LADY BURGHCLERE'S PRISONERS' FUND. (To THE EDITOR Or THE "
SPECTATOR."] SIR,—In my youth " Grace after meat" was one of the maxims most forcibly inculcated. I should therefore feel guilty if I did not ask you to convey to your readers something of the gratitude expressed by our prisoners for that Christmas fare which your subscribers' generosity enabled us to send out to Germany. When Easter is approaching, thanks for Christmas gifts may seem laggard, but the fault lies with the post, not with the writers, and I hope that the fervour of the acknowledgments may atone for the delay. Even in the first glorious rapture of recovered freedom the prisoners' first thoughts are for their helpers. Though an N.C.O. writes : " I arrived here in Holland yesterday, really too excited for words; just like coming out of the land of tyranny into heaven," he is quick to say : "I drank to the helpers in my café au fait on Christmas Day in Germany, also when I had my first drink in this country." And I think, Sir, that, stern protagonist_ of tem- perance as the Spectator is, on this occasion it would be ungra- cious to inquire too meticulously into the composition of that first toast pledged in the Land of the Free. Let us hope it was café au Tait! But, anyhow, the intention is a tribute to those like your readers, without whose help, as the men all acknowledge, they would have died long since of starvation.
From Germany another prisoner writes : "I am very glad to tell you that the spirits of us prisoners are strong and greatly assisted by the kind thoughts and attentions that your fund and helpers bestow upon us. I received the choice gift which you mentioned in your letter [the choice gift being half-a-pound of tinned turkey and plum-pudding], and you may rest assured that they were greatly appreciated by me and added much to my gladness at the festive season." Gladness in a German camp at any season, and especially during " an old-fashioned Christmas, the snow falling for four weeks now," seems a sheer miracle. But our " Tommies " are thaumaturgists in that line of business. Indeed, their ingenuity in extracting consolation from the most unexpected sources is absolutely amazing. A prisoner, now released, who had fallen ill owing to a long " hold up " of parcels, after describing weary weeks of unrelieved pain in a densely packed German hospital, ice on the floors, and thermometer regis- tering ten degrees below freezing-point, concluded with the remark that though he was too ill to eat the solid food in the parcels when they were finally restored, it was perhaps as well, " since it enabled me to save the lives of a good many other men in the ward, who would otherwise have died."
Casual comments such as these, so illuminating with regard to the character of the men we are trying to preserve for the country, show that it is alone the "parcels" that have saved them, and explain the gratitude of the recipients. " I ask you," writes one of the " contemptible little Army," " to give my ever deepest gratitude and profound thanks to your many friends who have rendered to you on my behalf their ever-generous assistance which brought us through untold suffering ' still smiling.' May God's blessing be theirs."
Sir, the last writer had escaped from the nets of the fowler. But for one who escapes, how many remain " fast bound in misery and iron "? In England, this year, Lent has to be kept, and kept rigidly. But no one, or, at least, I feel sure no reader of the Spectator, will wish the captives' lot to be made more penitential for lack of essential food, or, in other words, the money to buy it, which is •to bring them home, if " through untold suffering,"
yet " still smiling."—I am, Sir, &c., WINIFRED BERGHCIERE. 48 Charles Street, London, IV. 1.
A plea for fresh donations may seem an ungraceful P.S. to a letter of thanks. But "needs must when the German drives." And in these hard times I am compelled to add that all contribu- tions addressed to me, The Lady Burghclere, 48 Charles Street, London, W. 1, and marked "Lady Burghclere's Prisoners' Fund, will be as promptly acknowledged as they are, alas! urgently needed.
[We most sincerely trust that oar readers will be able to help Lady Burghclere in her gallant and devoted work. The Spectator's readers, as Lady Burghclere is ever ready to acknow- ledge, heard and heeded the cry of the prisoners, and helped her in a very special degree, and with a generosity that enabled her to let few if any appeals for help go unheeded. If would be a subject of very deep regret if the Spectator were to fail her at the eleventh hour. Cheques should be sent to her direct as above. There is no pain more heart-breaking than that of the prisoner who thinks he is forgotten by his own people. It doubles his torture.—En. Spectator.]