COPY. FOREIGN OFFICE,
Thank you for your letter of the 12th July about the question of the return of the Basque refugee children to Spain.
I should like firstly to assure you that, in asking our Ambassador at Hendaye to report on the position in Vizcaya, we had no intention whatever of going behind the backs of your Committee. We are, in fact, anxious to give the Committee such assistance and facilities as we properly can.
You may perhaps care to know what were the questions which we put to Sir Henry Chilton. We asked him to give us his views as to whether the insurgent authorities were likely to facilitate the children's return by helping to trace their parents, whether Bilbao was now sufficiently remote from the war area for it to be regarded as reasonably safe from bombardment, whether most of the children's parents have now returned to their homes and whether there was any risk of some form of retaliatory action on the part of the insurgent authorities which would render it inadvisable for the children to return at present. On receipt of his views on these points, we felt that we should be in a position to invite your Committee to let us know what were its plans for the immediate future.
Sir Henry Chilton has now given us such observations on these questions as he was able to make on the limited evidence available to him. He considers that Bilbao will very soon be sufficiently normal to permit the return of these young refugees, that judging from experience at Irun and elsewhere, such bombing as is carried out by Government aircraft is not likely to be a serious menace to the safety of non-combatants, that the local authorities can, in his opinion, be counted upon to help in tracing the parents and that any possibility of retaliatory action can safely be discounted. It has of course not been possible for him to say whether most of the parents have now returned to their homes, but he reports that Mr Pears, who is now in charge of our Consulate at Bilbao, has already received a number of calls from parents anxious to know when they may expect to have their children back. Sir Henry Chilton has instructed Mr Pears to ask interested parents who appeal to him to furnish statements in writing of their desire that their children should be returned, giving full particulars of names, ages etc. These will be forwarded to your Committee as soon as they are received, together with any other available information regarding conditions in Vizcaya.
Finally, Sir Henry Chilton offers the suggestion, which I hope the Committee will adopt, that the insurgent authorities should be furnished without delay with a list of the children and invited to co-operate in tracing their parents.
In order to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, some names within this file have been redacted. While we have made every effort to comply with the Act, there may be other named individuals within this file who are still living. We will remove any names immediately we are made aware that this is the case or if any offence is caused to living relatives.