Thomas ‘Tommy’ Wood (1919-1936), aged just seventeen, was the youngest Irish volunteer to fight and die with the International Brigades. A Dubliner from a staunch Republican family, he left for Spain with Frank Ryan on 11th December 1936 and was mortally wounded just eighteen days later at the Battle of Cordoba.
Wood (often misspelt as Woods) joined Na Fianna Eireann at the age of seven and was later active with B Coy, 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA. Before leaving, he wrote a letter to his mother:
I am very sorry for not telling you where I was going. I am going to Spain to fight with the International Column. Please forgive me for not letting you know. I got my wages in the Gas. Co. alright. I left a message to be delivered on Sunday. We are going out to fight for the working class. It is not a religious war, that is all propaganda. God Bless you.
He lived with his parents John C. Wood and Sarah Ann Wood (nee Doyle) at 16 Buckingham Place just off Amiens Street with siblings Sean (who died in a workplace accident in 1938), Patrick, Donald, Seamus, Ellis, Kathleen and Frances.
During intense fighting at the Battle of Cordoba, which saw eight Irish anti-Fascists killed, Wood was shot in the knee and then in the head. Frank Ryan wrote to his parents:
He was wounded on the Cordoba Front on December 29 last. I was talking to two comrades who brought him to the dressing station. He was hit above the left knee and then as they were bringing him in, he and one of his comrades was hit again. This time the bullet hit Tommy in the head, but the two lads with him thought it was only a graze as he was conscious all the time. He was brought to Andujar Hospital and the first report from there was very favourable, then we could get no more news of him. It is only now that we have found out why.
Ryan went onto say that name of Woods was confused originally with that of Wools, a Dutch comrade who was also in the hospital. His letter continued:
His comrades here wish to be associated in rendering you their sympathy. Tommy was universally liked during the time he was with us here. I want to emphasise that his life was given in a great cause. He did not come looking for adventures nor for reward. He believed in the cause for which the people of Spain, helped by men such as himself, are fighting. He has given his life not only for the freedom of the people of Spain, but of the whole human race and he will be remembered and honoured equally with those who gave their lives for freedom in Ireland.
On 13th January 1937, the Irish Independent reported:
News has reached Dublin that natives of Dublin serving with the Reds at Albacete – T. Woods (aged 17 years), of Buckingham Place, is suffering from shell shock, and C. Gough, of Cabra, is in hospital with a neck wound. Both casualties were sustained in an air raid on Albacete.
Buried in Corboda, Tommy’s name is inscriped on the grave of his parents Sarah and John Wood and brother Sean in Glasnevin Cemetery:
The Irish Press (29 Oct 1941) reported on the death of Sarah Woods (nee Doyle):
Tommy was immortalised in Christy Moore’s ‘Viva La Quinte Brigada’:
Tommy Wood age seventeen died in Cordoba
With Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun
From Dublin to the Villa del Rio
He fought and died beneath the Spanish sun.
Two of Tommy Wood’s uncles were killed during the War of Independence.
Patrick ‘Paddy’ Doyle (29), of 1 St. Mary’s Place, a carpenter married with four children was hanged in Mountjoy Jail on 14th March 1921. Active with ‘F’ Company, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA, he was arrested and charged with high treason and levying war against the King for his part in an attempted ambush at Drumcondra on 21st January.
Six weeks after his execution, his brother Seán ‘Jimmy’ Doyle was killed during the IRA’s attack on the Custom House on 25th May 1921. During an attempt to escape, he was cut down by a British Army machine gun and died of his wounds in the Mater Hospital. Doyle had been active with Michael Collin’s squad. Oscar Traynor (BMH WS 340) wrote of his last hours:
As he lay on his deathbed (the nuns) said his one worry was, “Are the boys beaten?”, and that night as the sound of nearby explosions shook the air, Sean’s face, wreathed in smiles, turned to the Nun who was attending him, and he feeble whispered, “Thank God, Sister, the fight goes on”.
If anyone has a photograph or any further information on Tommy Wood, please get in touch.