CARE Then and Now: The generosity of strangers

Hugh and Tim with their grandmother Chrissie Hatton

Hugh and Tim Thomas (brothers) lived in Warminster, Wiltshire, during and after the war. Tim remembers:

We were very poor and like millions of other British people we were on strict rations.

The arrival of the food parcel was a red-letter day in our family.

Much of the contents I had never heard of before let alone eaten. My memory is vivid of the arrival of a ham. I was dumbfounded by the smell which I recall even to this day. What was it? Where did it come from? Which animal produced it?

For some reason I have a particularly clear recollection of muslin. I am not sure if it was just the ham which was wrapped in it or whether the whole parcel was similarly packaged. I would have been about 4 years old at the time.

An extraordinary woman

Our grandmother, Chrissie Hatton, was one of the principle organisers of the CARE packages in Warminster, Wiltshire, through the local WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service, now WRVS) and British Legion where she was a leading light and all-round inspiration.

Our grandmother was an extraordinary woman who lived through some tumultuous periods of modern history. She lost a favourite brother in the First World War, her husband died in the great Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918, she raised two daughters on her own before the existence of the Welfare State, she experienced the Great Depression and World War 2.

She was a redoubtable woman, salt of the earth and she made sure that the needy were in receipt of the wonderful food parcels.

In those days, for English people, America was an almost mythical country, so huge, so rich and so generous. We forget how much we owe to the Americans for their generosity.

After some time our grandmother decided that she must write to one of the principal donors to thank him for his generosity. His name was S. Prescott Fay and he lived at 67 Chestnut Avenue, Boston. Mr Fay was so taken with our grandmother’s letter that he decided to send parcels directly to our family. This went on for years and an enthusiastic correspondence developed.

Hugh recalls:

I remember the tins of peaches in the parcels. It was so exciting to open them.

I also corresponded with Mr Fay. I was a collector of match box tops. He used to collect American match box tops and send them to me. Although I never met him, I felt we were very close, albeit from different generations. He had come over to Europe in the First World War. He told me how moved he had been by the reception they received in Liverpool as they docked.

Share your story

If you or your family or someone you know received a CARE package, please get in touch to tell us your story:

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We’re very happy for you to just share a few memories or your full story – as much or as little as you want to share. And if you have any photos or other memorabilia to go with your story, please let us know. We’ve created an online home for memories about the original CARE packages (and we feature longer stories on our website too). We think it’s important that the stories aren’t forgotten and that future generations can share them.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.