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Otto Estensen: Brigadista & Mandolinista

GeoffLawes 02 Aug 12 - 02:30 PM
GUEST,999 02 Aug 12 - 03:09 PM
GeoffLawes 14 Aug 12 - 09:50 AM
GUEST,999 14 Aug 12 - 10:08 AM
GUEST,John Foxen 14 Aug 12 - 10:18 AM
GeoffLawes 14 Aug 12 - 03:12 PM
GeoffLawes 14 Aug 12 - 05:05 PM
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Subject: Otto Estensen: Brigadista & Mandolinista
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 02 Aug 12 - 02:30 PM

OTTO ESTENSEN: BRIGADISTA & MANDOLINISTA


Spanish Civil War memoires of British and Irish International Brigaders have sometimes noted the musical skills of the Anti-Tank Battery. The man most frequently recalled is Miles Tomalin who can be seen in photographs playing the recorder.
PHOTO OF THE ANTI -TANK BATTERY MUSICIANS OF THE 15th BRIGADE However, there is another volunteer in this photograph holding a mandolin. Duncan Longstaff suggested here that it was Otto Estensen and I have just received a letter from Otto Estensen's daughter, the actor, Elizabeth Estensen, which confirms this. She has given me permission to reproduce her letter, which also contains other interesting information about Otto and the anti-tank battery.

Dear Mr Lawes,

Thank you for your letter. I didn't see it until Saturday, although I
note that it is dated 11th July.

Yes, the mandolin player is my father, Otto Estensen. I still have his
mandolin - he bought it in a pawn shop in Woolwich in the late 1920s
when he was on tugs in the Merchant Navy.

My father died in January 1979, I was in my twenties, his only child,
I can only remember bits of what he told me about his time in Spain.
Since then I have become increasingly interested and regret that I
didn't ask him more about it. There's no one left to tell me now.

He was in Spain for the duration of the Civil War. He was wounded 3
times, sent back home once but returned. When he decided to join the
International Brigade, he met a contact in Paris who accompanied him
through France across the Pyrenees and into Spain. His mandolin was
the only thing that he took with him.

As you know there were several musicians in the Anti-Tank Battery and
my understanding is that they had music sessions as often as they
could, some of the music was Spanish, some they wrote about the war
itself I imagine to keep their morale high. Otto played by ear, he
played classical pieces he'd heard and enjoyed. In my lifetime I
remember him often reaching for the mandolin and playing whatever came
to mind. I have a bundle of letters sent from Spain and in one of them
I think there are verses to a song they wrote, I need to go through
them all again it's years since I looked at them. I'm afraid that he
didn't have any recordings and my knowledge of the music they played
is - nil really. I don't think he would have sung himself, he only
played.

I'm sorry that I can't be of more help, I'll fish out those letters
and tell you what I can.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth.

(Elizabeth Allen nee Estensen)


If anyone can add more information about Otto Estensen, the Anti-Tank battery and its music I would be very grateful and I will add it to the archive of information in the Mudcat perma-thread Songs in English about the Spanish Civil War, HERE


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Subject: RE: Otto Estensen: Brigadista & Mandolinista
From: GUEST,999
Date: 02 Aug 12 - 03:09 PM

General overview here.


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Subject: RE: Otto Estensen: Brigadista & Mandolinista
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 09:50 AM

I asked the historian Richard Baxell if he had any information about Otto Estensen and he replied with this:

This is a brief summary of what I have on Otto:
Born Thormely on Tees
Jewish
Address: Halcroft, Redear Rd, Ormesley, Middlesborough
Occupation: ABS aboard Ship
Member of National Union of Seamen, Middlesbrough branch since 1925
Joined CP 1933
Arrived Spain 18 May 1937
IB ID no. 1103
Served with anti-tanks and British battalion
Repatriated December 1938


Thank you Richard.

Richard is the author of
British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Battalion in the International Brigades 1936-1939
, which is an excellent authoritative account of the British and Irish contribution to the SCW. http://www.amazon.co.uk/British-Volunteers-Spanish-Civil-International/dp/0955419905


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Subject: RE: Otto Estensen: Brigadista & Mandolinista
From: GUEST,999
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 10:08 AM

?? Thornaby-on-Tees ??


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Subject: RE: Otto Estensen: Brigadista & Mandolinista
From: GUEST,John Foxen
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 10:18 AM

Fascinating, Geoff. Thanks for uncovering this.


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Subject: RE: Otto Estensen: Brigadista & Mandolinista
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 03:12 PM

GUEST,999 ?? Thornaby-on-Tees ??

The information will have been taken from Otto Estensen's file in the Moscow archive of the International Brigades. This will have been written by hand and therefore Thormely on Tees may be a misreading. Is there a Thormley on Tees?

Thanks for the emergency call on this Guest 999


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Subject: RE: Otto Estensen: Brigadista & Mandolinista
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 05:05 PM

I have just heard from Elizabeth Estensen who has corrected a few items of information in the above summary.
As Guest 999 suggested, Otto was born in Thornaby-on-Tees (not Thormley)and in Redcar Road (not Redear) . Also, he was not Jewish- his name being a cosequence his father's Norwegian origins.


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