For soldiers on active service in France and Flanders, a whole structure was devoted to delivering parcels for their comfort and good cheer, especially as Christmas approached.
The Commission was a government agency, in the Department of the Militia, and as such used military resources to ship parcels and bales of goods overseas. Canadians could send their contributions by freight without charge to agents in Montreal (in summer, before the freeze-up of the Saint Lawrence River) or Halifax and later Saint John, NB, (in winter). The agents then forwarded them to Britain via troop ship.
Staff of the Commission, assisted by volunteers, oversaw and carried out the redistribution of parcels to units across the Channel. In addition to forwarding donations in kind, they used monetary donations to buy items from British wholesalers, with whom they had “very satisfactory arrangements” (1). The donations also purchased materials for packaging the goods: waterproof paper, canvas, and string.(2)
“We have had many compliments on our packing and we are very jealous of our reputation. The packages get a good deal of rough handling between here and France, so our inside parcels must be made very water-tight and secure, and outside canvas drawn tightly and sewn firmly. These days packing costs money, and you would laugh to see the way we save every possibly useful piece of paper and string.” (3)
Every bale cost “well over a shilling” simply to pack. (2)
REMEMBER was the opening word of each edition of the Commission’s biannual publication:
- That Field Comforts are not superfluous.
- That the winter is coming on, when extra comforts and little luxuries are more than ever wanted and appreciated.
(1) Canadian Field Comforts Commission. Field Comforts.1 (October 1915):3
(2) Field Comforts. 3 (October 1916):9
(3) Field Comforts. 2 (June 1916):9
The photograph from the Vancouver City Archives is identified as “Soldier in front of boxes of Canadian Field Comforts at Mrs. J.Z. Hall’s residence, 2890 Point Grey Road, 1918.