Mail routes between UK & POW camps.

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Owen, Nov 9, 2012.

  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I'm reading 'Birds In A Cage' by Derek Niemann & was wondering what actual routes did the mail between the POWs & Blighty take.
    I know it was via Neutral countries but exactly how to did get from the camps to the UK & vice versa ?
  2. Vitesse

    Vitesse Senior Member

    Prisoner of war mail was despatched abroad by the Post Office. Between 1941 and 1945, 26,250,000 parcels (both Red Cross parcels and parcels from next-of-kin) were sent from Mount Pleasant via Portugal to Geneva (despite difficulties in getting around or across enemy territory) where they were transmitted forward by the International Red Cross. About 200,000 letters per week were sent to POWs from Britain by air to Lisbon, where an exchange system operated with mail from Germany for German prisoners in Britain and Canada.
    Source: AIM25 collection description

    There were regular road convoys between Switzerland, Spain and Portugal: the trucks had prominent Swiss flags on their roofs to (hopefully) ward off air attacks.

    At a guess, mail would have been transferred into the German system at Basel's Badischer Bahnhof, which is an extraterritorial station of German Railways and where the historic border between the two countries is in a pedestrian tunnel between the booking hall and the tracks.

    Attached Files:

    RosyRedd likes this.
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Cheers for that info.
    I do like the look of those lorries .
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Lorries: Saurer, Berna, or possibly FBW, mate.
    But I'm basically only naming Switzerland's three main manufacturers of the period. Very grainy.

    Think I'd lean towards Saurers.
    Perhaps 5BLD at the front:
    Saurer 5 BLD | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    Really not sure though.
  5. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    The three Swiss main manufacturers mentioned above were actually all in the "hands" of Saurer. Berna and FBW were producing the same trucks as Saurer but still had a different logo on their front.

    The trucks on the photograph look to be Saurer 5 BLD (1935)
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Cheers , I'd never thought of long distance lorry drivers in the 1940s before, Portugal to Switzerland is a long haul, not many motorways back then either.
  7. Vitesse

    Vitesse Senior Member

    Cheers , I'd never thought of long distance lorry drivers in the 1940s before, Portugal to Switzerland is a long haul, not many motorways back then either.
    That's nothin'! Swiss racing driver Max Christen did a reliability run in a charcoal-burning gas-converter car to publicise his own design. To Lisbon and back! Here's a pic of a Christen-converted Peugeot 202. It apparently needed about 12 kilos of charcoal per 100km.

  8. littlemoor

    littlemoor Junior Member

    As with much else in WW2, nothing was static. The post was affected by all sorts of events, including the Allied invasions of Italy and the south of France (which hindered the overland route from Lisbon) and the destruction of German communications by bombing. Towards the end it was seriously disrupted, to the extent that Protecting Power reps would sometimes bring mail from Geneva with them if there were a particular reason to do so, i.e. a humanitarian issue. In addition, post going out could take an age to get through the local Stalag/Kontrol bureaucracy, including censorship, while in-coming mail might be held up in the same system, sometimes through sheer bloody-mindedness. Earlier on, however, the system seems to have worked well.

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