The Prisoner of War No 9 Vol 1 January 1943

January. 1943 The Prisoner of War 3 Planning Their Food Parcels By A n Expert Prisoners ado great deal of “swop­ pin g.” Some camps have a regular market run on a sys- Already, tem of points like our own there are thing, we do our best to send it. Prisoners ado great deal of. ‘‘swop­ pin g.” Some camps even have a regular market, run on a system of points very much like our own— so many points for apiece of soap or a tin of food. W e are asked some­times why we don ’t send different in­gredients in every fourth parcel .however, ten dif- I AM glad to have the opportunity of talking to you as so many next-of- kin write to the Food Parcels Packing Centre where I work askin gusto send particular foodstuffs, and tellin gus the tastes of their individual men. I do want to explain why we can’t do this and why tha parcels have to be standard ones. The most important point we have to consider is that the foods basically neces­sary to keep a man fit welland are sent in every parcel. The camp rations, for instance, do not include enough fats, so we send half a pound of the best mar­garine, specially vitam inised, in each parcel. Proteins, contained in foods like cheese, milk, meat and fish are also vital to health, and so a good propor­tion of these are included, too. Then there are other necessary foods, such as sugar, chocolate, jam ,cocoa, biscuits, tea, etc. Little for “Extras ”When w e have included all these, we have a little weight to spare for “extras.” Here our difficulty begins. One prisoner asks for beef cubes and soup, while another writes that his camp gets so many soups and thin stews that they d on't want to get them from us. Again, Private Jones asks for "rolled oats, please," but Private Smith says‘‘ D on’t send breakfast cereals !”One prisoner asks for mustard and curry powder, but another says ‘‘cutout the frills and send nothing but solid food .”So you see how impossible it would be to comply with all requests! W e have recently sent a letter to every Cam pLeader explaining our difficulties and our hope that if every prisoner does not get exactly what he wants, He will understand. Although We can’t comply within divi­ dual requests, we do keep a card index of all^requests and suggestions, and when we find that a great many ask for the same f e trent y peso f standard food parcels which go in rotation, each type a little dif­ferent from the others, bu tall con­taining equal nourishment. Again, when we get a small consignment of some par­ticular thing like tinned herrings, one of the smaller Packing Centres sending out three or four thousand parcels a week would receive these, while the bigger centres might be packing tinned salmon or bacon instead. So this system of ours gives still more variety. toAdded this there are the very excel­lent parcels sent every week from the Canadian and Aus­tralian Red Cross,' which come partly as a gift and partly paid for by the British Red Cross St.and John. Both Canadian and Australian parcels contain many foods which we cannot get here. Another sugges­tion is that we should send marked parcels containing more of some kinds of food than.others, so that they could betaken out as re­quired from the camp stores. But this would have endless complications. To begin with we already send specially marked parcels of different kinds, which all have to be identified and handled separately in Geneva. There are the medical parcels (four different kinds), invalid parcels for the sick and wounded, some of which con­tain only light, and milky foods, some a more solid invalid diet then there are parcels for. Indian prisoners whose re­ligion does not allow them to eat the same foods as we do. Besides all these One prisoner asks for soup. Another writes that they get so m any,t they don’t want them from us. there an tobacco parcels, Christmas par­cels and others, all of which have to be dealt with separately. Again, with all the difficulties of transport we cannot guarantee in what order the parcels would arrive, and several shipments of the same parcels might arrive together. So we must see that all contain a proper balance of the foods and vitamins that our medical advisers say are necessary to health. T o make sure that the foods arrive in afresh condition, everything except tea, choco­late and dried fruit is sent in tins. Our System is Better Many relatives are disappointed that they are not allowed to pay for a food parcel and have it personally addressed to a prisoner. But this is quite impos­sible. It would lead to untold difficul­ties. A prisoner is often moved from camp to camp, and his parcel might be delayed or never reach him a tall, and if parcels were personally addressed he might have togo without valuable food. Then there are the newly captured prisoners— it maybe a longtime before we in London know their names, and in the meantime they would begetting no parcels. Our system is infinitely better. The International Red Cross send from their stores 2 good m anymore parcels than there are known to be prisoners, so that each man is sure to receive a parcel straightaway. Sometimes there are delays and un­certainties, but the International Red Cross Committee a t Geneva do every­thing within human power to ensure that a steady stream of food parcels goes to every camp 111 Italy and Germany. Lists come to us from Geneva every fortnight showing the numbers of parcels sent to each camp, and the International Red Cross get acknowledgments from the British Cam pLeaders. Then there is the steady flow of appreciative letters from prisoners. •Many people are now subscribing, or clubbing together to subscribe, a t the rate of a parcel a week (10s.). This is an excellent plan. A t the present time our services to prisoners are costing about {85,000 a week, and with the operations in North Africa the demands made upon us are bound to increase..
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