Parcels From Home

In June 2015 I reviewed Parcels from Home: Jacks War on TheHistoryNetwork.org, a brilliant graphic novel detailing an “everyman” New Zealander captured on Crete, his subsequent experiences as a PoW and the effects on his family home. That opened my eyes to the work of the Red Cross and the Parcel scheme, which was truly monumental in scale. The companion book titled simply Parcels From Home tells the story of scheme in much more detail, the figures involved are staggering, the distances involved are bewildering and the fact any of it got to where it was intended to go was a miracle! If the original Parcels From Home wasn’t enough there is now the Trainspotter version with even more detail!

Red Cross warehouse in Switzerland. Courtesy of the American Red Cross.

Red Cross warehouse in Switzerland. Courtesy of the American Red Cross.

Its clear from the start Parcels From Home is bristling with enthusiasm to tell you the most remarkable story of the humble Red Cross parcel. All nations supplied them for their PoWs. Ships dropping off their cargo of parcels in Portugal from Canada, the US, Britain or from the other side of the world New Zealand, might pick up a return cargo of parcels destined for Axis PoWs.

The book concentrates on the efforts of New Zealand. With a staggering 1 in 200 of her population captured, mainly in just four major actions, it galvanised a small nation halfway round the world from where her troops were fighting to a herculean effort in providing parcels.

Both editions of the book are electronic only and available from the Apple iBooks store, I appreciate this is prohibitive (other editions are planned) but if you get over that it’s a joy to read. The format really gets the best out of the photographs, short audio snippets from former PoWs are peppered throughout, telling of their experiences. This new edition also contains a number of period news reels, which really helps to bring home life in New Zealand during the war, and gives you a feel of how the parcel packing scheme worked.

All of that makes it a wonderfully rounded experience to read.