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This article was submitted by UKNIWM volunteer Irene Glausiusz, Chair of the ‘Memorial to Evacuation’ Steering Committee. 

 

To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, a moving act of remembrance took place on the last Tuesday in January under a cloudless sky beside Southwark Council’s Holocaust Memorial tree in the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park outside the Imperial War Museum. The service was conducted by Rev Alan Greenbat representing the Chief Rabbi’s office and the Rt. Rev. Christopher Chessun Anglican Bishop of Woolwich. The assembled crowd was invited to join in the singing of the 23rd Psalm – forever a source of comfort and solace. Never forgetting all the millions who perished during World War Two, Alan Greenbat quoted a poignant translation of a Hebrew biblical passage “How pleasant it would be if brothers could live together in harmony” (Psalm 133).

 

Everyone then moved to the nearby Soviet War Memorial where His Excellency Yury Fedotov Ambassador of the Russian Federation recalled how his parents had been military personnel.  He too, and now the 3rd generation, his grandchildren, were growing up in another age of conflict.

 

On the theme of the 2009 rallying cry of Holocaust Memorial Day ‘Stand Up to Hatred’ the Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Eliza Mann said ‘While we remember those who died in the European Holocaust, we should also think that each day people stereotype, exclude and persecute because of race, religion, disability or sexuality’ and added ‘acts of hatred involve making a choice, but we can choose to resist racism.’

 

Simon Hughes MP for North Southwark wished that leaders whether nationally or locally – that is all those in power – never abuse their power.  A local issue was youth violence in his constituency – recently a fight led to the stabbing of a 14 year old, just because he came from another school.

 

Mayor of Southwark, Eliza Mann at the Soviet War Memorial (image courtesy of londonse1 community website)

Mayor of Southwark, Eliza Mann at the Soviet War Memorial

(image courtesy of London SE1 community website)

 

Wreaths were laid at the Soviet War Memorial by Embassies and Defence Attaches of Commonwealth of Independent State countries, UK military organisations, Royal British Legion and veterans of the Arctic Convoys.  Amongst other organisations laying wreaths were Russian cultural societies, the Marx Memorial Library and the Evacuees’ Reunion Association, whose wreath bore the inscription “REMEMBERING THE CHILDREN OF WORLD WAR TWO”.

 

Philip Matthews, Chair of the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund, in closing the ceremony added a reminder that the next event at the Soviet War Memorial would be Victory Day marking the 10th Anniversary of the installation of the Soviet War Memorial in the park beside the Imperial War Museum.

 

 

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The funeral of Stevie Fullarton, the last Scottish veteran of the Spanish Civil War, is taking place today. Read more from BBC News

Between 1936 and 1939, many volunteers from around the world travelled to Spain to join the Loyalists fighting against the right-wing forces of General Franco.  These volunteers were known as the International Brigade.  However, Franco –  supported by troops from Germany and Italy – was eventually successful and Spain became a Fascist country. 

A memorial from Stevie Fullarton’s home town of Glasgow records the following.

BETTER TO DIE ON YOUR FEET THAN TO LIVE FOREVER ON YOUR KNEES/ THE/ CITY OF GLASGOW/ AND THE BRITISH/ LABOUR MOVEMENT/ PAY TRIBUTE TO THE/ COURAGE OF THOSE/ MEN AND WOMEN/ WHO WENT TO SPAIN/ TO FIGHT FASCISM/ 1936 – 1939/ 2,100 VOLUNTEERS WENT FROM BRITAIN/ 534 WERE KILLED/ 53 OF WHOM WERE FROM GLASGOW

There are at least 44 memorials to the Spanish Civil War in the UK.  Click here to see the full list

THE BASQUE CHILDREN'S REFUGEE CAMPS AT STONEHAM AND DYMCHURCH, ENGLAND DURING THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

Over 700,000 people were killed during the Spanish Civil War, mostly Spanish civilians. 

This photo shows a refugee camp at Stoneham, Hampshire, for Basque children.  It is estimated that around 4,000 Basque children were evacuated to Britain during the civil war.

During the Second World War, many refugees from the Nazi regime played an active role fighting again Germany both in  defence of their allies and to help liberate their homelands.

3 Troop 10 Commando memorialOnce such memorial is this large, slate stone of remembrance erected in in Aberdyfi, Gwynedd in 1999, to commemorate 3 Troop 10 Commando.  The inscription reads,

For the members of 3 Troop/ 10 (1A) Commando who were/ warmly welcomed in Aberdyfi/ while training for special duties in battle 1942-1943./ Twenty were killed in action.

Additional plaques in both English and Welsh give more information about 3 Troop 10 Commando.  It was made up initially of 86 German speaking refugees who were given fictitious names and identities as British Nationals. They were involved with various special duties including reconnaissance, interrogation and intelligence. Many made lasting friendships in the local community and two even married local women.

Another memorial commemorates the contribution made a  Polish destroyer, O.R.P Blyskawica, during German bombing of Cowes on the Isle of Wight on 4th/5th May 1942.  The plaque records that the officers and crew “bravely defended the town and were largely instrumental in reducing the number of casualties and in saving a large part of Cowes from being destroyed.”

During the Second World War several Polish-manned ships and submarines fought alongside the Royal Navy.  Some of these vessels had escaped following the German invasion and others were loaned by the Royal Navy.  The Polish sailors occupied barracks at Devonport, Plymouth and after the war some remained and made their home in the UK.

A quarter of a million Belgians, displaced by the conflict of the First World War, came to the UK in what proved to be the largest influx of refugees in UK history.  There are several memorials throughout the UK commemorating the efforts of local people to house them. Most Belgians returned home after the end of the war.

In Wimbledon Cemetery, London, there is a memorial to Belgian Refugees that reads,

Close to this spot rest in friendly English soil eight Belgian citizens who were driven from their homes by the German invasion in 1914 and were welcomed as guests of the people of Wimbledon and Merton and one child who was born in exile.”

In the local library in Bodmin, Cornwall there is a marble tablet with the following inscription in both English and French.

This tablet was erected by/ Belgian refugees/ as a token of their deep gratitude/ to the Mayor and town council/ Relief Committees and/ the inhabitants of Bodmin, for/ their generosity/ during the war./ 1914 – 1915.

This week is Refugee Week and we will be highlighting some war memorials that commemorate refugees.

The first is the Kindertransport memorial, unveiled in 2006 outside Liverpool Street Station, London.  The memorial consists of a group of five lifesize bronze statues of children.  They are depicted standing at the end of a railway line with their luggage.

The inscription reads as follows,

Children of the Kindertransport/ In gratitude to the people of Britain, for saving the lives/ of 10,000 unaccompanied mainly Jewish children/ who fled from Nazi persecution 1938 and 1939/ ‘Whosever rescues a single soul is credited/ as though they had saved the whole world’/ Talmud/ Dedicated by/ Association of Jewish Refugees/ Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief/ 2006