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A birth in Berlin

Date: 11/09/2014
Source: FICC

When Germany lay in dust and ashes at the end of World War II, Alec Peters, a young aircraftsman in the British RAF and member of the Camping Club (as the Camping & Caravanning Club was originally called), went to Berlin.
Peter FROST, who is responsible for the club’s magazine “Camping & Caravanning“ (GB), reports that Alec was soon engaged in the famous Berlin Airlift which was the Western Allies’ response to the Soviet blockage of supply routes by rail, road and canal into the city.
For ten months in 1948/1949 the airlift supplied the people of Berlin with food and fuel. The allied aircrews made over 200,000 flights, carrying up to 4,700 tons of necessities each day.
The blockade finally ended in May 1949 with the creation of two separate German states: West and East Germany. That division would last until reunification in 1990.
Alec Peters was a keen camper back home so whenever he had some leave he would pack his tent and rucksack and explore the German countryside.
He soon met up and made friends with German campers and around the campfire they told him the sad story of what Hitler and his Nazis had done to the popular German hobby of hiking and camping. There had been several German outdoor and camping clubs before the war. Like just about every other club and social organisation they had been first embraced and then strangled by the tentacles of Hitler’s all-pervading Nazi state.
The Führer’s “Strength-Through-Joy“ movement had built campsites and turned many innocent youth organisations into the notorious Hitler Youth.

Alec heard the plans of German campers to try to establish a new and democratic camping club in post-war Germany. The Allied authorities gave official approval, seeing the need to re-establish democratic organisations as part of bringing normality back to Germany.
Alec gave advice and help. He contacted the Camping Club headquarters back in London and it was agreed to provide copies of the British Club’s constitution, rulebook and other publications. Indeed the early 1950s’ editions of the new German Club magazine were almost exact copies of their British counterparts.
Leading members of the British Club, including Chairman Percy Lindsey, visited Germany to deliver both advice and practical support to the fledgling organisation.
By 1948 the new Deutscher Camping Club (DCC) was up and running. In fact it was one of the first of a huge wave of democratic clubs and societies that sprang up across the country.
In 1949 the Club held its first national camp and meeting beside the Staffelsee, a beautiful lake in Bavaria.

Alec Peters was an honoured guest and a number of well-known names were among traders who attended the event - Fritz Berger, today one of Germany’s biggest and most popular tent suppliers and the pioneer caravan manufacturer Dethleffs.
By 1952 the popularity of camping in Germany was overtaking pre-war levels and the DCC grew fast.
Back in 1937 the Nazis had organised a huge international camping rally on the banks of the Rhine that was attended by nearly 4,000 campers from all over Europe included 1,000 canoe-campers. Representatives from the Camping Club in Great Britain, including future President Steven Hilhouse and his family, attended the rally but reported back on the unease they felt when swastika flags were ceremoniously hoisted over the campsite.
Twenty years later in 1957, the new German Club felt strong enough to purge that memory and organised another international rally. Under the auspices of the Fédération Internationale de Camping et de Caravaning (F.I.C.C.), 8,000 campers from across Europe set up camp near Stuttgart.
Today DCC provides services for around 100,000 members and has a network of popular campsites all over Germany.
Back in Britain after his demobilisation, Alec Peters (who many international rally participants met at the rally in Shepton Mallet) continued camping. He joined the Camping Club which was to become the Camping & Caravanning Club and was a member for more than half a century eventually becoming Honorary Treasurer and a member of the Executive Committee.

Alec Peters, who played such a significant part in helping to re-build the camping movement not only in Germany but internationally too, died earlier this year aged 84.