Christmas behind the wire

Recently, I happened upon the recent article This is how Christmas was spent in POW camps, by Roger Towsend, published in the Southern Daily Echo (Redbridge, Southampton, England). It begins:

As Families contemplate their Christmas arrangements in this most extraordinary of years, many will find it hard to accept that this cannot be like any normal year and that we may not be able to visit our loved ones.

But let us remember that this is the 75th anniversary of the repatriation of our Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOW) to Southampton and Liverpool around this time in 1945.

Perspective may be able to enlighten our thoughts at this time.

Though the article concerns mainly British civilian internees and POWs, it reminded me of the situation in the Philippine camps, where parents worked hard to normalize the wartime situation for their children. In his book, Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Frederic Stevens devoted a chapter to Christmas, 1942-43-44, where he describes all three Christmas’ at Santo Tomas.

And Sascha Jansen described her family’s creative use of face cream 1944 STIC Christmas Menu in the May 2010 issue of Beyond the Wire:

2 garlic buds
1 can of corned beef (last one from our Red Cross comfort kit)
1 small can of pineapple (last one from our Red Cross comfort kit)
1 taro root (from our Elephant Ear plant)
1 scoop Lugao
We traded a small can of “old” mustard powder for a big bunch of Talinum.

My mother cooked and mashed the taro and added the corned beef to make “hamburger patties.” She cooked them on a tin plate with Mabelline face cream for oil. She made a salad out of the garlic and Talinum.

A small amount of taro was mixed with the lugao and the drained pineapple chunks for dessert muffins. Before serving she spooned the juice over the muffins. It was incredible!

In The Christmas of 1944, from, very different perspectives from Albert Holland, in STIC, and Warren A. Wilson, in Old Bilibid Prison, are given.

Isabelle Holter wrote a short article about the Christmas of ’44 in STIC, published in the September 2009 issue of Beyond the Wire. Titled Caroling Between Blackouts, the author tells of one child saying:

“I sure hope Santa Claus picks a cloudy day to come, so those bombers won’t bomb him,” exclaimed one, after a day of continuous air raids. Grim indeed was the prospect of any who contemplated serious preparation in celebration of Christmas that year.

Isabelle ends with the comment, “that experience has given us a life-time membership in the fellowship of the homeless, the hungry, the sick and the suppressed, wherever they may be.”