Basque Children of '37

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From 1937 to 1938, one hundred Basque Children were given refuge from the Spanish Civil War at what is now the East of England Co-op's head office, Wherstead Park.

During their stay at Wherstead Park, just outside Ipswich in Suffolk, the children were cared for by the local community and businesses, including the Ipswich Industrial Co-operative Society who provided free bread as well as educational and recreational activities.

80th Anniversary Event

To mark the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the Basque Children and in recognition of the part Ipswich Co-operative Society, local businesses and the community played in supporting the 100 children who came to Wherstead Park, a commemorative plaque has been unveiled. 

Francisco Robles, one of the children who stayed at Wherstead Park in 1937, made his first return visit to Wherstead Park, whilst historians Dr Adrian Bell and Dr Ed Packard gave a brief history of events and the role the local community and businesses played in supporting the Basque children during their stay in Suffolk.

The story of the Basque Children - an overview

In April 1937 the ancient and historical town of Guernica was bombed by Hitler's air force, in support of the rebel General Franco as part of the Spanish Civil War. As food shortages worsened and the bombing intensified, the Basque government decided to evacuate children from the area. A total of 25,000 were evacuated to France, Belgium, Soviet Union Switzerland, Mexico and Denmark.

The British government, in a strict interpretation of the non-intervention agreement it held, eventually agreed to receive 4,000 Basque children provided they could be cared for without any government funding. Members of the public, churches and businesses were amongst those that rose to the challenge.

The children initially arrived at Southampton on 23 May 1937 and were sent to 'colonies' across the country, including Wherstead Park in Suffolk, where they stayed until February 1938 before being relocated to Wickham Market.  

Images credited to BCA '37 UK - The Association for the UK Basque Children.