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buber.net > Basque > History > Basque Escape to England
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Basque Escape to England

by Luistxo Fernandez

Bilbao fell in 1937, not 1939, and the boat that went to England took off from Santurtzi on May 21st 1937. It was the Habana ship, and it was full with some 4.000 children. The official figures of the Eusko Jaurlaritza (Basque Govt.) of the time, put the number of refugees sent to England in 3.282 children. "Children" associations calculate 4.000.

The children were interned in a camp called Eastleigh, near Southampton were conditions were not that good. It was 3 or 4 thousand people there, not just 600.

Most of those children returned in 2 or 3 years, but there were many that remained in England... A group of those returned in a Southampton-Santurtzi ferry for a sponsored visit in 1997.

A couple of good references.

ARRIEN, G. La generacion del exilio: Genesis de las escuelas vascas y las colonias escolares (1932-1940). Bilbo: Onura, 1983.

ARRIEN, G. Niņos evacuados a Gran Bretaņa, 1937-1940. Bilbo: Asociacion de Niņos Evacuados el 37, 1991.

The second one is full of pictures. Maybe Aitorīs mother is in one of them... The refugees to England were just a part of the evacuated children. "Children" associations calculate 30.000 people, official figures only 15.000. Of those, perhaps the harder voyage was that of the 1.500 or so sent to the Soviet Union. They could not return in 20 years... Those who could return, of course: the older ones fought in the Soviet Front of World War II and many died. Just from my hometown, Eibar, six Basque boys died fighting for the Red Army on WW2, all volunteers.

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