The Basque Children of ’37 Association UK seeks to preserve the memory of the experience of almost 4,000 children who were evacuated to the UK in 1937 from Bilbao.

Basque refugee children aboard Habana 2

Basque refugee children aboard the SS Habana, from, the website of the Basque Children of ’37 Association UK

In the spring of 1937, following the bombing of Durango and Gernika and with Franco’s troops on the brink of entering Bilbao and thereby defeating Basque resistance to the military uprising, the children were evacuated to the UK for their own safety. They were shipped aboard the SS Habana, which sailed from Bilbao on Friday, May 21, dropping anchor the following evening at Fawley, at the entrance to Southampton Water. On the morning of Sunday, May  23, the ship docked at Southampton, and the children were initially accommodated in a large camp at North Stoneham, Eastleigh. Later, they were dispersed to numerous “colonies” throughout the country.

Basque refugee children donation appeal

Funding appeal for Basque refugee children, from, the website of the Basque Children of ’37 Association UK

Some of these Basque refugee children were taken in by the Attenborough family in the city of Leicester. Two of the Attenboroughs’ sons would later go on to achieve international renown: Richard (1923-2014), as a film actor, director, and producer, who won the Best Director Oscar for the movie Gandhi (1982); and David (1926- ), as a broadcaster and naturalist, responsible for creating some of the most highly regarded nature and wildlife documentaries in the history of the genre. Here, in a site devoted to remembering Richard’s life, under the “Oral Histories” section, Albert Hall and Betty Holyland specifically recall the Attenboroughs’ experience with the Basque Children’s Refugee Committee in the late 1930s. The Attenboroughs’ involvement in taking in both Basque and (later, in  World War II) Jewish refugee children is also noted in a short bio of Mary Attenborough.

The Basque Children of ’37 Association also serves as a forum for discussion and to promote dialogue between the children themselves, their descendants, researchers, and any interested persons. It provides a bibliography and a photo gallery on the Basque refugee children and their experiences.

Additionally, there is a touching portrait of life for some of these refugee children in a series of photos here, together with a short accompanying text marking the 75th anniversary of their arrival in Carshalton (at the time in the county of Surrey, now a suburb of London).

The CBS publication  War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, addresses the themes of  war, occupation, and exile during the turbulent period from the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War to the conclusion of World War II. This collection of essays attempts to convey the upheaval from the perspective of ordinary people’s lives, examining the human impact of war and displacement.