Bethune has been recognised for his humanitarian work. / SUR

Benalmádena honours the “courage” of Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune with new monument

The doctor saved hundreds of lives by transporting the wounded, infirmed, women and children in his ambulance during the Spanish Civil War massacre on the Malaga to Almeria road in February 1937

Tony Bryant
TONY BRYANT

Benalmádena town hall has named a roundabout in honour of Henry Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who played a crucial role in the evacuation of hundreds of people from Malaga during what is known as La Desbandá, one of the most horrific incidents of the Spanish Civil War.

The doctor saved hundreds of lives by transporting the wounded, infirmed, women and children in his ambulance during the massacre on the Malaga to Almeria road in February 1937, when hundreds of innocent people were killed by Nationalist forces and their fascist supporters as they tried to evacuate the besieged city.

The installation of a plaque on the roundabout, located at the junction of Avenida Federico García Lorca and Avenida de la Constitución in Arroyo de la Miel, was the idea of the local cultural association, Ben-al-Arte.

Bethune has been recognised for his humanitarian work, which included helping people who needed blood transfusions, in addition to documenting the facts of the massacre through numerous photographs and testimonies, which were discovered decades later by a group of researchers.

The inauguration of the monument took place on Friday (1 July) and was attended by the town’s mayor, Víctor Navas; councillor for Culture, E. Pablo Centella; the Canadian consul for Malaga, Carlos Lamothe; and the President of Ben-al-Arte, José Luis Portero.

“This is a fair tribute to the courage of Norman Bethune by the people of Benalmádena, although it does not come without a price. La Desbanda is a tragedy that for decades remained hidden from the public by the Franco regime. We need to ensure that this despicable episode will not be forgotten,” Navas said.

"Significant" connection

The mayor added that the connection of Norman Bethune with Benalmádena, which has 87 Canadian residents, is “very significant”, because it was a local professor, Jesús Majada, who brought to light the “sad facts” of La Desbandá.

A member of the Canadian Communist Party, Bethune came to international prominence for his service as a trauma surgeon supporting the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War. He was responsible for setting up a mobile blood-transfusion service for frontline operations.