Guernica’s lost children

This video is called Guernica Picasso.

By musician Roberto Garcia, living in Britain now:

Spain’s lost children

Wednesday 25 April 2012

On the afternoon of Monday April 26 1937, when the Spanish civil war was in its 10th month, the small Basque market town of Guernica was almost completely destroyed by bombs dropped by Franco’s fascist forces.

It was a market day, and thousands of innocent people were killed.

Franco denied responsibility for the carpet bombing attack, claiming it was the work of “red incendiaries.”

However, in the words of George Steer, the Times journalist who visited Guernica the day after the bombing and subsequently filed a report following the denials by Franco’s nationalists: “I spoke with hundreds of homeless and distressed people who all gave precisely the same description of events … unexploded German aluminium incendiary bombs were found in Guernica marked ‘Rheindorf factory, 1936,’ eyewitnesses reported Heinkel and Junkers bombers and subsequently statements from captured German pilots in early April reported that these bombers were manned entirely by German pilots.”

In Paris, the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso began work on what would become his most famous painting – Guernica.

Four days after the bombing of Guernica, a letter was published in the Times and signatories included Ellen Wilkinson and the Duchess of Atholl. The letter was asking for refugees to be brought to Britain, and at the same time Leah Manning, an official of the British National Union of Teachers who was in Bilbao at the invitation of the Spanish government, was trying to arrange the evacuation of children on behalf of the National Joint Committee for Spanish relief.

Na-mara‘s songs and music tell the story of the evacuation of 4,000 children from Bilbao.

My father was among the group of child refugees brought to Britain to escape the bombings.

After much shameful prevarication from a British government bent on a policy of appeasement, 4,000 children were accepted aged from five to 12, with the strict proviso that there was not to be a charge on the British taxpayer, and under the condition that children were to be sent back to Spain “as soon as conditions permitted.”

In addition, only children were accepted and parents were to be left behind.

The Basque children’s committee, which had representations from organisations including the TUC, took responsibility for the children when they arrived in Southampton in May 1937.

My father Fausto, aged seven, and his older brother Teo, aged nine, were among this group of children whose names were put forward by their parents to take them away from the bombings and the war to a safe haven.

As parents were not allowed to travel with their children the parting must have been unbearable.

In order to console their children, mothers told them it was “only for three months.”

Events to mark the anniversary

The acclaimed St Albans-based folk duo Na-mara – Paul McNamara (Guitar and vocals) and Rob Garcia (Guitar, mandolin and mandola) – will be performing a series of concerts at events to commemorate the bombing of Guernica 75 years ago today, and the evacuation of the Basque children during the Spanish civil war.

Their concerts will include a mixture of self-penned songs and tunes from the war, interwoven with the story of the International Brigades and the evacuation of the Basque children from Bilbao in May 1937.

Their songs about the Spanish civil war capture the history of those brave men and women and tell the story of the commitment of British workers and members of trade union movements who joined the Spanish republic to fight fascism.

As close friends of the International Brigade Memorial Trust their performances coincide with events being organised by the IBMT to commemorate the criminal carpet bombing of Guernica by Franco’s fascist forces during the height of the Spanish civil war in April 1937.

Na-mara has released a special EP to commemorate the bombing of Guernica and Basque children’s evacuation on this the 75th anniversary, entitled Songs of the Spanish civil war.

You can hear them on the following dates and venues:

– May 4, 8pm – Ruskin House Folk and Blues Club, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon, Surrey. A 75th anniversary commemoration event for Guernica, in memory of Bob Doyle. Further info at or (01737) 553-493

– May 11-14 – Maesteg Town Hall. Part of the Celtic Tapas in Maesteg festival commemorating the Welsh miners who fought in the Spanish civil war.

– May 12, 4pm – Hartley Suite, University of Southampton. Commemoration event for the arrival of the el ninos in Britain.

– May 20, 2pm – Friends of Ash Church, nr New Ash Green, Kent, TN15. A concert with songs of the International Brigade and in memory of the ninos.

– June 18, 11am – BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a programme to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of the children from Bilbao in May 1937. The programme is entitled Habana, the name of the ship that the children travelled in, and will include an interview with Rob and feature Na-mara’s music.

– July 7 – South Bank Jubilee Memorial Gardens. Free open-air event to commemorate the International Brigades.

For further information on Na-Mara, visit

Brighton artists are remaking Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece for the modern fight against fascism, says BERNADETTE HYLAND: here.

16 thoughts on “Guernica’s lost children

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  13. Monday 22nd May 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Britain

    A PLAQUE to mark the 80th anniversary of the arrival of Basque child refugees from the Spanish civil war was unveiled in West Sussex over the weekend.

    Crowds gathered at the former site of Penstone House, now Lancing library, in an event on Saturday organised by parish councillor Lee Cowen.

    A group of children, some as young as seven, came to Lancing as part of 4,000 who arrived in Southampton from Bilbao on May 23 1937.

    Their parents had sent them to Britain to escape the bombs of Hitler’s Condor Legion, which had destroyed the Basque market town of Guernica a month earlier.

    The children were housed in various parts of Britain, with the costs largely covered by the labour and progressive movement after the government of the day refused to commit public funds to support them.

    Those gathered on Saturday heard from Manuel Moreno, whose mother was one of the children.

    He praised the solidarity and generosity of the people of Lancing for welcoming the young refugees.


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