Fifi Roberts

In April 1937 four Welsh sea captains broke the blockade at Bilbao and delivered vital supplies to the beleaguered Republicans. Three of the four captains bore the surname Jones so the newspapers named them after their cargos: ‘Potato’ Jones, ‘Corn Cob’ Jones and ‘Ham and Eggs’ Jones. All displayed great courage and saved many lives during their missions of mercy.

The Seven Seas Spray in Bilbao, 1937

The fourth captain, the man who first broke the blockade, delivering 3,600 tons of provisions, was Captain W.H. Roberts who along with his twenty year old daughter Florence ‘Fifi’ Roberts sailed on the Seven Seas Spray. The Seven Seas Spray, a cargo steamer, was based in Porthcawl, three miles from my home. The provisions included salt, wine, olive oil, hams, honey, flour, beans and peas.

Florence ‘Fifi’ Roberts, date unspecified

Captain Roberts’ act of bravery was greatly appreciated by the people of the Basque country. Indeed, father and daughter were held in high esteem and entertained by the Basque Ministers of Finance, Commerce and Supply. 

Fifi returning to Guernica 45 years after the atrocity

Four days later, Heinkels and Junkers bombed Guernica and two days after that Fifi photographed the aftermath of this barbaric act. She also sent reports to the News Chronicle. In her reports she noted that the fascist had killed 42 wounded men and ten nurses during the bombing.

Fifi’s photographs of Guernica

As the Seven Seas Spray arrived in port, war correspondent George Steer reported: “There were tens of thousands of them watching the ship. They cheered and shrieked. One could hear cries of ‘viva la libertad’, though the women shouted, ‘vino y aceite’, ‘wine and oil’!