International Help for Children


This Charity was founded in 1947 with the principle intention of giving holidays to needy British and European Children affected by the 2nd World War especially refugees and  those thrown into poverty by the effects of war.   It continued to operate for 53 years when it was converted into the Margaret McEwen trust.   During the course of 53 years the nature of IHC's activities changed somewhat and the present projects of the MM Trust are different from the original activities of the Society.


A detailed account of the Founding is given below

Click on underlined subjects below for more information



Margaret McEwen

John Barclay

John Barclay Founding Appeal 

Special Projects

Our work in Italy
Work with Refugees
Special Medical Treatment
The Florentine Floods
La Bourboule
The Greek Story









In 1944 Margaret McEwen helped to pioneer a scheme for bringing over Dutch children who were suffering from the effects of the war.  She began work in a room of  Walter Herriot & Co. but by 1945, when 100 children were arriving each week and committees had been formed in every large town, the number of staff grew to twenty-five and they took over new offices in Portman Square. In 1946, one of the Honorary Secretaries, Mr Stormont Murray, introduced Margaret to a friend of his - John Barclay - and within short time John was appointed Liaison Officer for the camps, where the children stayed before going into private families, Gradually Holland was restored, and in 1947 the Society closed down.   10,000 Dutch children had stayed in Britain.     As Margaret had been involved from the beginning she asked for and was given the records and contacts of the defunct Society. Five former members of staff (amongst whom was John Barclay who eventually co­founded IHC) met together to discuss the possibility of launching a new scheme on a broader international scale and particularly to include British children.They now had the contacts, valuable experience, a skilled book-keeper and a secretary and at least for a short time free premises in a building about to be sold.   The  new Society was based entirely on the pattern and methods of administration of this Dutch scheme which was essentially a war charity set up to relieve suffering.

Three years of previous experience in providing relief for Dutch children just after the war had revealed a valuable source of hospitality and good-will amongst the many British families anxious to help under-privileged children. When the Holland scheme was wound up, John and Margaret wrote to all those who had supported it asking for help for the new organization to continue similar work to the Dutch scheme, but  extending to all children whatever their nationality, including British children. The widest title they could think of was International (meaning the whole world!) Help (not described too minutely in order to give us scope) for Children.   Of course in 1947 all the suffering seemed to be in Europe as a result of the war and our present concern with poverty and hunger in Africa and Asia had not yet taken root in the National consciousness.

 It was with this valuable basis that on a gloomy night pouring with rain on 19 September 1947, in a hotel basement room in Southampton Row, London, John and Margaret launched International Help for Children.    A small group of people pledged support and backing with more optimism and kindness than real hope. Amongst these was Sybil Thorndyke, the actress, who became Treasurer.     They opened their first bank account with only one hundred pounds and support was so painfully slow in coming that had it not been for an unexpected donation of three hundred pounds, they would soon have given up,   The office in Southampton Row was a large dusty room with a spluttering gas fire, rent free on condition they made themselves scarce whew the space was needed. On these occasions it was necessary to retire to the landing where the Secretary, Miss Thelwall,  worked by balancing an ancient typewriter on her knees. In 1948 came another move into Parliament Street, and funds began to flow in more abundantly, Local Committees as usual formed the backbone of the work and Continental parties started to arrive in impressive numbers, However, they also arranged for British children, still badly affected by the war, to go to Belgium, Luxembourg and France. A year later Little Pond House, founded as a convalescent home in Tilford, near Farnham, Surrey was purchased and opened with Janet and James Joyce as the first wardens.   The aim of IHC has always been to remain small and not to overlap with larger organizations, looking as always for children in need whom no-one else is helping.

List of Early Projects - Underlined projects have links giving further details.

1948            2 parties from France, 1 Italian, 1 Belgium were received  in Reigate, Sutton, Lewes, Epsom, Tunbridge Wells, Gt.    ...............    Yarmouth, Welwyn garden City,  and Plymouth

1949             British children were sent to Switzerland (50), France (160), Belgium (253), Luxembourg (19) and asthmatics were sent as    a group to the French Spa town of La Bourboule.
                    311 German children, 39 Italians and 104 French were given hospitality in England.

1950             583 children from Greece, Germany, France, Denmark and Italy came to England while 375 British children were sent ........ abroad.

1951             As a result of the Greek Civil war a party of crippled and under nourished children was received in England and 14 .remained for long term care. (The Greek Story)
                    75 British children were sent  to Oslo, Stavanger, Tonsberg and Copenhagen for 4 weeks.
                    426 children were received from France

1952 - 1990   Work continued along these lines throughout this period - a summary follows below.  Schemes of special interest are listed and have links to further descriptions

Our work in Italy
Work with Refugees
Special Medical Treatment
The Florentine Floods


Summary of International help for Childrens Recuperative Holiday Scheme

European Parties to Britain

A total of 10,195 children from AUSTRIA  BELGIUM  DENMARK  FRANCE,  GERMANY, GREECE, HOLLAND, ITALY,  NORWAY,  YUGOSLAVIA were invited for recuperative holidays by British families organized by 129 voluntary local Committees in:

Aberdare  Aberystwyth Alton Ashford (Middx)

Banbury Barnes (London) Barnstaple Barry (Wales) Barton on Humber  Bath Bcckenham Bedford Bexley Bingley Birkenhead Birmingham Brentwood Bristol Broadstairs Burton on Trent

Cambridge Canvey Island Cardiff Chelmsford Cheltenham Chichester Chipping Norton Croydon Cwm

Dover Dudley Dundee

Ealing Eastbourne Ebbw Vale Edinburgh Edmonton  Eltham Enfield Epsom Exeter

Finchley Fleet Folkestone

Gerrards Cross Gloucester Grays Great Missenden Guildford Great Yarmouth

Harpenden Harwich Haywards Heath Hereford Herne Bay Hitchin Huddersfield Hull

Ilford Ipswich Isle of Wight

Keighley Kettering Kirkby Lonsdale

Leeds Leicester Lewes Lewisham Luton

Macclesfield Maidenhead Manchester Mansfield Merionethshire Merthyr Tydfil Morpeth

Newbury Newham Newport (Mon) Northwood

Ongar Oswestry Oxford

Pembroke Penzance Perivale Plymouth Pontardulais (Wales) Portsmouth Purley

Reading  Reigate Richmond Rickmansworth Rochester Rugby Ruislip

Saffron Walden Salford Salisbury Send Sevenoaks Sheffield Slough Southampton Southend South Shields Stepney Stockport Sunderland Sutton Swanage Swansea Swindon

Taunton Tenby Tilbury Tunbridge Wells

Wallasey Wandsworth Wareham Watford Welling Wellingborough Welwyn Garden City West Ham (London) Wimbledon Winchester Worthing

British Children to Europe


Other Activities


LITTLE POND HOUSE A children's convalescent home in Surrey which received children from Europe, medical cases and British children from 1948 to 1972.

BRITISH ASTHMATIC CHILDREN  Several hundred children were treated in the Spa of La Bourboule, France in the heart of the Auvergne Mountains from 1948 to 1986. The majority of the patients visited the Spa for 3 consecutive years, some even for 4 years.

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