Last year we received an enquiry if we might be interested in a script looking at Red Cross Parcels during the Second World War. They are something I was aware of, but not actually sure what they were. If you’ve watched the Frank Stone talks we have on youtube he mentions them.
The script arrive, it was from a New Zealand perspective, not a country that gets mentioned a much when it comes to the Second World War, but like others it shouldered the burden. I hadn’t realised quite how much it had suffered en masse in just a few actions.
“The large hauls of New Zealand captives came early in the war – just four campaigns fought by the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the first half of the war accounted for 94 per cent of the 8369 infantrymen who fell into enemy hands between 1939 and 1945.“
Recently Mark Webster, who wrote this episode, contacted me to see if I was interested in having a look at a new book he had edited, written and drawn by Steve Bolton.
Parcels From Home: Jacks War is the story of “Jack Avery” a fictitious everyman soldier from New Zealand, who is posted to Crete when it is attacked by the Germans. Failing to be evacuated he is forced to surrender, and sent to a prisoner of war camp.
Back home his parents fret about their son and are relieved to discover he is alive. On hearing about the Red Cross looking for volunteers to pack parcels, his mother goes to the Depot to help.
Its a heartwarming tale showing the reader how the Red Cross provided a service where families at home could do their bit by providing these parcels containing every day items, but things in short supply to the prisoners. Socks, scarves and underwear were all prized. The preserved food contained in the parcels often proved a vital supplement to the meagre rations the Germans provided.
The logistical effort involved with dealing with all these parcels was herculean. They needed to be delivered to depots, inspected to check they contained only approved items, then shipped halfway round the world to Portugal. Next, via a huge Red Cross transport system, they were distributed across camps in war torn Europe.
Firstly this is an (Apple) iBook and as such benefits from nice “extras”, you can choose to play small sound effects as you read the pages. This is a nice touch, though I have to admit to not playing them all.
The other benefit from this format is the illustrations looks stunning. They are full colour and modern! These are not the comic strip black and white pulp cartoons I grew up with, if these pictures were available as prints I would buy some.
This is a topic that is overlooked, populist history looks at the grands sweeps of the war, equipment, or personalities but these parcels organised by the Red Cross were vital to the POWs. For men such as “Jack Avery” for four long years the parcels provided a lifeline, and reminded them they had not been forgotten.
The book is engaging and informative, it’s a book that anyone from age 8 to 80 will feel better for having read.
It is available as an iBook “Parcels from Home: Jack’s War” only and can be found here.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of the book go to the New Zealand Red Cross.