Remembering the SSAFA Christmas Ship arriving in the UK
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As Christmas approaches, we think back just over a hundred years ago to when the 'Santa Claus' ship USS Jason docked at Devonport. It was packed with five million gifts for children in Europe, specifically those who had either lost their fathers or whose fathers were wounded in the war.
As the only military charity working on the Home Front across the UK at the start of WW1, SSAFA's extensive network of volunteers meant that we were ideally placed to assist when the USS Jason arrived. We were given the responsibility for identifying the recipients of the gifts and also distributing them to children across the country in time for Christmas.
Back in the USA, an appeal had been made urging people to donate Christmas presents for the children of Europe. The message for the American was that, “You can stretch out your hands, across the sea bearing messages of love and hope and sympathy to the children of a war ridden continent - messages from fortunate America to unfortunate Europe.”
The generous American public responded by donating 12,000 tons of gifts, including toys, clothes and boots.