HC Deb 15 July 1915 vol 73 cc993-4
62. Mr. R. McNEILL

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he will state for what reason the news of the re-capture by the Germans of Hill 60 on the 5th May was officially concealed for more than two months; whether permission to publish the news was refused to the Press by the Censor; if so, for what reason; and whether it is proposed to discontinue the system of deceiving the public with regard to events well known to the enemy, in view of the fact that such a system undermines public confidence and encourages the growth of disquieting suspicion and rumours?


No notification of the final position reached at Hill 60 as the result of the continued fighting at the beginning of May was received earlier than that in Sir J. French's dispatch of 15th June. Doubtless, the Commander-in-Chief had reasons for not making it the subject of an earlier report and it is not proposed to interfere with his discretion in such a matter. I may add that the German wireless message of the 7th May, which claimed a failure on the part of the British to wrest the hill from them, was passed for publication in the usual manner. The actual fact appears to be that since about the 5th of May the hill has not been held by either side. The House will thus see that the public has in nowise been misled by reports issued or not issued by the War Office, and I would ask the hon. Member to avoid the use of the word deception in all cases, and more particularly where there is, as in the present instance, no justification for it.


Would the right hon. Gentleman say why permission was refused to the Press to publish this information?


I have already said that the German Wireless message was given to the Press in the usual manner. The only messages which we have had have been published without any censoring at all.


Has not this Hill 60 practically disappeared owing to battering and undermining?


Yes, Sir, I think that is so; and it shows the character of the hill.