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Prisoners Of War repay their 'debt' to Red Cross

Thursday July 12, 2007

Ninety-year-old makes donation 65 years after he received Red Cross care packages in a German prisoner of war camp

Frank Cox (OAM) has today repaid what he called his 'debt to humanity' -- making a substantial financial donation to Australian Red Cross some 65 years after he received Red Cross care packages while a German prisoner of war.

Cox was a Signalman with the Signals 1 Australia Corps in Greece when he was captured in April 1941. After being transported from Greece and held in appalling conditions in Wolfsburg, Austria he arrived at Groppenstein work camp.

For 12 months Frank and his fellow prisoners endured hard labour working on roads and battling to survive the harsh Austrian winter. It was then that Frank and the other prisoners began receiving Red Cross packages -- packages Frank described as 'a ray of light in a sad, dark part of the world back then.'

'Being a POW was a lot like, I imagine, being a prisoner in jail, but without knowing how long you would be locked up, or even knowing if you would ever leave,' said Mr Cox.

The Federal Government this year awarded compensation and recognition to Australian prisoners of war held in Europe, and Mr Cox, along with fellow prisoner John Crooks, decided to donate the first portion of the amount awarded to Australian Red Cross as gratitude for the assistance provided during their incarceration.

'Receiving the packages from Red Cross -- if it had not been for these people with their packages of food, I, and many others, probably would not have made it home.'

'I wanted to give something back to Red Cross to repay them for what they did for us in the camps -- this is a modest contribution but the difference the Red Cross made to our lives in that situation was enormous,' he continued.

Providing humanitarian assistance to Australian Prisoners-of-War during World War II was one of the main tasks of Australian Red Cross. POWs received weekly food parcels, clothing, medical and other supplies. For hundreds, if not thousands, the Red Cross parcels meant survival.

Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner, said: 'The courage and generosity shown by returned servicemen like Mr Cox is truly inspirational, and the gesture to repay Red Cross for its assistance during the years of conflict in World War II is both touching and magnanimous.'

'The generous donations of the returned POWs will be applied to the work of Red Cross Tracing services -- helping to bring together families separated by conflict or disaster right across the world.'