On the second anniversary of the devastating Christchurch earthquake, I'm following the advice to check out my emergency kit.
Driving to work, thinking about my Emergency Kit and the need to actually upgrade it and check it, my thoughts wandered from what to stockpile, to conversations when I was much younger with my late father. On the subject of hunger. Because I was thinking that in a crisis such as Christchurch suffered on 22 February 2011, the thing I will need to have, and that will be hard to store, will be vegetables. And if I have produce in the garden that I can access, that would be great. And that led me to remember Dad recalling the wonderful good luck of finding and eating raw turnips….
Dad had been part of the 25th Battalion, 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force, in World War II. After a victory in the Western Desert (North Africa), they had woken the next day to find themselves surrounded by the German army, cut off from the rest of their company and forced at gunpoint to get up and get walking in whatever state they were. Some had boots on, some didn’t, there was no time to dress or gather gear, over the next days they were marched to the port (Port Said?). It was this march to the port that I remember Dad talking about – no food, no water, and if they managed to step out of line without being shot to uproot an old turnip or potato, they were the lucky ones. Men died on that march through the desert, in the blazing sun of midsummer June, the bootless ones first.
As a teenager of a father who didn’t often talk about the war, I soaked up all of this – I had vivid mental images as he spoke of the raw, muddy roots keeping them alive, of the death of his comrades and the fear and helplessness - and being privileged to have this dreadful time in my father's life shared with me.
When they got to the port, they were locked in the holds of two ships and transported across the Mediterranean. There they suffered dysentery, heat exhaustion, and for many of them, death. During the trip they were bombed (by their allies - they were, after all, in an enemy ship) and the other ship was sunk. Those who survived saw out the war as prisoners firstly in Italy, later in Germany.
So all of this came to mind when I was thinking about food for a crisis.
My emergency pack is unlikely to be as vitally important as Dad's need was, but I've updated it.
Taken out the cans from last year (or was it the one before?) and replaced with newer stuff.
Put in a few packs of OSM bars (which are GREAT), more tinned fish, and two bars of cooking chocolate, which if not needed in the next 12 months, I'll have great pleasure in eating and replacing this time next year. Chocolate was part of the soldiers' rations in WWII as well, and again Dad talked about food - at the end of the war the German guards abandoned the prison camp where Dad was, but the prisoners had nowhere to go, so waited until the Americans (and Russians?) came through and collected them up. I believe there was also a concentration camp whose survivors were gathered up in this way (big army trucks as transport) and the Americans were appalled at the condition of the starving people they found, and gave them whatever food they had, including chocolate. Which apparently was more than their emaciated bodies could cope with, and many of them died. More horror for my Dad, and, sadly, when the war was officially "over".
I know our emergency packs are important in this earthquake-prone country of ours. Mine will probably now always remind me of my Dad.