CHAPTER VI, continued

4. Supplementary Program for the Cities. March 1916-April 1917

Within the limits set by the arbitrary restrictions of the Foreign Office and the obtainable shipping the Commission was delivering food to the entire population of the French provinces in sufficient quantities to prevent acute hunger or deterioration to health. In the rural districts where garden produce could be raised and where concealment from the requisitioning authorities was possible, the food situation was much easier than in the crowded industrial districts where the inhabitants were absolutely dependent on the supplies brought in by the C.R.B. There was unquestionably some suffering in the Lille district, and there were complaints to Paris on the inadequacy of the ration, the loudest complaints usually coming from those who in times of peace had enjoyed an abundance of the things now so carefully measured out to them. Political pressure in Paris induced the French Cabinet, in contrast to its original position respecting relief, to sanction and subsidize private French committees which proposed to supplement the C.R.B. imports by supplies from Holland and Switzerland. Hoover had, of course, no objection to the importation of supplementary supplies for the industrial districts, but, since the Commission was held responsible for the protection of the French people by seeing that the Germans observed their agreements and by importing and distributing food from abroad, he did object to having the Commission's position weakened by the establishment of new committees which the Germans could play off against the C.R.B. The British Foreign Office, which clearly saw that new committees would make it more difficult to hold the Germans strictly to their guarantees, strongly supported Hoover in his representations to the French Cabinet. The arrangement finally adopted left undisturbed the French committee(192) established in Holland and subsidized by the French Treasury to the extent of Frs. 30,000,000, but provided that no new distributing organizations be set up in the occupied territories. The supplies purchased in Holland by the French committee were turned over to the Commission, which transported them to Northern France and distributed them as a part of its supplementary program for the cities. For the years 1917-1918 the purchases of the French committee imported by the Commission amounted to about 44,000 tons, mainly vegetables and fruit. During the same period the Commission's other imports of flour, fats, and other staples to Northern France were over 400,000 tons.



HOOVER TO CHEVRILLON, explaining the cost of the French program and stating the necessity for increased subsidies

LONDON, 24 August 1916

Louis Chevrillon, Esq.


The steady increase in necessities for the North of France together with the extraordinary rise in the prices of foodstuffs during the last month, renders it necessary to reconsider the entire financial problem involved in the relief of the people in Northern France.

The following table shows the amount of foodstuffs delivered into Northern France during the three months ending 25th July, together with the cost thereof:


 Commodity  Quarterly shipments permitted by Allied Governments (tons)  Actual deliveries (tons)



Wheat 70,500 75,142 1,111,146
Bacon 3,200 2,697 206,386
Lard 6,400 5,609 394,032
Maize 6,600 6,200 62,000
Peas and beans 4,950 1,980 61,088
Rice 13,200 15,656 269,283
Coffee 3,300 3,940 216,211
Fish (salted) 1,500 nil nil
Condensed milk 4,950 3,433 167,531
Soap 3,000 2,383 72,871
Sugar 4,000 5,061 156,379
Cocoa 750 nil nil



Total per month


Or (@ 28.50)

    Frs. 25,810,797

The following table shows the probable cost during the next quarter of the program of shipments permitted by the Allied Governments:



Tonnage authorized per quarter  Cost per ton delivered Northern France  Total
Wheat 70,500 20 1,410,000
Bacon 3,200 77 246,400
Lard 6,400 72 460,800
Maize 6,600 10 66,000
Peas and beans 4,950 30 148,500
Rice 13,200 20 263,600
Cocoa 750 98 73,500
Fish (preserved) 1,500 40 60,000
Condensed milk 4,950 50 247,500
Soap 3,000 31 93,000
Sugar 4,000 33 132,000
Coffee. 3,300 60 198,000
Purchases in Belgium, say     100,000



Total per month


Or (@28.50)

    Frs. 33,243,340.50

We are at present negotiating with the German Government with a view to an increased proportion of wheat from the native produce, and this may result in diminishing our requirements for imported wheat to about 15,000 tons a month or a saving of, say, £300,000; but the condition of the population is such that we must undertake at once the importation of meat and other supplies. Two thousand tons of meat per month would cost about £160,000 per month, and other supplies needed will restore the demands to the full figure of requirements, or at least Frs. 33,000,000 per month. As you are aware, our present monthly subsidy is Frs. 20,000,000, which at present sterling exchange yields approximately £710,000 per month. You will notice that we overspent during the quarter ending 25th July, but we were able to do this as we had some money in hand as a result of our being unable to deliver the full program during the winter, owing to the shortage of shipping. It appears to me therefore that if we are to continue to keep the population going, it will be necessary at once to increase our subsidy.

I am wondering whether you would be good enough to lay this before the French Government for their consideration.

Yours faithfully

(Signed) H. C. HOOVER



By HOOVER, on conferences in Paris with French and British 25th-28th August 1916, on finance and program for Northern France and particularly on the supplementary imports for the congested districts around Lille. (With supplementary memoranda.)

[Paris, 28 August 1916]


I left London for Paris on 24th August, arriving on Friday morning the 25th at Havre, where I lunched with Mr. Berryer, Minister of the Interior of the Belgian Government, and Mr. Vandervelde, Minister of War. I informed them generally as to the shortage of the Belgian subsidies,(193) owing to the rise in prices, and of the demands for more foodstuffs.

On Friday night I went to Paris.

On Saturday morning at 9:30 had a meeting with Lord Eustace Percy and Lord Granville at the British Embassy. Discussed the question of increased food supply in the North of France and the abolition of the various new committees which have arisen through the stimulation of the district committees in the North. At 10:30, with Lord Granville, Lord Eustace Percy, and Mr. Chevrillon, called upon Mr. Margerie, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who had also present Mr. Laroche.

Had a long discussion, during which Mr. Margerie outlined the necessity for more food for the people in the North, their constant demands made to obtain it, the desire of the French Government that they should have a more liberal supply, and the reasons for the establishment of relief measures from Switzerland and Holland for supplementing the work of the Commission. He stated that the Delesalle Committee had been given a credit of thirty millions of francs for Dutch imports and that if the Commission was unable to supply the situation the Government was anxious that the Delesalle Committee should be allowed to operate through the N.O.T.(194) I stated that the negotiations between the Swiss Government and the German Government for the establishment of Swiss offices in the North and the establishment of arrangements with the Dutch through the N.O.T. by which the Dutch organizations would be extended over the North of France completely undermined the ability of the C.R.B. to protect the people, and that it means simply an era of intrigue and rivalry which we would not participate in, and that if the French Government was desirous of setting up any other nationality to take up the work in the North of France we should be only too delighted and that they should consider their hands entirely free; that we were in no way jealous in the matter, but that we were perfectly satisfied that if such arrangements were made they would be absolutely fatal to the interests of the people and that whoever was set up in charge of the relief must have a complete monopoly in order to deal competently with the German authorities. I stated that there was a tendency to oversee the necessities of Lille and the vicinity, but that, eliminating the hysteria in the matter, the people did require a further supply of foodstuffs, for which permits had not yet been granted to us by the English Government(195) (especially fats and protein); that the curtailed ration on which we were operating was undoubtedly too low, and that the sensible thing to do was to put us in a position both as to permits, finance, and shipping, to competently care for these people. A prolonged discussion took place in which the English representatives insisted strongly upon the maintenance of a controlled monopoly, the elimination of the other schemes. Finally Mr. Margerie drew out three questions for me to reply to in detail, requesting that we should draw up a complete memorandum for discussion at a meeting to take place on the 28th at ten o'clock.

In the afternoon at 3:30 I again attended at Mr. Margerie's office and met Mr. Kammerer together with Mr. Laroche, to discuss the financial aspects of the French relief. I outlined to them the increased cost owing to the rise in the price of food and the cost of the additional shipments, and stated that it would be useless to talk of further food supplies or even of the maintenance of the present supply, unless we were assured of at least 35,000,000 francs per month. They considered this was possible of arrangement, and it was left that I should incorporate this in the memorandum to be prepared for Monday morning. I also presented the outstanding accounting questions and it was agreed that my views thereon should also be put into the memorandum.

On Sunday at ten o'clock I attended at the British Embassy with Lord Eustace Percy and Mr. Chevrillon. Chevrillon and myself drafted up a memorandum from the Commission embracing the questions put by Mr. Margerie and the proposals of the Commission, and Lord Eustace Percy drew up the views of the British Government.

On Monday at ten o'clock we attended at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there being present Mr. Margerie, Mr. Laroche, Lord Granville, Lord Eustace Percy, Mr. Chevrillon, and myself. We read through the memorandum which had been prepared. After prolonged discussion the French representatives accepted the views expressed in the Commission's memorandum, and it was left that they should consult the Minister of Finance to arrange for an increased subsidy and that the English representatives would put it up to their Government that the French Government was insistent upon the proposals of the Commission being accepted.

They accepted our proposals as to accounting.


As a basis of conference, the representatives of the French Government put the following three questions:

1. Is Mr. Hoover disposed, and is he able to increase the rations over and above those at present imported?

2. Is Mr. Hoover disposed, and is he able to increase the list of products with which France is provisioned sufficiently to reach as far as possible the amount of 3,000 calories per capita?

3. Is Mr. Hoover willing to act as our intermediary in the purchase, transportation, and distribution of supplementary products, paid for by committees or by individuals, and to be provided from time to time?

Mr. Hoover declares himself ready to fulfil these wishes provided that the Allied Governments authorize the importation of the necessary quantities, and see that the Commission is furnished with the indispensable and necessary ships and finance.

As regards the third question he thinks it necessary to point out that it would be difficult to purchase or transport commodities for private persons and that even for committees the contingent total must be determined so as to include therein the regular supplementary ration for the children and the city populations---thus insuring that supplementary importations due to the initiative of any one committee should be only most exceptional.

Finally, it is necessary to explain the present situation and to set out the views of the Commission as regards the putting into practice of the demands of the French Government.



A. The Commission for Relief in Belgium, in the course of its negotiations with the German military authorities on the subject of the local harvests of this year,(196) has insisted that the whole amount of the produce of the soil due to the labor of the civil population should be reserved for the consumption of that population.

The Commission thinks it may foretell that the results of these negotiations now in being, will be as follows:

a) Requisition by the Germans of the whole amount of the new harvest of cereals and of potatoes;

b) Allowance to the C.R.B. of 240 grams of wheat per capita per diem;

c) Allowance of 400 grams of potatoes per capita per diem;

d) Allowance of an amount of barley sufficient for the manufacture of yeast;

e) Exemption from requisition of various fresh vegetables.

B. In order to satisfy the needs of the population, the Commission proposes to furnish foodstuffs, nature and quantity of which are specified in the attached appendix. This new program will furnish the following number of calories:

For the whole population 2,170
Supplement for city populations 294
Total calories for city populations 2,464
Supplement for children and invalids 300

Taking into consideration the smallest ration allowed for the children and the supplementary rations furnished by local resources in the agricultural districts, the outlined program corresponds about to a ration for the adults of 3,000 calories.

C. In case of success in the negotiations at present proceeding with the Germans, there will be a reduction in the importations of wheat of about 15,000 tons a month i.e., a net economy on overseas importations of about 10,000 tons.

If the negotiations for the introduction of Dutch produce succeed, articles such as butter, cheese, and a great part of the meat will come in from Holland, which will represent a further reduction of tonnage of more than 3,000 tons.

D. The new program implies the following increase on present amounts:

Increase per Capita per Diem Commodities Grams
For whole population preserved fish 9
For urban population meat 50
For urban population butter 10
For urban population cheese 20
For infant population cocoa 10

NOTE.---The above quantities represent an increase in tonnage of about 3,530 tons a month.

E. The monthly budget corresponding with the new program will be about Frs. 45,000,000, from which must be deducted the sum of Frs. 12,000,000 in case of the success of the German negotiations mentioned above. The Commission therefore requires a monthly subsidy of about Frs. 35,000,000 in round numbers from 1st September 1916. The increase of Frs. 15,000,000 on the present monthly subsidy is attributable in part to the increase of ration, compensated, however, up to a certain point, by the anticipated German concessions, and also to the considerable rise in the prices of foodstuffs in the last two months.

F. As regards the different committees instituted by the people of the invaded territories for the introduction of additional supplies, the Commission wishes to insist most urgently that it is impossible to protect the foodstuffs for the population and the local production unless the entire amount of importations is under its own control. The Commission recommends therefore that these committees or organizations should be placed under the following regulations:

a) Their purchases will be consigned to the Commission at the original place of purchase and the Commission will transport them to their destination.

b) These purchases will be distributed to the whole population and in no case can they be delivered to an individual.

c) In cases where the foodstuffs introduced are other than gifts, their price of purchase at the original place of purchase shall not be greater than that obtainable by the C.R.B.

d) The nature and quantities of foodstuffs thus introduced shall be approved by the Allied Governments.

e) No foreign agent of these committees shall go into Northern France or shall treat either directly or indirectly with the German authorities, and any negotiations on the subject of the ravitaillement shall be conducted with the Germans only through the medium of the Commission.

G. The Commission proposes to introduce certain laws in regard to accounts in the North of France, and to impose certain obligations as regards payments to be made by the communes or the municipalities; these rules and obligations shall have received the approval of the French Government.

In order to establish the good faith of its administration and to relieve it of responsibility the Commission desires that a committee should be officially instituted, comprising certain representatives of the French Government and the delegate of the Commission resident in Paris, in order to co-operate with the Commission and to formulate the methods of accounting to be used and to give a discharge to the Commission in the administration of the funds which it receives.

H. The Commission is ready to offer its services to the French Government for the ravitaillement of that portion of the Belgian population in the occupied areas, which will be liberated by a withdrawal of the German lines. In this case the Commission holds itself ready to send into French ports the foodstuffs in transit on the sea at any given moment. However, in order not to make any interruption in the feeding of those people remaining behind the German lines, the Commission desires to receive the authorization to create a stock of foodstuff at Rotterdam of 100,000 tons.



The representatives of the British Government at the conference desire to make the following general remarks on the foregoing proposals put forward by the Commission for Relief in Belgium.

The view of His Majesty's Government is that the relief of the occupied territories must be (a) supplementary to native foodstuffs and (b) confined to the minimum quantity necessary, in conjunction with such native foodstuffs, to maintain life and health and to conserve the future efficiency of the population.

Strictly, therefore, as Northern France has admittedly produced, in the present harvest, enough cereals and potatoes to feed the whole population, no wheat or potatoes should be imported into the territory.

It may be taken for granted that, in view of the guarantees almost certainly procured from the Germans in regard to potatoes, it will be unnecessary to import potatoes.

As to wheat, the Commission will still have to import about 8,000 tons a month to supplement native supplies guaranteed by the Germans. Strictly this should not be allowed, but the Germans should be told that, whatever happens, the population will have to satisfy its bread requirements from native wheat entirely.

As regards the amount of foodstuffs absolutely necessary to maintain life and health and to conserve the efficiency of the population in the future His Majesty's Government are advised that a per capita ration of 3,000 calories is too high. It is higher than that actually enjoyed by the German population itself, even probably by the industrial section of that population engaged in heavy manual labour. It must therefore be too high for a population like that in the occupied territories, where industries are not running and where the whole male population of military age has been taken from the country. It is true that the Relief Commission has proved its ability to protect the foodstuffs which it imports, but nevertheless an increase of imports beyond what is absolutely necessary is highly undesirable, for the following reasons:

a) The protection of the imported foodstuffs is not a thing permanently assured, but is on the contrary only maintained by constant vigilance and the constant repression of frauds and abuses. As soon as any part of the population has more food than it absolutely and immediately needs, sales begin to take place to German soldiers, etc., and other leakages occur which the Commission could only imperfectly check.

b) The possibility of seizures in violation of the German guarantees can never be excluded, and this danger will reach very serious proportions as soon as any part of the population in invaded territories can be alleged by the Germans to be living better than the Germans themselves. The Germans know well that the Allied Governments would with difficulty reconcile themselves to put an end to the work of the Relief Commission even if the enemy were suddenly to seize one or two thousand tons of some imported article of which the Germans stand particularly in need. Excuses would be made, some local German commander would be made responsible, and the enemy would escape with impunity. It is of the utmost importance that Allied Governments should safeguard themselves from being placed in such a dilemma.

c) Just as there is a danger that if the industrial populations are left without food the enemy will tempt them to work for them by offers of nourishment, so, on the other hand, there is a danger that, if those populations are given a ration sufficient to enable them to undertake heavy labour, the enemy will be led, by agitation excited in Germany itself, to require them to perform such labour.

Other reasons of the same kind might be adduced, but those cited are sufficient to explain why His Majesty's Government, who were the first to countenance relief of this kind and who cannot therefore be suspected of inhumanity or lack of consideration for the population of their Allies, feel obliged to insist on the restriction, so far as possible, of the importations into occupied territories. Consequently they would prefer to maintain the present ration unaltered, and even to put further pressure upon the Germans by cutting off all importations of wheat. The only increases for which they recognise that there is clear justification are those for children.

The question of the figure to be fixed for the ration is, however, one for the French Government to decide. His Majesty's Government are prepared to accept their decision and to co-operate with all their energies to carry it out. They hope, however, that the French Government will give due weight to the above considerations in taking their decision, and they consider that the Commission should be instructed to regard the ration fixed as, apart from exceptional cases, an ample maximum, and to import in practice no more than the amount which it finds by experience to be actually necessary at any given moment.

His Majesty's Government are in full complete agreement with the Commission in regard to the question of independent committees and supplementary importations and they regard this point as vital. Moreover, in view of the considerations advanced above, they believe that it will be essential, in approving any applications made for such supplementary importations, that the Allied Governments should consider whether the addition thus proposed to the ration of any particular district will augment it beyond the amount and calorific value necessary, and, if so, whether the regular importations of the Commission should not undergo some proportionate reduction. This, however, must be a matter for consultation between the Allied Governments in each case.

It may be added in conclusion that a special value is to be attached to constant communication between the Allied Governments and the Commission. The whole subject of relief is one of constant negotiations and arrangement, which, however, can in general be conducted unofficially in Paris and London without necessitating official intervention, which the French Government are understood to be desirous of avoiding.



By HOOVER, on the program of ravitaillement in Northern France

LONDON, [20 September 19161

1. Arrangements have been settled with the German authorities providing co-operation between them and the Commission for Belief to increase the food supplies during the coming year. These arrangements include an increase of the supplies through the German authorities to a fixed amount of 200 grams of flour and 400 grams of potatoes per them per capita of the whole population. The Commission for Relief has arranged for an increase(197) in its resources and despite the heavy rise in the prices of foodstuffs abroad, the quantity of imports will be increased.

2. It has been decided to decrease the ration of imported flour to 100 grams per them as from early in October, thus giving a total flour ration of 300 grams per them or a bread ration of 400 grams per them per capita. This will necessitate the import of about 8,000 tons of wheat per month for bread purposes, and an additional import of 2,500 tons will be provided for purposes set out below, giving a total of about 10,500 tons of wheat imports per month. Although the cost of wheat has risen to about 60 centimes per kilo it is proposed to hold the price at 45 centimes, the C.R.B. standing the loss for the present. The price of 30 centimes for indigenous flour by virtue of the larger proportion will permit the price of bread being maintained at not over 40 centimes per kilo without the loss hitherto suffered by the district committees.

3. The preparation of a supplemental ration of "Phosphatine," "Farine lactée," and "Crème de Riz," for the infants under five years, and of special "biscuits" for the children and infirm is in course of rapid extension. It is proposed from early in October to furnish 50 grams, to be later increased to 100 grams per them of products for the infants, and to furnish 50 grams per them of biscuits to the children over five years and the infirm, this also to be increased later if possible. These arrangements will require the use of the following commodities in the Belgian factories:

Maize products 350 tons
Wheat 2,000 tons
Lard 100 tons
Sugar 370 tons
Rice 400 tons
Cocoa 100 tons
Condensed milk 100 tons

4. About 1,500 tons per month of condensed milk will be available primarily for distribution to the children and infirm, giving a total import of about 1,600 tons per month, and providing a ration to these classes of 50 grams per diem.

5. About 350 tons of cocoa will be imported monthly, primarily for children and infirm, of which 100 tons mentioned above will be retained for infant-food manufacture. The 250 tons distributed should permit a ration of 10 grams per them to the smaller children.

6. Negotiations are in progress, providing for the regular import of meat. One thousand sheep have already been shipped into three districts, and it is hoped to extend the quantities and variety of meat imported and to extend shipments over all districts.

7. A trial shipment of 500 tons of herrings in brine is en route and will be distributed during October. Every effort is being made to secure dried fish, although there is probably but a limited amount obtainable.

8. Negotiations are in progress for the purchase and shipment of regular amounts of cheese, and, if possible, some margarine and butter.

9. The import of 7,370 tons per month of rice, beans, peas, and maize products will be continued, and it is proposed as from 1st October to increase the proportion of beans in the above total up to 2,000 tons per month. It is hoped to secure more peas at a later date. Out of these products 400 tons of rice and 350 tons of maize products per month are reserved for child food as above. It is therefore possible to maintain a ration of these subsidiary cereals of 100 grams per diem.

10. The import of bacon and lard will continue at 3,200 tons per month, of which 100 tons is reserved as above, thus permitting a ration of between 45 and 50 grams per diem.

11. The import of 1,100 tons per month of coffee will continue, and in addition 500 tons of wheat will be used to manufacture torrealine, thus permitting a ration of 17 grams of coffee and 8 grams of torrealine.

12. Sugar will be imported at the rate of 1,320 tons per month, of which about 370 tons are reserved for manufacture of child food as above, thus permitting a ration of 15 grams per day.

13. Soap will continue at the rate of 1,000 tons per month.

14. The following table summarizes the ration of the commodities which should be effective from about 1st October:

Through German authorities Quantity in Grams
Flour 200
Potatoes 400
Through C.R.B. imports  
Flour 100
Maize products
Beans and peas
Bacon and lard 45- 50
Sugar 15
Coffee 17
Soap 15
Preserved fish
To be settled as imports can be arranged

Supplementary ration for children and infirm

Phosphatine 50 (later 100 grams) for infants
Special biscuits 50 (later 100 grams) for children and infirm
Farine lactée As sent
Crème de Riz As sent
Cocoa 10 grams for younger children
Condensed milk. 50 grams for infants, children, and infirm

. . . . . . . . . . . . ..



198) TO THE COMITÉ FRANÇAIS, on internal accounting, and directing that the debt acknowledgments of the communes for relief provisions be transferred direct to the Commission

BRUSSELS, 15 November 1916

Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France



By the financial arrangements which have so far been established, the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France receives from the district committees acknowledgments of debt only, besides the surety bonds given at the beginning of the operations.

Although some of the communes pay all or part for their supplies either in cash or in town bonds, these securities are in no way transferred to the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France, since they may not go outside the occupied territory of the North of France, and the Comité Français remains thus uncovered toward the Comité National and the Commission for Relief in Belgium for the total amount of the supplies. This debt is increasing to such proportions that it becomes necessary to examine the means of reducing same.

The financial situations of the districts show in their assets considerable book debts by towns and communes on account of advances made. By transferring these debts to the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France, which in turn would re-transfer them to the Comité National and the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the district committees would free themselves of part of their debt.

The C.R.B. has indeed declared the readiness to accept in payment, just as the cash payments, the debt acknowledgments signed directly by the communes.

Enclosed I hand you a form of engagement which the communes that have received or are receiving cash advances or "bons de Ville" from the local committees, should be asked to enter into. I would ask you to instruct the districts to obtain from the communes in question the required signatures of sureties. As soon as you have received these you will credit the account of the district committees for an amount corresponding to the one of the security of the communes. These debt acknowledgments shall then be transferred to the Comité National which will credit you for same. Finally the Comité National will pass them on to the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which will negotiate them to the best of the interests concerned.

I trust that the district committees will see to it that the guarantees in question are obtained as speedily as possible.

Yours faithfully





CHAIRMAN OF LILLE DISTRICT COMMITTEE TO HOOVER, expressing the gratitude of those assisted by the Commission

BRUSSELS, 18 November 1916

Mr. Herbert Hoover,
Chairman of the Commission, Brussels


It had been my intention to take the opportunity of your presence at Brussels, to convey to you, in the name of the Lille District Committee, our feelings of deep gratitude.

The population "ravitaillés" by the Commission for Relief in Belgium are unanimous in recognizing that thanks to you they have been able to bear privations of all sorts imposed by circumstances, not only as regards the feeding of the masses, but also for clothing, fuel, and feeding of small children, etc .....

Always ready to give satisfaction to the best of your ability, you have continued to increase the quantity and varieties of the foodstuffs, and you have also facilitated the purchases in Holland of the representatives of the large towns of the district.

What would have become of us without the American Commission? Such is what everybody is saying, which shows in its simplicity how appreciated are the services rendered by your organization over which you preside with so much activity and devotion.

Please accept in the name of the Lille District the expression of our deep gratitude.

(Signed) LABBÉ




BRIAND TO FRENCH AMBASSADOR, LONDON, quoting reports from the Mayor of Lille and requesting him to approach Hoover and the British Government with regard to increasing the supplementary rations to the towns of Northern France

PARIS, 11 January 1917


Representatives of the towns of Northern France communicate to me a letter of the Mayor of Lille dated 20th December---giving the distributed quantity of rations per capita per them at that date:

Flour 350 grams, of which 180 are German rye flour
Rice, beans and maize products 100 grams
Bacon and lard 45 to 50 grams
Sugar 15 grams
Green coffee 17 grams
Soap 15 grams

Besides this, condensed milk, dry biscuits, milk food for children, invalids, and the aged.

Please be good enough to make urgent representations of these quantities to Mr. Hoover, asking him if they correspond with his most recent information. Inform him that according to the Mayor of Lille the German authorities have not delivered the 350 grams of potatoes per capita per them promised but only 66 grams since the 22d September, and that at the end of November the Kommandaturs declared that it was not possible to furnish potatoes and that they would be replaced by turnips from Belgium. Draw his attention urgently to this last fact, and ask him what steps he intends to take in this regard. The Mayor of Lille points out the situation, which is already known to us, that the supplementary programs for the towns are unfulfilled, owing to the prohibition of the introduction of Dutch foodstuffs, which will probably now be eased, owing to the agreement between Holland and Germans.

As regards supplementary programs, Finance Minister insists that the towns of the North should employ the loan of Fls. 12,000,000 which was granted to them for the purpose of supplementary ravitaillement, the interest on which necessitates large disbursements up to the present without purpose. It is therefore urgent from this point of view also to obtain the consent of the British Government to my proposals concerning the supplementary ravitaillement. Could not a portion of this loan be used to make purchases from the English share of Dutch produce? These purchases could be made for account of the municipalities and remitted to the Hoover Committee for transport and distribution. They would be deducted from the supplementary program and, naturally, the American Committee should keep account of this diminution of expenditure on our account. I beg you to take this suggestion up with Mr. Hoover immediately, before discussing it with the British Government.





POLAND TO BROWN, laying down the policy of the Commission regarding supplementary imports for the towns of Northern France

LONDON, 22 January 1917

W. L. Brown, Esq.
The Commission for Relief in Belgium, Rotterdam



As you will appreciate, the handling of the question of supplementary ravitaillement for the North of France, that is, sending in supplies which may have been purchased by committees other than the C.R.B., is one of great delicacy. We cannot allow anyone to get the false idea that the C.R.B. is unwilling that any additional or supplementary food should go into the country, over and above that which we can import; but, on the other hand, it is rightly necessary, from the standpoint of business and political relations with the Germans, etc., and to the best interests of the French people, that all imports be handled through a single body. The general principle which should govern us is that if it is possible for the C.R.B. to furnish these imports, then no other committee should concern itself in any way with the operation, but if it is possible for some reason for other committees to get in supplies which the C.R.B. cannot get in, then we welcome their efforts in every way. I send attached copies of the conversations concerning this matter between the Commission and the French Government in Paris, 28th August 1916, which I fear have not before been forwarded to you. This will make the matter fairly plain.

Subject to an answer to my Telegram 49 of the 19th and subject to an interview with the Foreign Office on Monday, the following should govern your action in regard to the De la Salle [Delesalle] Committee:

In the event:

a) Of the C.R.B. being able to supply the full quantities of the approved monthly program for Northern France (including 1,800 tons of meat) either with imported products or with local purchases in Holland (preferably the latter) then you must refuse to ship in additional quantities of the program products.

b) Of your not being able to fulfil the complete program and, for some reason, the De la Salle Committee being able to send in quantities which you are not, making up this deficiency, you are authorized to forward such quantities up to the limit of the program approved.

c) Of the De la Salle Committee offering other commodities than those covered by the approved program, for shipment into France, you should immediately communicate by cable or letter, as circumstances may require, requesting authority to handle these extra supplies, whereupon we will immediately take the question up with the Foreign Office and advise you of the result.

In my Cable 49 of the 19th I advised that the French Government states values of the shipments made by other committees will be deducted from Northern France C.R.B. monthly allowances. This is the result of a recent cable from the French Ministry, but Mr. ChevrilIon thinks that as this was not specified in the original conversations of last August it represents the desire of the French Government rather than an actual regulation.

Please advise if the above now places this matter in order.

Yours faithfully

(Signed) W. B. POLAND



BROWN TO POLAND, describing the procedure in handling purchases in Holland for the Comité Hollandais

ROTTERDAM, 4 May 1917

Commission for Relief in Belgium


The Comité Hollandais shipments have now settled down to a fairly steady basis, and it would probably be well to recapitulate the position. These purchases are being made out of a sum of 30,000,000 francs, which has been put at the disposal of this committee, the purchases to be made for the industrial districts of Northern France---Lille, Valenciennes, Roubaix, Tourcoing, etc. The buying is done by the Comité Hollandais, shipments being made by the C.R.B. and foodstuffs being consigned to the C.R.B. magazines for the C.H. The apportionment to the cities is arranged by the C.H. We inspect certain articles and control weights, customs papers, bills of lading, etc., for all shipments. To meet the necessary expenses, a sum of money is put at our disposal by the C.H. out of which the necessary payments are made and debited to the respective purchases, which are numbered in the same method as our own. The only articles which are being purchased both by the C.H. and ourselves are vegetables, eggs, and poultry. Under the French Government arrangement, meat, including poultry, does not come under the program of the C. H. but we are provisionally allowing them to purchase half of the available quantities. Vegetables and eggs are also being split on a 50 per cent basis, though this arrangement is subject to change as necessity arises.

Up to the end of April we had shipped for this organization 3,426 tons of foodstuffs and six tons of seeds, comprising 969 tons of eggs, 187 tons of rabbits and poultry, and the balance practically entirely vegetables. The shipments during the month of April totaled about 2,000 tons; a monthly recapitulation of the shipments made for their account is being regularly sent you.

Trusting this gives you all the necessary information,

Sincerely yours



5. From Relief to Reconstruction. 1917-1919

In September 1916 Hoover secured an increase in the monthly subsidy for the North of France from Frs. 20,000,000 to Frs. 35,000,000, and at about the same time the British Foreign Office authorized an increased program for the winter of 1916-17.(199) Despite the lack of shipping the Commission managed to import this increased program for the last two months of 1916 and for January 1917. The great crisis brought on by German unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1917 made necessary important alterations in the machinery of relief,(200) but in all the chaos of reorganization the Commission managed to import in the five months to June 1917 enough to keep the people alive. Beginning with July 1917 with a comparatively safe route for relief cargoes, importations increased, and there was no serious interruption thereafter. In April 1917 the Americans, being no longer neutral, were withdrawn, and the duties of maintaining the German guarantees were taken over by the newly organized Spanish-Dutch Committee of Protection. Representatives of Dutch nationality were placed in the North of France. In spite of the withdrawal of its personnel from the occupied territory, the Commission maintained an office in Brussels headed by Fernand Baetens, and he in conjunction with the President of the Executive Committee of the Comité Français, Mr. Le Blan, continued to administer the relief in Northern France. The district, regional, and communal committees of the Comité Français continued as before, but as time went on the personnel changed. The severe strain told on the older members; many became ill and a few were allowed by the Germans to be repatriated and thus several of the responsible members of the Comité were living in Paris. With a view to strengthening the organization to enable it to carry its responsibilities Hoover took the steps shown in the following documents in the summer of 1918 to reorganize the executive committee.



Extract of letter,
LE BLAN TO GUÉRIN, describing some of the difficulties of the Comité Français after the departure of the Americans

BRUSSELS, 2 July 1918

Monsieur Guérin
President of the Comité Exécutif du Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France, Paris


For about a year, that is, since the departure of the American delegates, my friend, Mr. Van Brée, and I have had to resolve or intervene in various questions which touched the real essential principles of our organization. These questions were the care exclusively of the Executive Committee, and this all the more so since it was understood with the direction of the C.R.B. before they left Brussels that the C.F. should have the control of all the accounting operations of the distribution of foodstuffs imported and of the composition of the ration, operations in which formerly the American delegates intervened most effectively. As to the action of the Comité Hispano-Néerlandais, it bears chiefly, as you know, on the control of the guarantees given by the German authorities.

In these last days especially, we have been worried by several questions which it would have been highly desirable to submit to your judgment. We would cite especially the question of the ravitaillement of the laborers working for the Germans, the supplementary rations to the big towns, the intervention of the communes in the cost of the ration, the advances to the communes, the price of the indigenous flour, etc., etc.

For the examination of all these questions, as also for their solution, we have always tried, whenever we have been able, to consult the delegates of the district, of whom several are members of the Executive Committee .....

You will not forget, moreover, that several members of the Executive Committee, as it was constituted at the beginning, have either gone away, or are not in a position to take effective part in the labors of the organization .....

We would find therefore a special advantage in having a complete and enlarged Executive Committee, the latter to send from Brussels, the administrative center of the committee, the district delegates, armed with a real authority, justifying, vis-à-vis the German authorities, their presence and their meetings in that town .....

A committee thus constituted, and which could meet with at least half its members present, could handle all the principal questions attaching to the organization; we ourselves would act as its delegates, that is to say, we should have as our mission to execute the decisions which it should take.

The composition of this committee would be notified to the German authorities by application of the agreement of 14th April 1915.(201) . . . .

(Signed) M. LE BLAN




HOOVER TO PICHON, regarding the necessity of reorganizing the Comité Français

LONDON, 27 July 1918


Monsieur Pichon


As you are aware, the ravitaillement of Northern France is carried on by the Commission for Relief in Belgium through the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France, the members of which were appointed by the Commission for Relief in Belgium in accordance with authority received from the French Government. The Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France has, during the last few months, suffered the loss, through absence and death, of several of its members, and we consider it necessary that the committee should be completely reorganized, in order to attain greater efficiency and to secure a better centralization in Brussels. We enclose a memorandum setting forth our views as to the needed reorganization of this committee which we should be glad to discuss with you at your convenience as quickly as possible on a proper working basis. The members of the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France who are in Brussels are in complete accord with us on this necessity of reorganization and we have in our possession a letter which they have addressed to Monsieur Guérin asking his opinion on this matter. We think, however, that before this gentleman is consulted it is necessary, in accordance with the essential principles of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, that the matter be discussed between the French Government and ourselves.

We beg to remain,

Yours faithfully




HOOVER TO GUÉRIN, on the necessity of reorganization of the Comité Français

LONDON, 14 August 1918

Monsieur Guérin


We recently received letters from Monsieur Le Blan in regard to the need for some reorganization of the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France. While this is not a great matter, it has been apparent to us for some time that something should be done to strengthen Mr. Le Blan's hands. This is due, in large part, to the lack of direct contact of the American members of the Commission for Relief with the representatives of the districts of Northern France and your own absence from the North of France, and in order that those persons on the ground who, of necessity, must take direct executive action shall be in position to impose their authority on internal questions. We are quite in accord, as no doubt you are, with the general ideas advanced by Monsieur Le Blan.

The Commission for Relief in Belgium, as you know, are held responsible by the French and British Governments for the conduct of the Relief of Northern France and in order to carry out this responsibility it is essential that the internal organization be strengthened. Under authority delegated to us by the Governments, the reorganization outlined in the attached memorandum has been forwarded to Monsieur Le Blan, as I am sure of your agreement. The arrangement permits of the re-establishment of the status quo ante whenever you can return to the occupied territories, and in fact represents a consummation of the administrative measures which we are all taking with the shifting responsibilities which we have to assume. The arrangement in no way affects your own status in carrying on the support to the Comité du Nord de la France and but represents the organization of effective measures due to your necessary absence.

Yours faithfully,




By HOOVER, on reorganization of Comité Français

LONDON, 14 August 1918


The disorganization of the Comité Français through the departure of so many of its members, renders an immediate reorganization necessary. This reorganization will be effected as follows: The representatives of the six districts, who are also presidents of the district committees, will comprise the Executive Committee of the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France (hereinafter called the Comité Français), together with the delegate of the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation, who is at present Mr. Van Brée; the representative of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, at present Mr. Baetens; the general secretary and the secretary and the active president of the Comité Français. This Executive Committee are to undertake the following duties:

1. The election of an active president, who should be resident in Brussels, and for this office we nominate Mr. Le Blan.

2. To fill all vacancies in the district representation in cooperation with the district committees.

3. While all general decisions as to matters of rationing, distribution policy, finance, and administration shall be subject to the approval of the C.R.B., the Executive Committee will have full authority and discretion in the occupied territories to act to the best interests of the populations concerned, and for this purpose will give general instructions to the district committees, with discretionary powers as to the details of execution.

4. All communications with regard to the above matters, to and from the occupied territories, are to be made exclusively through the channel of the C.R.B.

5. All questions involving the German guarantees and undertakings will, as at present, be under the protection of the Comité Hispano-Néerlandais.

Effective 1st September 1918.



OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE COMITÉ Français, regarding the services of the C.R.B.

[BRUSSELS, September 1918]


The members of the Executive Committee of the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France, meeting at Brussels, the 16th and 21st September 1918, once more express to the Commission for Relief in Belgium their feelings of real gratitude for the material and moral aid given to the inhabitants of Northern France during more than three years, and who, at the same time as they procure for the people the foodstuffs necessary to existence, permit them thus patiently to endure their unhappy fate;

The members of the Executive Committee address to their eminent President, Monsieur Herbert Hoover, and to all his devoted collaborators in the United States and in Europe, a testimonial of the profoundest admiration for the work accomplished;

They are conscious of the difficulties met with, particularly in the beginning of the last year, as well as of the almost superhuman efforts which had to be made to surmount them, and they express to the Commission for Relief in Belgium their sincere thanks and those of the inhabitants of the North of France, for all the efforts they have made in view of their ravitaillement, and are convinced that the general arrangements made to this effect have been dictated solely by the high interests of the cause in question.

The members of the Executive Committee place all their confidence in the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which has in its hands the fate of 1,600,000 French people remaining in the occupied territory, and for whom nine-tenths of their foodstuffs have to be imported from abroad.

They express the wish that there might be assured to the populations under the control of the Commission for Relief in Belgium a minimum ration of 2,000 calories per capita per diem, or a ration having as its basis in general approximately:

400 grams of bread,
50 grams of biscuits or alimentary pastes,
100 grams of feculents,
75 grams of fats or preserved meat,
15 grams of sugar,
Plus the other articles figuring on the program, such as milk, coffee, soap, fish, cocoa, etc.

To this effect, the members allow themselves to propose the monthly importation of: 16,500 tons of wheat, 2,000 tons of maize, 2,000 tons of rice, 3,500 tons of bacon and lard, 2,000 tons of dried vegetables, 1,000 tons of preserved meat, 1,400 tons of sugar, including therein the contingent for manufacturing, Plus the other articles on the program, following its determined quantities.

Finally, they express the desire that in case of a deficit in one of the branches of importation, it might be found possible to compensate it from another branch, so that the same proportion of food may be furnished at all times to the population so assisted.

Signed, at Brussels, the 16th and 21st September, 1918.




The fifth and last of the great assaults in the German drive of 1918 broke before the Franco-American defense between the Marne and the Argonne on the 17th July. The next day the French and Americans counter-attacked between the Aisne and the Marne and the tide of War on the west front definitely turned. Slowly at first, then with gathering speed, the Allied forces through August, September, and October bent back the German line from Verdun to the sea. Gradually the French regions where the Commission had worked were liberated, and before the Armistice they were clear of the enemy. There was still need of relief, and, as has been described in chapter iii,(202) the Governments of France and Belgium asked the C.R.B. to continue for the time being to provision the liberated districts.

With the freeing of the North of France the administration of relief needed no longer to be managed from Brussels, and arrangements were made to replace the long established Comité Français with a new organization, the Comité Général de Ravitaillement des Régions Libérées. The new committee, which retained the existing sub-committees in the districts, came into being with headquarters at Lille on the 18th December, and the C.F. terminated its activities on the 31st. Directly after the Armistice the Commission had itself set up an office in Lille and many of the old members returned to take their places in the headquarters at Lille and the regional offices in Valenciennes, Laon, Charleville, Longwy, or in the office in Paris.

During the period from the Armistice to May 1919, when provisioning was taken over by the French Government, the Commission imported into Northern France 108,000 tons of supplies, and in addition carried out extensive medical relief and, with the co-operation of the U.S. Army and Navy, a temporary housing program by the erection of barracks in the destroyed towns.



Inter-ministerial instructions,
FRENCH GOVERNMENT, relative to ravitaillement of population of the liberated districts

PARIS, 18 December 1918


The ravitaillement of the liberated regions of the North and East of France, until such time as the normal economic life can be resumed, will be assured under the high authority of the French Government by a committee which will take the name of Comité Général de Ravitaillement des Régions Libérées, avec le concours de la C.R.B. (General Committee of Feeding for the Liberated Regions with the co-operation of the C.R.B.) which will continue the task accomplished with so much devotion during the occupation by the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France.


1. The General Committee purposes: (a) to assure the distribution and sale of foodstuffs of first necessity; (b) to facilitate by every means the resumption of normal life in the domain of ravitaillement, in giving help to co-operative and commercial organizations; (c) to ameliorate by every means the material situation of the liberated populations.

2. The general direction of the General Committee will be confided to an Executive Committee, with headquarters (in principle) at Lille, and composed of: M. Le Blan, President; M. Labbé, General Secretary; the delegates of the districts set out below; Captain W. H. Tuck, Delegate of the C.R.B.; M. Bernheim, Permanent Delegate of the Under-Secretary of State for Ravitaillement.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Blockade and for the Liberated Regions, and the Under-Secretary of State for Ravitaillement will be represented on this Committee in all questions of principle: the first by M. Beri, at present Delegate for Foreign Affairs at the C.R.B.; the second by M. Bluzet, Director at the Ministry of Blockade and for the Liberated Regions; the third by M. Reibel, of the office of the Under-Secretary of State for Ravitaillement, Head of the Department for the Ravitaillement of the Liberated Regions.

For the daily management and for the immediate solution of urgent questions, a permanent delegation of the Executive Committee will be instituted.

This permanent delegation will consist of M. Maurice Le Blan, M. Labbé, Captain Tuck, and M. Bernheim.

3. The liberated regions are grouped in four districts for ravitaillement, including those portions of the following departments which had been occupied: (a) District of Lille, portions which had been invaded of the Nord, and of the Pas-de-Calais; (b) District of Laon, portions which had been invaded of the Aisne, the Somme and the Oise; (c) District of Mézières, portions which had been invaded of the Ardennes and the Marne; (d) District of Longwy, portions which had been invaded of the Meurthe and Moselle and of the Meuse.

4. In each district the ravitaillement will be directed by a District Committee and assured in the various arrondissements by an Arrondissement Committee.

The arrondissement will be subdivided into regions the numbers and importance of which will be settled by the Arrondissement Committee.

At the head of each region there will be a Regional Committee and in each commune a Local Committee.

5. In principle, the Local Committees who were functioning during the occupation will remain in power; however, they can submit, in proportion as the normal life of the people is resumed, such modifications as may seem expedient on the suggestion of the Municipal Councils and with the approval of the Arrondissement Committees. The Executive Committee will have the final decision.

The Arrondissement Committees and the Regional Committees will also be composed of the old members who were working during the occupation; they will be designated by the Executive Committee, on the proposal of the delegates of the districts as shown below.

Each Arrondissement Committee will designate one of its members as a permanent delegate to the District Committee. The District Committee is composed of delegates of the district designated by the Executive Committee and the permanent delegates of the Arrondissement Committee; the Commercial Director, charged with the carrying out of the decision, will also be a member of the District Committee.


1. The Executive Committee has for its duties the general organization and the direction of the ravitaillement, principally the determination of actual needs; they will assure that these needs are provided for with the help of the foodstuffs supplied either by the Under-Secretary of State for Ravitaillement or by the C.R.B.; they will supervise the equitable distribution of these commodities, as well as of the Secours granted by the various committees in their respective districts.

In principle, the Under-Secretary of State for Ravitaillement will furnish flour, frozen or fresh meat, and potatoes, and the C.R.B. will supply the other commodities.

2. The General Committee for the Ravitaillement of the Liberated Regions is accountable to the French Government and to the C.R.B. for the foodstuffs and other articles which will be delivered to them, respectively, by the one or the other.

These foodstuffs and other commodities will be billed to them in order to be billed again and successively to the District Committees, to the Arrondissement Committees, to the Regional Committees, and to the Local Committees.

3. The financial responsibility of the C.R.B. vis-à-vis the French Government will be covered by the proofs of the distribution made to the General Committee for Ravitaillement of the Liberated Regions.

The financial responsibility of the General Committee vis-à-vis the French Government and the C.R.B. will be covered by the proof of the distribution of goods and secours to the inhabitants.

Each Distribution Committee should keep such accounts as will permit of the checking of all their operations.

4. The prices of foodstuffs sold to the populations by the Committees will be uniform in all the liberated regions; they will be fixed by the Executive Committee, taking into account the general costs of all kinds which devolve upon the various distributing committees.

5. In order to facilitate the operation of the various ravitaillement committees and to endow them with civil authority, each one of them will be subject to the declaration covered by the Law of 1st July 1901 on Associations.

6. All operations of the General Committee are carried out under the high authority of the Prefects and Sub-Prefects, who are entitled to be present at all meetings of the various ravitaillement committees.

The Minister of Blockade and for the Liberated Regions,

(Signed) LEBRUN

The Under-Secretary of State for Ravitaillement





Extract of letter,
POLAND TO P. N. GRAY, regarding post-Armistice conditions in the North of France and the organization of the Comité de Ravitaillement

LONDON, 3 January 1919

Prentiss N. Gray, Esq.,
Assistant Director Commission for Relief in Belgium Washington


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

Now as to the French situation. I have been chasing about over this territory since November 5th, and except for twenty-four hours am visiting the London office for the first time since that date. The situation in the territory of permanent military operations is simply appalling. The territory where the line remained for some time is an absolute desert, with practically no people in it nor any habitations, and in many regions the ground itself will not be capable of cultivation for some years. Many of the large towns, such as Ypres, La Bassé, Bailleul, St. Quentin, Lens, Armentières, are either totally destroyed or uninhabitable. The nice old city of St. Quentin practically has not one habitable house in it. Words could not convey to anyone the desolation of these territories!

The French Government originally intended to take over the ravitaillement of the liberated regions themselves, but when they went over the country they found that the only working organizations were our committees of ravitaillement. They therefore asked us to continue, until conditions should again approach normal, to feed the people. All communications from the North were eliminated, and Dunkirk seemed the only port. The French Government also, because of its great cereal crop in the North and because of the halfprice which they charge for bread in the rest of France by means of government subsidies, decided to take over supplies of flour. We are having enormous difficulties in getting anything through this port of Dunkirk, however, and in future, now that we have established rail communication through Ghent-Brussels, will limit the imports through to about eight or ten thousand tons per month ..... We have Sperry at this port, doing as usual, splendid work, but he has come up against a quarrel between the British and the French as to the use of the port, which has been taken over as a disembarking port by the British.

Practically all the locks and nearly all the bridges over the Lys, and Scheldt canals have been blown up. From the way things are going, I do not expect water communication to be put in service for three or four months, and except for the military lines, which are so congested we can hardly use them, the rail situation is also terrible. It is a big fight, but the distribution in Belgium is assured, and I think we can say the same as to food in France.

Our main concern now is to get shelter for the évacuées, who continue to pour into the devastated regions of France. The Belgian situation is much less severe, and is being taken care of by the Belgian Government, with little or no assistance from us. In the department du Nord and parts of the Aisne and Somme, the need for shelter is acute. I succeeded in getting the United States Northern Bombing Squadron, with its transport and personnel, consisting of several hundred men, to volunteer to transport and set up barracks for us in these territories. They are doing splendid work. The military are also co-operating with us to the fullest extent, and, with the splendid assistance which is being offered to Hoover by both the U.S. Army and Navy, I believe we can do a fine and terribly needed work in all these regions. How long it will last is a great problem. I think the emergency will be passed in three or four months, and that we can begin gradually to withdraw.

Meanwhile the great question is to get the ships of food to supply our tremendously increased monthly requirements,(203) and in that we are depending absolutely on you and Rickard. I know your great desire is to get in the game over here, but I am sure that the very greatest service you can do to Belgium and France is to devote your energy and abilities to the situation in the United States, at least for the present. We are counting on you for this, particularly as Hoover will be so tremendously tied up here in the great problems, both political and physical, of relief in other parts of Europe.

I send you a copy of the Reorganization plan for the North of France. The first steps toward reorganizing our force were taken with the aid of Kittredge as Chief Representative. He was with me for more than a month and a half, and was of the very greatest service in reorganizing the territory. After that, Admiral Sims insisted on his return to London, and we have just gotten Tuck in his place. At present the organization is: Captain Tuck, Chief Representative, Lille (Galpin in charge of office at Lille), assisted by Wellington for the Western Section, Department du Nord, and Richardson at Valenciennes for the North-Eastern Section and a strip of the Aisne Department; Dorsey Stevens at No. 1 and Robinson Smith No. 2 station at Laon, Department of the Aisne & Somme; Wickes at Charleville; Bowden at Longwy; Dr. Leach in charge of medical relief in the Western section and Dr. Malabre in charge of relief in the Eastern section; Sperry in charge of Dunkirk; Wilson, one of our men from the London office, in charge of the Breskens-Sluis-Bruges-Lille line of supply; Chatfield and Baetens in Brussels, in charge of the supplies through Belgium. Torrey is in charge of the Paris office (Chevrillon, as you know, being absent). Simpson, who was in charge in Paris, has gone to Serbia. Lieutenant Forter, of the Navy, with a staff of about five or six naval officers, is in charge of transportation and barrack erection. Major Krueger, of the Army, has been detailed to assist us in matters of accounts. This will give you a vague idea of the general situation .....

(Signed) W. B. POLAND



of functions of the C.R.B., C.F., and C.R. in the liberated districts

LONDON, 7 January 1919


Mr. Poland has furnished information as to arrangements recently made between the parties concerned, and in connection therewith this memorandum has been prepared with a view of stating the effect of the new arrangements to those connected with the accounts of the concerns interested.


C.R.B. represents Commission for Relief in Belgium
C.F. represents Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France
C.R. represents Comité Général de Ravitaillement des Régions Libérées

It is understood:

1. That the C.F. will cease its operations at the 31st December 1918.

2. That from the 1st January 1919, the ravitaillement of the civil populations of the Liberated Regions of France will be conducted by the C.R. at Lille.

3. That the assets and liabilities of the C.F. at the 31st December 1918 will be transferred to the C.R.

4. That the C.R.B. (through its Rotterdam office) will supply the C.R. with foodstuffs, etc., as previously supplied to the C.F.

5. That the C.R.B. (through its Rotterdam office) will invoice direct to the C.R. for all foodstuffs, etc., so supplied.

6. That the C.R. will credit "C.R.B. London, Merchandise Account" with the invoices so rendered by the C.R.B. Rotterdam.

7. That for other transactions between the C.R.B. and the C.R. the latter will open an account under the head of "C.R.B. London, Current Account."

8. That items debited or credited by the C.R. to the C.R.B. London will be advised by the former, and on the contrary, any items debited or credited to the C.R. by the C.R.B. London will be advised by the latter.

9. That the C.R. will forward at the close of each month statements of:

a) C.R.B. London, Merchandise Account

b) C.R.B. London, Current Account

showing commencing balance, entries during the month, and balance at end of month, so that accounts between the C.R.B. London and the C.R. may be kept in agreement.

10. That the C.R.B. will have a sub-office at Lille under the management of Captain W. H. Tuck.

11. That the C.R.B. Lille office will be conducted on the same lines as the C.R.B. Brussels office and will send to London (monthly) statements of its transactions.

12. That the C.R.B. Lille office accounts will be examined at a later date at Lille by the Auditors of the C.R.B.

13. That the C.R.B. Rotterdam office will open a "C.R.B. London, Lille Account," for the purpose of recording any transactions, on a similar system to that in force between the C.R.B. Rotterdam office and the C.R.B. Brussels office.

14. That the C.R.B. Rotterdam office will prepare a statement of monthly issues to the C.R. Such statement to be examined and certified by the C.R. and returned to the C.R.B. Rotterdam office for despatch to C.R.B. London office.

(Signed) G. I. GAY,
Assistant Director

Accountant Department


6. The Destitute

Nothing has been said in the preceding documents of the care of the destitute in Northern France, where conditions placed this phase of relief on a different basis than in Belgium.(204) In establishing the work in the North of France, Hoover acted on the belief, in which the French Government concurred, that the situation could not be handled by charitable contributions. The funds used to support the relief in Northern France were, therefore, entirely government subsidies, and in the application of relief every individual in occupied France was considered as destitute and was supplied with a ration. For accounting purposes the Commission accepted receipts in various forms from the communes where the ultimate distribution was made, and these it held as final records of the transactions. Thus provisions were, in fact, sold by the Commission at prices which it fixed from time to time. These sale prices, adjusted to conform to the cost of the goods, included a margin as a reserve against exchange losses and loss from deterioration or destruction of goods. The Commission periodically struck a balance, and if the extent of this reserve justified such action, a sum in local currency was applied to benevolent distribution. As the years passed the disbursements of this character increased, and on the liquidation of its operations the Commission was able to turn over to French committees large sums, which were effectively used for the relief of destitution in the devastated regions.(205)

As has been said the Commission did not appeal to the general public for charitable aid for Northern France, but to meet the great need for clothing, it distributed in these regions a portion of the used clothing collected in the United States and England in 1917-18.(206) In the last days of the Commission's activity in Northern France a sum of $47,515.92 was placed in the hands of the director of the Commission by generous donors for carrying out special benevolent work.

When in the summer of 1919 the French Government assumed the responsibility for provisioning the devastated areas, the Comité de Ravitaillement was dissolved. In accord with the Commission a new body, the Comité d'Assistance des Régions Libérées, was organized to carry on the relief of the destitute and especially child welfare work begun by the Commission and by the C.R. The "benevolent" funds remaining were turned over to the new committee. As soon as the Comité d'Assistance was in operation, the Commission withdrew the last of its American representatives from the North of France.



by POLAND, describing the organization and functions of the Comité d'Assistance

NEW YORK, 11 February 1921


In April 1919 it was evident that conditions had again become sufficiently normal to justify the Commission for Relief in Belgium in winding up its work of feeding the 2,000,000 people of the occupied regions of Northern France, which had been undertaken in 1915 at the request of the French Government and was continued at their request after the Armistice.

It was also foreseen that the charitable activities of the Commission should be terminated so far as concerned direct intervention by an American staff. In order to avoid interruption when we withdrew and in accordance with the policy always insisted upon by Mr. Hoover, that the actual work should be carried out by a personnel of the country, definite steps were taken to place the C.R.B. benevolent activities exclusively in the hands of the French.

The Comité d'Assistance des Régions Libérées d'Accord de la C.R.B. was therefore organized with Mr. Hoover as Chairman and Mr. Poland, Mr. Rickard, Mr. Shaler, and Mr. Tuck, Directors, and Mr. Chevrillon, Treasurer, representing the American group, Monsieur Labbé and a distinguished body of French doctors and men of affairs, representing French interests. Regional centers were established, which, in turn, organized local distribution committees, composed in large part of those who had been identified with the C.R.B. organization for the past four years. The Regional Directors formed an Executive Committee with M. Labbé as President. M. Labbé was Chief of the Executive Committee of the Comité d'Alimentation du Nord de la France during the terrible years of German occupation, and after the Armistice was President of the Comité de Ravitaillement des Régions Libérées. He is now Director of Education of Liberated Regions. Dr. Lambret, one of the celebrated surgeons of France, is Manager. Dr. Osset, a distinguished doctor for children, has especial charge of the "Consultation Nourisson." Senator Dron, who is also Mayor of Tourcoing, widely known for his influence in the affairs of the North, and in large part the originator of the "Consultation Nourisson," is another member of the Executive Committee. M. Paul Beri, for two years representing the French Government as Liaison Officer to the Commission for Relief in Belgium and at present Assistant Director of Crédit Commercial de France, is a member. M. Chevrillon, Treasurer, devoted C.R.B. representative in France during the whole war period, although a Frenchman, represents the Commission directly upon the Executive Committee. Other members of the Executive Committee and a small paid staff are persons of the highest standing and devotion to relief in the Liberated Regions.

In June 1919, the benevolent work which had been carried out by the C.R.B. largely through the men and women who afterward became associated in the Comité d'Assistance, was definitely turned over to this organization. This work consisted principally of "Goûtes Scolaire," a supplementary meal of biscuits and cocoa given to 40,000 or 50,000 French children; Child Clinics, by means of which children were examined, washed, freed from parasites, assigned medical treatment---or more usually special diets to counteract the effects of malnutrition; "Assistance Discrète," by means of which sums were distributed to members of the ruined families of the devastated regions to assist them to become once more self-supporting; Special Relief measures.

In 1919 some 7,000 children and in 1920, over 10,000 children were sent to health camps along the North Coast, where they received medical attention, a diet to counteract their years of undernourishment, and were also given a certain amount of school instruction. The way in which they recovered under this treatment was a matter of wonder. The results were so good that this work has now been taken over by the Government.

In 1920 "Consultation Nourisson" was started all over the devastated regions. This concerns itself with the care of very young children from birth to about 18 months or two years, as well as care of mothers. The mothers receive expert medical advice and a donation of food, money, or medicine, as the circumstances require. The cost works out to about twelve to fifteen francs per child per month, and the results up to date, in reducing infant mortality, have been remarkable. In the Liberated Regions of France as of December 1st, 1920 there were 441 "Consultations," at which were employed 383 doctors, 120 nurses, 435 "Sage Femmes," 392 secretaries personnel of 1,330. There were 34,000 children being cared for at these centers, at a total cost to that date of Frs. 4,526,000.

Other expenditures for "Goûtes," "Vacance Scolaire," Child Clinics, "Assistance Discrète," and Special Relief, have amounted to Frs. 5,676,412, making a total already expended of Frs. 10,203,000. The funds which have been made available to December 1st, 1920 through the Comité d'Assistance and the earlier distributions of the C.R.B. Benevolent Fund amounted approximately to Frs. 26,595,000, of which a balance remained of approximately Frs. 16,392,000.

Future Operations.---The number of children cared for will very soon reach 45,000, which at 12 francs per month will require an expenditure of Frs. 540,000.

It is considered important that assistance be given to the most destitute of the expectant and nursing mothers. If this is undertaken the Comité estimate a monthly expenditure of Frs.108,000
Administration and Special Relief will amount to 52,000
Requiring a total monthly budget of 700,000
Or, per annum Frs. 8,400,000

At this rate the present funds will last but two years.

However, the benefits of the "Vacance Scolaire" were so apparent that the Department Bienfaisance of the Liberated Regions has taken over the whole activity. The results obtained by the "Consultation Nourisson" in the reduction of infant mortality, the raising of the standard of child life, and the education of the mothers are so remarkable that it has been strongly endorsed in the French Assembly, a resolution of thanks to Mr. Hoover having been passed by that body. Members of the Executive Committee have strong ground to hope that the whole or a portion of this work may be taken in charge by the Ministry of the Liberated Regions and that eventually it may be spread all over France, a splendid endorsement of the Comité's progressive work, made possible by the C.R.B.

If this is done, the unexpended funds of the Comité d'Assistance may be constituted into a Foundation, the income from which can be assigned to permanent child-welfare work. It has been suggested that such income might be directed to the care of expectant and nursing mothers, or to the establishment at industrial centers in the North of France of standardized sanitary laiteries to provide highgrade test milk to mothers and young children.

Another suggestion is that the balance available after 1920 be used as an endowment for a University of Labor to be established in the devastated regions as a permanent C.R.B. memorial.

The approximate financial position of the Comité d'Assistance, as of 1st December 1920, is as follows:

Made available from C.R.B. Benevolent Fund, C.R.B. allocations from "profits," transfers from the Comité de Ravitaillement of unexpended C.R.B. allocations and other funds, C.R.B. allocation through the A.R.A .  Frs. 26,585,000
Expenditures for Child Clinics, Supplementary School Meals, "Vacance Scolaire," "Assistance Discrète"
Special Relief Frs
. ..........................................5,676,412
Consultation Nourisson Frs
. ............................4,525,588
Balance, as of 1st December 1920 (subject to correction)  Frs. 16,392,000

(Signed) W. B. POLAND



FRENCH MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS TO POLAND, relating to the liquidation of C.R.B. activities and expressing the gratitude of the French people to the Commission

22 July 1919

Mr. W. B. Poland, Paris


In your letter of the 15th July you were good enough to inform me of the work accomplished by the C.R.B. in these last months. Although the C.R.B. had ceased to occupy itself with the ravitaillement of the devastated regions, they had continued their benevolent work during the month of June, in the medical care and work of assistance for children. They had, moreover, taken steps to turn over little by little to French personnel the whole organization of its committees, in such a way that at the 1st July all active participation on their part ceased. There remains but to liquidate the accounts of the institution, which will be done in the next few weeks.

The C.R.B. leaves as a last testimonial of its charitable activities a benevolent fund for the devastated regions, an offering instituted by the C.R.B., which amounts at present to 6 million francs. Monthly allocations will be made under the following three heads:

1. Child clinics and extra feeding of debilitated children

2. "Assistance Discrète"

3. General benevolence

You will indicate to me how, with the help of the Ministry of Liberated Regions and with the funds which you will receive from the local administrations, this work of assistance to children can be continued until the end of the school year (1st August 1920).

You will be in a position to allocate about 225,000 francs to account No. 1 and about 125,000 francs to each of the accounts 2 and 3.

Besides this, you hope that these funds can be increased by contributions coming from the United States, and from other sources of revenue, without any profit being made from these operations.

In your consideration, this institution should constitute a remembrance bequeathed by the Commission to the people for whom they have worked during four and a half years, and that it should become one of the ties which will continue to unite the people of the United States with the people of the North of France.

I have taken note of this information with the deepest interest. I recognize therein the spirit of benevolence and sympathy toward my country which has never ceased to animate the C.R.B., as much under the direction of Mr. Hoover as under your efficient and devoted care. I am sure that our populations will keep the memory of all that has been done for them by the C.R.B., and that it will be, even more so since you wish it, a precious tie between the United States and France. I have seen the C.R.B. at work, I have been able to appreciate it, and to appreciate your labor, and it is most agreeable to me to testify to it, and to renew to you, Monsieur le Directeur, the assurance of all my sympathy and my most cordial sentiments.

(Signed) LAROCHE

Le Ministre Plénipotentaire
Sous-Directeur d'Europe




FRENCH MINISTER OF THE LIBERATED REGIONS TO POLAND, conveying the thanks of the French Government for the services rendered by the Commission

PARIS, 6 September 1919

W. B. Poland, Esq.
Commission for Belief in Belgium and Northern France


I have taken note, with the greatest interest, of your letter informing me that the "Commission for Relief in Belgium and Northern France," upon the termination of its work of ravitaillement in the liberated regions, had set up a Committee for the distribution of the "Benevolent Fund" which it has collected for the devastated regions of France and which is destined for Child Welfare and Medical Assistance work.

This new evidence of generosity and devotion shown by the C.R.B. worthily crowns the charitable work it has carried on in the, liberated regions during and after the enemy occupation, both in the sphere of feeding and of assisting the population.

Whilst assuring you of my whole-hearted support in helping it to carry out this new work, I have particular pleasure in expressing to you the gratitude of the French Government for the eminent services rendered by the Commission.

I shall be glad if you will kindly transmit to your collaborators the thanks of the French Government which is happy to see the close bonds which unite France to the great American Republic knotted yet more solidly in consequence of this new manifestation of sympathy shown by the C.R.B. to our liberated peoples.

Pray accept, etc., etc ......





PRESIDENT OF THE COMITÉ D'ASSISTANCE TO POLAND, expressing the gratitude of the people of the liberated regions to the Commission and the American people

LILLE, 24 December 1919

W. Babcock Poland, Esq.
Director of the C.R.B.


More than a year has passed since we once more became members of the great French family, an event which necessarily modified our relations with the C.R.B. The French Government and later on private initiative have progressively replaced the salutary aid accorded so generously by the C.R.B. to our regions since the spring of 1915. You know, as well as Mr. Hoover, what gratitude your concerted labors have awakened in our hearts. Let us express it once more, fully conscious of the service that the C.R.B. rendered to our populations during the interminable duration of this horrible war. The C.R.B. has given us the means of resisting physiological deterioration, and, what is of even greater value, of fighting against the weakening of our morale.

This task once accomplished, the Committee might have considered its work completed. But doubtless it had become too attached to those whom it had saved from so many evils, to abandon them so abruptly. It desired its benevolent work to continue, not so much for the benefit of the adult population, who were returning little by little to normal conditions of life, as for the young and adolescent who had been so hindered in their development by insufficient food, and for the little children of our devastated regions, whose mothers found themselves deprived of those helpful institutions whose mission it is to combat infant mortality and to prepare the way for robuster generations. The C.R.B. has therefore founded a system of relief work whose activities extend over the whole of the liberated regions. It indicated at the outset its express intention of employing a very considerable portion of its funds toward the creation of meals for schoolchildren, a substantial supplement to their food, which by degrees is restoring the health and strength of the children in our schools who have become anemic owing to the privations of the war.

We are happy to have been chosen by the C.R.B. to be the dispensers of its bounty. We are endeavoring to respect its intentions, which are so consonant with the general good, and we thank it with our whole heart for having followed up in so useful a way its humanitarian work during the period of occupation.

For four years, in spite of our anguish, in spite of our fears, in spite of our mourning and misery, the C.R.B. furnished us with the means of making every Christmas a little less somber, of giving back to every family a little joy for this festival, and reminding them, for at least one day in the year, that they should keep their faith in the future and yet hope for a happy issue. How could we lose such memories? What a pleasure it was for the French directors of the Comité d'Alimentation to distribute the Christmas biscuits and chocolate! We thank the C.R.B. again and yet again.

We send it the expression of our gratitude, to all without exception, uniting in the same feeling of sympathy its President, Herbert C. Hoover, its Director, W. Babcock Poland, and every American citizen who lent it their help and their support. We wish them all a happy Christmas!

We shall be obliged if you will convey this to the C.R.B. and we beg you, dear Sir, to accept the homage of our most devoted sentiments.

The President

(Signed) E. LABBÉ


Chapter 7

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