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How It Began ( Het ontstaan van ICA)

The International Caravanning Association
A new history of the Association to celebrate its 40th birthday

The beginning of our Association


In 1967 a group of 20 British caravanners led by Frank Collins took part in a tour of the United States of America, from Washington to San Francisco, organised by the Wally Byam Foundation.  Most had never taken a caravan overseas before, but they thoroughly enjoyed the unique experience of a travelling rally (known in the United States as a “Caravan”), and afterwards they asked if another similar event could be run.  The following year successful tours were arranged by John Jeffery to the Arctic Circle (87 units!) and to Morocco, and as a result the International Caravanning Club was formed in 1969 to run tours in various countries for the benefit of members from various countries.  This objective was quite novel then, and no other club has ever had identical objectives.  The Club was formally turned into a company in 1974, and since then it has been known as an Association. 

One of those original travellers, Laurie Simmonds, was still caravanning in a motorhome in 2001, and took part in the ICA rally in Spain that year!     


The number of members rose quickly in the early years, but after the first thirty or so years the number of new members began gradually declining.  The main reason is probably competition from the various caravanning clubs around the world, for the idea of touring outside one’s own country by caravan or motorhome has become increasingly popular.  Indeed, Rein Mulders complained about this competition as long ago as 1990, when he was Chairman.  However, other clubs only take members from one country on their trips – not like us!

Our Association celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday with a massive and memorable rally in Tecklenburg, Germany during the first six days of September 1994.  This was mainly organised by Wolfgang and Gerda Magnussen, and Marlene and Wolf-Axel Schmidlin.  There were 325 units from 14 countries.  What a marvellous event that must have been!


International tours

Right from the start – indeed, before the Club was actually formed – adventurous caravanners were keen to organise tours in one or more other countries.  And many of them took their children with them!  Some of our Association’s earliest “caravans” (or tours, as we now call them) were to surprising destinations, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Morocco, Norway (up to the Arctic Circle), Sweden, Finland, Russia, Turkey, Rumania, Hungary, Jugoslavia (as it was known then), Sicily, Ireland, Albania and every country of Western Europe.  Indeed, many of those “caravans” took place in the first few years of our existence!  On the very early tour to Albania some outfits suffered considerable damage from the poor roads, and every caravan had to be left at the border as the visit within Albania could only be made by coach.  Recent tours have gone to Canada, Croatia, Greece and the Greek Islands, and tours to Morocco have been popular for several years. 


However, in the early years those events always needed approval from the Council of Management before they could be publicised to members, and announcing them was the purpose of the Tours and Events Rallies.  But as our membership became more international, and Honorary Representatives and Council members were available in more and more countries, the system was changed, and now this approval can be granted by the Programme Co-ordinator or by a Council member living in the relevant country. 


Several of our Tours and Events Rallies, which take place in the autumn (in Europe, anyway), have been held in The Netherlands.  This enables members from two of our main groups of membership to attend without the expensive ferry crossing from France to England.  The first of these Dutch rallies was in 1990, when the forthcoming tours and rallies were presented on a boat in Amsterdam! 

One very important activity in those early years was welcoming and assisting tours to Britain from caravanning clubs in the United States, South Africa, Germany, The Netherlands, and probably from other countries too.  Indeed, this may have been a good way of recruiting new members to our Association. 

Communicating with our members

In the very early days, the Club provided information to members by Newsletters, which were typewritten sheets that were then duplicated.  They were supplemented by an annual booklet listing tours and rallies for the following year.  But in 1977 the Newsletters became properly printed booklets that incorporated the listings of tours and rallies.  They were very much like the present Magazines, except that they were only printed in black ink.  There were plenty of photographs, but they were not very clear, due to the limitations of printing at that time.

As membership spread to other countries, Newsletters were introduced in several countries, including Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, the United States of America and South Africa.  Although we are international in our membership, we have never managed to issue our Magazines translated into most of the languages of our members.  But leaflets to recruit new members have been produced in several languages.

For many years our members have met together for fellowship, usually in the winter months.  One of the earliest of these gatherings was held in the United States. Another was held at Brighton (UK) in January 1978, and these events are still held in that town more than thirty years later. 


Our first website was set up by Jan Andersson, in Sweden, and later developed by John Barfoot and Ann Sneddon, with the idea of making our Association known more widely.  It is available in the Dutch language as well as English.  We have a rule that new events are not published on the website until members all over the world have had a chance of receiving the magazine that contains the details, in order to be fair to members who live outside Britain.

One of the major benefits of membership is called “The World of Caravanning”.  It has been available since 1977, although it does not seem to be widely known nowadays.  It is simply a list of members in many countries who are prepared to assist members visiting from other countries.  This help may include languages, places to visit, advice on nearby campsites, or details of which roads are suitable for caravanning.  This list is only available upon request from Honorary Representatives and the Handbook Editor.  Members in the pioneering days found it was invaluable.

We also try to keep in touch with members who have given up caravanning – usually because of illness or age.  We call them Associate Members, and for a small subscription they receive the ICA Magazine, and they can attend local one-day events and the main rallies (staying with friends or in hotels).

The people who made it all happen

We believe that Honorary Representatives were first appointed in 1976, in order to keep in touch with our members in those countries.  They increased in number quickly, and eventually we had those Representatives in more than 20 countries.  There were also members in several other countries as well. 

Those earliest Honorary Representatives included Wolfgang Magnussen (Germany) continuously from 1976 until 2008:  Norman Castle (Southern Africa) 1976-1997:  Jim Davison (USA) 1977-1993;  Kruse Morgensen (Denmark) 1979-1997;  Harry Bakker (Switzerland) 1980-2004;  and Rein Mulders (The Netherlands) 1977-2000.  Wolfgang has also been a member of the Council of Management continuously for almost 30 years;   Harry served on the Council of Management and became a Vice Chairman;  and Rein was Chairman of the Association from 1989 to 1995. 

A number of members who have given distinguished service to the Association have been elected as President or Vice-President, including Wayne Kispert, from the United States of America, and Rein Mulders and Henk Schnaar from The Netherlands, together with several pioneering British members from the very early days.  Those Britons include Frank Collins (our first Chairman, and then our first President), John Jeffery (our first Secretary), George King (Vice Chairman and Chairman), and Ian McKenzie Smith, who joined the Council of Management in 1971 and died as President in 2000.

There have also been many other members, from many countries, who have given devoted service to the Association over many years, some as officers, and many more who have run tours and rallies down the years.  Without those members our Association would have never succeeded, and Honorary Life Membership of the Association has been bestowed upon a very small number of them.

Other caravanning organisations

We have long had a warm relationship with the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) in the United States, an organisation similar to the one that introduced British caravanners to the idea of touring outside their own country.  On a number of occasions they have invited our Chairman to visit one of their massive (and very formal) rallies.

Also, for many years some of our members have supported enthusiastically both Rallye Europa, which runs static international rallies in various countries within Europe, and the Federation Internationale de Camping et de Caravanning  (FICC), which runs similar rallies on a world-wide scale.  In 2000 our Association won a cup for sending members who had collectively travelled the greatest distance from their home country to the Rallye Europa on three separate occasions, and a few members have found that FICC rallies provide a useful opportunity to recruit new members for ICA.

We have informal links with other caravanning organisations, and they have presented our Association with a number of gifts to mark special occasions or notable achievements.  They include the magnificent Rose Bowl (which is always on display, filled with flowers, at every Annual General Meeting) given by the British Caravan Club;  a splendid cup from Rallye Europa for outstanding attendances at three of their rallies;  a similar cup from FICC;  items from the Netherlands Caravan Club and WBCCI to mark the Association’s Silver Jubilee, 15 years ago;  the bell which marks the beginning and end of major meetings;  and the flags of every nation of which we had members, given about twenty years ago by Harrisons, who make caravan awnings.

The Council of Management recently became aware of the need to create Archives of the Association’s history.  Apart from the trophies, and Rally or Tour Plaques from some of the earliest events, these consist mainly of Magazines.  We are very fortunate in having the first two Newsletters of the International Caravanning Club, but sadly there are many other issues missing from the early years.  Those old Magazines provide a wonderful source of our history.

Our Association has for many years granted membership of three Orders to very adventurous caravanners.  The Order of Bluenosed Caravanners, originally founded by the Autocar Magazine, is awarded to those who can be photographed with their caravan or motor home within the Arctic Circle – which can be in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada or Alaska.  This award is open to any caravanner who uses his or her outfit for enjoyment of countryside and people.  The Order of the Southern Cross is awarded to ICA members who are photographed with their caravan or motor home at Cape Agulhas, the most southerly point of Africa.  And Air New Zealand first sponsored the “First Caravanner in the World to Greet the New Day” award, for ICA members photographed at dawn at Titirangi Domain, Gisborne - the first city west of the International Date Line.