CHILDREN’s eyes record images that adults can’t see, enriching our understanding of history. Herminio Martínez was one of the young Basque children who in 1937 arrived in England after fleeing from the Spanish civil war. Their eyes saw everything. Now Herminio has recalled the story of his childhood, a story shared by many others who left Spain and came to Britain in search of a home.
“I live near Highgate cemetery. Do you know where it is? And do you know who is buried there?” This was how Herminio gave me directions when we arranged our interview, and his cosy flat is indeed just a stone’s throw from where Karl Marx lies.
Herminio was one of the 4,000 children who on May 21 1937 boarded a ship to set sail for Southampton. “It was a terrible crossing. We were 4,000 children in a ship for 400 passengers. I was seven and my brother 11. We slept on the floor. We ran into a storm in the Bay of Biscay and that was a horrifying situation, rolling on the floor, throwing up, and many kids crying out to go back to Bilbao with their parents…”