HC Deb 21 October 1915 vol 74 cc1971-4

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can state what arrangements have been made as regards the conveyance of letters and parcels to British subjects now interned in Magnesia and elsewhere in Turkey; whether parcels for these interned prisoners have now been stopped; and whether he will endeavour to arrange with the United States Ambassador at Constantinople that letters and parcels addressed to such interned prisoners shall be safely delivered to them?


With regard to the first part of this question, I must refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave on the 28th June to a similar question in this House with regard to letters and parcels for British seafarers interned in Turkey. I have received no information that the delivery of parcels to British prisoners of War in Turkey has been stopped. The third part of the question does not appear to arise; but if the hon. Member has information that the delivery of the letters and parcels in question has ceased, I shall be much obliged if he will give me that information so that we may make inquiries.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the British merchant crews interned at Magnesia, in Turkey, were informed in September last that they would not be allowed to send or receive letters exceeding four lines; whether this restriction has since been modified or withdrawn; whether any similar restrictions are imposed on Turkish subjects interned in this country; and whether he will invoke the good offices of the United States Consul-General at Smyrna to obtain a withdrawal of these restrictions?


My attention has recently been drawn to a statement to the effect that British prisoners of war in Turkey are not allowed to send or receive letters exceeding four lines, and I have requested the United States Ambassador to be good enough to inquire into the correctness of this statement. If it should turn out to be true, I would certainly do all in my power to secure the withdrawal of such a regulation. So far as I am aware, no restrictions are imposed in respect of the correspondence of Turkish prisoners in this country other than those contained in the general regulations in force in respect of the correspondence of all prisoners of war and civilians interned in this country.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that there are 1,131 prisoners of war in Germany belonging to the Royal Naval Division, divided among 15 camps; whether he is aware that a large proportion of these men are in camps under canvas; whether he is aware that it was stated that uniform and clothing for these prisoners were being distributed on the 23rd August last; whether he is aware that no parcels of uniform, clothing, or boots have yet arrived; and, looking to the fact that the weather is already very cold and that a large number of these men are in rags, and that insufficiency of food adds to their privations, will he take steps to inquire into the matter and send the necessary supplies of clothing immediately?


The subject of the Noble Lord's question demands and is receiving the most sympathetic attention. Plans, however, which have for some time been before the Board have had to be set aside by the announcement of the German Government to the American Ambassador at Berlin that they are bound by the rules of war to provide what is necessary for prisoners of war, and that they will not allow supplies of clothes to be received from the British Government, but that they will not object to supplies being sent by the prisoners' friends or outside associations. I take this opportunity of cordially acknowledging the efforts already made by voluntary associations and individuals in rendering assistance to British Naval prisoners in Germany, and would point out that the announcement to which I have referred makes it very desirable that their efforts, particularly in the way of providing warm underclothing, boots, and overcoats, should be sustained in view of the coming winter. Individuals anxious to send parcels will find exhibited in every Post Office information as to how to proceed. Further, the Prisoners of War Help Committee, 5–7, Southampton Street, Strand, W.C., will, I am sure, be pleased to furnish information and advice.


asked what arrangements have been made to transmit clothing to British prisoners of war in Germany?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)

The various committees and societies which are caring for the prisoners of war will, I understand, shortly have completed arrangements for sending a supply of outer clothing and underclothing to every British prisoner of war in Germany. The articles sent will include greatcoat, jacket, trousers, shirts, vests, drawers, socks, and boots, in addition to other articles and it is contemplated to renew the supply periodically. These committees have the latest and most complete information about the requirements and position of individual prisoners; and, while it is desirable to decentralise this work in order to ensure its being carried out with promptitude, it has also been found necessary to leave it to unofficial organisations so as to meet the view of the German authorities, as to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty has already made a statement to-day. The sending of clothing to the prisoners in the hands of the Turks is difficult, but a satisfactory arrangement has now been arrived at.


Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the resources of the various voluntary organisations are quite inadequate to deal with the provision of clothing during this winter?


I do not think my hon. Friend is correctly informed on that subject. I will tell him privately exactly how the matter stands.


In view of its importance, I propose to raise this question on the Adjournment to-night.


May I ask my hon. Friend to do nothing of the kind?