During WW II, the British and American Red Cross societies recognized that families who received notification of their sons’ capture would be in need comfort.
In times of war, that comfort was best provided by straightforward information on the conditions in prison camps.
The following items from the August and October American Red Cross bulletins sent to families provide just that sort of information about Camp 59.
Thanks to Al Rosenblum for sharing these bulletins with me for the site.
Prisoners of War Bulletin—American Red Cross
Illustration: Bales and cases of clothing sent by the American Red Cross for prisoners of war are stored in bonded warehouses of the International Red Cross Committee awaiting rail transport from Switzerland to Axis camps.
Prisoner of War Camps in Italy—No. 59
By Frank Abbott
One of the largest prisoner of war camps in Italy is No. 59, situated near the ancient town of Ascoli Piceno, which before the war had a population of some 25,000. Ascoli Piceno lies in the valley of the river Tronto in mountainous country about 90 miles northeast of Rome in the direction of the Adriatic coast. Mountain peaks rising over 3,000 feet are visible to the north, west, and south of Camp No. 59. For many years before the war the Ascoli Piceno region was a popular one for tourists from other countries.
The latest information available, based on March of this year, shows that there were nearly 2,000 prisoners of war in Camp No. 59—mostly British, but including 445 Americans, of whom 77 were noncoms and 368 privates. All the prisoners had been captured in the North African campaign and had only recently arrived at Camp No. 59. The camp leader, at the time of the visit, was Sgt. Major Hegarty (British). Besides Camp No. 59, there is also a military hospital for American prisoners of war at Ascoli Piceno.
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This list of contents for American Red Cross “Standard Package No. 8” was provided by Matt Brazil and Bonnie Jacobsen (née Brazil).
I am pleased to share it.
The Red Cross document above reads:
American Red Cross
STANDARD PACKAGE NO. 8
PRISONER OF WAR
Evaporated Milk, irradiated – 1 – 14 1/2 oz. can
Lunch Biscuit (hard-tack) – 1 – 8 oz. package
Cheese – 1 – 8 oz. package
Instant Cocoa – 1 – 8 oz. tin
Sardines – 1 – 15 oz. tin
Oleomargarine (Vitamin A) – 1 – 1 lb. tin
Corned Beef – 1 – 12 oz. tin
Sweet Chocolate – 2 – 5 1/2 oz. bars
Sugar, Granulated – 1 – 2 oz. package
Powdered orange concentrate (Vitamin C) – 1 – 7 oz. package
Soup (dehydrated) – 1 – 5 oz. package
Prunes – 1 – 16 oz. package
Instant Coffee – 1 – 4 oz. tin
Cigarettes – 2 – 20’s
Smoking Tobacco – 1 – 2 1/4 oz. package
The WW2 US Medical Research Centre website has some interesting details on Red Cross food and medical parcels and first aid kits, including photographs of contents.
This memo from the British Red Cross and Order of St. John lists contents of a typical Red Cross prisoner of war food parcel. It also provides instructions for how to donate to the cause.
The memo, saved by Denis Crooks, was sent to me by Denis’ daughter Maggie Clarke.
BRITISH RED CROSS SOCIETY and ORDER OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM.
PRISONERS OF WAR DEPARTMENT
St. James’s Palace,
London, S. W. 1.
List of Typical Contents of Standard Food Parcels despatched from the Packing Centres of the Organisation.
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During the war, a British publication, The Prisoner of War journal, provided reports on conditions in POW camps to families of prisoners at home.
The journal was published by the Prisoners of War Department of the Red Cross and the St. John War Organization, St. James Palace, London.
Scans of the entire issue of this Prisoner of War publication—along with other issues of the journal from 1942–44—were contributed to the WWII Memories website by Jim Wicketts and his daughter Louise.
The following two items—from the April 1943 (Vol. 1, No. 12) issue of the journal—are reproduced here with permission of the WWII Memories site administrator.
The two on the right are old school pals who met again at Campo P.G. 59.
Campo P.G. 59 P.M. 3300, Servigliano
There are nearly 2,000 prisoners of war in this camp. A new building is nearly completed for N.C.O.s [non-commissioned officers] (of whom there are almost 300). The open spaces and roads in the camp are described as very muddy, although a great deal of gravel has been laid down. The buildings are said to be warm and heating not absolutely necessary. Parcels are distributed fortnightly, and mail arrives rather irregularly. Clothing conditions are satisfactory. The water supply is reported to be still unsatisfactory; the new water main has not yet been installed. A British dental officer has been allowed to order the necessary material for treatment. (Visited December.)