HC Deb 10 August 1914 vol 65 cc2250-3

asked the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any further statement regarding the position of British residents abroad?


As I have already announced in the House, telegraphic instructions were sent on Monday last (3rd August) to all His Majesty's representatives in Europe, to make arrangements with their respective Governments for the advance to them of sufficient funds to relieve the temporary necessities of British subjects.

Satisfactory replies have been received from St. Petersburg, Rome, Vienna, and Brussels. As regards Switzerland, arrangements have been made with the Swiss banks for the advance of ample funds to His Majesty's Minister at Berne, and a separate sum was placed on Saturday, 8th August, to the credit of His Majesty's Consul at Lausanne. Arrangements have also been made through a bank for the advance of funds to His Majesty's Ambassador at Paris. In all these cases assistance must necessarily be confined to the relief of immediate necessities and the provision of means for return to this country. No large sums will be advanced to individuals.

As regards the return of British subjects to this country, the position is as follows:—

We learned on Tuesday (4th August), that no more vessels were required to bring away British subjects from Antwerp, and on Wednesday that no British subjects were waiting at Ostend. Boats have been running between the Hook of Holland and Harwich, and the "St. Petersburg," which arrived on Saturday, was not nearly full. From France, there has been a daily service via Boulogne, and that continues. Three boats a week are running between Newhaven and Dieppe, and the boat which arrived on Saturday was only half full, the captain reporting that no more British subjects were waiting to come away. We heard on Saturday that there were several hundred British subjects at St. Malo, but a boat was to call there that day, which has no doubt brought them away. There are four trains daily from Paris to Havre, Dieppe, Boulogne, and Calais. Arrangements are being made for a ship to call at Genoa, which will be able to bring away a very large number of British refugees, including those from Switzerland.

A statement has been published by His Majesty's Minister at Stockholm that all British subjects in Sweden are, so far as he knows, safe and well. Arrangements have been made for bringing away British subjects from Norway, and the British Consul at Bergen is drawing funds for their immediate relief.

His Majesty's Ambassadors at Paris and Vienna state that railway facilities for bringing away British subjects will be given as soon as mobilisation permits, but it has not been possible to make any definite arrangement yet. Meanwhile, British subjects cannot be brought home from Switzerland through France. The French authorities have sent instructions to the provinces not to insist upon the production of papers by those who wish to return from any place in France.

With regard to the possibility of making enquiries about relatives or friends on the Continent, I have to state as follows:

Written statements sent to the Foreign Office with regard to British subjects in neutral countries will be forwarded to the Consular Office in whose district they are believed to be. These written communications should contain the following particulars:

Name of person about whom enquiry is made; age; sex; country where believed to be; supposed address; name of enquirer; address of enquirer.

As a state of war now exists with Germany His Majesty's Diplomatic and Consular Officers in that country can no longer exercise their functions. The United States Government have, however, been good enough to authorise the United States Ambassador and Consuls in Germany to give protection to British subjects so far as international law allows.

Enquiries with regard to British subjects in Germany should be addressed to the Foreign Office and not to the United States Embassy or Consulates, and they should contain the same information as in the case of enquiries respecting British subjects in neutral countries. These enquiries will be sent to the United States Embassy, who will endeavour to communicate them to their representatives in Germany by the best route available for such action as may be possible.

I fear that some time must elapse before arrangements can be made for the return of British subjects now in Germany, but we may be assured that everything possible is being done, and will be done, by the representatives of the United States Government. They are already making arrangements for the provision of financial relief. I hope that, thanks to their good offices, though there must inevitably be inconvenience, discomfort and delay, there will be a minimum of actual danger. I repeat once more what I said last week that the absence of news by letter or telegraph need not be a cause of anxiety.

I hope that copies of this answer will be available in the Vote Office for hon. Members on the Adjournment of the House, for hon. Members to send to their friends, if they will be so kind as to do so.


Has the attention of the hon. Gentleman been drawn to a letter published by the American Ambassador in Berlin, and to the fact that while the British Government had asked him to provide up to £1,000 for British subjects there, it was found to be absolutely impossible to comply with the request, because he has not got the gold to pay out. Will arrangements be made, as is not impossible, as I happen to know, to arrange credit through the banks?


I have been in communication with the German Embassy on that point, and they hope very soon to complete the necessary arrangements for providing the necessary sum for their representatives in Germany.

Mr. F. HALL (Dulwich)

Have arrangements been made for English people in a destitute condition in Holland; and will the hon. Gentleman, in view of the importance of his reply, have it circulated to the post offices?


The arrangement in Holland, as in other countries, is that His Majesty's representatives have been authorised to make advances in cases of necessity.