Friday, 30 January 2015

Parcels for British Prisoners of War

From the Aberdeen Evening Express, 30th January 1915.


Comforts from Home.

When well nigh every conceivable outlet for patriotic generosity had been exhausted, and the city’s centre bustled with relief societies and help associations of half-a-hundred different forms to aid our gallant soldiers and their dependants, it fell to the quiet of the Chanonry to discover not the least important of them.  The interned British prisoners had been overlooked, and, but for a happy thought, might have been overlooked still.  Mrs Niven, 6 Chanonry, was in Germany when war broke out, and has the most pleasant recollections of the courtesy with which her departure for Scotland was facilitated; but her intimate knowledge of German red-tape left her with a shrewd idea that what befel her might not be the experience of everyone, and that British prisoners of war, above all, would be in need of all comfort that could be given them, and be thankful for it So was started the scheme for providing comforts for prisoners of war in Germany.

Pathetic letters from men in Doeberitz and Senelager had been received stating that they were without clothes, tobacco, and even food enough, and the wives who had sent parcels out had found they were never delivered.  It wanted some practical organised effort to see this straight, and Mrs Niven undertook the organisation.  To-day she has every reason to be proud of her efforts.  They started with a tentative feeler in the matter of a. parcel sent to Doeberitz, and it reached its destination safely.  Since then they have increased, until to-day Mrs Niven has no time at all of her own, and needs most of the time of her two daughters and the only capable assistants—Mrs Henry Hutcheon and Mrs Fyvie— who have so far come forward to aid in a patriotic cause.

More Help Needed.
Some have said that if a little assistance for a few hours would .help, it would be given, but that is far from enough.  What is wanted is the whole-hearted co-operation of several ladies who have the wish to help to make internment as free from discomfort as possible for the thousands of British soldiers who have had the misfortune to be captured.

Mrs Niven found, when first she took over the work, that insufficient addressing of parcels was the reason for much of the non-delivery, so to-day that mistake is avoided.  She started with the idea that she would receive parcels from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., but that had to be amplified by the addition of 3.30 p.m. till 8.30 p.m., and improved upon by an earlier morning reception commencing at 9.30.  Mrs Niven has the satisfaction of knowing that every parcel sent is acknowledged by the party to whom it is addressed.  This has never yet failed.  Thirty parcels were sent off on Wednesday; thirty postcards will be received within six weeks acknowledging their receipt.

The parcels are very carefully dispatched, and the scene in the dining-room at 6 Chanonry is a busy one.  As the goods have to be examined twice, first, at London, and, secondly, in Germany, the greatest care in wrapping is exercised.  First the parcels of warm underclothing, body-belts, socks, etc., are tucked into a cotton cover, to which is attached a list of the contents and the address in German and English, and this again is wrapped in an outer covering of stout brown paper, and the list and addresses duplicated.  The time occupied in this is considerable, but it is the only way to ensure safe delivery.

Men frequently write asking for money, but this is never sent.  It is questionable whether it would ever reach the intended recipients.  As it is, the suspicion seems to be entertained that duty of some sort may possibly be levied on the actual comforts, but, of course, that is not known.  The average parcel contains a shirt, a body-belt, socks, a tin of syrup, a stick of black sugar, soap, and tobacco.
Mrs Niven yesterday emphasised the necessity for assistance in a work that daily is getting beyond her reach.  Young ladies with a knowledge of German could aid immensely in the work.

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