This week marks the 80th anniversary of the arrival of nearly 4,000 refugee children from Spain’s Basque Country, along with several hundred adult carers, in what remains the largest influx of refugees to Britain in one day.
They arrived in Southampton on 23 May 1937, having sailed from Bilbao on the Habana (pictured) to escape Franco’s bombing campaign in northern Spain – which included the razing of Guernica.
The Conservative-led government of the day had been reluctant to admit the refugees and only agreed to do so in the face of a campaign in Parliament and the country, and on condition that no public funds would be spent for their upkeep.
The niños were dispersed to homes around Britain and cared for by volunteers, philanthropists, trade unions, churches and other groups.
The latest plaque (pictured) remembering this episode in Britain’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War was unveiled at Lancing Library, Sussex, on 20 May on the site of a building that housed one of the colonias for the refugee children.
For more information on the ‘Basque children’ see www.basquechildren.org
Posted on 23 May 2017