Rafael Gómez Nieto, the last surviving member of La Nueve, made up largely of the 146 Spanish republicans in No 9 Company of General Leclerc’s Free French 2nd Armoured Division which spearheaded the liberation of Paris in August 1944, died of Covid-19 in an old people’s home in Strasbourg on 30 March 2020. He was aged 99.
Rafael had been part of the so-called quinta del biberón (weanlings’ draft) and had fought in the battle of the Ebro in the civil war in Spain. After spending some time in the Saint Cyprien and Argeles concentration camps in France, he used forged papers to move to Algeria. There he enlisted with the French forces under the orders of De Gaulle before later joining La Nueve, which was almost entirely made up of Spaniards.
In August 1944 he and the remainder of the company landed at Utah beach before pressing on through Paris; he was part of the crew of the armoured car named ‘Guernica’. La Nueve’s Spanish republican flag was hoisted on Paris’s Hôtel de Ville but photos of it were never published. The role of La Nueve was until recently quietly ignored, but Rafael was eventually made a chevalier of the Legion of Honour in France.
Translated by: Paul Sharkey.