FARM MANAGEMENT 1930s South Africa

Two essentials to successful farm management are trustworthiness and organising ability. It is easy to select and train a Native to become an excellent foreman but can one rely absolutely on any statement he makes? No! And in consequence, nobody would employ a native as a manager even if he possessed the intellectual ability.

Unless a farm manager is able to visualise all his work all the time he is quite useless. Unless he possesses organising ability both his own and his employer’s time is being wasted. Always a manager must be asking himself – can I do with less or with cheaper labour on this, that or the other job? Can it be done better another way or with other implements? If it were my farm would I consider this worth the trouble or that worth the expense? 

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A Manager’s job is to extract the maximum of efficiency at the minimum of cost from every employee, animal, land or implement. Unless he soaks himself in an atmosphere of trying to obtain efficiency he is certainly little good to his job.

Early rising is a necessary portion of any farmer’s job. If he is the last to come on the scene of farm labour and the first to leave it is obvious that his employees won’t do their full share unless he possesses more than ordinary powers of handling labour.

Any intelligent native can carry out an ordinary farm job if shown how to do it. The white man’s task is to see that every job is done and done properly.

Excuses are never convincing and are usually irritating. Lies defeat the very object for which they’re used. Once a superior catches a junior in a falsehood it’s a good policy for that junior to look for another job – he’s lost the confidence of the man under whom he is working.

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So to gain the reputation of a good farm manager a man must needs:

(1) Be absolutely honest

(2) Be interested in his work 

(3) Be able to get satisfactory results from it.

(4) Be able to win and hold his employee’s respect regarding
            a.  his character
            b.  his personality
            c.  see his devotion to his job
d.  his results

Nothing is more irritating than working with a man in whom one hasn’t confidence. Inspire that feeling of confidence and it is amazing how quickly ones’ troubles disappear.

B.M.Leffler
Valley Farm
Pretoria
South Africa
Circa 1930s

BALANCING ONE’S DIET

An article published in the Rand Daily Mail, South Africa circa 1930s.

Every stockman handling valuable animals requires to know something about food values. The subject is a fascinating one and a student instinctively compares the haphazard treatment accorded human stomachs with the carefully worked out feeding methods used in feeding animals.

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Human bodies need very much the same essentials as do those of animals. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, mineral salts and water are required by both and wrongful proportions immediately cause harmful reactions. Instinct guides us roughly to the food our bodies need but a little knowledge is of far greater help than instinct if we would get the utmost value in the cheapest way.

An average man requires about three and a half ounces (100grams) of Protein, 1 pound (450grams) of Carbohydrates, an ounce of mineral salts (28grams) and two ounces of fat (57grams) to maintain himself in a healthy condition. If a manual worker, he requires more food than one engaged in a sedentary occupation. Old people require less and children more than middle-aged and young, women, less than men.

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One often hears and knows of small men with remarkably large powers of food consumption. In such cases, there can be no doubt that the small man’s body or diet is deficient in some essential – in the majority of cases a mineral salt.

Most ills to which mankind is subject are digestive or bodily disorders caused by wrong dieting. Meals consist of too much of one element, too little of another resulting in the over-accumulation of waste matter, non-renewal of tissue and a general choking and fouling of the system. Again it might be that deficiency of fat, of protein or of mineral salts is responsible for upsetting the functioning of the digestive organs.

A meal of oatmeal with sugar, eggs, milk, bread and butter is an example of a well-balanced feed. The salts and protein are present in the eggs, oatmeal and milk, the carbohydrates in the sugar and bread; the fat in the butter and milk. Cheese and bread make an excellent combination for cheese is the most valuable concentrated foodstuff man knows and ordinary bread is almost pure carbohydrates.

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Every individual’s diet should be considered from the maintenance and productive sides. So much fuel is required to maintain health so much to create the necessary energy to do his work. To ensure proper assimilation of vital elements meals must be sufficiently appetizing to enable them to be eaten with relish.

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When however excess fuel has been loaded the body demands that it be used or got rid of. Long walks or any extra exercise will consume the surplus but neglect will always result in some disorder of mind and body.

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The importance of the various salts needed by the body is seldom sufficiently emphasised. Lime, common salt, iron, phosphorous, sulphuric acid, chlorine and magnesia are vital to the human and animal body and cheese, milk, eggs, pulses, fresh fruit and green vegetables are the chief suppliers.

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We all know how often cod liver oil, Parrish’s food and various manufactured foods are ordered by doctors for children and invalids. In many cases, they are given as being more economical and easier than attempting to reorganise a diet.

Parrish

Often neglect of properly balanced food has so strained or impaired the digestive organs that only concentrated foods can be given.

B.M.Leffler,
Valley Farm,
P.O.Brooklyn
Pretoria,
South Africa

 

 

LONELINESS

Published in the Cape Argus circa 1930s

Well, I know them, the cattle rangers where it is a long day’s ride to a neighbour – the prospecting camp’s far in the fever-stricken Bush, the native trading store where a mounted trooper perhaps once in three months is the only link with the world of civilisation.

A lonely life – Aye – It might seem so to those who have never lived the life of the Bush. It never seemed so to me or to those I met in the lands beyond the Pale.

I’ve felt the loneliness more in enemy camps herded with forty thousand other captives than in the Bush – I felt it greater than ever today living on the fringe of a city.

It is strange indeed that one should feel desolate and alone in the midst of thousands. It is strange that discontent should reign where one’s wants are supplied by the mere lifting of a telephone receiver.

Out in the Wilds many were the meatless days because the grass was too long for hunting – often one lay wet and chilled to the bone, one has craved and prayed for a little shade, a drink of cold clear water, a pipeful of tobacco, news of the world – But there a man is free – changes of Government, Parliamentary Budgets, The Conventions of Man, the Laws of Nations all were but whispers in the wind.

When hungered a man sought for food when a thirst he looked for means of quenching it. The stars above, the Hills and rivers, the glades of the Bush and the never-ending, always changing pictures of Nature filled his soul with content.

Civilisation, a mess of potage – What can it offer for loss of man’s birthright – Freedom?

Not health of body or of mind – one eternal battle to pay butcher, baker, chemist. Pay, Pay and continue to Pay – friends who seek one to gain some benefit for themselves – Nothing for Nothing and little of value for what one pays.

Caged one from the Wilds lies watching the people go past his bars – sees them eat when hunger is far from their minds – live by the stroke of the clock, eye one another with longing to possess this or that.

Lonely – God in His Heaven alone knows how lonely is the soul who for fancied security for wife and child forsook the Wilds his home and betrayed his faith in Nature the Holy Father desolate and forsaken from behind his bars he watches his fellows – a herd born and bred to slave conditions unwitting of their fetters happy in the prison yard of Civilisation.

“I will arise and go unto my father and will say unto him Father I have sinned.”
Luke 15:18

 

 

HOUSEWIVES BE PROFESSIONAL by Margaret MacIntyre

(Published in The Star newspaper, Johannesburg)

Housewives be Professional

Census and other Government documents classify women who are managing homes as housewives. The status of housewifery is clearly defined. It is a professional occupation and as such demands the business methods of any commercial concern.

No business can be managed successfully without systematically kept books. A housewife unable to tell how much her servants cost her, what proportion of income is spent on her husband, children or self is hardly likely getting full value for her money.

Household expenditure can be grouped under six headings: housing, food, clothing, running costs, insurance and recreation. It is very simple to keep a ledger divided into these allocations and to enter from a daybook the various charges on income.

Housing would include fuel, light, water, rent and sanitary charges. If one owns the home a fair and reasonable interest on invested capital together with 10% depreciation would be allocated to this Heading.

Food charges would naturally be confined to ordinary household requirements anything bought for visitors or any special luxuries being charged to Recreation. To be quite fair extra purchases might be split into charges against Food, Recreation, and Running Costs in cases where entertainment is necessary or a part of a family routine. Even then it would be preferable to open an Entertainment account.

A reasonable proportion of expenses for a family of five – husband, wife and three children would be Housing 25% of Income, Food 25%, Clothing 10%, Running Expenses under which heading comes; Domestics, soap, polish, candles and such 10%. Recreation which includes entertaining, alcohol, tobacco 10%. Thus the remaining 20% would be allocated to Insurance – that is Children’s education, Savings and Investments, doctors, dentists, travelling fares and maternity.

Dad, Mike, Molle farm with guns

Business houses rely on their regular customers. They are quite prepared to give concessions to housekeepers who put business propositions before them. A wise housewife, therefore, would interview the managers of establishments she intended dealing with and come to a definite arrangement regarding discounts and credit terms. If able to give an approximate idea of her monthly spending, the firms she is dealing with will probably be able to quote her special terms.

When a Daybook is kept and the items entered are regularly transferred to the allocation ledger a housekeeper knows exactly where her income is going. At anytime a few minutes addition and a few calculations will prove whether an essential amount is being spent on a particular group. Also at the end of the month, it is very easy to allocate the amounts to be paid to creditors.

Margaret MacIntyre

Mrs Leffler (Margaret MacIntyre)
Valley Farm
P.O.Brooklyn
Pretoria
Circa 1933

The Soldier Returns to What? Part 2

Continued…..

Few men or women today look upon the Party System in Parliament as being anything but a vast waste of National time and money. So little is done in Parliament to make homes attractive and happy, so little is done to fill stomachs and provide clothing, boots and shoes for the children.

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There is so much interest in academics, so little sense of responsibility regarding the pressing problems of Health and Welfare. Surely it is infinitely more important that a young South African should be well clothed, well fed, and well housed than that he be taught in his home language. There are two languages in general use amongst European descended South Africans.

Then let every school in the Union be compelled to teach in both languages and if necessary keep the children an extra couple of years in school; but feed them properly, clothe them properly, house them properly, discipline them properly and teach them proper manners. Teach them truth and honour; the first essentials to the building of a nation.

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There are roads to be built, afforestation to be encouraged by Private Owners and a multitude of social welfare problems to be tackled. There is easily work for a generation in purging our whole social and economic system and making it a clean wholesome scientific one.

Today few trust anybody or anything because there is obviously so much scandalous getting jobs for pals, so much waste of Public Funds, so many getting high positions and pay with obviously so few qualifications. If it wasn’t so, half the Union’s population wouldn’t be living below the Breadline.

Above portrays the Hewitt Family. The two images below are both of slums: the left  is of present day Africa, the right is of early 20th century NYC.

Above portrays the Hewitt Family. The two images below are both of slums:
the left is of present-day Africa, the right is of early 20th century NYC

Why not have a competent commission begin at the top and work down through all paid National, Provincial, Municipal and District Government employees and decide what posts could be abolished and what new ones created to increase efficiency; whether the holder of a post is competent, and whether he is earning his money or whether he would be better off somewhere else or retired.

Why not have a certain day set aside in Parliament to discuss racialistic questions on a non-party basis? Why not give the Speaker of the House power to confine members’ speeches strictly to matters in the National interest and taboo any speech calculated to provoke antagonism between sections of the Nation.

Baleke Mbete Teacher, member of SASO and the ANC, head of the Medu Arts Ensemble (Gaborone), Member of COSAW, Secretary General of the ANCWL, Speaker of the National Parliament, poet

We are all in South Africa to make comfortable happy homes; just as Up North, South Africans; White, Coloured and Black put everything into smashing the Germans and the Italians.

The Governor-General’s Fund is a source of eternal irritation to the soldier. Every soldier detests the idea of exposing his family life to committees of well-meaning but often wholly unsuitable townsmen. A magistrate, clergyman, doctor and a lawyer would be a logical committee to decide who requires assistance and in what form.

In the army today one of the commonest phrases is “What a racket” when discussing politics, the Governor-General’s Fund and a score of other national activities and enterprises.

After the War, the last thing any sane man or woman wants is social upheaval, political exploitation of the soldier, Coloured and Native unrest or the spectre of Revolution. When the War ends however if tens of thousands of young, vigorous ex-Servicemen and women are not competently handled and promises to them are not fulfilled the threat to the state will be a real one.

The strikers were backed by Afrikaner commandos,
like this group manning a roadblock ©Museum Africa

Today the business of winning the War makes men amenable to rule and regulation but after the war, the business of winning the Peace must be run efficiently and without ‘Rackets’ or there is bound to be trouble.

The general tenor of speeches made today by responsible men shows that these contentions are realised, that there will be a necessity to disgorge on the part of the wealthy, that the soldier must not be allowed to fall into the hands of irresponsible leaders, that promises are easily made but often impossible of fulfilment.

(Note in pencil in the margin see Lawrence of Arabia.)

Why then do not the leaders of the people, the leaders appointed by the people put all they know into logical solving of problems instead of talking so much about them. Tackle the obvious and tackle it with enthusiasm and confidence and it is queer how often, how smoothly, and how quickly the problem turns out devoid of concrete difficulty.

The War has shown us how to achieve results, how to handle problems, how eagerly and efficiently South Africans respond to any decent lead. In peacetime, however, we are unfortunately too tolerant, too easy going, too desirous of avoiding trouble. It is terribly difficult to work up and sustain enthusiasm in South Africans in National matters. Each wants to live his own life in his own way.

Outside the professional politician, there is very little racialism really. It can be safely said that ninety-nine Afrikaans speaking South Africans in the country will help an Englishman or a Jew in distress. During this War, it is remarkable how in the country Ossewa Brandwag supporters have helped lone English women running the farms of their husbands on Service. In every department of the huge South African army, those of Dutch or Huguenot descent and those of British descent merge and if anything it is often difficult to know which is which. 

Fusion of the two European descended races has been going on for generations, is going on and always will go on until we are all South Africans. Why worry about it as it cannot be stopped. What we must worry about is how we’re going to have decent homes, good food, excellent clothing and the very best prospects for our sons and daughters. To secure this men must be chosen as executives for their ability and their trustworthiness. We have the men and they have the material.

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It does seem so ridiculous that there should be difficulty in absorbing South Africa’s present Army and War workers into civilian employment.

When one travels through the vast bushveld, up and down the long West and East coasts, when one sees the magnificent well-equipped harbours and thinks of the millions Up North beginning to become civilised one can’t but feel that’s a poor lot who can’t find lucrative employment for a quarter of a million White, Coloured and Black South Africans.

In the reconstruction cabinet, there should be at least one seaman. Nobody can have escaped being struck with the number of South Africans who are serving in the British Navy.

There are apparently hundreds of them – and South Africa itself is employing a really large number. Thousands of South Africans seem to be working in dockyards. It seems only logical if these should be represented in the Reconstruction Cabinet and full consideration is given to the profitability of building South African ships for coastal work and engaging in South American trade.

It has often been authoritatively stated that there are large markets for South African coal and railway material agricultural implements and the like from our Iron and Steelworks in South America and in the North. From Cape Town to Dakar and from Durban to Mogadisco seem natural South African coastal trade routes as well as from the Cape to South America.

If the Reconstruction Cabinet can only adopt General Staff methods and obtain the same parliamentary support there cannot be bounds to South African employment and prosperity. For the next two generations, we should be welcoming immigrants. Let us put away pretty things, abandon childish ideas and go forward as men to Peacetime Victory.

Mention of the Sea brings to mind several suggestions for interesting employment in establishing oyster beds, the resumption of the tinned Cape lobster and frozen lobster tail exports to France and the extension of the trade to French colonies, the revival of the old trade to Australia of smoked Cape Sole and the following up of former highly promising experimental shipments of fish to Billingsgate. What has often been strongly urged is the commercial development of our vast seaweed wealth.

Make South Africa a real tourist paradise and offer facilities for the exchange of Trade Missions. Related image

Take but one instance the avid reception by Canadians of South African canned pineapple. Our pines can be produced in unlimited quantity and the Union Trades Commissioner to Canada reports that at all we can send Canadians will buy.

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What the Reconstruction Cabinet needs is reliable statistics as to the following:
What types of hospital and sanitoriums does the Union require?
For what number of Europeans, Coloureds and Natives?
Are existing Military establishments convertible to civilian needs?
How many Europeans and Natives can the mining industry absorb?
What number can Iron and Steelworks employ and how soon can the industry produce agricultural implements?
Will shipbuilding of coastal Steamers pay and what number could be absorbed in building and manning?
What has the fishing industry to offer?
Can a seaweed industry be established?

iscor

One imagines that many pages of questions could be written and it seems feasible that most would be answered satisfactorily to those seeking to place men and women in civilian employment.

We must retain an army and will very like build up a small efficient Navy. The Youth Brigade, the Physical Training Brigade can be carried on with and possibly the Kappie Commando be revived on the present Youth and Physical Training Brigades. The HMS Assegai establishment could be taken over and converted more to a merchant marine basis and that of the General Botha training school be extended.

We have the money, we have the material, the factories, the mines, the railways, harbours, trained personnel to achieve anything – Let’s get down to and do things.

Note in pencil: If we cannot satisfactorily solve our post-war problems, our victories over the Germans will have availed us nothing, and the men who died will have died for an illusion, not an ideal.

The Soldier Returns to What?

‘Fifty million Cash Customers’ was the caption of an article in the Textile Weekly at the time, when Manchester and Birmingham were reeling under the onslaught of Japan into the Truck markets of the world. Those fifty million customers are Africans up North and today thousands of South Africans know them and the roads to their homes.

Inside the Ishikawajima / Wolseley Fukugawa factory, things were... rudimentary...

Inside the Ishikawajima / Wolseley Fukugawa factory circa 1923, things were… rudimentary…

When the South African Iron and Steel Works turn from making cannon to making ploughs; when instead of munitions we produce thousands of miles of fencing, baling and other wire; when South African axes, hatchets, hoes, spades, and shovels and every manner of agricultural, mining, railroad and artisan requirements are being produced, then surely there will be employment enough for every South African and very many would gladly fare again North.

Diversifying: The company had previously made meters and transformers, but switched production to fuzes and 18-pounder shells in 1915
The company had previously made meters and transformers but switched production to fuzes and 18-pounder shells in 1915

Field Marshal Jan Smuts has promised a Reconstruction Ministry. Let us pray that it will be granted the powers of the Wartime general staff and it’s personnel be selected without fear or favour from the ranks of hard-headed businessmen.

Keep out the politicians and the theorists. Select it’s members as the general staff is selected – for the purpose of winning the Peace as the general staff was for winning the War.

Let us take stock of what we have and what we require. South Africa is a vast country with no great extremes of climate. A European can and does live healthily anywhere in the Union even if in some areas there is a need for malarial precautions.

In the Union, almost everything required by man or beast can be produced on a large scale. Almost every possible industry has been partially or well developed.

We have the biggest gold mining industry in the world iron, our Iron and Steel Works are already a great, rapidly expanding source of wealth and employment, and there appear hardly any limits to its sources of material or markets.

Almost all valuable base metals exist in commercial quantities and can be worked profitably. We are the source of the world’s greatest production of diamonds and our coal deposits are of excellent quality and quantity and already in full development.

Large rough diamond.
                                                            Diamond cutting comes to South Africa 1928

Surely the proposed Reconstruction Cabinet has the vast field of employment before it in mining and manufacturing the products of mining. Let the Reconstruction Cabinets call into consultation the Senior Officers of the Mines Brigade and of the South African Engineers. Put some of them into the Reconstruction Cabinet and there can be little doubt that as many Constructive ideas would come from them as the Destructive ones they now use against Rommel and his Italian Allies. Let us remember that in War the Mine’s Brigade and the Engineers are employed just as much on Constructive as Destructive work.

From mining let us turn to the Industrial life. The Union’s population today is fast being drawn off the land not only to mining but to factory employment. Jam making, canning and drying fruit biscuit manufacturer, boot and clothing making, soap and scent production, tinning fish, – what industry isn’t in production in the Union? What isn’t, could be developed, given the trained personnel and the equipment.

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Furniture Industries founded in 1920

Where can the Union find profitable markets and who will search for them, transport to them, distribute in them? The answer is easy.

Up North is the market and commercial travellers, truck drivers, warehousemen, market agents, clerical staff are on hand now in the army. Where can goods in bulk be sent to? Why not to existing base and training camps up North?

There are of course other States to be considered, but if Trade Agreements can be made and our trading convoys and trains return loaded with their produce and we study and follow the commercial attitude of the United States to Canada no difficulty should exist.

Hermanus History Society

There’s certainly room for us all. Even the creation of a Great Central African Union of Rhodesia, Kenya, Uganda and Nyasaland, ought to be of incalculable benefit to the Union of South Africa in the Union of obtaining raw material to supplement her own resources and in supplying the North with manufactured goods and even in helping to industrialize the North.

We turn to Agriculture. To the Stockman and to the farmer; the greater the mining and industrial development the better his position. The farmer wants markets. There is hardly any product the Union farmer can’t produce on a commercial scale provided there are profitable markets for his produce and the markets exist.

 

When scarcely a newspaper issue is free of some report on malnutrition when statistics show a large percentage of South African whites, as well as Coloured and Natives,  are living without sufficient nourishing food something is radically wrong.

The position is made worse by the scandals of millions of pockets of oranges being destroyed, markets flooded with potatoes and fruit, lack of milk and egg producing foodstuffs.

We have the raw materials, the factories, the foodstuffs, the personnel to mine, produce, grow and manufacture. Why on earth should any man, woman or child in the Union not be properly fed, clothed and housed? Could any sane person visualise the South African Army being allowed to go short of food, clothing, equipment and housing? Why then should the civilian population?

There can only be one logical answer and that is that the people of South Africa in Peacetime are ruled and handled by the wrong people.

After this War, we must get down to Bread and Butter politics. We must “cut down the cackle and get down to the ‘osses.”  How are we to do it?

Only by every voter demanding a pledge from his or her parliamentary candidate that he will disassociate himself or herself from dreamland and pull his or her full weight in bettering the lot of people.

We want and must have more women in Parliament – women of the masses, women who have the interest of homes and children in their hearts. We must sweep away vested interests which lock up foodstuffs, clothing and housing.

Why should there not be a municipal market in every suburb? Every suburb has its Post Office and most certainly should have its Market Hall where wives and mothers could buy fresh fruit and vegetables sold in small lots by municipal auction direct from the producer.

Image result for johannesburg market square 1920

Johannesburg

Do away with that market abomination selling by ‘Balance‘. What housewife wants to be crushed and jostled by a crowd of middlemen only to find the auctioneer is letting the greater part of the produce go ‘in balance‘ lots to them.

In Wartime no problem is insurmountable. When war broke out the Union leaders did not sit down holding their heads in their hands wondering how to build an army, how to equip and staff one, how to arm it or how to use it? Government heads got down to real solid brain work and did what had to be done. Why not in Peacetime?

Immediately after the War, our leaders must get down to essentials for the welfare of the people. What the Reconstruction Cabinet is really faced with is the necessity for fully equipped and staffed hospitals to handle every invalid in the Union. The hospital staff and equipment of the military converted to civilian requirements would practically solve this question and provide for a fair percentage of ex-Servicemen and women requiring employment.

Image result for nurses cape town WW1

Municipal suburban Market Halls could absorb quite a few working at present in Army Quartermaster’s stores, communal feeding the poor school children would find employment for quite a number.

The Police Force needs strengthening and really wherever one turns it seems that a few more men or women could be employed advantageously.

No matter how one’s brain twists it comes back to the fact that in Peace as in War profits must be controlled and limited and that profits must be earned. Exploitation of the credulity of the masses must be dealt with drastically. The buying and selling of stocks and shares must cease to be more speculation than investment.

Image result for johannesburg stock exchange 1920Johannesburg Stock Exchange 1920

to be continued…

By S/Sergeant B.M.Leffler

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 80 Food Parcels From Home 1916-1918

Written for publication by Bernard Meredith Leffler from Wendover Farm Pretoria:

How Great War Prisoners-of-War lived on

Parcels from Home

In two and a half years of captivity, I never saw an eatable meal issued by the German authorities. once a day a thin liquid called coffee was issued. This abomination was made from ground acorns barley meal and beet molasses and contained neither milk nor sugar.

Twice a day great evil-smelling tubs of hogwash were drawn, the contents a soup of horseflesh, yellow maize meal, prunes and dried apples. For a change sugar-beet ensilage with chopped carrots and turnips, or most a beastly mess of putrid fish-roe soup with mashed potatoes.

Kitchen Limburg

The kitchen at Limberg Camp

In Winter thirteen pounds, in Summer eighteen pounds of War bread was issued per man per month – a doughy mass of rye, potato and sawdust. Thrown against the wall it stuck there.

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Until our whereabouts was known to the British War Office we devoured huge quantities of these mixtures, all thin soup. When the tubs were carried to our quarters we rushed them, fought over them and sometimes fell into them to have one’s clothes instantly wrung out into basins and drunk. We bartered our clothes to the French for biscuits – braces 5, a kilt 50, a shirt 10 – all depending on condition and amount of vermin.

Once we began to get our parcels the German rations were handed over to the Russians,  Serbians, Romanians and Montenegrins who died off wholesale, some from the food and some from want of it.

Eight funerals a day was the average in Sprottau but as we had never less than 40,000  Russians, 10,000 French and a few thousand other nationalities the Germans complained that prisoners-of-war were very tough and blamed the unsatisfactory death rate on the Order of St John of Jerusalem, the British Red Cross, Sir Edward Grey and Jannie Smuts.

Image result for jan smuts 1917

Immediately the War began, Funds were started to make captivity a little bearable – as the realisation came of the plight of the war prisoners in Germany immense efforts were made to relieve conditions.

Relatives, friends, Clubs, newspapers, Regiments, ships all began sending parcels of foodstuffs to Germany. Popular figures received as many as forty food parcels in a mail, mostly bread gone mouldy in transit, eggs broke, homemade jam oozed from broken cardboard boxes, great cakes ruined by the eggs and jam.

Women packing food parcels for prisoners-of-war at the Australian Red Cross premises at 16 Regent Street in the City of Westminster, London, January 1917.
Packing food parcels for prisoners of war at the Australian Red Cross premises in Regent Street, London, January 1917. The organisation sent 395,695 food parcels and 36,339 clothing parcels to Allied PoWs in Germany and Turkey during the First World War.

In December 1916, the Order of St John of Jerusalem in conjunction with the British Red Cross took over and from then on all parcels were packed in properly organised depots, guarantees were given to the German Government as to the nature of the contents and day after day sealed trucks crossed the German border bearing standard packets to Dülmen, Sprottau, Holtzminden and a hundred other prisoner-of-war camps.

Kaserne B at Holzminden, with prisoners and guards

At the camps, the truck seals were broken by British or French NCOs under the supervision of a German Sergeant Major, the packets taken to an office and then issued to those in camp whilst the rest were sent by parcel post to those working on farms, in factories or mines.

Image result for food parcels checked in german POW camps ww1German censors reading through both incoming and outgoing mail at the Döberitz POW camp.

After December 1916 every British prisoner-of-war received two hundred and eighty-one loaves of bread a month from whichever neutral country was nearest his camp.

From Britain he received either 6 – 101 lbs or 4 to 15 lbs cardboard boxes per month containing:

A.   1 tin bully beef, 1 cake of soap, 1 packet tea, 1 packet bacon, 1 tin jam, 1 bar Mexican chocolate and cigarettes.

B.   1 tin McConachie’s rations, 1 packet Quaker Oats, 1 tin cocoa, 1 tin butter, I tin marmalade, 1 packet sugar, tobacco.

C.   1 tin pork and beans, 1 tin coffee, 1 tin condensed milk, 1 tin herrings in tomato sauce, biscuits, jam

D.  1 tin tripe and onions, 1 tin butter, 1 tin cooking fat, 1 shaving soap, 1 tin cigarettes and 1 tin pudding.

Image result for red cross food parcels ww1

By forming small messes, buying stolen onions, potatoes and sugar from men coming in from farm and factory work and exchanging with the French who were wonderfully supplied with parcels; we always managed to live really well to the amazement of our German sentries and NCO’s who daily saw that another million tons of British shipping had been ‘versunkt‘.

Because there was so little of it, food played a very important part in a POW’s life. The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva provided food parcels to POWs from those countries which were signatories to the 1929 Geneva Convention.  Here men at Stalag 383 at Hohenfels in Germany prepare their lunch using food from parcels.

 

In two years I never lost a parcel and in addition to the food parcels we had monthly tobacco and cigarette parcels and every three months a complete clothing parcel –  uniform, boots, gym shoes, two shirts, two singlets, cardigan, towels, neckerchief and once a year a great coat. This issue was received directly from the British War Office.

All prisoners engaged in civilian employment were paid at current rates, farm hands a penny a day. On repatriation, we were paid out in full as regards army pay.

Working on farms, in factories, mines and other civilian employment prisoners-of-war received civilian rations; 2lbs sugar per month, bread as in the camps, a fairly liberal allowance of potatoes and as much sauerkraut as the stomach could hold. About 1lb of meat per man per week was boiled up in the sauerkraut and potatoes.

Image result for british prisoners of war ww1 working on farms in germanyA group of British PoWs in Germany, transporting hay for the troops’ straw beds

Except for bread and sugar, all foodstuffs were issued as soup. No fats of any description were given except on farms where we shared the family meals, usually contributing to them from our parcels.