south-west, working for the Communists. While running the hospital, a young nurse, Guadalupe, suggested they flee and work for Franco’s troops instead, but Martínez seemed convinced that he would be killed at some stage, regardless of where he was posted, and claimed no political alliances. In Cabeza del Buey, he was forced to attend mass executions of seemingly innocent men, and despair at violent speeches about revolution and vengeance. He performed many surgeries and saved lives in the most atrocious conditions. But with no warning, Martínez was shipped off, with Guadalupe, and sent to Ocaña, just outside Aranjuez, to work in the prison there, and be a prisoner himself. As he had in Cabeza del Buey, Martinez managed to get some nuns freed from prison to work as nurses, and treated patients while living in a cell himself. Between dire conditions and deadly activities, a patient told Martínez that his turn to be executed was near. An in understated manner, Martínez talked of his prison escape to Valencia in March 1937, were he managed to procure a fake passport and get aboard the Maine, a ship bound for Marseilles.
Martínez quickly got himself back in Spain, despite the dangers. He chose to cross the lines and work for the ‘white’ side of Spain, Franco’s rebel army. Red Spain (the Republicans), he felt, thought nothing of him, his work, and long suspected their cause would lose the war, one they never had a chance to win. Posted to Burgos, Valladolid and then San Sebastien, Martínez then found himself working on the front lines as Franco’s army continued to advance into enemy territory. Towns fell one by one as Martínez fought to save lives, but writes in such a humble, unassuming manner. Once in Zaragoza, Martínez worked hard to care for patients at the hospitals, and pioneered the use of closed casts on wounds, a procedure first tried with less success twenty years earlier. Despite the smell offending wealthy female volunteers, Martínez’s experiment helped the lives of many patients otherwise in agony as they recovered. He was then moved on to his own mobile surgical unit in Teruel in 1938.
Martínez was there on the ground when troops stopped in Sarrión, 100kms north-west of Valencia, as the war finally came to its brutal end. On April 1st, 1939, the war was over and declared won by Franco in this small town, and after helping a man and his son to Valencia, Martínez sought out all those who had helped him during the war, and moved back to Madrid. No sooner than Martínez had helped his friends and former nurses, and begged for clemency for some condemned to death by the new regime, the second world war broke out. With some family in Vigo and some Britain, travelling on multiple passports, danger was again faced. As Hitler plowed through Europe, Madrid suffered greatly after the civil war and Martínez went to work at Miranda de Ebro, near Burgos, to help war refugees from all nations. With such a humble attitude, he glossed over his feat to aid refugees out of Spain, saving their lives, until in 1942, when his ferrying of innocents was discovered and he was forced to flee Spain. His time working with British Naval Attaché, Captain Alan Hillgarth is barely touched upon, but should surely serve as an incredible tale of a man saving lives at great risk to his own. This two-year period alone could serve as a story all of its own. Just his dramatic escape would serve as its own story, but the author covers it in a few sentences, and neglects to mention he fled with a new wife. He also failed to mention his first marriage which produced two children, but was annulled after Franco took power in 1939 (His wife was a British woman who went home without him). I only found about either marriage after studying the doctor further myself. There are no clues to whom these women are at any point in the book. His personal life is never touched upon.
Again, Martínez talks little of his involvement with the rest of the world war, after being detained when first arriving in Britain (no idea if his Spanish wife was also detained), but worked as a spy for Britain throughout and barely talks about it. He worked at Queen Mary Hospital after the war and oversaw great new procedural advances, meeting some of Europe’s finest surgeons, but then returned home to Madrid. Life was hard in the beleaguered nation, and he again went to work at Red Cross Hospital, specialising in chest surgery. He then moved on to working as the doctor for the Castellana Hilton, newly opened in 1953. He recounts stories of wealthy Americans, and famous movies stars (unnamed) alike, who came to Madrid for all sorts of reasons. He spoke with frustration at his patients demanding penicillin shots, not wanting to discuss why they need this medication. Many guests, male and female, had a penchant for sleeping around and wanting medicine to atone their sins, either before or just after the liaisons which bore infections. One guest talks of being raped and demanding penicillin, though the story is far from convincing to the doctor. Sexual liberation had come to the foreign guests at the Hilton, and expected Martínez’s penicillin to cover it up. He makes his disdain clear for these patients and the abuse of this groundbreaking medication, and of the myriad of alcoholics he was forced to attend to, when little could really be done for them.
The book is written in the manner of a doctor – no-nonsense, no fussing with detail, just the raw facts given out without prejudice. Martínez is a man with the story worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it wouldn’t be his style. This book was written in 1961, and Martinez lived until 1972. It shows what really stood out to the doctor in his life, because details are excluded, and there are many secret operations he simply never wanted to discuss. He is free and easy with dates – because I know the civil war, I could piece together the timelines of the book, but needed to look up world war details and the opening of the Madrid Hilton, just to give myself an idea of how much time passed between chapters.
*above photo taken just prior to release from the Spanish army, 1939. Photo supplied in the book (page 112)]

So it looks like we have a real life Spanish episode of "Hola, Hola" on our hands, but the lid really came off events in 2005 when a Special Operations Executive file held at the National Archives in Kew was de-classified. 

Martinez’s daughter, Patricia Martínez De Vicente became aware of this and after a lengthy trawl through all this unknown fascinating information she wrote a book called "The Enclave, Embassy". 

Another online article by Nicholas Coni combines  'Adventures of a Doctor' and 'La Clave, Embassy' entitled Surgeon Who Undertook Special Operations
Once again just in case the link disappears in the future here is the page in full, our great thanks to Nicholas:-

Surgeon Who Undertook Special Operations
by Nicholas Coni

Correspondence: 26 Brookside, Cambridge CB2 1JQ, UK

[Although he was born in Vigo in 1903, and although his name and ancestry are Spanish, Eduardo Martínez Alonso qualified in this country and a curious sequence of adventures led him to pursue his career in Spain and to his heroic service to the Allied cause in the Second World War (WWII).
Education and early professional life
Eduardo’s father, a lawyer, was posted to Glasgow as the Spanish Consul in 1912, but was subsequently transferred to Liverpool, and after his school days in Scotland which he describes well in his memoirs¹ (the present account is based on his book and that of his daughter² except where other references are given), the young man entered Liverpool University to study medicine in 1918. When he qualified, he was uncertain what his next step should be, and his mother, possibly keen to free up a little space in the house where he lived with his two older and eight younger siblings, suggested that his grandmother in Madrid would be delighted if he went to stay with her. She was a well-connected lady, her uncle having been one of the many young officers who attracted the attention of Queen Isabella II and having become a general, a duke and the Viceroy of Cuba. While staying with her, Martínez was introduced to the Chief of Surgery at the Red Cross Hospital, which had been founded by the patron of the Spanish Red Cross, King Alfonso XIII’s wife Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg (“Queen Ena”, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, born in Balmoral Castle in 1887 and, as events would show, a carrier of haemophilia), who visited almost daily. She seems to have been pleased to meet an English-speaking doctor and offered him a position as an intern in the hospital, and while in this post he graduated from San Carlos Medical Faculty, Madrid, and embarked upon his surgical training. His grandmother obligingly moved to a larger apartment which could accommodate his consulting rooms as well as the x-ray machine which she bought him. Here, he performed minor procedures when not assisting at major operations at the hospital, and it is clear that his practice flourished; he visited surgeons in Paris and London, and was appointed medical adviser to the British and American Embassies. He met the King, helped to look after a close relative of the Queen, and was informed by her that she had recommended to her husband that he be nominated medical adviser to the Court – when, in 1931, the Monarchy was firmly rejected by the electorate, the Second Republic was declared, and the Royal Family hurriedly departed into voluntary exile.
Martínez’ memoirs are exceedingly short on details of his personal life, and he makes no mention of the marriage which he contracted to an Englishwoman, ex-wife of a scion of the De-Havilland aircraft manufacturer, with whom he had two children. She left for the UK, never to return, and this marriage would become retrospectively invalid under the new regime in 1939 as it had not been celebrated in a Catholic church, leaving him free to marry a boyhood girlfriend from Galicia.
Civil War
It does not appear to have been until the outbreak of the Civil War in July 1936, that the upheavals that were ravaging Spain, really started to impact upon him. It became necessary to simulate a revolutionary fervour that one may or may not have felt, and some flavour of the times can be drawn from his account of a dinner party which he hosted which is also described in strangely similar words by one of the guests, a somewhat unreliable American journalist from the flat below. The other guests were a couple of anarchist militiamen, whom Martínez had clearly thought it prudent to invite, and who, under the influence of their host’s liberal copas of Valdepenas, described the unspeakable barbarities which they had just been inflicting on two unfortunate priests – blissfully unaware that the two maids who served them were, in reality, nuns in disguise whom Martínez was sheltering together with a priest who was hiding in the next room. Martínez protests throughout his memoirs that he was at all times entirely apolitical – as well as, apparently, having been agnostic and somewhat anticlerical himself – and that he practised his profession totally indifferent to the allegiances of his patients. There is no real reason to doubt him, but our beliefs are conditioned to some extent by our upbringing, and it was inevitable that his loyalty to the Republic would be suspect. This was more than sufficient reason, in those terrible days, to earn a denunciation and a summary sentence to a one-way paseo. He learned that his name had been on a list of those to be executed, but scratched out due to the intervention of the staffing officer of the hospital, who was an influential communist and who demanded in return that he offer his services to a communist surgical unit.
Thus it was that he found himself surgeon to a field hospital near Badajoz, where his most distressing duty was having to witness a mass execution in his capacity as Medical Officer (MO). His nursing assistant and confidante suggested they cross to the other side, but he responded that they were needed more where they were, and that in any case, if they crossed the lines they were bound to be shot by one side or the other. He attended to a stream of casualties from the front line, but was shortly arrested and thrown into a jail in Ocaña, just south of Aranjuez, where he organised a prison hospital, liberating some incarcerated nuns to help him, and soon became free to visit nearby military units. The engineer officer in charge of the maintenance of the ambulances had been a taxi driver at the Palace Hotel in Madrid whom he had often employed, and one evening while they were dining together, the engineer was approached by a group of anarchists who attempted to persuade him, by shooting him through the jaw, that he should issue petrol to them in the line of duty, rather than sell it to them. As Martínez was attending to his wounds, the engineer advised him that he must escape as soon as possible or he would be taken on a paseo.
Escape to “White” Spain
When Franco’s troops crossed to the east bank of the Jarama on the 11th January 1937, the International Brigades bore the brunt of stopping their advance, and it soon became widely known that there was a prison hospital at Ocaña where the head surgeon spoke English. This became designated the main evacuation centre for casualties, and beds were freed up by the simple expedient of shooting the prisoners. Appalled by this measure, and desperate for support in the management of the 400 casualties who arrived daily, Martínez sent cables to the senior MO of the Republican Army, Dr Recatero, fiercely critical of his management and demanding assistance. He was himself accused of criminal neglect, and collapsing onto his bed after leaving theatre at about 3 a.m., he was woken up by Recatero and his henchmen, who had come to execute him. His former taxi driver appeared miraculously on the scene, and relying on the eloquence, so persuasively used against himself, of a pistol barrel, convinced Recatero that he should abandon his mission. The next day, Martínez was driven to Valencia by his rescuer disguised as a casualty, while café radios blared out his name and description. Furnished with a false passport, the British Embassy arranged passage to Marseilles on HMHS Maine; from there, he travelled by train to St Jean de Luz and thence was driven by the American Consul over the border to San Sebastian, where he caught another train to Burgos. After security clearance he enlisted in the Nationalist Army and was sent to the Basque front, where he noted “…then came Guernica, which our German allies erased from the face of the earth in a bombing raid which raised an outcry throughout the world”. Following the campaign in the north, he was posted as senior surgeon to a base hospital in Zaragoza, whence he wrote to a medical friend in the UK:
“To cut a long story short, I broke prison on the 1st of March, with a little outside help and eventually reached Valencia where I literally threw myself into the hands of the British Embassy. Finally I got aboard the HMHS Maine which took me as far as Marseilles, and here I am after nine months of campaign in the north, very happy to be on this side and in the thick of things…Many of our friends of the International Congress of the History of Medicine have been shot by the reds…Please do what you can and help us stamp out communism [e.g. supply surgical instruments]…”(5)
Surgeon with the Nationalists
In Zaragoza, “A team of distinguished and, in some cases, pretty ladies from the aristocracy … would come in every morning in Nursing Auxiliary uniforms, don rubber gloves and face masks, fill syringes with hydrogen peroxide solution, and go from bed to bed washing out the festering flesh and rotting bone.”
All the patients, inherited from his predecessor, were suffering from chronic infection of their wounds. Martínez, who claimed that he was the first [in the world? on the Nationalist side? in that hospital?] to practise “what was later called the ‘Spanish cure’” [as described by Trueta in 1939, but strikingly lacking Trueta’s emphasis on débridement, a grave sin of omission even in a book for laymen], put the limbs in plaster, and found over the next few days that the patients were much happier, with normal temperatures and hearty appetites, but that the distinguished ladies were very unhappy since they had little to do but complain about the smell. One of them reported her dissatisfaction to the medical superintendent, who reported him to the chief MO of the sector, who posted him to a hospital train, “the worst invention of the Spanish Civil War”. It does sound, from his description, as if the wagons had been very poorly converted for use as operating theatres and wards, and that it was the implementation rather than the concept which was at fault. His complaints again earned him a rebuke and a posting, this time to the campaign to recapture the frozen city of Teruel. There, he set up hospital in an abandoned church and had to contend with numerous cases of trench foot and gangrene as well as the wounds inflicted by enemy action. His experience of serious trauma may have prompted him, some months later, to write to his British friend requesting some pitressin, clearly intended either as an established or experimental treatment for shock.
After the war he was sent to Madrid, to food rationing and to a typhus outbreak, to take over a Military Emergency Hospital. The epidemic was due to the release of louse-ridden prisoners from concentration camps, and his former tormentor, Colonel Recatero, was identified in one of these camps, disguised as a “common militiaman” and was charged with the execution of 29 doctors, and would undoubtedly have faced the firing squad himself but managed to elude his captors for long enough to leap from a fourth-floor window with a very similar outcome.
Second World War
The outbreak of the war found him re-established in his practice in Madrid where he was also the MO to the British Embassy and where, in consequence, he was responsible for the medical care of British subjects and other Allied servicemen who had entered Spain as fugitives from Nazi-occupied Europe. The latter were interned in one of several concentration camps, mainly that originally established for Republican prisoners of war in a town near Burgos with the charming name of Miranda de Ebro, which belied its evil reputation; designed for 500 inmates, it eventually held 3,500 in conditions of hunger, poor sanitation and extremes of temperature which were in part, at least, attributable to the economic plight of the country. On his visits there, Martínez took provisions, cigarettes, and irons capable of high temperatures to destroy the lice in the clothing being pressed.
There followed a period from 1940 to 1942 which Martínez dismisses with a tantalising lack of detail in his memoirs, through loyalty to his comrades whose identities he was sworn to keep secret. During this period he and the British Naval Attaché, Captain Alan Hillgarth, conspired to establish a most effective network through which they spirited very substantial numbers of Jews from various nations, and other fugitives including servicemen, agents, and persons of importance to the Allies, through Franco’s pro-Axis, Gestapo-infested Spain to Gibraltar, or Portugal, and freedom. Hillgarth and his colleagues in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) may have been the prime movers, but Martínez, with his contacts and knowledge of the terrain, and motivated partly by anglophilia but mainly by sheer humanity, was the organizing genius behind these proceedings. A great deal of information about his clandestine activities has been unearthed by his daughter, a social anthropologist, and although he never spoke about these exploits, she fortuitously discovered his diary from that era when selling his flat 15 years after his death in 1972. She pursued the revelations it contained, through the interrogation of her mother, then aged 80 but still possessing an excellent memory, as well as through archival sources. Although her mother had known little of the nature of Martínez’ undercover operations at the time, she was able to recall many of the meetings and comings and goings, and, having maintained contact with Hillgarth after her husband’s death, was able to confirm much of the account that her daughter was able to piece together. Another friend who witnessed a number of what were at the time, to her, mysterious events was Consuelo Alan. This lady’s mother, a redoubtable Irish lady called Margarita Taylor, ran a café rather confusingly called “Embassy”, frequented by the élite of Madrid society, and where not only did the conspirators meet discreetly under the very noses of the SS, but where many of these fugitives would be concealed for a night or two before proceeding on their perilous journeys.
It is necessary to digress to outline the situation in Spain during the early years of WWII. It may be too simplistic to say that Franco would never have won the Civil War without all the assistance he received from Mussolini and Hitler(6), but it most certainly helped, and there seems to have been a strong possibility that Spain might have entered WWII on the side of the Axis, in spite of a setback at the historic meeting between Hitler and Franco at Hendaye in October 1940(7) (Preston 1995: 393-400). Franco certainly made anti-semitic noises in some of his speeches(8), but it is far from clear that anti-semitism formed one of his core beliefs (if, indeed, he held any). Meanwhile, it was Churchill’s profound hope that Franco would stay out of the war, and this was the mission he entrusted to the ambassador whom he posted to Madrid, Sir Samuel Hoare. Hillgarth also enjoyed Churchill’s confidence, and received ample funding for the expanded role which he played throughout the war.
In May 1940, the Germans overran Holland and Belgium surrendered, and the following month, Marshal Pétain signed the surrender of France. Tens of thousands of refugees fled over the Pyrenees hoping to cross Spain to freedom. The Spanish authorities were initially very accommodating to all except men of military age, but the Vichy government soon made it difficult to leave France by restricting the issue of exit visas, and the Spanish refused entry to anyone without one. In 1941, under pressure from Germany, the Spanish regulations became progressively more irksome, although they did not distinguish between Jews and non-Jews, but in the summer of 1942 the Vichy government cancelled all exit visas for Jews and without them, they were unable to obtain Spanish transit visas. The result was an increase in the number of illegal “indocumentados” throughout 1940 which accelerated during the subsequent two or three years, and these were liable to indefinite imprisonment which, in the case of men, usually meant the harsh conditions of Miranda de Ebro. During the early years, some refugees were turned back at the border and some were sent back to France after reaching Barcelona (14), but as many as 30,000 Jews may have escaped through Spain during the first half of the war. Assisting refugees of all races from Allied, and other, countries, became a major workload for the British Embassy in Madrid(16), and the ambassador estimated that this assistance was extended to over 30,000 refugees between 1940 and the end of 1944, although somewhat inclined to take the credit for this humanitarian undertaking himself and remaining silent concerning the pivotal roles played by Hillgarth and by Martínez. He also emphasised how very capricious and unpredictable were the responses of the Spanish authorities to the presence of these fugitives within their borders.
The network of which Martínez was the chief architect, made possible the liberation of personnel from Miranda de Ebro, the avoidance of incarceration in that establishment in the first place, and exit from Spain to Portugal. The first of these initiatives he accomplished by taking advantage of his authority as a Spanish doctor and former officer in the Nationalist Army. Observing how delighted the commandant was to get rid of a victim of typhus who was to be admitted to hospital, Martínez promptly found himself with a major, and completely factitious, outbreak of the disease on his hands. Borrowing an ambulance from a friend and colleague, he certified large numbers of the prisoners as being infected, and spirited them away from the camp either to the Embassy, or to Margarita Taylor’s apartment above the tea rooms, or to his own bachelor apartment, where they were concealed, furnished with money, nourishment, clothing and documents, and driven, concealed in a car from the Embassy fleet, on the next stage of their journey to England.
It was highly desirable, if at all possible, to circumvent the hospitality of Miranda de Ebro, and he enabled many of these birds of passage to achieve this by enlisting the help of his chaplain from Civil War days, a Capuchin monk who, aided by a couple of his brethren, provided a safe haven in a little monastery of retreat in Jaca, in the Pyrenees. Martínez also persuaded some of the country innkeepers along the way, to provide secure shelters for his clients, and a report from “Doctor Alonzo” [sic] in his SOE file claims that “The men who enter through Navarre are well looked after by “SABAS” in the Pyrenees. He picks them up, feeds them at his inn and then takes them down to Pamplona to his farm…” From here, they would be driven in an official Embassy vehicle – which attracted, but was theoretically immune to, the suspicions of the Guardia Civil patrols – to Aranda de Duero, between Zaragoza and Valladolid, and thence to Portugal or to Galicia.
Some of the escapees left Spanish soil by reaching Gibraltar and the relative safety of the Royal Navy. Others were concealed in La Portela, Martínez’ rambling, well-hidden finca on the shore of an inlet 10 km from Vigo where he had spent many happy family holidays during his childhood, and where members of his family still lived. Vigo was an important port, where Hillgarth and, almost certainly, Martínez, maintained surveillance over the U-boats and other German shipping which regularly used it for refuelling and provisioning. Martínez had many loyal childhood friends here, and two of these families owned boats which they used to ferry Martínez’clients across the river Miño, which marks the border with Portugal, to Valença. Transport to the river bank was arranged by Martínez, either through the Embassy or using a trusted friend’s taxi, and he would often accompany the fugitives himself on various stages in their hazardous passage across Spain.
Hasty departure for the UK
Vigo was crawling with German agents, and towards the end of 1941, the Gestapo began to close in on Martínez’ nefarious activities. “Through his activities on our behalf he was eventually brulé and had to leave Spain”, as an internal memorandum puts it, and a later letter stated “… as you know [he] did some first rate work body passing in Spain before he became compromised and was sent to England”, so arrangements for his transfer were made. This did not fit in particularly well with his plans to be married to Ramona, the daughter of a Galician doctor, in January 1942, but the marriage went ahead and the imminent departure of the couple on their travels was understood by their friends and relatives to be on honeymoon to an unknown destination. After two days in La Portela, they travelled to Madrid where they stayed a few days in his little apartment with his consulting room in the Salamanca area. Martínez was instructed by Hillgarth to obtain passports, a transaction which itself would arouse suspicion, were it not for the serendipitous honeymoon, and to tell Ramona as little as possible for her own protection. A high-ranking official and irreproachable fascist, a drinking partner of Ramona’s father, duly obliged with the passports. Too late, he discovered that this was more than just a honeymoon: “They can never come back”, he told his friend, “if you want [Martínez] ever to leave prison – or worse!(2)” His attitude seems to have been ambivalent, and he later stoutly rebuffed an angry SS officer who accused him of breaking the Axis “Pact of Steel”. One morning, a black saloon with diplomatic plates and a little Union Jack pennant swept them off to Ciudad Rodrigo, to the west of Salamanca and near the Portuguese border where their passports and salvoconductos secured them an easy transit. From there, they went to a little hotel in Lisbon for a few days, during the course of which they found themselves being wined and dined by some very eminent exiles from the Civil War who were united by only one ideology – the necessity to get rid of Franco (who would outlive them all). And then, one morning brought another official car, a silent trip to a military airfield in Sintra, a waiting War Office transport aircraft, and a flight to snowbound Cardiff.
The Intelligence Officers at the British Embassy in Madrid, meanwhile, thoughtfully told the porter of Martínez’ apartment block that the doctor and his wife would not be returning since they had been killed in a motor accident. The Gestapo knew that there had been no accident, and no bodies, and subjected his nurse, Carmen Zafra, to prolonged questioning. She had been a loyal friend since Civil War days, and Martínez had sent her numerous letters at her home in Barcelona after his defection, via an intermediary correspondent in London, a member of the staff of the Wellcome Foundation(5).
Once they had settled in London, there were three main strands in Martínez’ life. He and Ramona enjoyed a happy, and busy, social life, in spite of the air raids. They were made very welcome, and appear to have received tickets to plays and concerts from official sources. Among their friends were many exiles from the Spanish Civil War, including Juan Negrín, Prime Minister of the Republic, and Col. Casado, the officer who had finally surrendered Madrid. When meeting someone new, one did not enquire which side they had been on, but it usually became rapidly apparent. Some idea of Martínez’ views was revealed in a form in his SOE file, in which he states “Am very interested in… a Spanish Restoration on democratic lines”, which may tell us more about his loyalty to Queen Ena than about his politics. His SOE superior noted approvingly that “Unlike most other Spaniards arriving in this country he has apparently no Red tendencies”.
Having qualified in the UK, there was no problem with registration, and he worked in a surgical team at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton. His main interest was in thoracic surgery, and he spent a period as Senior Surgical Assistant to Mr (later Sir) Clement Price Thomas at the Brompton.
He continued to remain in close contact with the Intelligence Service, the Foreign Office (FO), and Captain Hillgarth and, acting from humanitarian motives, managed to procure considerable supplies of vaccines and other medical necessities which they, acting from political motives, distributed in Spain. “I really believe this is one of the best bits of propaganda we could have done”, a jubilant FO contact recorded. Most of his escape routes continued to operate in Spain without him. He could not be certain, however, that his own personal involvement in the conflict was over, especially when he received a visitor one morning who refused to give his name. He did, however, divulge the information that the Germans had a force of 30 Divisions waiting at the foot of the Pyrenees, ready to march through Spain, take Gibraltar, and take up position in North Africa – and Martínez’ military experience in the Civil War, together with his perfect English and unrivalled knowledge of both countries, would make him the ideal candidate to be parachuted in (or taken to a Spanish port) to undertake subversive action behind the lines. He would command a team of five others, under the name of Lieutenant Marlín. To this proposition Martínez agreed, but only if Franco entered the war, and to this, the FO agreed. The group travelled to a converted farm in Scotland, by the name of Camus Daruch, for intensive training in the dark arts of sabotage and unarmed combat, which he did not particularly enjoy, and for some fairly intensive whiskey-tasting, which he enjoyed very much. “This student”, the Officer Commanding reported, “will probably prove an extremely useful operative.” Shortly afterwards, however, the situation changed, the Divisions were deployed elsewhere, and his contacts with the FO ceased.
Return to Madrid
When Germany capitulated, Martínez’ first thought was to return to his native land, for despite his anglophilia, he was a bon viveur who missed the red wine, the corrida, flamenco, and grilled sardines(2). They waited a few months, with the result that their daughter was born a British citizen, and returned in 1946. He became Director of Thoracic Surgery at the San José and Santa Adela charitable Red Cross Hospital and visiting consultant at King George V Hospital, Gibraltar (in spite of the dispute over the sovereignty of the Rock), and performed the first resections for bronchogenic carcinoma in Spain, as well as publishing a booklet on thoracic emergencies. He maintained contacts in the UK, including his friend at the Wellcome as well as another longstanding acquaintance, Sir Robert Macintosh, who had been appointed to the first chair in anaesthesia in this country, at Oxford, in 1937, and who had been invited to San Sebastian during the Civil War to anaesthetise for an eminent visiting American reconstructive plastic and maxillo-facial surgeon, Joseph Eastman Sheehan. Martínez had met Macintosh at that time, and on the latter’s occasional post-WWII visits to Madrid, they would spend time together (mainly in restaurants!)(19). Being bilingual, he was very much in demand from British and American hotel guests, and his life seems to have enjoyed a well-earned respite from the turmoil it had been thrown into by the raging political and military conflicts which blighted the 21st century. He died in 1972, and although he remained bound by the Official Secrets Act, which he had signed in 1943(17), and carried his secrets with him to the grave, he had had the satisfaction of receiving an award from the Polish government in exile for the leading role he had played in the rescue of at least 200 Polish Jews, and, in 1947, the King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom. As a telegram from Madrid stated in his file, “…he is a most valuable man, completely with us, and…we owe him a great deal.”
The tale of Dr Eduardo Martínez Alonso is told here because he has received so little of the acclaim which he deserves in this country, although his daughter is achieving considerably more recognition for him in Spain; his memoirs received a favourable, but extraordinarily unperceptive review in the Lancet. He undoubtedly saved more lives through his undercover operations than he did through his surgical operations, although he clearly saved the lives and limbs of many casualties from the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War. He may be said to have acted as a doctor in both regards, because he owed his humanitarian ideals to his profession and to the immense suffering which he had witnessed. It also needs to be emphasised that not all who served under Franco were evil, and not all who opposed him were saintly, in an era in which the Spanish government seems determined to air-brush the dictator out of history, and in which a strongly pro-Republic account of the SCW is also purveyed throughout this country. A concluding observation is, that being bilingual, bicultural, and fiercely loyal to another nation as well as one’s own, may open up unexpected opportunities to be of service to humanity and may steer one’s life into uncharted and often choppy waters.

1.  Martínez Alonso E. Adventures of a Doctor. London: Robert Hale, 1962
2.  Martínez de Vicente P. Embassy y la Inteligencia de Mambrú. Madrid: Velecío, 2003
3.  Martínez de Vicente P. Personal Communication, 2009
4.  Knoblaugh HE. Correspondent in Spain.  London: Sheen and Ward, 1937: 85-88
5.  Martínez Alonso E. Correspondence 1938: Archive WA/HMM/CO/Alp/15: Box 69, Wellcome    
6.  Thomas H. The Spanish Civil War. London: Penguin, (1961) 3rd edn. 1977: 940
7.  Preston P. Franco. London: HarperCollins (1993) Fontana edn. 1995: 393-400
8.  Ibid: 347, 957
9. Smyth D. Diplomacy and Strategy of Survival: British Policy and Franco’s Spain 1940-        41,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986: 26
10. Payne S.G Franco and Hitler, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008: 69
11. Smyth D. Op. cit: 28
12. Smyth D. Hillgarth, Alan Hugh (1899-1978), rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, January 2008 <> accessed 9 March 2009
13. Avni H. Spain, the Jews, and Franco, trans. Martíneznuel Shimoni, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1982: 72-79
14.  Ibid: 180
15. Ibid: 91
16. Hoare S.J.G. Ambassador on Special Mission, London: Collins, 1946: 226-238
17. Records of Special Operations Executive, National Archives, Kew, file HS 9/26/5
18. Alvárez-Sierra J. (ed.) Diccionario de Autoridades Médicas, Madrid: Editora Nacional, 1963: 317
19 Macintosh R.R. Correspondence 1946: Archive 1946 PP/RRM/C/11, Wellcome Library, London
20. Book Reviews Lancet 1962; I: 1106

a. Another term used in this context was “outfiltration” (although medical readers would undoubtedly favour “exfiltration”).
b.  Urgencias Torácicas, Madrid: Gráficas Udina, 1959

Legend to Figure
Figure 1. Eduardo Martínez Alonso in the uniform of a Capitán Médico in the Nationalist Army]

Once again The Aliens have come up trumps, our own Oskar Schindler

King George Medal for Courage
 in the Cause of Freedom
Polish Gold Cross of Merit

Eduardo passed away in Vigo in 1972

   Dr Eduardo Martinez Alonso



Dr Alejandro Juan Martinez

Born two years later than Eduardo, Alejandro followed in his brother's footsteps and qualified as doctor at Liverpool University. The 1938 register shows he was a G.P in Sefton Park and his Dad and Uncle were still at the Consul.

He got married in 1937 and at some time after WW2 they moved to London. A book entitled "The Flamencos of Cádiz Bay" published by Gerald Howson in 1965 shows how accommodating the Martinez family in Vigo were.

Alejandro passed away 1978 in Lambeth, London

Dr Alejandro Jaun Martinez


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