HC Deb 21 February 1917 vol 90 cc1314-7

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War, whether any recognition has been given to soldiers who are now prisoners in enemy countries or who are interned as prisoners of war in neutral countries; and whether recognition of bravery has been afforded to French soldiers by the French Government under similar circumstances?


No recognition has been given to soldiers who are prisoners of war in enemy countries or interned as prisoners of war in neutral countries except certain rewards for services rendered by Sir C. Townshend's force prior to the Siege of Kut. No prisoner of war can be considered for reward until the circumstances of his capture have been investigated. It is not permissible to confer rewards except on the recommendation of a soldier's superior officer and for some definite act of bravery or for exceptionally good service. I have no information as to the practice of the French Government.


Cannot my hon. Friend reconsider his decision, as many of these prisoners formed part of the first Expeditionary Force, and therefore are very worthy of recognition?


I am quite sure those men are worthy of recognition. I cannot imagine a British soldier being taken prisoner without some very good ground, but there are Regulations, I am told, which insist upon any prisoner being examined to account for his being a prisoner.


Cannot the Regulations be altered?


I will consider that.


asked the Postmaster-General the number of parcels received from Germany in this country for German prisoners of war in the years 1914, 1915, and 1916?

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Illingworth)

The number of parcels received in this country from Germany and Austria-Hungary for prisoners of war in-eluding interned civilians in this country and in the British Dominions and Colonies was 30,136 in 1914, 497,749 in 1915, and 579,107 in 1916. There is no separate record of the number of parcels received from Germany for German prisoners of war.


asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) if he will state how many incapacitated by wounds or illness and civilian prisoners of war, respectively, over forty-five years of age have been returned to and have arrived from Germany since the 1st January, 1917; and whether the new German blockade threats interfere with the carrying out of the recent agreement for exchange?

Mr. JAMES HOPE (Lord of the Treasury)

No incapacitated British and German combatant prisoners of war have been repatriated since the 1st January. We have sent back to Germany 376 civilians over forty-five and twenty-five British civilians over forty-five have arrived here since that date. We understand that some forty-four British civilians over forty-five have arrived in Holland. It has not so far been considered practicable to proceed further with repatriation since the recent German declaration.

100. Mr. G. LAMBERT

asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) if he will say how many prisoners of war, specifying British, Colonial, and Indian, are in Turkish hands; and whether any improvement in their condition can be reported?


The present number of British prisoners of war in Turkish hands is as follows:

Officers. Other Ranks.
British 323 1,652
Colonials 13 140
Indian Natives 195 8,573

Note.—In addition there are still untraced:

Officers. Other Ranks.
British 17 1,388
Indian Natives 4,879


Can the hon. Gentleman answer the last part of the question?


I should hesitate to go into a long report which has come in, and I do not wish to generalise as to its conclusions.

101. Mr. WATT

asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) whether he is aware that an agreement has recently been arrived at between France and; Germany whereby prisoners of war who are fathers of families and have also been interned for a certain length of time may be transferred to Switzerland; whether similar negotiations have taken place in favour of the same class of British prisoners of war; and, if so, with what result?


It is understood that an agreement has been reached between France and Germany for the transfer to-Switzerland of the limited number of 100 prisoners of war from Germany and France who have been eighteen months in captivity and have three children; owing to the many difficulties now experienced in effecting the transfer of incapacitated prisoners of war to Switzerland, it is considered to be inadvisable to enter at present into negotiations which would merely emphasise these difficulties and be of very limited application.


Is not the Foreign Office extraordinarily slow in getting advantages the French Foreign Office get for-their prisoners?


That is a matter of opinion.


Is it not the fact that the French and German exchange in Switzerland took place in January, 1916, and, owing to the difficulties of the War Office and Foreign Office of this country, British prisoners did not arrive in Switzerland until June, and what was the cause of that?


The Foreign Office.


I must ask for notice of that question.