How It All Started
Copyright © 2013 International Friendship League British Section
In August 1931 30 students from Berlin University spent a holiday
at the bungalow of Noel Ede at Peacehaven in Sussex and with
British students built an extension to the overcrowded home. On
26 September, with three friends Noel Ede inaugurated the IFL.
In the Spring of 1932 he went to Germany to start a centre similar
to that at Peacehaven; by an irony of fate a building used by the
Army of Occupation was obtained. In August 1932 250 young
people from Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands
spent holidays in Brighton, Worthing, Hastings, London and
elsewhere, while 200 young people from Britain and France went
to Cologne and others to Belgium.
Back in England, 6 branches had been formed and met regularly.
London members arranged a holiday centre in 1933 and received
visitors from Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia,
whilst centres in Belgium, France, Holland, Norway and Sweden
received holiday visitors.
Noel Ede toured the Continent to find young people to take IFL
holidays and arrange new holiday centres. Up to his death in
1960 he continued this active role of promoting the IFL and
encouraging members worldwide. Holiday travel increased each
year until the onset of war in 1939. By 1946 members were
travelling again and 500 went abroad that year. There were 60
branches throughout Britain.
For many years a large number of Branches organised a "People
to People" week, with a variety of events designed to encourage integration of the diverse
communities in our towns and cities. In some cities this tradition continues, now effectively run by
The newsletter of the British Section, Friendship News, was first published in 1933 and appeared
irregularly to publicise holidays. For many years now it has appeared three or four times a year to
give British members news of the IFL at home and abroad.
In 1942 a house in London was lent to the IFL for 2 years for use as a hostel and friendship centre,
followed by a similar project. As a voluntary organisation the IFL could not take out a mortgage so a
limited company was set up, called Friendship Centres Ltd.
In 1946 Friendship Centres Limited was registered as a company, allowing the IFL to own property. In
1950 Peace Haven (London Friendship Centre) was opened in Acton, London. Owned by the British
Section, this flourished as an international guest house and received thousands of visitors (members
and non-members) from all parts of the world, until the IFL was reluctantly obliged to close it in 2006.
One of the most effective ways of making friends abroad has been through the International
Penfriend Service, established more than 40 years ago. Since then, many thousands of links have
been made and the Service has regularly been recommended by the Post Office.
In 1982, a penfriend service for links within Britain and Ireland was established, IFL Penfriends UK,
which very successfully continued the tradition of IFL in creating friendships all over the country, until
lack of demand precipitated closure of the service in 2003.
For many years one of the main projects run by the IFL in Britain has been a "Hospitality Service", to
encourage people from varying backgrounds to find out about each other. Thousands of British
residents have welcomed overseas visitors to their local area, sometimes inviting them home for a
typical British meal. Many long-lasting friendships have been made this way. In 1979 the Hospitality
Service won special commendation from the British Tourist Authority in the "Come to Britain" awards.
In 2006 the service was renamed "IFL Meet and Greet" to reflect the purpose more accurately.
Over the years members have supported various service projects around the world, including
"adopting" a group of displaced persons, mainly from Latvia, in Lübeck, Germany, and sending food
parcels and clothing etc to countries in need. "Operation Smallfry" in 1956 brought some of the
children to Britain for a holiday. In 1976 the SOS Children’s Village
at Ostuni, Italy, was adopted as the national project but in 1986 it was decided to sponsor the SOS
Village at Estelí, Nicaragua, and support for this village continues.
With the advent of world-wide electronic communications and the internet, more and more people are
becoming interested in finding out about our colleagues in other countries. The IFL, too, is moving
forward into the 21st century. Its fundamental role of encouraging people to make friends around the
world remains as valid today as it was in 1931.