The Scottish Ambulance Unit in Spain and the Spanish Civil War

Following a year long digitisation project, the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick has digitised more than 4,000 documents of archives relating to the Spanish Civil War.  The files, from the Trades Union Congress archive, contain important documents dealing with the sources of the conflict, the attitudes of the European governments involved and the aid movements in Britain that were set up to help the Spanish Republicans.

This fantastic resource, that enables every one to see each document in amazing detail, prompted us to unearth our Scottish Ambulance Unit in Spain collection.

Our collection is a small but very interesting one with some lovely documents about the Unit and their work. The Scottish Ambulance Unit in Spain was formed by the wealthy and generous Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Sir Daniel Macaulay Stevenson (1851-1944), in 1936 and was sent to Spain during the Civil War to aid the humanitarian effort in the poorest and worst hit parts of Madrid. The first convoy of six ambulances left in September 1936 with Miss Fernanda Jacobsen as the Commandant. She later received an OBE for her work in Spain.

Pamphlet advertising the Spanish Market (DC393/1)

Our collection includes a pamphlet from 1937 advertising a Spanish Market being held in the Central Halls, Glasgow to raise money for the Unit. Along with details about the cake, sweets, groceries, arts and crafts, and other various stalls, the pamphlet includes an article outlining the work of Miss Jacobsen and the Unit. It reads:

“Miss Jacobsen, Commandant, and the other members of the Scottish Ambulance Unit are off to Spain again, full of enthusiasm for their humanitarian work among the wounded and for the succour of the starving people, particularly women, children and aged men in the poorest quarters of Madrid, many of them homeless because of the recent bombardments.”

Spanish magazine with an article on the Scottish Ambulance Unit (DC323/2)

Another document is a Spanish magazine from 1938 called ‘Despúes’. In the centre pages there is an article entitled ‘¡ESCOCIA POR ESPAÑA!’ and it gives thanks to the Scottish Ambulance Unit in Spain for their humanitarian work. The article acknowledges the work of the founder,  Sir Daniel Stevenson, and praises Miss Fernanda Jacobsen and her “chicos” (boys).  They finish by making a call to the Spanish Republic to acknowledge the contribution of the Ambulance Unit and to display the Spanish Republic’s official and public gratitude with an official honour or award befitting their altruistic acts.

Section of the Spanish article (DC393/2)

Young Scots were very active during the Spanish Civil War with many volunteering to fight against the fascist forces by joining the International Brigade or groups like the Scottish Ambulance Unit in Spain. There was more campaigning to support Republican Spain in Scotland than elsewhere in Britain and it was clearly a cause close to the hearts of the Scots.

Photograph of Fernanda Jacobsen with Spanish ambulance men (DC393/3)

The University of Warwick’s digitised collection of Spanish Civil War documents contains a few letters relating to Sir Daniel Stevenson and the Scottish Ambulance Unit in Spain and if you are interested in this subject we suggest that you check it out!

Special Collections here at the University of Glasgow also have items relating to the Spanish Civil War.  These form a part of the larger Bissett collection of left wing publications that the department holds.

Please do come along and view the collections!

Categories: Archive Services

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9 replies

  1. Thank you for your hard work on this. Joseph Carlin – in the photos above is my Grandfather and its been so interesting to find out about a tiny bit of his life. Incredible information on University of Warwick pages!

  2. Hi,

    I am a researcher investigating Fernanda Jacobsen´s trip to Alicante, Spain in May 1938 (and any other visit she or her colleagues may have made to that area). I have found a few published references that she made to the trip.

    1. The link above to Scottish Ambulance Unit in Spain collection. is not working for me. Any other link I can use to see your collection?
    2. I see the comment above from Paul Thompson, from a few years ago. Did he ever get back in touch with you? Do you know of any way I can contact that person?

    Thanks for whatever help you can give!

    • Hi Johanna, many thanks for your comment.

      Could you please send us the above in an e-mail to: and we can answer your enquiry that way? We do not have access to your e-mail address from this forum, so if you e-mail our enquiry service, we can reply.

      Apologies for the broken link. This one should take you to our on-line catalogue for the collection:

      In terms of getting in touch with Paul Thomson, I think it would be best if you replied to his comment below, so that he will be notified of this. I’m afraid we do not have access to his contact details.

      Best of luck with your research and we look forward to your e-mail!

  3. I have uncovered hundreds of letters, documents and photographs relating to the involvement of Sir Daniel Stevenson and Feddie Jacobsen’s involvement in Spain during this period. Please feel free to contact me

    • Dear Paul,

      I would very much like to know more about the photos and documents you have discovered, should you be prepared to share!!!

      Best wishes,


    • Hello, I’m trying to contact someone that can provide data on F. Jacobsen activities in Madrid, 1936/1937.Any help will be appreciated.
      I am aspanish researcher.
      Jose M Guerrero, Madrid

    • Hi Paul, I came across this comment that you left a few years ago and am responding in case this reaches you. It would help me tremendously to be able to check out the letters, documents and photos to which you refer. my email thanks.


  1. “We, the undersigned”: Oxford Aid for Spain – Frank and Elizabeth

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