In 1930 Brook met Dr Ewald Fabian, the editor of Der Sozialistische Arzt and the head of Verbandes Sozialistischer Aerzte in Germany. Fabian said he was surprised that Britain did not have an organisation that represented socialists in the medical profession. Brook responded by arranging a meeting to take place on 21st September 1930 at the National Labour Club. As a result it was decided to form the Socialist Medical Association. Brook was appointed as Secretary of the SMA and Dr Somerville Hastings, the Labour MP for Reading, became the first President. Other early members included Hyacinth Morgan, Reginald Saxton, Alex Tudor-Hart, Archie Cochrane, Christopher Addison, John Baird, Alfred Salter, Barnett Stross, Edith Summerskill, Robert Forgan and Richard Doll.
Socialist Medical Association agreed a constitution in November 1930, "incorporating the basic aims of a socialised medical service, free and open to all, and the promotion of a high standard of health for the people of Britain". The SMA also committed itself to the dissemination of socialism within the medical profession. The SMA was open to all doctors and members of allied professions, such as dentists, nurses and pharmacists, who were socialists and subscribed to its aims. International links were established through the International Socialist Medical Association, based in Prague, an organisation that had been established by Dr Ewald Fabian.
In 1931 the SMA affiliated to the Labour Party. The following year, at its annual party conference, a resolution calling for a national health service to be an immediate priority of a Labour government was passed. The SMA also launched The Socialist Doctor journal in 1932.
In July 1936, Isabel Brown, at the Relief Committee for the Victims of Fascism in London, received a telegram from Socorro Rojo Internacional, based in Madrid, asking for help in the struggle against fascism in Spain. Brown approached the Socialist Medical Association about sending medical help to Republicans fighting in the Spanish Civil War.
Brown contacted Hyacinth Morgan, who in turn saw Brook. According to Jim Fyrth, the author of The Signal Was Spain: The Spanish Aid Movement in Britain, 1936-1939 (1986): "Morgan saw Dr Charles Brook, a general practitioner in South-East London, a member of the London County Council and founder and first Secretary of the Socialist Medical Association, a body affiliated to the Labour Party. Brook, who was a keen socialist and supporter of the people's front idea, though not sympathetic to Communism, was the main architect of the SMAC. At lunch-time on Friday 31 July, he saw Arthur Peacock, the Secretary of the National Trade Union Club, at 24 New Oxford Street. Peacock offered him a room at the club for a meeting the following afternoon, and office facilities for a committee."
At the meeting on 8th August 1936 it was decided to form a Spanish Medical Aid Committee. Dr. Christopher Addison was elected President and the Marchioness of Huntingdon agreed to become treasurer. Other supporters included Leah Manning, George Jeger, Philip D'Arcy Hart, Frederick Le Gros Clark, Lord Faringdon, Arthur Greenwood, George Lansbury, Victor Gollancz, D. N. Pritt, Archibald Sinclair, Rebecca West, William Temple, Tom Mann, Ben Tillett, Eleanor Rathbone, Julian Huxley, Harry Pollitt and Mary Redfern Davies.
Leah Manning later recalled: "We had three doctors on the committee, one representing the TUC and I became its honorary secretary. The initial work of arranging meetings and raising funds was easy. It was quite common to raise £1,000 at a meeting, besides plates full of rings, bracelets, brooches, watches and jewellery of all kinds... Isabel Brown and I had a technique for taking collections which was most effective, and, although I was never so effective as Isabel (I was too emotional and likely to burst into tears at a moment's notice), I improved. In the end, either of us could calculate at a glance how much a meeting was worth in hard cash."
The First British Hospital was established by Kenneth Sinclair Loutit at Grañén near Huesca on the Aragon front. Other doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers at the hospital included Reginald Saxton, Alex Tudor-Hart, Archie Cochrane, Penny Phelps, Rosaleen Ross, Aileen Palmer, Peter Spencer, Patience Darton, Annie Murray, Julian Bell, Richard Rees, Nan Green, Lillian Urmston, Thora Silverthorne and Agnes Hodgson.
Brook resigned as Secretary of the Socialist Medical Association in 1938. He was also a co-founder of the Royal College of General Practitioners in 1952.
Charles Wortham Brook died in 1983.
The other consequence of the Spanish appeal was the SMAC. Isabel Brown asked Sinclair-Loutit and another student to see Dr Hyacinth Morgan, the Medical Adviser to the TUC and Medical Officer to the Union of Post Office Workers. At a second meeting he agreed to do what he could to set up a committee. Morgan was a wise choice. He not only had close connections with the Labour and trade union movements, but was also a Roman Catholic, having been born of Irish parents in the West Indies.
Morgan saw Dr Charles Brook, a general practitioner in South-East London, a member of the London County Council and founder and first Secretary of the Socialist Medical Association, a body affiliated to the Labour Party. Brook, who was a keen socialist and supporter of the people's front idea, though not sympathetic to Communism, was the main architect of the SMAC. At lunch-time on Friday 31 July, he saw Arthur Peacock, the Secretary of the National Trade Union Club, at 24 New Oxford Street. Peacock offered him a room at the club for a meeting the following afternoon, and office facilities for a committee. Although it was the first day of the Bank Holiday weekend, Brook managed to summon a number of people by telephone and postcard and to bring the press. (Those present variously recall between twenty and sixty people being there.)
Brook spoke of the need for medical aid. It was agreed to set up a committee and to send personnel as well as medical supplies to Spain. The committee had a people's front character. Morgan was elected Chairman and Brook Secretary. Isabel Brown, mindful of the English love of titles, proposed Christina, Lady Hastings (Marchioness of Huntingdon), a left-wing, Italian-born aristocrat, as Treasurer. With her, Viscount Churchill and J.R. Marrack, Professor of Biochemistry at Cambridge, were joint Treasurers. Dr Somerville-Hastings, a surgeon and a member of the LCC, was Vice-Chairman, and Dr Christopher Addison MP, was President. Most of the Committee were doctors, members of the Socialist Medical Association, including Philip D'Arcy Hart, who had been on holiday in Spain, marooned in San Sebastian during the initial fighting and evacuated in a British destroyer. Isabel Brown handed up £50 from her committee, and was elected. So were Ellen Wilkinson MP, Leah Manning, President of the National Union of Teachers, and Arthur Peacock. Lord Faringdon, a left-wing Labour peer and Frederick Le Gros Clark, a well-known nutrition expert and peace campaigner who had been blinded in the First World War, were among those co-opted. Later members of the committee included Janet Vaughan, Professor Julian Huxley, Victor Gollancz and Sir Walter Layton, owner of the News Chronicle, Megan Lloyd George MP, D.N. Pritt MP, Eleanor Rathbone, Independent MP for the Combined English Universities, the Earl of Listowel, Sir Archibald Sinclair MP, leader of the Liberal Party, Rebecca West and the veteran leader of the 1889 dock strike, Ben Tillett. William Temple, Archbishop of York, later of Canterbury, gave his support.
On August 8 1936, a group of doctors, medical students and nurses met in London to consider ways of sending medical help to the Spanish republic. A month earlier, the civil war had broken out. One of those at the meeting was a young doctor, Reggie Saxton, who has now died aged 92.
Out of that meeting came the Spanish Medical Aid Committee and, on August 23 the first unit left for Spain. The English hospital was set up in a farmhouse at Grañen in Hesca, about 18 kilometres behind the Aragón front.
On September 29 1936, Reggie reached Grañen, where, he recalled, "there was only dirt and filth and rats and a stinking courtyard". Reggie became a popular figure at the Grañen hospital, dispensing poultices and pills from his knapsack, but was itching to help the war effort at a time when the main fighting was moving elsewhere.