Ingrid Bergman’s 1965 visit to an inspirational charity for Woking refugees in pictures


Famous for her leading role in Casablanca in 1942 and being one of only three actresses to have received three acting Oscars, Ingrid Bergman is often considered one of the most influential film figures in the history of cinema.

Alongside Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, Bergman defined an iconic generation of cinema.

This year marks 40 years since the death of the Swedish star, on August 29, 1982, at the age of 67; Upon news of her death, the Washington Post paid tribute to her in an article calling her “an actress whose innocent yet provocative beauty has made her one of the great stars of stage and film.”

Read more: Amazing archive photos show how M25 was built and evolved

Our records reveal a particular day in the summer of 1965 when a charity in Surrey took in Ingrid who showed great warmth and generosity. This charity would be Ockenden International, which has a remarkable history behind it.

Across Europe, hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless and without status at the end of World War II.

In 1951, three teachers from Woking School – Joyce Pearce OBE, Margaret Dixon and Ruth Hicks – joined forces with the aim of providing a better future for children living in the many displaced persons camps across Germany.

And with that, the Ockenden Venture was created.

The project began when Joyce Pearce (1915-1985) persuaded Woking District Council to contribute to the Festival of Britain by supporting a holiday for 17 homeless East European teenagers at her sixth form center at Ockenden House.

Beginning with the arrival of small groups of children in 1952 in Woking, they sought to support these refugees through their secondary education, as well as to provide for their upkeep, clothing, recreation, health and general well-being.

The modest project grew rapidly and houses were acquired in Haslemere, and in 1958 Ockenden took over Donington Hall near Derby as a boys’ school.

With the proclamation of World Refugee Year in 1959, government money and increased donations allowed Ockenden to open eight new homes across the country, and a small administrative staff was established.

Although the charity remains small-scale and personal in its ethos, Ockenden quickly expanded to provide aid to refugees both at home and abroad.

The expansion of their powers and scope was inevitable because within a few years world events had led to an increasing number of refugees around the world.

It was around this time that Ingrid Bergman, who also appeared in Notorious and Murder on The Orient Express, visited refugee children in Woking, pictured wearing a scarf donated by the charity.

Bergman wearing the scarf given to him by the charity
Bergman wearing the scarf given to him by the charity

They established schools for Tibetan refugees in India, sponsored the education of black South African students, and brought refugees from Biafra to Britain.

Many educational and vocational centers for refugees in Sudan, Pakistan, Thailand and Cambodia have also been established.

In addition to this incredible groundwork that the charity has laid, the charity is perhaps best known for its major role in the resettlement of Vietnamese ‘Boat People’ to Britain in the 1970s and 1980.

This was perhaps the most dramatic expansion of the Ockenden Venture as they accepted those people who had begun to leave South Vietnam in large numbers after the 1975 invasion of Saigon by Communist forces in the United Kingdom. United.

Ockenden opened 25 new centers in response to the crisis, and at the end of the joint government program in 1982 found itself a modified organization, with a large workforce in formal wage employment where previously the organization was mostly voluntary or semi-voluntary.

After the death of Pearce (generally considered the driving force behind the charity) in 1985, question marks had arisen over the short and long term future of the charity.

The burden of maintaining British Ockenden refugee accommodation to modern standards became a growing concern and led to arguments for concentrating efforts on overseas projects.

The houses were closed in the 1990s, until in 2001 only Kilmore House remained in Camberley, a home for severely disabled Vietnamese orphans.

Thousands of refugees around the world have received shelter, training, education and, perhaps most importantly, hope for more than half a century.

Bergman had already won two Oscars at the time of this visit
Bergman had already won two Oscars at the time of this visit

In 2008, Surrey Heritage and the Woking Community Play Association jointly received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to preserve Ockenden’s history and celebrate its legacy.

This has enabled the charity’s extensive archive, housed at the Surrey History Centre, to be cataloged and made available online.

More recently, a community drama titled “The Vision”, which celebrated Ockenden’s inspirational story, was performed at Winston Churchill School in Woking in April 2010.

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