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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Southampton

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Immigration and Emigration
Britain's Basque bastion

"But one moment that was not well organised was the day that Bilbao fell to the military in June '37. Someone simply announced the fact on the public address system in the camp, and the children were distraught. Some went running out of the camp, shouting they wanted to go and fight - they were only between 4 and 15 years old, but their passions were roused."

The organising authorities in England thought that the troubles in the Bilbao area were just "local", and the need for the camp would only last for about two months, but their stay actually lasted for about two years.

Nearly every part of the country took their quota of Basque children.
A group of the Basque children
Joy was seen on their faces when they reached the camp
© Manuel Moreno - Basque Children of '37 Association
There were 94 Basque "Colonies" around Britain, and the local people, of all ages, rose to the occasion. British children from Montrose to the Isle of Wight empathised with their new Spanish friends and they organised parties, and fund raising activities to support them.

Repatriation - for some

But the time to return to Spain came two years later in 1939, when the Spanish Civil War was over. The five establishments in the Southampton area that took in children started the process of repatriation.

Nearly all the children returned to their regions, leaving about 500 still in their British homes.
Spanish adults accompanied the children
Spanish teachers and helpers accompanied the children
© Manuel Moreno - Basque Children of '37 Association
There were also those who had nowhere to return to - their homes were destroyed and their parents were either unable to take them back due to ravages of war, or they had been killed. It was those, numbering about 400, who stayed and settled in the UK completely.

Manuel Moreno recalled: "My mother was here with two of her sisters - they had a large family back home in Spain. Their Father had died in the defence of Bilbao, and her mother was not able to cope with more than the children she had there, so they stayed here."

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