Basque Refugees and the Spanish Civil War (1936-39)

In September 1936 General Franco, against the elected Republican government, called on German and Italian allies to help establish a dictatorship, bombing his fellow countrymen – a terror immortalised in Picasso’s painting ‘Guernica’, a copy of which hangs in Cardiff’s Temple of Peace. From the northern Basque Country in particular – whilst many fought and were supported by Welshmen in the International Brigades – tens of thousands were forced into exile. In one of the biggest mass evacuations of modern history, some 4,000 children were packed on ships bound for Britain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Pablo Picasso’s ‘Guernica‘, displayed in the WCIA corridor of Wales’ Temple of Peace, illustrated the horrors of Franco’s bombing of Guernica in Northern Spain

Some were sent on the S.S. Habana from Bilbao to Southampton, from where – organised by the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief – 400 children were taken in by 4 areas in Wales: Brechfa in Carmarthenshire, Sketty in Swansea, Caerleon near Newport, and Old Colwyn in North Wales.