Basque Children's Hexagonal Badge
Repository: Special Collections University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
Creator: National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief
Fond or Collection
Basque Children Archive
Repository and Location
Special Collections University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
Date Created: 1937
Type: Metal buttons
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Southhampton, UK
On 21 May 1937, 3862 children accompanied by 96 teachers, 118 helpers, 16 Catholic priests and 2 doctors left the port of Santurtzi, near Bilbao, aboard the steamship Habana. Evacuated by the Basque Government and with the support of the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief in the UK, which had lobbied a British government hesitant to help their cause, the children would dock at Southampton two days later, on 23 May. Their journey had been rough, and many suffered severe seasickness. Dr Maurice Williams, medical officer of the port, would note the importance of the event as the first occasion on which a shipload of refugees had arrived in the UK, and he offered his experience of their reception for future planning. The children were examined medically before disembarkation, and divided into “clean”, “verminous,” and “infectious or contagious”. They were given coloured wrist bands to distinguish them and were also expected to wear this hexagonal badge, which bore an identity number. The children disliked this badge, with its impersonal form of identification. Today, it inevitably recalls the use of other, at times much more sinister, badges to mark distance within societies in the mid 20th Century.
The Basque Children of ’37 Association, which was established in the UK in November 2002 currently has a mission to educate the public, students and academics regarding the exile experiences of the Basque children and to conserve the Association’s records. It has a special association with the University of Southampton Library, which has given permission for the display of this badge here. The Association has a rich website with details of research on the Basque children, the colonies where they were sent after initial reception at a refugee camp at North Stoneham, Eastleigh. The University of Southampton also holds an archive of Basque children’s memories.