Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Red Cross Parcels

A July 4th salute to the Red Cross parcels that kept the Allied prisoners of war going during World War Two. Not only were the food and cigarettes welcome, but the parcels provided for many of the needs of the prisoners, as a lively barter system developed between the men and between the prisoners and their guards. By the end of the war, the Red Cross parcels contained better food and cigarettes than the Luftwaffe guards were able to get themselves. Many a clandestine radio part or other important survival or escape item was obtained by bribing guards with parcel contents. Each country supplied parcels for its troops. The British parcels were slightly different, as were the Canadien, as the list below shows.
In addition, the Klim cans could be made into anything from plates to small bellows-furnaces by the ingenious kriegies. Parts of cans were melted down and re-cast.

In future posts, I will be sharing some of the kriegie recipes given to me by Lt. John Chaffin, a 100th BG pilot shot down on the Munster mission in October 1943. John collected all the recipes while a POW and wrote them down. Almost every item was made from the basic ingredients contained in a Red Cross parcel.

The contents of a typical Red Cross parcel varied slightly, but generally were much like the one described by 15th Air Force, 301st Bomb Group airman Sam Hewett, who has an excellent site at the following link:

"One full Red Cross parcel was a box about 3" deep and 12" square and contained the minimum amount of food required to sustain a man for one week at approximately 1700 calories per day. In an American box were small portions of spam, corned beef, powdered eggs, jelly or jam, powdered milk, soda crackers, dried raisins or prunes, powdered coffee, cigarettes, sugar, a chocolate "D" bar, salt and pepper."

The outer looked like this. Each outer box contained four individual parcels. Men rarely got their full parcels regularly, often waiting weeks in between or having to split a parcel meant for one man several ways.

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