In the footsteps of Brighton's volunteers

Post date: 20/09/2021

Pauline Fraser writes…


A score of walkers arrived at Hove Station on Saturday 18 September from far and wide to take part in an eight-mile sponsored walk in the footsteps of some of the Sussex International Brigaders. 


Assembling on a glorious autumn morning, the walkers visited nine addresses connected with volunteers from Brighton and Hove and the two houses that had welcomed child refugees from the Basque Country in 1937. 


The walk was organised to raise money towards a memorial to the Sussex Brigaders. 


The walkers made an eye-catching spectacle as they wove their way through the city carrying the IBMT banner, Republican flags and other banners, including that of Marea Granate. Many members of the public asked walkers what it was all about, thus getting the message across more widely. 


Information about each Brigader was read out when the walk assembled at the relevant address. At the two former children’s homes, Pauline read from the memoirs of two brothers who stayed in them: Javier and José María Castillo. 



The start of the walk outside Hove railway station.


The former homes – or sites of homes – of seven International Brigaders were visited: Vincent Deegan, Arthur Hirst, Robert Jasper, Donald McDonald, William Sill, Roy Watts and Philip Wilmot.


High point of the walk was a meeting between the walkers and members of the local Guernica Collective outside ‘The Pines’ nursing home, formerly Aylesbury House, one of the two homes for Basque refugee children in Hove. 


The collective brought their beautiful banner, made after the style of Picasso’s famous painting, which the artist had created following the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica. The bombing, which killed or injured many hundred of civilians, was carried out by the Hitler’s Condor Legion at Franco’s behest. The banner draws our attention in addition to the present-day slaughter of innocent civilians, in particular women and children, in Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere.


In 1937 the Conservative government grudgingly permitted the nearly 4,000 child refugees, to enter the UK, so long as they were ‘not a burden on the public purse’. The widespread outpouring of sympathy for the young refugees ensured that they were at least fed and accommodated. 



Outside The Pines in Hove with the Guernica tapestry.


Jacob Berkson, of Brighton Migrant Solidarity, which had come to support the walk, told the walkers how the current right-wing Conservative government demonises and seeks to actively exclude migrants, including children seeking to be reunited with family members.  


If you would like to support the efforts of the walkers and the project to get a memorial erected to the Sussex Brigaders, please donate, through the IBMT website and send an email to stating that your donation is for the Walk, or by bank transfer to: International Brigade Memorial, Sort code 40-52-40, Account number 00013716, giving the reference ‘Walk’. 


Pauline Fraser is an IBMT Trustee and convener of its affiliate, Sussex Brigaders Remembered.



At the house in Brighton Kemptown where Brigader Donald McDonald lived.


Posted on 20 September 2021.

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