Title ID 7059Collection ID985
TitleUniversal Uncle no. 6 [Refugee Camps] [History of Writing?]
Date[1959 - 1960?]
CollectionOckenden Venture
Genre/TypeProfessionalTelevision companyInstitutionalNon-fictionNewsreel/News
KeywordsBuilding Construction Buildings Charities Children Christmas Family Communities Aircraft Old Age Travel Fancy dress Winter Second World War (1939-1945)
LocalHannover Belsen Wolterdingen Helmstedt
NationalGermany Europe England United Kingdom
ProductionSouthern Television
ParticipantsPeter Woodeye
FormatBlack & White Sound
Duration13 min. 42 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


A reporter from Southern Television follows Peter Woodeye on a trip through refugee camps in Germany from Jersey to Lyubech. Included is footage of refugees and their housing, existing and under construction, in World Refugee Year (1959-1960).


Southern Television presents... An excerpt from "Southern Affairs". Peter Woodard, dressed as Father Christmas, and his VW camper van board a plane from Jersey. Children wave the plane off. Arial footage from the plane follows. Toys, blankets, pipes, slippers, 2,000 presents "of every description", are on board. Arriving in Cherbourg, they head towards Hannover, through France and Belgium. The van passes through the Aachen frontier, where children are often taken from Germany to start new lives at Ockenden homes in the UK.

At the first camp in the Hannover suburbs, there are five hundred mainly Polish refugees. A woman with TB, which prevents her from moving to England, welcome the guests, who present her with flowers from the Love Apple League of Jersey. The camera closes in on thirteen year old Barbara who will soon be leaving to an Ockenden home.

Commentary explains how non-Germans are at a disadvantage at schools, where they must speak German and are already overcrowded. At Ockenden, children study their own language and culture, as well as English. Peter Woodard, dressed as Father Christmas, skips and plays with the children, performing a magic trick in which he takes a mouse out of his beard and gives it to one of the boys.

At St. Christopher Settlement, a project is underway to provide homes for those with very ill health. Volunteers from twelve countries and a a British builder, who volunteered to supervise the build, have worked on the project.

At a DP camp at an ex-luftwaffe base, Peter Woodard is greeted by Sister Maria and Panter Derge. They receive the news that they may be allowed to come to England. A man is filmed embroidering to help raise money for refugee causes. Children that are now at Ockenden homes are seen receiving presents.

Signs read "Here lies 1,000 bodies" - Belsen, the site of a Nazi concentration camp - "Here lie buried 5000 bodies." The camera pans across the snow-covered landscape to a monument, a deep trench and wreaths on the ground. Another sign reads, "To the memory of all those who died in this place."

In Wolterdingen, the old and disabled are seen living on meagre welfare allowance in huts. One woman had spent years in concentration camps nearby. Young boys help the camera man carry his equipment. Views of the huts and children follow.

At the Russian frontier at Helmstedt German refugees have swamped the area, making it difficult for non-Germans to get work. Some of the children at the Helmstedt camp are soon leaving to go to Ockenden homes, forty are already there. A recorder band plays on the steps for the visitors.

The travelers will stop at Lyubech before the long trip home. Concluding commentary: "By the forgotten allies, they will not be forgotten."

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 Christmas in the Refugee Camps; The Universal Uncle [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.