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Remembered Today:

Food parcels etc. to British POWs in German hands


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I'm keen to find out more about the food that was sent from Britain to British POWs in German hands. I have seen references to both the Red Cross and the British Relief Committee, but I've not been able to find much detail (perhaps I haven't looked in the right places of course) - where can I find out more information about what food and other items were sent, how often, how it was sent and distributed, and so on? What other organizations and/or individuals were involved in the relief effort?

Also whether any special relief was provided for returning prisoners - again I cannot find more than passing references to this.

Can anyone help please?

Noel

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Accounts by POWs suggest that food parcels were a vital part of their lives as the rations provided by their captors were at best uninspiring and at worst insufficient to sustain life. Different camps appear to have had different arrangements but in general parcels were not given directly to those to whom they were sent but kept in a special store. POWs could then withdraw items from their 'accounts' in this 'bank'. Such items had to be opened and decanted under supervision, the POW taking off the contents in a mess tin or the like for cooking as required. The Germans wanted to avoid tins being used as supplies for escapers (most escape attempts at the time involved days of walking through the German countryside, avoiding towns) but there was the secondary factor of bribery as tined food from the UK was a valuable commodity and could be used to bribe guards or exchange for German currncy (again useful in escape attempts). Some commandants however seem to have taken a perverse delight in makng access to parcels as awkward as possible for the POWs

Because of the need to secure the contents of the food parcel room it was often located in its own enclosure, seperated from the main camp. This was taken advantage of as at least one escape attept was made by POWs managing to conceal themselves in the Parcel Room enclosure and cutting through the wire when all was quiet.

The camp authorities also had to keep their own people from pilfering from the parcel room (although one camp commandant was found to have made his own concealed entrance to the room and be running his own scam using stolen food).

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The Red Cross say...

"The activities of the Joint War Committee are recorded in Reports by the Joint War Committee and the Joint War Finance Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem on Voluntary Aid rendered to the Sick and Wounded at Home and Abroad and to British Prisoners of War, 1914-1919 (HMSO, 1921)."

If that contains the answers you seek i know not.

(The Joint War Committee was the RC and Order of St John)

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A couple of snippets from the local paper:

December 1915.

The Vicar of Hepworth wrote to the Holmfirth Express regarding baking bread for sending to prisoners in Germany, saying that he had been reliably informed that if two ounces of lard was rubbed into the dough, the bread would keep long enough to be still edible when it reached there. The following week Mrs. Kate Wimpenny responded with this: “Sir,- Having read an interesting letter in last Saturday’s issue of the Holmfirth Express on the best way to make bread for sending to prisoners of war, we shall be glad if you will kindly allow us to bring to the notice of your readers the fact that in Berne, Switzerland, a large department has been opened by the British Section of the Prisoners of War Help Committee under Mrs. Grant Duff, wife of His Majesty’s Minister there, to undertake the baking of bread and despatching it to our prisoners in Germany. For the sum of 4/- per month each prisoner receives 4 lbs. of bread weekly. We hear that the bread sent through this medium reaches our prisoners very quickly and quite fresh. Should any of your readers wish to send bread by this means, we shall be glad to forward their money in our cheque if they will kindly send the full address of the prisoner, and 4/-, on the sixth of each month to us at 85, Westgate, Huddersfield. I am, &c., Kate H. Wimpenny. Chairman, Prisoners of War Help Committee, Huddersfield and District. President, the Mayoress Mrs. Blamires.”

June 1918

The problems of the large numbers of men who were now prisoners in Germany was causing considerable concern. Huddersfield had been sending parcels from the very beginning. Mrs. Wimpenny, the Chairman of the Huddersfield Prisoners of War Help Committee, said there had been a rapid increase in amount of assistance needed recently. The cost of food parcels was now £3. 7 shillings 6 pence each per month.

The Holmfirth Express appealed for funds to cover the cost of the Holmfirth men, donations were to be sent to Mrs. W. E. Wimpenny, Cote Royd, Huddersfield. £30 was raised in the first week with Captain Keith Sykes donating five guineas.

Tony.

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Many thanks everyone. Putting "Prisoners of War Help Committee" into Google produces some useful material, and going on from there I'm sure that I can find some more.

Noel

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