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18 June 2014
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Immigration and Emigration
Britain's Basque bastion

The government eventually allowed the children into the country through the Stoneham camp, but refused to have anything to do with their welfare.
Stoneham Camp Pass
All children and helpers were issued with a pass
© Manuel Moreno - Basque Children of '37 Association
Manuel Moreno, whose mother and brother were among that ship-load of refugees to arrive in 1937, is now Chairman of the newly formed Basque Children of '37 Association.

He recalled the open generosity of the British people: quote["It must not be forgotten that this was the first time in British history that the British people opened their arms and hearts en-masse to say 'we will care for you'"

"The children also had friends in high places in the British establishment. The Duchess of Atholl was a strong advocate for their protection, and corporate giants such as Cadbury and Rowntree were supportive too - and even King George VI and the Queen paid a visit."]

But one person, above most, must be credited with the safe passage of the young refugees - Leah Manning. As secretary to the Spanish Medical Aid Committee during the time of the Civil War, she was the anchor point of the evacuation. Her resolve to make it work came after witnessing the bombing raid of Guernica.

Tent town

Spanish adults accompanied the children
Spanish teachers and helpers accompanied the children
© Manuel Moreno - Basque Children of '37 Association
The thousands of children were introduced to their new temporary homes - row upon row of bell-tents. One girl was heard to cry out, on arrival; "Yo no puedo dormir alli, no soy un gitana". ("I can't sleep there, I'm not a gypsy!"). The republican elections in Spain had been held just three years before this evacuation, and the positioning of the tents in this canvas village was decided by the political persuasions of the childrens' parents.

Manuel says: "It was terribly well organised, there were marquees for eating in, medical tents, and entertainment - it all made their stay comparatively comfortable."


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