Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Tartan Angels

The Scottish Ambulance Unit in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)

Linda Palfreeman is Lecturer in the Department of Humanities at the University of Cardenal Herrera, Elche, Spain. Her research on local aspects of the Spanish Civil War and of the International Brigades’ Medical Service resulted in ¡Salud! British Volunteers in the Republican Medical Service during the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939 (2012), followed by Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances: British Medical Units in the Spanish Civil War (2013), and Spain Bleeds, the final book in an informal trilogy. Tartan Angels continues to provide long unavailable information on health care and medical assistance during Spain’s civil war.

Tartan Angels sheds light on the work of the Scottish Ambulance Unit (SAU) and the crucial part it played in British medical and humanitarian aid to Spain. In the eighty-five years since the outbreak of the civil war an immense historiography has developed. A steady widening of focus has seen the inclusion of studies that address the intense and prolonged suffering of a civilian population affected by political repression, relentless military bombardment, deprivation, and disease. Likewise, focus has shifted to those who provided assistance to victims during and after the conflict. To date, academic emphasis has been on the left-wing politics behind such endeavours, with too little attention given to the humanitarian responses themselves. Tartan Angels embraces this argument in its focus on the Scottish Ambulance Unit, an enterprise that was arguably apolitical in nature and comprised of individuals inspired, above all, by compassionate and unselfish motives. However, the reputation of the Unit suffered irreparable damage as a result of a series of incidents and events that still remain not fully explained or understood. Furthermore, there were those who used controversy and rumour to deliberately undermine the fundraising efforts of the Unit’s patron and supporters. There is much still to be learned about the creation and the functioning of the SAU – an outstanding but largely overlooked humanitarian gesture on behalf of the people of Scotland to those suffering the effects of a brutal civil war in Spain.

Published in collaboration with the Department of International History, London School of Economics 

Paper ISBN: 978-1-78976-188-7
Paperback Price: £24.95/$34.95
Release Date: January 2023
Page Extent / Format: 180 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Illustrated with circa 30 pictures from the period


Contents to follow

Review Quotes to Follow

Books can be ordered by phone or online

Ordering in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Rest of the World

Gazelle Book Services
Direct sales tel.: +44 (0)1524 528500; email:
Web ordering:

Ordering in the United States and Canada
Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
Direct sales tel.: (800) 888-4741
Web ordering:

Bookseller Ordering
Information is provided under the Resources tab.

eBook Ordering
e-Book type availability can be sourced via by book title. Kindle availability is via Amazon .com and sites.