THE Spanish Civil War, from 1936 to 1939, was fought between the Republicans loyal to the democratic, left-leaning Second Spanish Republic, and the Nationalists led by General Francisco Franco.

Often portrayed as a struggle between democracy and fascism, the democratically-elected Republican government was abandoned to its fate by most other countries, including Britain, but received some support from Soviet Russia and Mexico, as well as by large numbers of individual volunteers, from more than 50 countries.

They were men and women who were determined to stand alongside the Spanish people in their war against fascism. In total, about 35,000 men and women joined the International Brigades, including 2,300 from Britain, which included 200 from Wales.

One of these brave fighters was Tom Jones, from Rhos, in Wrexham, who worked for 14 years as a miner in the Hafod, Vauxhall and Bersham collieries, harsh experiences which led him to support the Labour and Communist Parties.

Jones was 27 when he told his parents he was going to Colwyn Bay for the weekend. Instead he was soon illegally entering Spain via France and joining the International Brigades.

"It will be a day when we celebrate Tom's life and his politics," says Marc Jones, one of the organisers behind a festival next month dedicated to remembering the legacy of a man many knew as 'Twm Sbaen', which translated as Tom Spain.

"It is 80 years this year since the end of the Spanish Civil War and we felt it was the right time to remember him."

The festival on Saturday, April, 6, which is being supported by trade unionists and community activists in the area, will start with a march from Queens Square around the town behind the Cambria Band.

An afternoon of music, films, talks and discussions in Ty Pawb in the town centre will follow, before an evening of music from local and international artists.

"On a personal level going to Spain was a such a brave thing to do," continues Marc. "He was an ordinary working-class guy who left his village and ended up travelling in a clandestine way to Spain. It's very easy now for us to pop on a plane and fly to Barcelona but back then it was very difficult and very unusual."

Tom was appointed Political Commissar of his anti tank unit, which lost half its men in the Battle of Brunete in July 1937. He was later shot in the foot during fighting around Saragossa and captured in the Aragón retreat of 1938. He was to spend a month in hospital before being transferred to a prison built for 250 but then housing more than 4,500.

"It was an adventure for sure but a very dangerous adventure," says Marc. "Thirty three Welsh volunteers died and he was injured badly and imprisoned in a pretty grim prison by all accounts.

"But these people showed great foresight. The Spanish Civil War, was to many people, and to me certainly, a warm up for the Second World War. The official line at the time was non-intervention which effectively gave Hitler and Mussolini a free hand in supporting Franco and his fascists, which had consequences.

"I would argue that what Tom was trying to do was trying to stop the Second World War and who knows what might have happened if he and his comrades had received better support."

Tom was later tried in a military court and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was freed in April 1940 as part of a government deal, but what should have been a joyful return home was tinged with sadness as both his parents had died, with his father dying even before it was known that Tom was alive in a Spanish jail. When he finally arrived back in Wrexham a few days later, a large crowd welcomed him home as a hero.

"Sadly 80 years on fascism is as close to home to ever," says Marc. "There are many nasty far right elements on the rise across Europe and here as well. We have seen some horrific incidents of far right terrorism, such as the Mold Tesco attack in 2015 by a member of a far right group.

"I can't speak for Tom because I never met him but I'd imagine he would be absolutely horrified. I'm sure a modern day Tom Jones would be on the frontline fighting modern day fascism."

After the war Tom became a full-time trade union official in the Shotton area, in Flintshire, until his retirement in 1973. He died in 1990.

"He is certainly somebody we should look up to," adds Marc. "He embodies a lot of the best political traditions of Wales. He was a proud Welshman but a real internationalist and that's the sort of thing I think we should be looking to promote. He represented workers throughout his own working life and was instrumental in forming the TUC in Wales, for which he had to fight tooth and nail for.

"He was a fighter and the main reason for holding this event is so his legacy lives on."

TWM JONES FEST - Celebrating the life and politics of a Rhos anti-fascist - takes place at Ty Pawb in Wrexham on Saturday, April 6 and is free to all. For more information go to