Plaque in Brampton to remember the Basque children who escaped Spanish Civil War

Basque children in Brampton soon after their arrival from Spain. Credit: Basque Children of '37 Association UK

A plaque has been unveiled in Brampton near Carlisle to commemorate the town's role in hosting more than a hundred Basque children during the Spanish Civil War. 

Four thousand youngsters arrived in Britain in 1937 to escape the bombings and some ended up in what was then Cumberland. Among them was eight-year-old Carmen Cid, now Eckersley, who carried out the ceremony. 

She said she was very pleased to have been asked to unveil the plaque. 

Carmen Cid, being looked after in Cumberland, after arriving in 1937. Credit: Family photo

"I'm very honoured for my own friends that I had in the hostel. I wish they were here but I think they're more or less all dead by now but I feel like I'm doing something for the English people to thank them." 

The Spanish Civil War, in the 1930s, was a foretaste of what was to happen across Europe just a few years later.

The Basque country in northern Spain saw some of the heaviest bombings, as fascist forces destroyed towns like Guernica. 

It was after that attack that the decision was taken to send four thousand Basque children to Britain for safety in 1937.

After spending time in the south of England more than 100 were taken to Brampton. Carmen, now 94, remembers a lot about her time in the town. 

"Very friendly. The people in Brampton, if we got the chance of going out for a walk, they would always put a penny on your hand or maybe a sixpence, something like that." 

The children lived together in a former workhouse that has since been demolished. The driving force behind the rescue was Wilfred Roberts, the MP for North Cumberland, nicknamed the MP for Spain. 

Wilfred Roberts, MP for North Cumberland, who helped to bring the children to Brampton. Credit: Carlisle Archive Centre

His grandson, Roderick Matthews, said: "He felt very strongly about the humanitarian issue of the children who were being bombed in northern Spain at that particular time.

"But Wilfred in particular always thought the children were the real heroes and this should be borne in mind, that the organisers were organising but it was the children who were suffering." 

Carmen was later taken in by a couple in Carlisle. Many of the children were unable to return home after the war and she settled in north Cumbria where she and other members of her family still live. 

The plaque that will be displayed in Brampton at the former workhouse where the children stayed. Credit: Malcolm Little

Her son, Luis, said of the people in Brampton: "These people afforded support and guidance and help to those children which had never been experienced before.

"We're eternally grateful to the people of Brampton and the surrounding area." 

It was one of the first mass evacuations of children and led the way for the kinder transports to rescue youngsters from Nazi Germany a year later. 

Sunday marked 86 years to the day since the Basque children arrived in Brampton, an event that will now forever be remembered as part of the town's history. 

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