STRICTLY PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL.
MEMORANDUM OF INTERVIEW.
Date 19th June, 1937.
Time 10.30 to
Present Sir Walter Citrine & Senor Lizaso.
Situation in Bilbao.
This morning I had a telephone message at 10.30 from Mr. Lizaso, the representative of the Basque Government, who told me that the situation was very serious in Bilbao. The Rebels now commanded part of the harbour which meant that the work of evacuation of refugees was very dangerous. Because of that, the Basque Government was trying to arrange for the evacuation to take place from Santander. The people were being machine-gunned by the Rebels along the road to Santander, it was now more than ever necessary that the refugees should be embarked as quickly as possible. There were approximately 75,000 refugees.
Arrangements had been made with the French Government that these were to be taken in steamers to Bayonne from where they would be taken by train to Barcelona. The Commander of the British battleship, "Resolution", had informed the S.S. "Habana" that he could not give protection to vessels without instruction from the British Government. The Basques were carrying out their promise only to evacuate women and children and old men, but the British Consul, Mr. Stevenson, who was formerly in Bilbao, had now returned to London. There was, therefore, no one representing the British Government either at Bilbao or Santander, to ensure that the guarantee was being carried out. The plight of the refugees was terrible and he urged me to bring what pressure I could upon the Government to see whether protection could be given to vessels carrying the refugees. The Basque Government were making representations to the Foreign Office through the Spanish Ambassador.