Southampton Basque War Refugees Archive Wins HLF Award

By Culture24 Staff | 06 January 2009
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A black and white picture of dozens of schoolchildren in uniform

A legion of children swapped Spain for Southampton in the 1930s

A project to preserve the memories of nearly 4,000 Spanish children who fled to Southampton more than 70 years ago has received a grant of £47,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Los Ninos exhibition at Southampton University will produce an education pack for schools and an online exhibition chronicling the stories of Basque children who arrived in the city during the Spanish Civil War.

Professor Chris Woolgar, Head of Special Collections at the University of Southampton Library, said: “HLF support creates an important opportunity for us not only to record the life stores of some of the child refugees who came from Spain in 1937, but also to engage today’s children in understanding how conflict and migration have an impact on everyday life.”

A black and white picture of children outside giant tents

Around 250 of the children stayed in the region after 1939

Accompanied by teachers, assistants, Catholic priests and doctors, the cherubic fleet made the pilgrimage to a makeshift camp at North Stoneham, and were later resettled by the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church. Most returned to Spain at the end of the civil war in 1939.

Thirty surviving members of the group, who escaped attacks by fascist forces in the Basque region and a Nazi bombing campaign on the town of Guernica, will have their memories recorded, creating a travelling exhibition which will tour museum and library venues around Hampshire.

Michelle Davies, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East England, said: “This project is perhaps the last opportunity to record the memories of some of those who were involved in this unique event – the first mass evacuation of child refugees to Britain following the first-ever massed bombings of a civilian population.”

A spokesperson for the Basque Children of ’37 Association UK added: “As time goes by and more and more of the children enter their 80s, it is difficult to stress how important and urgent it is to record their memories and preserve them for future generations.”

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