National Union of Boot & Shoe Operatives
TELEPHONE: Museum 4438
Natunishop, Phone, London
28, BEDFORD SQUARE
10th May, 1939.
To Employers. Clothes for Spaniards in France
With considerable hesitation I am presuming to approach a selected number of Boot and Shoe Manufacturers with regard to the appalling circumstances of many thousands of Spanish refugees temporarily domiciled in France.
During a recent visit to Paris in connection with the operative side of the French Boot and Shoe Industry, I was approached by a number of people who have been appointed by the French Government to organise the camps in which the refugees from Spain have been placed, I was told - and I have since confirmed the accuracy of the statements - that in the vicinity of Pontigny alone, there are over 40,000 Spanish refugees ranging from babies in arms to aged men and women, and that throughout France there cannot be less than 200,000 of such refugees. The French Government and the various agencies at work on behalf of these refugees, can do no more than provide food and shelter, and one can readily understand how this is so. It is impossible for them to provide boots and clothing, and it is to this aspect of an intensely distressing problem to which I very earnestly invite your assistance.
It is estimated that there are at least 20,000 refugees at Pontigny who are without footwear, and nearly all of them are almost destitute of clothing. Their condition is described to be as "nothing less than appalling", and is daily growing worse.
I am sure you will readily understand how impossible it was for me to do other than promise to do what I could to send supplies of footwear from this Country. Unfortunately, however, I have had to make many appeals to the operative side of our Industry over the past few years, and only as recently as December and January last over £700 was raised and subscribed to the relief of Czech refugees. I cannot hope, therefore, to raise further large sums for the relief of Spanish refugees, although every effort will be made to do so.
With the kindly approval of one or two boot manufacturers to whom I have mentioned this matter, I venture to ask you to assist me in providing assistance for the refugees in question. My feeling is that there must be in the storehouses of most boot factories, footwear of all kinds - spoils, rejects, etc., - which for many reasons cannot easily be disposed of. If you have such footwear - and it does not matter what kind it is,