Posts Tagged ‘save’

How Care packages sent by ordinary people helped save British lives after World War Two

November 16th, 2015

The shortages were so severe that to assist their allies over the Atlantic, the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe (CARE) programme was established to allow US citizens to dispatch food and basic supplies to relatives – and strangers – living amid the rubble of Europe.

The programme was designed not merely to distribute luxuries, but life-saving necessities. During the first two years of operations more than 6.6 million packages were posted from America, 400,000 of which arrived in England – including several sent to the Anstis family by an uncle living in New York. The recipients say they have never forgotten those who reached out during their time of desperate need.

Seventy years on, Europe finds itself in the grip of the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and once more CARE is working to save lives amid the chaos. The programme has grown into the charity CARE International UK which is supported in this year’s Telegraph Christmas Appeal.

Since the Syria crisis started, CARE has been working to distribute emergency food and hygiene parcels to the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes.They are the victims of a very modern conflict, of course, but those British recipients of 70 years ago say they see close parallels between the plight of today’s refugees and that of their own generation.

“The refugees today are equally desperate to those poor souls who crossed Europe at the end of the Second World War,” says Mr Anstis. “Our job today is to accommodate them in all sorts of ways.”

Anstis, a retired architect and lecturer, grew up in Greenford in the West London suburbs and was six-years-old when hostilities erupted in 1939. His father, Herbert, a teacher and veteran of the First World War, remained in Britain working on the Home Front, but still the family found themselves constantly uprooted. In total, Anstis attended 13 different schools throughout the war.

“Our family was repeatedly evacuated,” he recalls. “Not in that picturesque situation of poor little toddlers with their gasmasks at railway stations. People were moved around with such rapidity.”

It was during a stay in one such temporary abode in Banstead, Surrey, in April 1942 that a bomb was dropped on an adjoining house during a Luftwaffe raid. “I woke to find myself covered in plaster and glass,” he says. “All the doors were gone and tiles and windows and ceilings. The rest of that night was spent cowering.”

It was not just food and safe accommodation in short supply but every basic necessity, including fuel. “Every winter during the war was very cold. We became used to chilblains and having frozen feet. When we got into bed we would put every available blanket and coat over us to make a sort of warm tunnel.”

The family only ate chicken once a year, for Christmas dinner, and even then it was an old broiler deemed long past its use. It is no surprise that Mr Anstis can still taste that tinned turkey today.

But the contents alone were not what made the packages so exotic. Similar to the modern refugees dreaming of a new life in Europe, America appeared to war-weary British eyes as a land of unimaginable plenty.

“It was very exciting to have these travel-stained parcels that had come all the way from New York,” he says. “At that time America was a great place of glamour and promise that was unrealisable.”

Tim Thomas, a now 73-year-old who was evacuated from Swansea to Wiltshire during the Blitz, can also still remember the excitement of receiving the CARE food parcels which were sent by a stranger in Boston called F. Prescott Fay. For his family, the steak and kidney pie, coffee, tea, powdered milk, tinned vegetables and peaches that came through the post several times a year were the pinnacle of luxury compared to the tapioca and corned beef they ate during rationing.

“We were very poor and very skinny,” Thomas says. “If that whole period has left me with anything it’s that feeling that a total stranger held out his hand in generosity when we needed help.”

Migrants and refugees prepare to board a train heading to Serbia from the Macedonian-Greek border near Gevgelija

Nowadays, the CARE packages being distributed to the never-ending lines of refugees snaking through the Balkans are rather more regimented in their contents. Each adult emergency package boasts 2,240 calories worth of non-perishable food items and high-energy sweet and savoury biscuits, as well as sanitary towels and basic first aid; with baby food, nappies, wipes and disinfectant distributed to young families.

Special winter CARE packages containing emergency shelter material such as sleeping bags and plastic groundsheets, warm clothes and waterproofs are also now being handed out as the cold starts to bite.

“I despair at the current refugee crisis,” says 79-year-old Janet Stevenson, a mother-of-two and grandmother-of-five who clearly recalls her own CARE packages which arrived at the school near Reading she attended as a child.

“It needs tackling at source but how you do it I don’t know. I just think it’s so tragic. I just want to help.

As Mrs Stevenson knows, it is not just the provision of basic items which makes the packages so important. The CARE parcel received by Mrs Stevenson ended up beginning a 60-year-long friendship with the US schoolgirl Shirley Meissner who helped send it over. The pair even met face to face in Virginia in 1986, before Shirley died five years ago.

Even during the greatest time of need, Mrs Stevenson – who nowadays donates to CARE through a seperate entrepreneurship scheme the charity runs – was never starving. Her father, a Gallipoli veteran tended an allotment throughout the war and could even on occasion venture to the end of the garden and wring a chicken’s neck – something the battle-scarred soldier loathed doing.

But she says her memories of such straitened times still stay with her today. “Even now I hate waste; I don’t waste anything – certainly food. Those are the values you learnt and they never leave you.”

There are other values, too, which those who experienced the kindness of strangers 70 years ago hold dear to this day.

“You can’t do much to help other people,” Mrs Stevenson says. “But you do what you can.”

To make a credit/debit-card donation call 0151-284 1927; go to; or send cheques/postal orders to Telegraph Christmas Charity Appeal, Charities Trust, Suite 20–22, Century Building, Tower Street, Liverpool L3 4BJ

World War Two

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Book claiming Vichy regime is ‘misunderstood’ and ‘tried to save Jews’ is France’s bestseller

October 14th, 2014

The work is the latest in a long line of books by French authors charting the alleged decline of a once great nation.

It argues that economic stagnation and immigration have damaged France’s national identity, but it stands out from its peers with its radical assertion that the Vichy regime is the victim of a historical orthodoxy that is blind to the realities of wartime France.

Mr Zemmour, the son of Jewish Berbers who emigrated from Algeria in the 1950s, argues that three quarters of France’s Jews were “saved by the strategy of [Vichy leader] Philippe Pétain and [wartime Prime Minister] Pierre Laval in the face of German demands”.

He claims in his 544-page book that the two leaders “sacrificed foreign Jews [living in France] in order to save French Jews” but that political correctness prevents this from being acknowledged.

Around 75,000 Jews – both French nationals and refugees – were sent from France to death camps. Only a handful survived.

Mr Zemmour in particular blames the US historian Robert Paxton – whose 1972 book “Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order” is credited with making the French aware of the complicity of the Vichy regime in the Holocaust – for distorting what he sees as the reality of wartime France.

World War Two

World War 2: Britain takes up the Nazi challenge to save liberty itself

September 2nd, 2014

Article first published in The Daily Telegraph, Sept 4, 1939.

With conscience clear, with no purpose to serve but the saving of liberty itself, Great Britain and France are at war with Germany. In the King’s noble broadcast to the Empire, as in the message in which the Prime Minister today announced that the last bid for honourable peace had failed the ends for which we have taken up the Nazi challenge are put beyond the question of history. We have entered up on a conflict that may well call for such sacrifices as the nation has never before made in the single belief that the Nazi creed and the existence of freedom for the weaker peoples of the earth cannot exist together; that the one must be stamped out if the other is to survive. At this moment our people put aside every unnerving thought. Though civilisation itself may be in jeopardy, we are confident that after the trial to which it will be subjected it will emerge freed from the threat that Hitlerism holds to everything that makes life worth while to those who have not accepted its creed of violence. The things against which we fight are, as the Prime Minister has summed them up, “brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution.” We enter the battle in no spirit of vainglory – never was a nation more calm, less exuberant, more resolved, at the beginning of war – but with the unshakable conviction that right must ultimately prevail.

To the last hour the German Government has maintained the lying propaganda by which it can no longer hope to deceive the opinion of the world. In the reply to the British ultimatum it is stated that “the British Government nullified all German attempts at a peaceful settlement,” although the effort to bring about reasonable negotiation has persisted to a point that alarmed public opinion everywhere. Equally false to every known fact it the allegation that the British Government approved and encouraged the Polish steps, whatever these are alleged to be, against Danzig and the German minority. In these matters the truth is on record and beyond argument; it would be to give too much credit to German belief in the sincerity of its own cause to recite again the stages by which the attack on a weaker nation has been deliberately prepared and launched with cold calculation of the most favourable moment. The world will judge – the patience on the one side in face of extreme provocation, the brutal determination on the other to achieve its ends without compunction or regard for any of the conventions that make international consultations tolerable.

All delay, all suggestion of hesitation is ended. Without a dissenting voice our people have pledged themselves to help Poland to the very limit of national endeavour. From the first moment that Poland was assailed there has been no doubt in the mind of all our citizens what our response must be, what honour and sacred obligations and even the safety of civilisation itself required. Hence the pained surprise on Saturday when Mr. Chamberlain had to announce, to an astonished House of Commons, that a declaration of war awaited the outcome of Signor Mussolini’s last effort for peace, and that no time limit had been fixed for the German reply. Had the mood of our people been the overriding factor in the situation, the first shot across the Polish frontier would have been the signal for British intervention.

In entering upon war to root out “the plague and scourge of mankind,” there has already been the fullest response to his Majesty’s appeal that his peoples should “stand calm, firm and united.” Never was there the last doubt that the Empire would share the sentiments and be prepared for the sacrifices of the Motherland. Their instant association of themselves with the cause that the democracies have sworn to protect is already assured. They have recognised, with ourselves, that we fight to save the whole world from the pestilence of Nazi-ism. Two other things we may feel as we enter upon the highest trial to which the nation has been subjected. In the last few days the crisis has produced such evidence of preparedness as has never before been attained at the commencement of war. The fine organisation of the protective services, the smoothness with which the evacuation of 3,000,000 women and children has been carried through, the calm with which precautionary measures were taken in the first air-raid warning yesterday, provide convincing evidence that our people will remain unshaken by the experiences they must face. Secondly, there is, as Mr. Churchill said in the House of Commons yesterday, a generation ready to prove itself not unworthy of those who laid the foundations of the land, and not unworthy, as we may add, of the magnificent Allied armies which in the years of the Great War checked the German ambition at a domination now revived under Herr Hitler.

The war cabinet

Public opinion will heartily approve of the step which the Prime Minister has taken in reconstituting the Cabinet on a war basis. Indeed, the fact that no time has been lost in adopting this necessary measure will give immense relief and satisfaction, of which not the least element will be the inclusion of Mr. Winston Churchill in the key position of First Lord of the Admiralty. By active experience of war-time administration, by exceptional vision in the domain of the higher strategy, and by intimate knowledge of the Royal Navy, Mr. Churchill has outstanding qualification to render invaluable service to the nation in this crucial time. Another appointment that will be greatly welcomes is that of Lord Hankey (without Portfolio), whose long and distinguished service as Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence has given him an intimate understanding of the problems which will specially preoccupy the War Cabinet. The Opposition parties have preferred not to be represented in the War Cabinet, now reduced to half the size of the Cabinet which it replaces. Though representing one side of the House, it has every claim to command public confidence. The only criticism that suggests itself is that, even in its reduced dimensions, the Cabinet is possibly still too large for the making of those swift decisions inevitably demanded by the vicissitudes of war. It will be remembered that Mr Lloyd George’s War Cabinet in 1918 was one of six members only.

Other changes mainly concern Ministers who are not included in the narrower Ministerial circle. Thus, while Sir Samuel Hoare has a seat in the War Cabinet, he exchanges offices with Sir John Anderson, who becomes Home Secretary, but continues his work as Minister of Home Security in charge of A.R.P., without a seat in the War Cabinet. Giving place to Mr. Churchill, Earl Stanhope leaves the Admiralty for the Lord Presidency of the Council; Sir Thomas Inskip goes from the Dominions Office to the Woolsack in succession to Lord Maugham; and, not least important, Mr. Eden is brought into the Government as Secretary of State for the Dominions, with special access to the Cabinet.

World War Two

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HMS Whimbrel: one week to save last Battle of the Atlantic escort

June 13th, 2014

But after more than a decade of their haggling to buy the Black Swan-class vessel, the Egyptian military has delivered a sudden ultimatum demanding around £200,000 by June 20, or they will offer her to scrap merchants.

The group is now desperately seeking funding to put in a bid and save the ship. As well as the price of the ship, the venture must find up to £1 million for immediate repairs and the use of a heavy-lift vessel to carry Whimbrel back to Liverpool.

Captain Chris Pile, project manager, said: “There is currently no memorial to the Battle of the Atlantic and she is the last one that saw active service.

“She represents great historical value to the nation and it would allow people to see what ships of that era were like and the conditions on board.”

The Battle of the Atlantic as Germany tried to cut of Britain’s sea supply routes was the longest campaign of the Second World War.

More than 30,000 sailors died battling marauding German submarines and trying to keep the sea lanes open and deliver vital supplies.

As well as taking part in the Battle of the Atlantic, Whimbrel was part of the Royal Navy fleet present at the Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945.

The sloop served with the Egyptian navy from 1949 and was renamed Tarik.

Capt Pile said: “She went on to serve a full operational career with the Egyptians.

“She is now starting to rust in a few areas. There are holes in her upper deck which are rusted away, but in the Egyptian climate rust does not advance at the same rate it does in the UK.

“The ship as a whole, considering she is 70 years old, is in pretty good nick and the Egyptians have kept her pretty well painted. She’s in pretty good physical shape, but she needs quite a lot of tender loving care.”

Negotiations with the Egyptian navy have been going on for more than a decade and at one point the venture seemed doomed when the price unexpectedly leapt fourfold. Just as a deal appeared to be back on track the country was overtaken by the turmoil of the Arab spring.

World War Two

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