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Lou Kenton (born 1908) is a British potter, who served as an ambulance driver with the International Brigade and is one of its few surviving members.

Early life[]

Kenton was born in Stepney in the East End of London to a Jewish-Ukrainian family who had escaped the Tsarist pogroms. His father died from Tuberculosis when he was young, and as he left school aged 14 he worked in a paper factory where he first encountered anti-semitism. This led him to join the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1929.


In early 1937, Lou left Stepney to join the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. His wife, an exiled Austrian nurse from Nazi Germany, shortly followed him. When he arrived at the International Brigades headquarters in Albacete, he applied to join the International Brigade's Medical Unit. It was from there that he spent nearly two years in action as an Ambulance driver on the front lines, as well as distributing medical supplies to hospitals across the country. He left for Britain in late 1938 on an 'Aid for Spain' fund-raising mission to raise money for a new Ambulance but by the time his tour was over, the International Brigades were withdrawn.

Later life[]

After the International Brigades were withdrawn, Kenton was hugely depressed. One of his missions was to hand the Basque refugees given asylum in the United Kingdom back to the Spanish authorities. It was "the first time I saw the fascist police in their three-cornered hats. All the children were in tears and all of them were hanging on to me as we checked each one and handed them over."

Kenton remained a devout communist, working tirelessly on trade union organisation, unemployed marches and party activities until 1968 when the Prague Spring was suppressed by the Soviet Union. He then joined the Labour Party and remains a member today.

Commemorative potter[]

From 1980, he produced commemorative pottery for the trade union movement and for radical causes. His work has been commissioned by Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, Tobacco Workers' Union, Society of Graphical and Allied Trades, Trades Union Congress, areas of the National Union of Mineworkers, the People's March for Jobs, the International Brigade, Greater London Council Peace Year, National Council for Civil Liberties, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the Greenham Common women's campaign.

External links[]