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British POW Relief Funds

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I am researching Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment POWs and the work of the Regimental Relief Fund during WW1 and I am well aware of the material held at the Surrey History Centre and TNA.

Can anybody point me in the direction of any sources or studies of the centralisation and streamlining of the many POW Relief Funds under the Central British Red Cross Committe during the war.



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From what Iv'e read about the one here in Swindon for the Wiltshire Regiment, it seems that they were given a list of names of the POWs from the Red Cross and were left to get on with it, the only centralisation part that I can se is the arrangment for the various groups to buy the provisions in bulk tax free at certain locations.


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Not quite sure what it is you're looking for. There seems to be some "official" material at TNA in file FO 383/545.

If it is of any help to you, my understanding of what happened is as follows.

'One of the keys in maintaining the physical and mental well-being of prisoners was the support that they received from home in the form of letters and parcels. A large number of individuals, organizations and charities, some set up to aid men from specific regiments, provided relief to prisoners. In the early months the effort was disjointed, and in 1915 the Prisoners of War Help Committee was established in London to coordinate the relief effort, but it had no actual power and failed. In September 1916 the Central Prisoners of War Committee of the British Red Cross and Order of St. John was officially established, and without its authorization no individual or organisation could send a parcel to a prisoner. At first the advent of the central committee was unpopular as it took away the freedom of individuals and other organizations to send what they liked, when they liked. After a parliamentary enquiry in April 1917 certain changes were made that reintroduced a personal touch to the relief.

The central committee coordinated and organized the despatch of parcels of food and other items to prisoners by 181 care committees, 81 local associations and 67 shops, and also itself packed and despatched parcels to individual officers and men who numbered over 47,000 by November 1918. Further, through the “Adopter’s Bureau” established by the central committee, individual benefactors could “adopt” individual prisoners.

Each prisoner received three parcels per fortnight, each parcel being of 10-11 lbs. gross weight, plus about 13 lb. of bread each fortnight, sent from either Copenhagen (Denmark) or Berne (Switzerland). These amounts of food were deemed sufficient, without any other food, to maintain a man doing reasonably hard work. Officers were not included in the scheme until the autumn of 1917. Each parcel included a postcard which the recipient was asked to sign and return, but many prisoners included letters of thanks with their cards. In addition to the despatch of parcels to individual prisoners, the central committee sent food, either in bulk or in emergency parcels, to the larger prisoner-of-war camps in Germany for newly-captured prisoners.

Most of the workload of the relief effort was shouldered by volunteers, especially women, who worked tirelessly to raise money, purchase goods, assemble and address parcels, and look after communications, administration and records.'


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Noel and Grant

Thank you both for the information. I have some material from The Times and what I assume are other national newspaper's (taken from a scrapbook) that give details of the setting up of the British Red Cross and Order of St John's Central POW Committee, which set me thinking. I am also aware that there was a War Charities Act in 1916 to tighten up collecting money for various causes and that there were some dubious people and companies around.



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