Title ID 7058Collection ID985
TitleChristmas in the Refugee Camps; The Universal Uncle [History of Writing?]
CollectionOckenden Venture
Genre/TypeAmateurIndependent Artist/Film-makerInstitutionalNon-fictionReportage
KeywordsBuildings Charities Children Christmas Communities Social Problems Travel Fancy dress
NationalGermany Europe
ProductionAnthony D. Medder
CameraAnthony D. Medder
Commissioning bodyOckenden Venture
ParticipantsPeter Woodard
FormatBlack & White Silent
Duration13 min. 26 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


Scenes at three refugee camps in Germany, where a visitor dressed as Father Christmas hands out gifts to the children and their parents during World Refugee Year (1959-1960). Included are views of the camps and inhabitants and a settlement under construction.


"This journey was made possible only by the kindness and generosity of the people of Jersey and the Love Apple League of Guernsey, through their gifts and donations." Peter Woodard, a Jersey man dressed as Father Christmas with white beard and eyebrows fixed to his face, skips with a crowd of children at an unofficial camp. Views of newly built housing under construction follow [St. Christopher Settlement?]. Builders work on site and some are nearing completion.

The VW camper van pulls up at another unofficial refugee camp. Peter Woodard greets a couple and gives them flowers. The children are filmed in close-up as he hands them parcels. They open their gifts, toys including a tipper truck, as older children join the group. Views of the camp buildings follow.

At further camp, a crowd of children run towards Father Christmas. Young and older children have gathered. The younger children skip with Father Christmas in the grounds of the camp. He performs magic tricks for a group of young children. A poster for "World Refugee Year" (1959-1960) is seen. The film closes with views of the German countryside from the air.

Contextual information

Ockenden Venture was founded in Woking, Surrey in 1951 by teachers Joyce Pearce OBE, Ruth Hicks and Margaret Dixon in aid of displaced Eastern European children after WW2. It aimed “to provide for their maintenance, clothing, education, recreation, health and general welfare.” Further houses in Haselmere and Donnigton Hall near Derby were soon acquired. Eight new houses were opened after World Refugee Year (1959-1960) increased charitable donations. Ockenden opened twenty five centres in response to the crisis in Vietnam, accepting the ‘boat people’ after the government decided to accept Vietnamese refugees fleeing after the invasion of China in 1979. Joyce Pearce died in 1985 after over thirty years of work. Ockenden International focuses its efforts on overseas projects.

Initiated by the UK and approved by the General Assembly, World Refugee Year (1959-1960) aimed to address the lives of refugees that lay outside the High Commissioners mandate, restricted by legal criteria. Each country could help whatever group of refugees it desired, including those in unofficial DP camps and shanty towns. Around seventy countries announced participation in W.R.Y., aiming to “clear the camps.” Since 1959, the UN has designated years to humanitarian causes in order to encourage international action.

The surrender of Germany in 194 left millions homeless after their deportation and forced labour, and the destruction of their homes. Unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin after their homes and communities had been destroyed and displaced, refugees remained in camps or lived as “freelivers” for nearly two decades years after the war had ended. Publicity surrounding WRY was needed to raise funds, heighten awareness of international efforts and resettle refugees still living in camps, official and unofficial, for nearly 15 years. The campaign films present an international response to the refugee crisis, and signaled a move away from temporary and local solutions to international effort.

Peter Woodard's trip from Jersey to the refugee camps of northern Germany in World Refugee Year are also the subject of [Christmas Trip to Camps] and Universal Uncle no. 6 [Refugee Camps] [History of Writing?].

Related titles

Related resources


Ockenden International, Surrey History Centre (SHC Ref 7155)

Records include minutes, annual reports, correspondence, papers, personal files, photographs, documenting lives of staff and refugees at Woking, Haslemere and overseas in Asia, the Middle East and northern Africa.


Surrey History Centre

The website for the Surrey History Centre

Exploring Surrey’s Past

An online history of Ockenden international, previously Ockenden Venture, in text and photographs from Surrey History Centre archives. A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) enabled the history of Ockenden International to be preserved. The charity’s archive held at Surrey History Centre has been catalogued and memories have been recorded.