Commemorations to show how Suffolk village helped Basque child refugees evacuated in Spanish Civil War

PUBLISHED: 10:37 11 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:37 11 March 2018

Some of the Basque child refugees pictured during their stay in Wickham Market. Picture:  BCA’37

Some of the Basque child refugees pictured during their stay in Wickham Market. Picture: BCA’37


A Suffolk village’s little-known role as a safe haven for refugee children displaced during the Spanish Civil War is to be commemorated this month with the unveiling of a plaque.

Edward Packard, a history lecturer at the University of Suffolk has been researching the 100 Basque children who came to Suffolk in 1937 as a contingent of around 4,000 youngsters on board the SS Habana, following the relentless bombing of Guernica.

He has been working with the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK and Wickham Market Area Archives Centre to commemorate the role of local people in caring for the young refugees.

Basque Government officials evacuated around 25,000 children during the war as food shortages worsened and the bombing intensified.

The Suffolk “colony” of refugees first stayed at Wherstead Park in Ipswich before moving to the old workhouse in Wickham Market in early 1938.

A plaque unveiling at Wherstead Park last summer saw the East of England Co-operative mark the 80th anniversary of the refugees’ arrival in Ipswich, in recognition of the role played by the Ipswich Co-operative Society and the community in supporting the 100 children.

Mr Packard said: “The children relied on local support, as the Government provided no public funds for their care.

“This year, I wanted to ensure Wickham Market is also remembered 80 years on”.

The commemorative event will be held in the village on Saturday, March 24. It will feature an exhibition in the village hall telling the refugees’ “remarkable story” and a plaque unveiling at the former workhouse, which has been used as housing since the 1940s and was refurbished by Flagship in 2014. The plaque will be unveiled by relatives of Chloe Vulliamy, who is said to have been the driving force behind the Basque “colony” in Suffolk.

Efforts to commemorating the Basque refugees’ story have increased in recent months, as various anniversaries approach. Last month, Paco Robles, who was one of the children who spent time in Suffolk and attended the commemoration at Wherstead Park, visited Jeremy Corbyn with Carmen Kilner Sanchez from the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK.

The free events in Wickham Market run from 11am-5pm.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Coastal Scene visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Coastal Scene staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Coastal Scene account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Other popular content

A fresh round of snow could fall at Easter according to experts – just when hopes were high that the wintry weather swept in by the Beast from the East had run its course.


During his career in the Royal Navy, Neil Farrow travelled the globe.


Primark has recalled a range of cushions after they were found to be a possible fire risk.


A woman was placed in an induced coma after being thrown from her horse in rural Suffolk.

Local weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 6°C

min temp: 1°C

Show Job Lists

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24