HC Deb 23 February 1916 vol 80 cc666-70

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if naval observers reported the approach of enemy seaplanes to Walmer and Lowestoft on Sunday morning last; and if any naval seaplanes were sent up to attack them?


In both the attacks the enemy seaplanes approached at a very great height, and were not observed either by look-outs or patrols until they dived just before their bombs were dropped. In each case naval fighter aeroplanes and seaplanes from the nearest naval air stations proceeded immediately in chase, but were unable to sight or get into touch with the enemy machines.


Are there any naval observers in the neighbourhood?


I imagine there were, but if the hon. Baronet wants any further information I shall be very glad if he will put down a question. Of course they were in the neighbourhood, but the exact distance I cannot say.


Is there any professional patrol, or is it only an amateur patrol on that part of the coast for this special purpose of watching for enemy aircraft?


I am not sure that I quite appreciate the distinction between amateur and professional patrols, but if the hon. Gentleman will put down any further questions on the subject I shall be glad to answer them.

Major HUNT

Is one of the chief reasons why our aeroplanes could not get up in time the fact that the mess is two miles away from the aerodrome?


No; it is 200 yards.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if any military aeroplanes were sent up against the German seaplanes which threw bombs at Walmer and Lowestoft on Sunday, the 20th instant; and if he will state at what time the authorities received warning of the enemy's approach, and at what time the defending aeroplanes went up?

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

No military aeroplanes were sent up against the German seaplanes which dropped the bombs at Lowestoft. As regards Walmer, the nearest station of the Royal Flying Corps received information at 11.35 a.m. that hostile aircraft had made an attack, and the first aeroplane from this station ascended at 11.45 a.m.

26. Mr. FELL

asked if definite orders have now been given to all the forces in the Eastern counties to fire with their rifles at Zeppelin airships whenever they come within range; and if they are now supplied with ball cartridge for this purpose?


I stated, in reply to the hon. Member on the 9th June last, that the orders were that all Zeppelins were to be fired at if and when they offered a target. That reply still holds good, and I have nothing to add to it except that ball cartridge is available for the purpose in the hands of the troops.


Has the right hon. Gentleman really made inquiry on this subject, for I have most explicit information that not only are there no orders to fire, but that the troops have orders actually not to fire on Zeppelins, however close they may be?


I shall be glad if my hon. Friend will be so good as to give me the source of that information.

Major HUNT

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the troops would be quite safe in firing at an airship—would they be quite sure that it did not belong to Britain?


We have got none!


We have one!


Quite certain if it belonged to an enemy—oh, yes!

41. Major HUNT

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that on the occasion of the last Zeppelin raid a bright light was shown in a top window of two different houses and that in both cases the police tried, but were unable, to get into the house, and declared that they had no lawful authority to break in; and, in view of this, will he take steps to strengthen the Defence of the Realm Act so as to give the police power to force an entrance into houses in such cases?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Herbert Samuel)

The police are already empowered by No. 11 of the Defence of the Realm Regulations to "enter any premises" or "to do any other act necessary" in order to deal with lights which contravene the Order, and they have been instructed to this effect. If the hon. and gallant Member will give me exact particulars of the incidents he refers to, I will have inquiries made.

Major HUNT

Will the right hon. Gentleman let the police know that they have the power to break into houses in these cases?


They have been informed.


asked whether any compensation is provided out of the public funds for special constables who may be killed or injured by enemy aircraft while on duty?


The question is one for police authorities, who are empowered by an Order of the Home Secretary under the Special Constables Act, 1914, to grant pensions or allowances in such cases at rates similar to those prescribed for police constables.

52. Mr. THOMAS

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the case of a railwayman who was injured whilst engaged on his engine at Hartlepool during the bombardment of that town, for which the North Eastern Railway Company denied liability and are upheld by the judgment of the Court of Appeal as pronounced on the 25th November last; whether he is aware that this decision has caused railwaymen to inquire whether they would be justified in the event of danger in leaving their posts and seeking safety; and, having regard to these circumstances, whether the Government will accept responsibility for loss of life or injury to railwaymen whilst on duty caused by hostile aircraft or bombardment?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

I am aware that in the case to which my hon. Friend refers it was decided that the railway company were not liable under the Workmen's Compensation Act as the accident did not arise out of the man's employment. This decision would not, however, appear to place the railwaymen in a different position from other classes of workers, and I do not think that it would be practicable for the Government to consider their case, specially in relation to the question of compensation for injury or loss of life caused by air raids. I am not aware of any inquiries on the part of railwaymen such as my hon. Friend suggests.

40. Mr. W. THORNE

asked the Home Secretary if his attention has been drawn to the verdict of a Staffordshire jury of wilful murder against the German Emperor and his son in connection with recent Zeppelin raids and to an attempt of the coroner to prevent the jury giving such a verdict; and whether he will issue an official instruction to coroners that juries are not to be restrained from registering a lawful judgment by a technical plea that it is impossible for effect to be given to their decision?


I have no authority to issue instructions of this kind to coroners.