Spanish Civil War (1936-39)

The Spanish Civil War was a civil war in Spain fought from 1936 to 1939 between the largely socialist Republicans and the fascist Nationalists under General Francisco Franco. The Nationalists won the war and Franco remained in power as a dictator until 1975. It has since been refered to as being a “dress rehearsal” for World War II against fascist Germany. The British Government refused to get involved in the war; this was a shock to many people and many young men volunteered to go to Spain.

Gavin Henderson 1940sOne not so young man was our 2nd Lord Faringdon, Gavin Henderson(1902-1977), a Labour Peer in the House of Lords and leader of the Faringdon Labour Party. As a pacifist Gavin was not willing to fight but he took his (pale green) Rolls Royce out to the front at Aragon in 1937 to be converted to an ambulance. He worked as a stretcher bearer in a field hospital, and it was remarked that “he was quick at seizing the nuances of field situations and eminently helpful in solving practical problems”. In 1939 he was known for getting refugees away from Gandia in Spain by putting down a Union Jack and declaring it British territory so that they could board for Mexico.1

Basque Refugees 1938
A group of the Basque lads pictured while out for a stroll at Buscot Park in 1938.

In 1937, some 80 of the nearly 4000 Spanish children that were brought by boat to England eventually found themselves in Faringdon and Aston, near Bampton. At Aston, a group of 10 boys and girls lived at St Joseph’s, a house which later became a nursery school.2

Lord Faringdon lent two lodge houses on his estate at Buscot House for a group of 40 boys who were refugees from the war. Also, there was a gargantuan feast held at Buscot House, cooked by a mythical chef called Fass. All the guests were diplomatically arranged by Mr Buck, Lord Faringdon’s butler. The gathering included Spanish republican politicians, poets and artists and many famous British and American sympathisers.3

There is more about the Spanish refugees and Gavin Henderson’s fascinating life in the links given below.


  1. Document written by Felicity Cormack entitled ‘Notable People of Buscot Park – The Second Lord Faringdon’. Download PDF
  2. Faringdon Folly, March 1996 p13 – ‘When three months became a lifetime’. Download PDF
  3. Faringdon Folly, April 1996 p13 – ‘Memories of the Basque refugee children’ – Vernon Hale. Download PDF

Researched and compiled by Ian Lee, December 2022.

Page first published 12-12-2022 | Last updated 12-12-2022 | Copyright © 2018-2024 Ian Lee | All rights reserved.