Basque and Spanish Exiles

 In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque capital, Guernica, was systematically destroyed by aerial bombing – the first town anywhere to experience this particular form of terror, and an event immortalised in Picasso’s great work Guernica, depicting the cruelty and destructiveness of war. Fearing further attacks, Basque parents waved goodbye to 4,000 of their children who were evacuated on board the Habana, which set sail for Southampton.  The evacuation – opposed by the government of the day – was organised by the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief, a coalition of church groups and trade unions.  On arrival in Southampton, the Basque refugees were told they could stay in England for just three months, though many were, in fact, to remain in exile for several years.  The children were then dispersed to various temporary ‘colonies’, one of which was hosted by the 2nd Lord Faringdon at Hackford Lodge (now Basque House), at Buscot.


Lord Faringdon also gave shelter to six of the numerous writers who went into exile after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. One of them was Luis Cernuda (1902–63), one of Spain’s most distinguished modern poets.  Another was Pedro Garfias (1901–67), whose poem of homesickness and exile, entitled Primavera en Eaton Hastings (Spring in Eaton Hastings), was inspired by his walks in the countryside around Buscot, and now enjoys a great reputation in the Spanish-speaking literary world.  Arturo Barea (1897–1957) was, for most of the Spanish Civil War, head of the Foreign Press and Censorship Bureau of the Republican government in Madrid.  He was also the radio broadcaster who became internationally famous as the ‘Unknown Voice of Madrid’.  Forced to leave Spain in 1938, he eventually settled at the invitation of Gavin Faringdon in the village of Eaton Hastings.  He worked for the BBC during the Second World War and contributed articles to Horizon magazine, London Forum and The Times Literary Supplement.  Barea published novels and short stories as well as books of criticism, including Lorca, The Poet and His People'(1944) and Unamuno (1952).

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