Islington, London: Leah Manning (1886–1977) and the Spanish civil war

Leah Manning. Credit:Archive p1/Alamy




Islington, London

Fascists led by General Franco attempted a military coup against the Republican Government of Spain resulting in civil war. Thousands of people from around the world joined the International Brigades to fight alongside the Republicans as soldiers, nurses and doctors. Over 500 British and Irish volunteers were killed during the war, including 11 from Islington.

Leah Manning was MP for Islington East in 1931. She disagreed with Labour Party non-intervention in the Spanish civil war (1936-9) and became an anti-fascist campaigner. No longer an MP, she became secretary of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee, fundraising to send doctors, nurses and ambulances to Spain. During the war, Leah travelled to Spain several times to deliver urgent medical supplies, visit frontline hospitals and help nurse wounded combatants. In 1938 she spoke at ‘Spain Week’, an event organised by Islington Labour Party and Trades Council held at Islington Central Library. Leah did not become an MP again until 1945.

Spanish refugee children.
Credit: TBC

In the winter of 1936-37 with the Basque country under heavy attack the Republic appealed for countries to take refugee children. In just three weeks Leah Manning and Edith Pye organised the evacuation of 3,826 children and 95 teachers on the SS Habana. Basque children were settled around the UK entirely funded by public donations.

Head to tail the senoritas laid out our precious cargo – on the bulkheads, in the swimming pool, in the state rooms and along the alley ways. [They were] for all the world like the little sardinas about which they were always singing.


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