By John Pownall


MISS B. WHITBY M. B. E. of Nottingham.

By John Pownall.

          The ‘Comforts for Troops’ system was probably initially started as a gesture of support for prisoners of war at Christmas time during 1914. This may have been established Nationwide in its time, whereby committees sought to raise funds and organise the dispatch of parcels to British P. O. W. during WW1. It appears that a lady named ‘Miss B. Whitby’ was instrumental in setting up this organisation. According to various sites on the internet, she was the Honorary Assistant secretary for the Nottingham Comforts for Troops committee.

          In December 1914, she placed an advert in the Nottingham Guardian News paper appealing for donations from the public. This was to help set up and run a system of help for Nottingham men who were prisoners. This was a great success.

          One of the first letters sent to a P. O. W. was to private Arthur Pownall, (my father’s uncle, refer to article in the Notts servicemen and women in the Great War). Asking him to urgently reply and confirm that he had received his parcel, complete with its content. Miss B. Whitby and her colleagues were concerned with the possibility that parcels containing gifts would not get to P. O.W’s in good condition!

          Miss B. Whitby asked him to reply promptly, as it was the intention to send one box to all ‘Notts soldiers’ who were P. O. W.

It must be assumed that he did reply, because in the next few weeks 5000 parcels were despatched; which to my mind was no mean feat!

          The parcels contained various items such as 2lbs Plum pudding, 1lb cad block chocolate, mittens, shoe laces, soap, postcards, and pencils, etc.

                    It must have been a success during and after the war because over 200 letters and postcards were returned to the Lady in appreciation of her efforts.

          This was the proof that the system worked, dispelling the doubters who had said that the idea would fail.

          Those letters and postcards are now deposited with the Imperial War Museum, London. (Under heading – Private Papers of Miss B Whitby M. B. E.). They are not currently available to view on the internet.

          Who was this Lady?

          I have no idea who she was. I have looked on the internet and only discovered limited information. Just enough to write this article. She did receive the M.B.E., when and why etc, no details?

          Also, I have not found any details of where she was born or if she ever married. On a personnel note, I have not found a photo of her which is a disappointment.

          My other thought is that the 200 plus postcards will have details of Nottingham men that were incarcerated prison camps during WW1. They may have such information as their name, rank, number, and regiment details. There may be some personal notes also on the postcards.

I believe that this information would be of interest to relatives of the Nottinghamshire men, because many records relate to those that died and never returned, where as these records would be about those fortunate enough to get home.

One day I hope to visit the I. W. M., to see the records for myself.

Note; - material and information used to create this article obtained from various internet sites.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'COMFORTS FOR TROOPS in WW1' page
This page was added by John Pownall on 01/08/2016.

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