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Memories of Southampton’s Spanish children will be saved

Published: 7 January 2009

A University of Southampton project to preserve the memories of children who arrived in Southampton over seventy years ago fleeing the Spanish Civil War is to receive a £47,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Special events in 2007 commemorated the 70th anniversary of the arrival of nearly 4,000 children and now the University is setting out to record the stories of survivors of this huge evacuation.

The refugees were fleeing attacks by fascist forces on the Basque region of Spain, including the town of Guernica which was bombed by the Nazis in an act of aggression immortalised by the artist Picasso.

Recordings will be made from 30 of the Spanish refugees, which will be added to the archive for Los Niños – the little ones – at the University. The project will create a travelling exhibition that will start at the University in April before touring museum and library venues around Hampshire.

Working with the Basque Children of ’37 Association and Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, the University will also use the information collected during the project to produce an education pack for use in 20 local schools and to create an on-line exhibition on the University’s website.

The stories of Los Niños will feature in the exhibition to be held at the University to co-incide with an international conference being held there in April entitled Coming Home? Conflict and Return Migration in 20th Century Europe.

Memories of Southampton’s Spanish children will be saved
Refugee children from the Basque region

Of the 3,840 children who arrived in Southampton on 23 May 1937, an estimated 250 remained in Britain at the end of the Second World War.

Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East England Michelle Davies 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.”

Professor Chris Woolgar, Head of Special Collections in the University of Southampton’s Hartley Library, said: “HLF support creates an important opportunity for us not only to record the life stories 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 spokesperson for the Basque Children of ’37 Association UK said: “As time goes by and more and more of the children enter their eighties, it is difficult to stress how important and urgent it is to record their memories and preserve them for future generations.  The project builds on the increased interest in this event following the 70th anniversary commemorations in Southampton and Eastleigh.”

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