Winifred Bates


In The Biography I said that Ralph Bates had married a Winifred Sandford, although I was unable to trace any record of this marriage in England. I did, however, mention that if the marriage had occurred abroad, in Spain for example, then that would explain why there was no record of the marriage in England.

I first came across the name Winifred Sandford in a number of printed sources and accepted the name as being correct.  In fact, these sources were all incorrect, the reason being that Winifred only became Winifred Sandford at the time of her second marriage, once she had divorced Ralph Bates, and Sandford was therefore not her maiden name.

So, in order to set the record straight, I will now give Winifred’s correct details.

Winifred was born Winifred Eades Spink on 23rd December, 1898, in Paddington, London. She was the daughter of Samuel Wilkey Spink, a butcher and shop keeper, who had been born in Marylebone, London, and his wife Emma Annie  Florence Spink, nee Eades, who had been born in Paddington, London, although members of  her family were originally from the village of Butleigh, in Somerset. In the 1901 census the family were shown as living at 178, Shirland Road, Paddington. Ten years later the 1911 census shows that the family had moved less than a quarter of a mile and were living at 14, Errington Road, Paddington. Samuel was then aged 43 years and his wife 45 years. There was also another daughter, Anne Irene Spink, who was aged 10 years.

Winifred trained as a teacher. In 1918, after the government sent a request to her Teacher Training College asking for volunteers to join the Women's Land Army, Winifred joined the Land Army and spent six weeks in Barwick, near Yeovil, Somerset, helping to pull that year's flax harvest. It was vital work, as the flax was used to make linen fabric which was then used to cover airframes. At the end of the six weeks Winifred cycled to Butleigh to meet up with her maternal relatives. Winifred can be heard talking about her Land Army experiences on a recording which is available at the Somerset Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury and at the Somerset Heritage Centre ion Taunton.. She then returned to London and was living at 118, Talbot Road, London, W11, when she married Ralph Bates on 21st July, 1928, at Kensington Registry Office, London. Some of Winifred’s activities during the Spanish Civil War have been mentioned in Paul Preston’s book Doves of War – Four Women of Spain (2003). There is a recording of Winifed talking about Spain in the Imperial War Museum's Spanish Civil War oral-history collection.
 
I mentioned in The Biography that Ralph Bates had said that Winifred had "thoroughly misinformed" him about other left-wing groups that fought in the Civil War. It seems that some of these other groups were also unhappy with Winifed. "Medical Political Commissar Winifred Bates was there on one of her puritanical spying missions for Moscow and the Communist Party, sending off damning reports on...anyone she didn't approve of." {1} 

At the end of the Spanish Civil War, Winifred toured America in 1939 on behalf of the Spanish Refugee Relief Campaign. Later she told friends that she had made over 160 address and radio interviews during the period March – July. Whist in San Francisco she became the Executive Secretary of the local branch of the United American Spanish Aid Committee, which was then housed at 83, McAllister Street, San Francisco. The Committee, which was also known as the American Ship Resource Mission, was established to sponsor Spanish War refugees from Marseilles, France, to Mexico.

Winifred had entered American on 31st March, 1939, on board the S.S. Aquitania, which had docked that day at New York. She told Immigration Officers that she intended to seek permanent residence in America and was granted leave to remain for six months. However, according to Immigration and Naturalization officials Winifred later submitted “falsified affidavits” and, for this reason, was not allowed to remain in America.  She returned to England, remarried and later had a daughter. She then began working as a shop assistant in the Co-op and later worked in Manchester Corporation’s Electric Works. On 20th March, 1956 Winifred left London for Sydney, Australia, on board the S.S. Pinjarra. She returned from Sydney two years later, arriving in London on 23rd September, 1958.
 
 Winifred was still living in Manchester in 1976 when she was interviewed by James K. Hopkins for his book Into the Heart of the Fire - The British in the Spanish Civil War (1998).

At one point in her later life Winifred began teaching Esperanto.  She remained a member of the Communist Party and retained her left-wing beliefs. It seems that, at some point, she retired to Somerset and was living in the village of Odcombe in 1984. Winifred died of heart-failure on 9th February, 1987 (and not in 1996 as previously reported), at Yeovil District Hospital. She was then living in sheltered accomodation at 12, Hanover Court, Jubilee Close, Castle Carey, Somerset. Her death was reported by her sister Anne Irene Spink, who was also living  at Hanover Court (number 23).
 
On her death certificate Winifred is described as being a "widow of ------ Sandford". I find it strange that Winifred's sister Anne was unable to provide the first name of the person that Winifred married, following her divorce from Ralph Bates. Nor can I find any trace of Winifred's marriage to a person called Sandford in British records. Could it be, I wonder, that this marriage took place in Australia? If so, then that would explain why there are no official details in this country.
 
 I believe that Winifred wrote an, as yet unpublished, autobiography, although I have, so far, been unable to locate this document.
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