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What's in a box?

Tony B

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Theses two Red Cross parcel boxes are quite rare. To start with, they were not issued to Prisoners of War, they were issued to British Civillians. Both boxes come from the SS Vega and were delivered to Jersey in 1944/45. The boxes were issued to Carol's Grandparents, and have not left the Island till now. The Canadian box is one of the common ones, the other main suplier was New Zealand. I'm hoping, but need to do more research that the Scottish one is an 'Invalid box'.

crc box.JPG


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Wow, those are great.

Would sit well in my collection.:D


Eh how to put this politley? No Chance mate!!!!!!! :-D I'm going to do an articale on them, I need to do the research for the story board. I do how ever have a Garand M1 bore brush and cleaning rod kit that is looking fo a good home. I'm looking to get rid of some stuff and replace it with more medical related kit. I've also an American radio and 4 feild phones up for sale swop. I'll let you know deatils.

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Been doing the research for the story bosrd on the boxes.








At 05:30 on the morning of Monday 1st July 1940 a German aircraft dropped a note at Jersey Airport. The note demanded the immediate surrender of the Island, as the Island had no defences and had been bombed previously the Bailiff (Head of the local government) Coutanche had no choice but to comply. For almost five years until the very last day of the Second World War, the Channel Islands remained under Occupation.

Being only Nine miles long by Five miles wide, Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, like the sister island of Gurneresey had never been self sufficient. Large quantities of essential supplies were imported from England. Over the years of Occupation the population was increased by an Occupying force peaking at about 35, 000.

With supplies from England cut off, some supplies were imported from France, itself suffering shortages due occupation. What shipping that was available was under German control, and was mainly used for military supplies, this plus the attacks on convoys by Allied naval and air forces led to a critical supply situation, especially for the civilian population. Matters became extreme following D-Day when the Islands faced nothing less than a total blockade.

Despite this Hitler issued orders that the Island’s were not to be given up, and that defences should be strengthened By the middle of July the German Navy considered that the they could no longer supply the Islands, and it was suggested that civilians be forcibly removed from the Island. Hitler reserved this decision to himself and prevaricated. On the 10th August 1944 German High Command, the OKW issued orders that the commanders of the forces in the Island’s should guarantee their survival as long as possible, by strict rationing and the cutting down of supplies to civilians, men woman and children.

By the 8th September the situation had deteriorated even further, the Islands had estimated forty five days minimum rations. This did not include medicines and there was also a severe shortage of fuel to cook any food available. As it was considered no longer possible to remove the civilian population by German shipping a proposal was made that a message was passed through the Protecting Power, in this case the Swiss government, to the British Government that they should supply shipping to evacuate the population. This was put to Hitler on the 18th September and he, reluctantly, agreed to contact being made.

On the 19th September the German Foreign ministry asked that Britain be informed ‘On the former (My Italics) British Channel Islands supplies for the civilian population are exhausted’. The German’s were willing that all except men fit to bear arms should be evacuated; or to allow food to be imported.

No British ministry objected, and planned that food should be sent rather than evacuation.

Neither were there objections from the Military who considered the Garrison to be a spent force. The matter was placed before Winston Churchill, his reply was ‘Let them starve. No fighting. They can rot at leisure’.

When the War Cabinet next met Churchill said that the reply to the German Government must be that as long as they remained in Occupation they were responsible for feeding the people. Following this reply the German government contacted the Island Commandant Von Schmettow for information concerning the food situation and the total number on the Islands. On the 2nd October he replied that the Islands had 28,500 troops 12,000 on Jersey 13,000 on Guernsey and 3,500 on Alderney. There were 62,000 civilians, 39,000 on Jersey and 23,000 on Guernsey. Food would last till the end of January 1945, with shortages starting to occur immediately. Medicines were finished; evacuation was out of the question.

There followed weeks of legal political wrangling between the British Government, the German government, the American Congress and the Protecting Power over whose responsibility under the Hague Convention it was to keep the civilians alive.

By the 7th November the Bailiff’s of the two main Islands, Carey for Guernsey and Coutanche for Jersey were allowed to contact the Protecting Power directly and appeal for aid. Grudgingly Churchill gave consent for the International Red Cross to supply food parcels and essential medicines to the Islands.

To this end the Rd Cross chartered a Portuguese vessel the SS. Vega to deliver supplies. On Friday 8th December 1944 Coutanche announced in the local paper The Jersey Evening Post-‘I am officially informed by the German Authorities that a Red Cross ship was, weather permitting, due to leave Lisbon on the Thursday December 7th for the Channel Islands. The ship will call at Gurneresey first, enroute to Jersey’.

The SS Vega did not leave until the 20th December arriving at Guernsey on the 27th and Jersey on the 31st. Her cargo consisted of 119,792 standard food parcels, 108,592 from Canada and 11,200 from New Zealand. There were an additional 4,200 Diet Supplement boxes from British Sources. 5.2 tons of salt 4 tons of soap, 96,000 cigarettes (Tobacco was found to quell hunger pangs) 37 cwt (1,850kgs) of medical and surgical supplies and a small amount of clothing for children and babies.

There after the ship made a further five visits the last being on the 31st May 1945.

The typical contents of the parcels were: Canadian

5 oz Chocolate -12 oz Biscuits- 3oz Sardines-16 oz Milk Powder- 6 oz Prunes- 12 oz Corned Beef- 7 oz Raisins – 8 oz Sugar -4 oz Tea- 4 oz Cheese- 16 oz Marmalade- 16 oz Butter- 10 oz Spam- 3 oz Soap- 1 oz Salt and Pepper.

The New Zealand parcels contained. 4 oz Tea- 16 oz Corned Mutton- 12 oz Lamb and Green Peas- 6 oz Chocolate- 16 oz Butter- 16 oz Coffee and Milk- 6 oz Sugar- 7 oz Peas- 14 oz Jam- 16 oz Honey- 12 oz Cheese- 6 oz Raisins.

The parcels were issued through the local St John’s Ambulance Brigades at the rate of one per person per month.

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Thanks to the RED CROSS museum I now have the information on the Scotish box. As a bonus they have been kind enough to put in a lot of information of Prisoner boxes issued at POW camps in any one wants it, let me know. The YEATEX mentioned is similar to Marmite apparently.


Scottish Branch British Red Cross Society Prisoner Parcel

Before 1943 the invalid food unit comprised of two parcels. After this time the contents were contained in one parcel. The merger

was effected by cutting out most of the items which were found in the standard food parcel. It also became known as the invalid supplement parcel and became in reality what it was always intended to be, a supplement to and not a substitute for the standard food parcel. Both the invalid diet supplement parcels and the medical units were sent to Geneva for distribution to the camps and hospitals. They both bore distinguishing marks so they were not confused with other parcels.

The contents of the invalid diet supplement parcel were:

Dried milk, 1 tin (8oz)

Horlicks, 1 tin (8 oz)

Rolled oats, 1 tin (5 oz)

Nestles Milk, 1 tin (14 oz)

Ovaltine, 1 tin (4oz)

Fruit, 1 tin (8 oz)

Dried soup, 2 tins (4 oz)

Creamed rice, 1 tin (12 oz)

Sugar, 2 pkts (8 oz)

Lemon curd, 1 tin (8 oz)

Cheese, 1 tin (3 1/4 oz)

Yeatex, 1 tin (2 oz)

Dried eggs, 2 tins (3 oz)

Cocoa, 1 tin (4oz)

Chocolate, 1 pkt (2 oz)

Tea, 2 pkts (4 oz)

There were twenty packing centres in Britain and the Scottish ones were located in Perth, Stirling, Dumfries, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

I have attached further information regarding the other types of food parcels that were sent to prisoners of war and Red Cross assistance to the Channel Islands during the Second World War.

I hope this information is of interest to you.

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