Refugee Records

'In Ockenden's garden a Tibetan refugee girl looks after Anglo-Biafran children evacuated from the war zone of Nigeria', from Ockenden Venture annual report and newsletter, 1968-1969 (SHC ref <strong><a href="https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHCOL_7155_4_1_1_9" target="_blank" rel="noopener">7155/4/1/9</a></strong>)

‘In Ockenden’s garden a Tibetan refugee girl looks after Anglo-Biafran children evacuated from the war zone of Nigeria’, from Ockenden Venture annual report and newsletter, 1968-1969 (SHC ref 7155/4/1/9)

One of the pleasures of our work is unearthing stories of people who found sanctuary in this country and particularly in Surrey. Surrey History Centre was recently contacted by an American researcher whose mother came to Britain in 1951 as a result of the Greek Civil War, and was cared for at Little Pond House, Tilford, by refugee charity International Help for Children. We hadn’t heard of this organisation before but were able to source some photos of Little Pond House for the researcher. It’s worth mentioning that the records of International Help for Children, 1949-1968 are held at the National Archives (ref HO 366/231).

Surrey History Centre houses many records relating to refugee history, including the archive of Ockenden International (formerly the Ockenden Venture), founded in Woking in 1951 (SHC ref 7155). For over 50 years, Ockenden helped refugees across the world, taking in children from displaced persons’ camps in post-war Germany and establishing schools for Tibetan refugees in India. But Ockenden is best known for its role in the British resettlement of Vietnamese refugees from the Communist regime in the 1970s and 1980s. We have been fortunate to receive the papers of two former employees, Ailsa Moore and Elsie Broughton, both of whom have written about their time with the charity, and whose records are a valuable complement to the original collection.

Weybridge Urban District Council: card indexes of Belgian refugees in Weybridge by families with names of children, addresses and assistance given, 1914-1918 (SHC ref <strong><a href="https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHCOL_Ac1321_7" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ac1321/7</a></strong>/1-31)

Weybridge Urban District Council: card indexes of Belgian refugees in Weybridge by families with names of children, addresses and assistance given, 1914-1918 (SHC ref Ac1321/7/1-31)

Information about refugees can be found in a wealth of other records: you may come across names of refugee children in school registers, or registers of ‘alien patients’ in hospital records, but remember these may be subject to access restrictions. Records of local councils often refer to refugee committees established during the two world wars, and in some cases include refugee files, such as index cards of Belgian families who fled to Britain during the First World War.

Local newspapers held at Surrey History Centre often contain a rich source of information about refugee committees, fundraising activities and wartime alien tribunals. Personal papers are a valuable testimony, and we are grateful to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC for presenting us with digital copies of the papers of Alice Goldberger, director of the Weir Courtney home for young Holocaust survivors in Lingfield (SHC ref Z/634), and of Hans Goldmeier, a German Jew sent to England by his family in 1939 (SHC ref Z/635). More recently, we were loaned the scrapbook of Captain Giel, master of the Dutch ship that rescued the evacuated population of Tristan Da Cunha after a volcanic eruption in 1961. We now have digital copies of many of the photographs and news cuttings recording the islanders’ time at Pendell Camp in Merstham.

For more information about refugees in Surrey, please go to http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/themes/subjects/refugees/

The History and Contributions of Refugees to the UK (pdf PDF), a resource from the Refugee Week archives that contains a useful historical timeline of refugees in British history

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