§ Mr. DEVLIN
I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
I cannot say how deeply I regret that the Motion for which I have secured the adjournment of the House should in any way stand between the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India and the progress of his Bill. If I were inclined to draw a moral I could do so. We are living in exceedingly strange times, when a Debate upon a great measure that proposes to confer freedom on India is interrupted in order to call attention to another example of the infamy which is carried on in the name of the British Empire in Ireland. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War is not in his place. Is there anybody here to represent him? I wait for the arrival of some of those august personages who 713 will be able to tell us something as to the situation which I will present to the House to-night, and to give some form of defence for the series of humiliations and insults to which a gallant soldier and a reverend gentleman has been subjected by the military authorities. This is not a matter that can be treated in this contemptuous fashion, and I should be very glad indeed if the Minister were sent for, and if, after the House has given leave to have this matter discussed, he were brought here, in order that we may be able to deal with it in the only way in which it can be adequately dealt with. My observations are intended for the Minister for War, and I want to know where he is. Will you send the Serjeant-at-Arms for him?
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I have no doubt that the Minister will be here in a moment. The hon. Member is quite capable of giving a preamble in the meantime.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
You are perfectly right, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I could engage the House in an intellectual preamble for the next twenty minutes if this were not a serious matter. But it is a very serious matter, and therefore, if you do not object, I will allow the progress of the Indian Emancipation Bill to proceed, pending the time when we are able to discuss the latest phase of Irish slavery. I would like your ruling on this point. [At this point Mr. Churchill entered the House.]
I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War has now arrived, with a red box—a symbol of British freedom—from the War Office. I was rather astounded, after waiting for three or four days for some really sympathetic statement from the right hon. Gentleman, to find to-day that, after all the wiseacres at the War Office had put their heads together, the only result of it was the recital of a number of evasive statements bearing practically upon nothing, which the right hon. Gentleman read to the House at the close of Questions. I expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have come to the House to-day and expressed his own feelings of profound regret, and the reprobation of the Government whom he represents, for the treatment which was meted out to a gallant and reverend member of the great Australian military forces. Listening to 714 that statement, and reading it since, from beginning to end of it there was not one scintilla of regret expressed in it. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman was not very happy when he read it. It was not worthy of him. If a dog were treated in this fashion, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would be sufficiently humane to feel that a wrong had been done and that indignation should be expressed. But when I find that a man like Father O'Donnell, a chaplain in the British Army, a captain of the Australian military forces, a personal friend of Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister of Australia, a man who took a stand, in face of unpopularity of a most widespread character, and fought to rally the forces of Australian opinion to your side in this War, who joined the Army as a private, who became a chaplain, who by his own services in the Army raised himself to the position of a captain—for a man like that to be arrested because a sergeant of Zabern in Killarney chooses to make a charge against him, to be insulted and humiliated, dragged to Dublin from Killarney and thrown into a prison cell, to be subjected there to indignities that were intolerable, to be dragged over here to the Tower of London, to be tried by a court-martial, and then to be found not guilty of the offence with which he was charged—when he was acquitted by the court-martial one would have imagined that British fairplay, of which I hear so much and know so little, would, if it wanted to manifest itself at all, have found expression in an indignant and almost violent repudiation of this conduct from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman in whose custody is the honour and dignity of the whole Army, not only of England and Scotland and Ireland, but of the Army of every part of His Majesty's Dominions. I am not the only one who regards this matter as an important one. When I put the question the other day to the Leader of the House, and asked him for his opinion on this matter, he said:I realise as strongly as the hon. Member the seriousness of this matter on account of its effect on Australian opinion.He recognised the seriousness of it. He is the Leader of the House of Commons; he is one of the arch-priests of the Coalition; he is one of the guides of the fortunes of the Empire; and he realised the importance of this question. I am sorry he put it so low as saying that it was because of the effect it would have on 715 Australian public opinion. I should have imagined that he would have regarded it from the point of view of manhood, of fair play, of justice, but he only regarded it in so far as it affected Australian public opinion. And how did the right hon. Gentleman to-day deal with this aspect of it as it affected public opinion? Did he apologise to Australia? No. Did he apologise to Father O'Donnell, who was subjected to this wrong, this insult and this humiliation as the representative of the Australian Forces, who had fought with such gallantry and such incomparable glory in some of the noblest fights waged on the battlefields of France and Flanders? Not at all. One would imagine you were discussing the imprisonment of an Irish Member of Parliament. Instead of considering whether you had subjected to humiliation and insult a soldier-priest, you would have imagined you were dealing with the imprisonment of the editor of an Irish newspaper for stating the things he felt. Not a word from the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot and do not believe that when the right hon. Gentleman stood at that bench to-day and read that statement it was typical of his own instincts and feelings on the matter, because I should imagine from what I have known of the right hon. Gentleman that when a wrong had been done he would try to right it; when an injustice had been perpetrated he would endeavour to undo it; and when humiliation has been put on an innocent man he would endeavour to lift that humiliation.
But there was a greater humiliation than that which was put on Father O'Donnell, and that was the humiliation you put upon yourselves by the part you played in this transaction. I am not animated by the slightest personal feeling in this matter. I do not know Father 'O'Donnell. I have never seen him or even received a communication from him. I have no doubt that if he had sought an advocate in this House he would have sought someone more efficient and powerful as an advocate than I am. Therefore I approach this question from an absolutely impersonal standpoint. No doubt I know Australia. I spent eighteen of the most delightful months of my life there. I know the Australian people well, and I love them—a splendid race, who love liberty, a noble manhood inspired by the loftiest principles of freedom, a great Commonwealth, rich in the 716 glory of its own liberty, and anxious to see that liberty extended to others. With all its greatness, all its power, and all its potentialities I am proud of Australia, and when an Australian citizen is struck at, I care not whether he is a priest or a sweep, I feel it my duty to defend him, and to demand some reprobation for the indignity to which he has been subjected and some repudiation of those who have been responsible for it. What is the story of this Father O'Donnell case? He bears an Irish name. No doubt Irish blood runs in his veins. He was born in Australia, and he joined with others, like myself, in a democratic propaganda for the establishment of the principles of liberty for all small nations and for the termination of Prussian militarism. He did not stand alone, nor do I, nor my colleagues, for the suppression of Prussian militarism. He stood for the suppression of militarism as the enemy of humanity everywhere, because to me Prussian militarism is no worse and no better than British, American, or. French militarism. It is the same eveywhere. Wherever this. military Juggernaut is allowed to crush it suppresses all free speech, free opinion, free thought, and independent activity. Therefore, trained in the school of democracy, drinking in the principles, largely as far as this country is concerned, of Mr. Gladstone, I, like others and Father O'Donnell abroad, joined in this propaganda against Prussian militarism because we believed if we crushed it there we crushed it everywhere.
When the War was over and he had played his part he came back to the land of his fathers—I believe he was never there before—this small nationality which in his vision was to be the sharer in all the glories which were to come to the small nationalities of the world. What was his first observation? He asked someone, "Is there a reconstruction policy in Ireland? What is being done after the War?" Then he formed his own judgment, and said, "As far as I can see, the only thing they manufacture in this country is Sinn Feiners." He went on to give his views upon politics, upon the railway strike, and upon the merits of Lloyd George. He thought he was at an election and the Coalition candidate in the field. What did this military man charge him with? With sedition against the King and against the Government. He never mentioned the King's name unless to praise him. Even the witnesses 717 called for the prosecution admitted that he said King George was responsible for the settlement of the railway strike and not Mr. Lloyd George. But a second-lieutenant in the Army happened to be sitting in the room where this conversation was taking place. The priest met an Irishman from the North of Ireland who was slightly deaf, and he was speaking rather loudly, and this sergeant of Zabern, the second-lieutenant, came over and told him not to speak so loudly. He dared to give his views upon public questions, upon which we all give our views, but he gave them loudly in the presence of the sergeant of Zabern. He told him again to stop speaking so loudly and the priest told him to mind his own business. I do not know what his business was. When he was in the witness box he was asked and he said he was in Killarney partly for pleasure and partly for business. I believe the pleasure he was on was to engage in fishing and the business was to try to find out sedition. He was unsuccessful in catching anything in the Lakes. Having failed in pleasure, he said, "Let me try a little business. You will always find sedition in Ireland and so I must go and listen to this conversation." This clergyman who had fought for the rights of small nationalities, who had been four or five years in France and Belgium, who was a strong and as violent a supporter of the Allied cause, did not like the Government. After all that is not a terrible crime. No one likes the Government. I do not see why it should be sedition to dislike the government at Killarney and it is a sign of political prescience to hunt them at all the by-elections. But he happened to be in Ireland, and you are not allowed to dislike the Government in Ireland. It is a most criminal thing to dislike the Government in Ireland. I went to a meeting in the North of Ireland to denounce sweating and the raising of rents, and I was faced with an army of soldiers and policemen who were gathered there to prevent me from doing it, not, I suppose, because they liked sweating, but they thought I did not like the Government.
Immediately this conversation took place the sergeant of Zabern wrote down an imaginary conversation. Father O'Donnell talked about George and the sergeant of Zabern thought it was the. King, or at all events, thought it would be a good thing to think it was the King. On that he based his charge of sedition, 718 and he prepared his indictment of this priest upon this conversation which never took place unless in his own imagination. I put it. to Englishmen, what are they to think of a second-lieutenant in the Army going over to a strange country, partly on business and partly on pleasure, and, according to his own evidence in the Court, proceeding to take out a book and writing down the conversations which are being carried on in an hotel in the place which he visits? It was proven afterwards that what he had done was all wrong and inaccurate. That is all I say about that. I am told that he manufactured the book subsequently, but I do not make that charge. His imagination was fevered. He went to perform a dual function. He failed hopelessly in one function, which was to catch fish, but he said, "I am triumphant in the other, for I have caught a rabbit." So fevered with his success in achieving the second purpose for which he went to Killarney, he then proceeds to prepare this imaginary statement. What does Father O'Donnell say—I left Killarney on the following morning for Rathmore, and arrived in Dublin on the 14th October. I had luncheon at the Gresham Hotel, where two ordinary military policemen asked me if I was Captain O'Donnell. I said I was, and they said that the A.P.M. wanted to see me. "What does he want me for?" I asked. One of the police replied, "I do not know, but he was down looking at the boat last night, probably about some men." I went with him to the Ship Street Barracks and saw the A.I.M. I asked him if he was Major Bagnall. He said he was. He asked me if I was Captain O'Donnell, and I said I was. He then asked me if I had been at Killarney staying at the International Hotel, and I said I had. He then said, "It has been reported to rue that you used seditious language in the hotel." I said, "That is absolutely untrue." He said, "Did not an officer come up to you and speak to you about it?" I replied, "He did nothing of the kind. He came up to me—which was just like his impertinence—and said that I was talking too loud. I said the man I was speaking to was deaf." Major Bagnall then said, "I have not a report here. I must place you under arrest.Having been placed under arrest, he was subjected to treatment to which no officer in the Army ought to have, been subjected, and, in my judgment, he was treated in a way that was absolutely opposed to the whole spirit of military Regulations. If I do not make too large a draft on the patience of the House, let me, in Father O'Donnell's own words, give a sworn statement of what happened. He described the room in Ship Street Barracks in which he was detained in custody: 719There was no proper provision in it at all. There were three dirty blankets which smelt in such a way that one could not go near them. There was no fire though the weather was shockingly cold and no convenience of any kind. The authorities refused to send to the hotel for his bag, which contained his things and the medicine which he was using for a cold. They refused also to allow him to communicate with anyone and sentries with fixed bayonets were placed outside his door. He was taken out in charge of three sentries with fixed bayonets under the gaping eyes of officers and hundreds of English soldiers. He was refused permission to see anybody except on a permit from Dublin Castle and in the presence of an officer. He sent for a priest to hear his confession, but when the priest arrived the officer said he had instructions not to leave and the priest had to go away. The A.P.M. gave him a slip of paper stating that he had been arrested for conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline. That was not a charge. There was no reference to seditious words. When he sent for his solicitor and counsel the officer said he could not go out of the room, and they had to leave without being able to transact any business.The right hon. Gentleman, in the recital he gave to the House to-day, was reading what was supplied to him by the military authorities, who are really the people in the dock in this case. This man was in the dock and was found not guilty. The right hon. Gentleman comes to defend the conduct of the military officers, and he goes to the very gentlemen who are responsible for the thing, takes from them their explanation, adopts as his own, and offers it to the House of Commons, and expects the House of Commons to accept it. I am amazed at the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Then you have a lower opinion of the right hon. Gentleman than I have. The statement of Father O'Donnell given in the box, the sworn testimony of this man, is a complete refutation of the reply read by the Secretary for War. I will tell the House why. If the reverend gentleman was stating things that were not true, why was he not cross-examined at the court-martial in regard to them? The right hon. Gentleman recited this evening a list of the great kindnesses that were everywhere extended to Father O'Donnell after his arrest. One would have imagined that this was not a priest-soldier dragged like a common criminal through the streets of Dublin, and put into your dirty, filthy cells, but that it was a Royal parade of some princely person. That is what one would draw from the statement read by 720 the right hon. Gentleman. I have read what the reverend and gallant gentleman stated in the witness-box. What do these military gentlemen do? They get one of the most eminent criminal lawyers in England to come over and carry on the prosecution. They brought him there because if there was any man alive capable of tearing to tatters the evidence of this soldier-priest Sir Archibald Bodkin was capable of doing it, and yet Sir Archibald Bodkin, with all the preparation which had been made, well-primed and well-briefed, never questioned one single, solitary statement made by the reverend gentleman in the box. Then the right hon. Gentleman comes to the House of Commons and asks us to believe that the prepared statement of a gang of Prussian conspirators against the liberty of a captain in the Army is to be taken as the authorised version of an incident of this character against the sworn testimony, uncontradicted and unquestioned, of the reverend gentleman himself.
One thing that was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman in his statement was that the reverend gentleman was not allowed to consult a lawyer as to his own defence for five days after he was arrested. This is not Father O'Donnell's statement. It is the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. It is the statement of the military authorities who supplied the right hon. Gentleman with his brief. What is their statement? It is this. That after dragging this man through the streets of Dublin and placing him in a dirty cell, they left him there, and for five days they refused to allow him to consult a lawyer as to his defence at the court-martial. The right hon. Gentleman unnecessarily went out of his way to drag the military authorities of Australia into this case. I do not quite understand the point of that. Of course, there was a court-martial. Was there a suggestion that there should not be one? We did not complain of it. So far as I know Father O'Donnell did not complain. It was Father O'Donnell who forced it. I have not seen Father O'Donnell. I do not know him, but I read a statement of his in the Press in which he distinctly stated that they were willing to let him go, and he demanded a court-martial, and the Australian Military Forces in London said, "If this Australian officer is to be tried he will be tried before us." If that man had been tried in Ireland he would be doing twelve months or more in gaol at the 721 present time. But there is still some remnant of the spirit of liberty left even among military men in this Australian branch of the Imperial Army, and they insisted that if one of their men was to be tried he should be tried before his colleagues of the Australian Forces.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
If it is the invariable rule, then it is a good thing for once that the invariable rule exists, because whether that rule was variable or invariable—I will not use the expression, it might not be Parliamentary; but it was a very good rule for Father O'Donnell, because Father O'Donnell, instead of standing to-day with his character cleared and his reputation unscathed, would now, not merely have been for three, or four, or ten days in a dirty cell in Dublin, but would be doing time in some prison for perhaps twelve months.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
He would have been tried by people who would have been told that it was their business to convict him just because he was tried in Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: No!"] Do not turn up your eyes in holy horror. Let us face the situation. Who was the gentleman who arrested him He was Major Bagnall, Assistant Provost-Marshal of the Dublin area. He went into the box and told his story. Listen to this evidence as a manifestation of British intelligence which should commend itself to the Leader of the National party. He said:He had a wire from the officer commanding the troops at Killarney. He arrested the accused on his own authority. He was acquainted with the King's Regulations affecting the custody of officers.' Then counsel asked him:Was this gentleman when he was arrested put into a room in which there was no sleeping accommodation?—I do not know.Was he kept there by sentries with fixed bayonets?—I have not the slightest idea.Who does know? —Presumably the officer commanding the unit to whom he was handed over.Did you make any further inquiry as to how he was treated?—Not in the least; it was none of my business.A fine chivalrous spirit of comradeship in the Army ! 722Did you read in the daily and evening papers Captain O'Donnell's affidavit containing the account of his treatment in Ship Street Barracks?—I do not read the evening papers.May be he has been studying Mr. Balfour's life. I have not a, very high opinion of the intelligence of most of these people, but I do not know intelligence so low that it does not read the evening paper, and there are some intelligences low enough to read the morning paper. This is the gentleman who arrested this priest. He knew nothing about it. All he knew was that some Zabern sergeant did not like the conversation, the voice was too high, the notes were too loud, there was not sufficient music in this Killarney hotel for this man, and therefore he arrests him, throws him to anybody or nobody, lets him be flung into a cell, does not ask what happens to him, sees a flaming report in the evening paper and a less unparliamentary report in the morning paper as to what took place, and never troubles to read one or the other—and yet we have come triumphantly out of this War. The right hon. Gentleman to-day tried to make a great deal of the fact that they did not want to try Father O'Donnell at all and have a court-martial. That is perfectly true. There would have been no trial if this priest had not forced them to this. He says:I could have dropped it at any stage. The military authorities were most anxious that it should be dropped. That, however, would not suit me. It is a remarkable fact that in this case the prosecution employed a leading criminal lawyer, who was permitted to use his Old Bailey methods against me, contrary to the provisions of the Army Act. Also the judge advocate was an English officer. The judge advocate, in my opinion, was entirely wrong in maintaining that an honourable acquittal could only be granted in exceptional cases. On the contrary, unless it could be shown that the accused was mixed up in disgraceful proceedings there should be an honourable acquittal. It was this that delayed the Court so long in corning to a decision in my case. There, were no exceptional circumstances in any way. However much the authorities try to save their face the case went against them.It may be a very small matter that a junior lieutenant in the Army, instinct with the whole spirit of his class, goes into a hotel, listens to conversations carried on at the hotel, afterwards writes them down, goes out and makes a charge, and has a priest arrested. All that may be looked on as trivial, but the subsequent proceedings and the treatment of this priest are matters that concern the Army and the War Office. It was clearly proved that they believed this man guilty before 723 ever he was brought to trial at all. I am told that in this case it has cost him over £1,000 to defend himself. He has been misrepresented. Scandalous insinuations have been made against him, all of which have been disproved, even by the Zabern sergeant himself in the witness box.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The Zabern sergeant. Did you ever hear of Zabern? Perhaps you cannot understand my Belfast accent.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I would like to know to whom the hon. Gentleman is referring by the description "Zabern sergeant?"
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I will clarify the right hon. Gentleman's mind. His name is Second-Lieutenant Chambers.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to know what he wanted in Killarney. He went down to Killarney partly on business and partly on pleasure. The mission of pleasure was a failure and the business was a triumphant success. I hope now that the right hon. Gentleman sits there a fully-informed Minister as to who he was, what he was, what he was doing, and what he has done.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am sorry to interrupt. As a matter of fact I should not have found any difficulty at all if it had not been that the hon. Member was speaking of a lieutenant and referred to him as a sergeant. But for that I should have followed his argument.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for my ignorance as to the status of these military officers. I remember that one of the things that inflamed me against Germany was the Zabern incident. Both the right hon. Gentleman and myself, when we were fighting against, Prussian militarism, had that in all our perorations. I have no doubt he has forgotten his perorations, but I have not forgotten mine. I have asked the House to express its indignation and its condemnation of the action of all those concerned in this transaction. I would have imagined, when the right hon. Gentleman was so anxious for delay, that he would have come himself and would have avoided this Debate, and would have uttered condemnation of the whole trans- 724 action. I am sure that he is as anxious as I am that the cause of liberty should go on in India. We have both interrupted a great Indian Debate that concerns the establishment of free institutions for the blacks. "HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I repeat, for the blacks; and, being in favour of any measure of emancipation and freedom for them, I am sorry that we have interrupted the progress of a great measure of popular appeasement. But here we are, come to discuss this thing and to take up the time of the House. The right hon. Gentleman is not entitled to take the story of interested persons and to throw that at the House of Commons as his reply to an indictment of this character.
The only thing that counts with me is that this man was charged and found not guilty. Do you question the tribunal? It was yours. They had all the evidence; they listened to every story, every aspect of the question was tested and analysed, and counsel was brought from the Old Bailey with all an eminent counsel's qualities, to put this man on the dissecting table. But gallant officers of his own country and his own branch of the Imperial Army unanimously decided that he was not guilty of the thing with which he was charged and under which be was subjected to insult and humiliation. Not one word of regret has come from the right hon. Gentleman—not one word. Yet the Leader of the House has stated that he regarded the thing as important-, and the more important because of the effect it would have upon Australian opinion. Australian opinion does not count; no opinion counts if Ireland is involved. Captain O'Donnell had Irish blood in his veins. That was the gravamen of his offence. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I repeat it. This incident may shock some Members of the House, but it is only one of a series of incidents that are occurring day after clay and week after week in Ireland. You would never have heard of it, probably, if he had not been an Australian officer. I am sorry for the whole thing, very sorry; but one can fairly well draw a moral from it. That moral is: Do not care how you outrage public opinion in any part of the world as long as an Irishman is involved. That is my deliberate conviction.
I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman now, Is he prepared, as the chief executive officer of the British Imperial Forces, to express his condemnation of the arrest and the treatment of this 725 reverend and gallant gentleman? Secondly, what reparation is he prepared to give to this reverend gentleman for the insult and humiliation and expense to which he has been subjected? That is not a very large demand. If you do not concede these two things, Australia will come to the opinion, which I have arrived at, that if there is a race in the world that protests and revolts against militarism—that is practically what exists in Ireland to-day—if they protest against the imposition upon them of what was once the nightmare of the world, then they may look out for such treatment as militarists mete out to all who will not lie down and acquiesce in their policy. No matter what the National party may think of it, that is what it amounts to. I say to English Members here to-night that it is only another added to the many intolerable things under which Ireland is suffering. I say to Englishmen to-night that it is not the personal honour and the ill-treatment of a gallant soldier which are involved, but your honour and your name throughout the world.
§ Captain W. BENN
The House will excuse me if, in seconding this Motion, I do not treat the subject from the same point of view as my hon. Friend. I do not think it is a case which should be decided according to our political views, or according to the views we may hold about Ireland. I happen to hold the same views as my hon. Friend, but I treat this case purely as a case. I propose to inform the House of the circumstances of the case, and to invite hon. Members to give their judgment on it as a single and individual case. I interested myself in the case when I got to know the facts, and I am certain that hon. Gentlemen, when they hear the facts, will agree with me in the Motion I am seconding. First of all, who is this Australian padre who has been arrested? What is his record? The hon. Gentleman has referred to part of it. Captain O'Donnell was a priest in Tasmania. He resigned his parish because he was so enthusiastic in the cause of the Allies and desired to go to the War. He addressed many meetings in Australia, taking a great part in the movement for Conscription, which was then unpopular. I will venture to read an extract from a speech which was made at the beginning of last year by this chaplain, when he was campaigning on behalf of the Allies in the Dominion.
He said he had urged men to go to the War and many had listened to his appeal. He had 726 always desired to go himself, but was never able to do so till now, but the position was very critical and all should do their best. He never expected compulsion to be carried, but they should not desert the boys at the front. They must bend every effort if they were to win. He had always longed to be out among the brave lads of Australia, and the first duty of every true man was to go out with them.This is the gentleman who came out and who resigned his cure and went to War as a private soldier. I suppose to whatever party hon. Members may belong they must sympathise with and admire a man who did that. So highly was he thought of in Australia that he was honoured by being the bearer of a letter from the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to Field-Marshal Haig, and also a letter to General Birdwood, recommending him to their special attention and notice, and that letter was acknowledged by the Field-Marshal. That letter went on to say that the Rev. Father O'Donnell had earned and received the thanks of the Australian Government for the work which he had done. That is the man whose ease we are considering. It is not the case of a man who was wildly opposed to us, and not the case of a man with whose views we disagreed so much that we could not undertake to deal with him in an impartial and judicial manner, but the case of a man who acted as every true citizen of the Empire did in a time of great difficulties and made great sacrifices at the beginning of the War on behalf of the cause. That is the man with whose case we have to deal. As regards the charges, I am not going to say anything, as the chaplain was acquitted by the court-martial, and I do not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman will for one moment go back on the verdict of that court-martial. Of course he accepts it when this officer was acquitted of the charge made against him, and I will say no inure about it. What I will say is this. I shall say a word about the character of the prosecution, and I shall ask the House to consider what was the way in which the prosecution was conducted against this reverend gentleman. The chief witness against him was Second - Lieutenant Chambers, and the first charge that was made was a charge of drunkenness. I shall quote from the verbatim report of the court-martial, and I invite the right hon. Gentleman to correct me if unwittingly I make any mistake. I say that the first thing that was done by the witness was to make a charge of drunkenness against the reverend gentleman. The first thing 727 this witness did was to go to the manageress of the hotel where the reverend gentleman was staying and say to her that this officer was three-quarters drunk, and a suggestion of the same kind was made by another. Overwhelming evidence was produced to show that there was absolutely not a word of truth in that charge, and it was expressly stated in the summing-up that no sort of charge of that kind could lie. I do not know whether it was struck out or simply ignored, but in any case it fell absolutely to the ground.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
When Second-Lieutenant Chambers came to give his evidence he said in the witness-box that the priest was not drunk, and had no drink on him whatever.
§ Captain BENN
Certainly; but he had gone to the manageress of the hotel, and it was stated in evidence by her that it was not true, and also it was shown that in his bill there was no liquor at all. I really apologise to the reverend gentleman even for referring to it, but I do ask the House to think is that really the sort of way in which the right hon. Gentleman's Department should begin to treat a case against a clergyman who had come over here to fight?
§ Captain BENN
I do not suppose the eminent people who were employed by the right hon. Gentleman to try to ruin this padre would be so foolish as to lodge a charge of that kind, but the statement was made, and that was the point.
§ Captain BENN
The statement was made to the proprietress of the hotel. I have stated the fact, and I shall leave it there. The witness made that statement, and then, of course, when the statement had been made and when they found it could not possibly be substantiated, they withdrew it. There never was a word of truth in it. Why should I go out of my way to defend this reverend gentleman except that I think he has been most unjustly treated? I come to the second part of the case against this padre. The principal witness, Chambers, first of all said, in his evidence, that he had written down 728 the words in a book while he was dining. He said he did so at the time the words were spoken. There were five people who were in the hotel dining-room at the time, and everyone of whom was unable to corroborate that statement, including the man who was sitting at the same table with the witness. I do not want to overemphasise this, but is that the way in which a case should be brought and pressed against a priest who comes from the Commonwealth to fight for this country? Let me come to the next point. The reverend gentleman comes to Dublin, and is put under close arrest. I must here tell the right hon. Gentleman that I do not know the details of military law.
§ Captain BENN
Ah, the right hon. Gentleman is quite right! As soon as he got out of the grip of the right hon. Gentleman to the Australian Forces he was released.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
That is thoroughly wrong. He was in the hands of the Australian authorities in Ireland. They took him over from the British military authorities. They brought him over to London, and, having considered the matter here, they placed him under open arrest.
§ Captain BENN
The right hon. Gentleman is very specious in his interruption, but I will give the House the facts. He was placed under arrest on the 14th, and he was kept in close arrest until the 25th in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman's officials, when he was handed over to the Australians, and as soon as they had investigated the charge they found it was so flimsy that they put him immediately under open arrest. What point can the right hon. Gentleman make out of that? About this close arrest the right hon. Gentleman may probably show that this was ail justified according to the King's Regulations, and certainly he is in a much better position to argue that matter than I am, but I am doing my best to see that justice is done to a man who has been most unjustly treated. On this point of close arrest I should like to say that in the case of even a private soldier, and this was the case of an officer,A private soldier charged with a serious offence will be placed in arrest… He is not to be placed in close arrest for offences unaccompanied by drunkenness, violence, or in- 729 subordination, unless confinement is necessary to ensure his safe custody or for the maintenance of discipline.I do not know how the case lies as between officers and soldiers, but that is the protection offered to the private soldier. The right hon. Gentleman, who gets hold of an officer, keeps him under close arrest from the 14th to the 25th October. I do not know what the legal technicality is, but we all know very well—anyone who has had the honour of serving in the Army knows—that the object of the authorities is to render all possible assistance to a man under arrest and about to be tried by court-martial. It is not a case of prosecuting counsel or trying to get a conviction at all costs, but of giving what assistance they can. That, I think, is right as an interpretation of the spirit in which the law should be administered towards the accused person; but from the 14th October to the 19th or the 21st October the right hon. Gentleman refused the prisoner the right to see his own counsel unless there was an officer present. There is a very clear statement in the Manual of Military Law on the subject—The accused is to have proper opportunity to prepare his defence, and liberty to communicate with his witnesses and legal adviser.That, of course, means liberty to communicate in secret, for how can you possibly communicate with your legal adviser in the presence of the person who is about to be your prosecutor? So my third point is that the right hon. Gentleman, having got this priest in his grip, keeps him under close arrest for eleven clays, during the greater part of which he refuses him permission to see his legal adviser. There are other points which appear to have been overlooked by those who were in charge of this officer. The Manual says:An officer placed under arrest should always be informed in writing of the nature of the arrest.I think that means the reason for which he is arrested, but. I am not a. lawyer and I cannot say. I think it means that if a man is put in prison you must tell him why at the earliest possible moment, but that does not appear to have been done. On the contrary, the chaplain asked repeatedly what the charge, against him was, and all he was given in writing was a slip of paper saying he was charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, which might mean anything. That might justify everything 730 that people were saying outside about drunkenness and all the other infamous charges which the right hon. Gentleman's myrmidons have been spreading about.
§ Captain BENN
The right hon. Gentleman is responsible. If I could get the people who brought these odious charges I should be pleased. But in any case the right hon. Gentleman does not come down here and say, "I am very sorry that somebody has been over-zealous, and I offer a word of apology to this chaplain," who has been acquitted. Not at all. He pretends to justify up to the hilt the whole of the infamous conduct of those under his control. The case is then moved to England. I understand the accused was entitled to have the Australian court-martial in the country in which the offence was committed. It is very difficult. for a man in England to get witnesses in his behalf from Ireland, especially a man like this from the other end of the world, but he is shipped off to England, and he finds employed against him, not the adjutant of the regiment, not some officer detailed by the commanding officer to act as prosecutor, but one of the most eminent criminal lawyers of the day. Why? I should like to read what guidance the King's Regulations give on this point. They say:A General Officer Commanding-in-Chief at home is to obtain the sanction of the Army Council before counsel is engaged to appear on behalf of a prosecutor.Was that done? Was the sanction of the Army Council obtained for the employment of Sir Archibald Bodkin to prosecute?
§ Captain BENN
The Regulations go on to say:The assistance of counsel at courts-martial should be applied for only in cases of an exceptionally difficult or complicated nature, and this course should be very rarely necessary when the offences are of a purely military character.The complications were there, certainly, but they were complications arising out of the conflict of evidence of the right hon. Gentleman's witnesses. But is there anything in this paragraph to justify the right hon. Gentleman getting the sanction of the Army Council to employ one of the most eminent criminal lawyers of the day to prosecute this poor, patriotic, Australian padre, who came here to fight for our cause? I think it is one of the worst 731 features of the case, and if you read the cross-examination which Sir Archibald Bodkin gave to this chaplain you will find, not that he was trying to elicit the truth in that calm, commonsense way which is prevalent at a court-martial, but that he was trying all the time to get him to commit himself. I will not read the text, but this is the sort of thing he said. He said, "You are an Irishman?" "Yes," said the witness. "You think Ireland is tyrannically governed by England?" "Yes, I do." And so do we, and so do I, most infamously governed.
§ Captain BENN
He goes on and says, "I suppose you have not said so?" The witness says, "I do not know." And step by step Sir Archibald Bodkin attempts to get this, I suppose I might call him unsophisticated, man from the Commonwealth on to the slope, so that he can push him down and say, "Those are your sentiments." But why should the Army Council consent to have this criminal lawyer employed to prosecute and ruin this Australian padre? If the House will observe, I am not imparting political prejudice at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I dare say it does not matter. I dare say, hon. Gentlemen think an Australian padre is fair game.
§ Captain BENN
I am trying to see that the gallant and reverend gentleman and his friends in Australia know that there are people in this country who think he has been infamously treated and who are determined to say so and to try and get this House to endorse their view.
§ Captain BENN
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman one further question—who paid for Sir Archibald Bodkin?
§ Mr. H. SMITH
The hon. and gallant Gentleman slanders professional men who cannot defend themselves, and he will not give way.
Captain BENN resumed his seat.
§ Mr. SMITH
I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving way. May I ask him whether the conduct 732 of Sir Archibald Bodkin, of which he complains, is in gross violation of the Manual of Military Law which he has by him, and does he persist in charging Sir Archibald Bodkin with deliberately breaking those rules and being guilty of professional misconduct?
§ Captain BENN
I am not making any charge. I should not, dream of doing so. In order to make it perfectly clear—and certainly in advance I shall withdraw what I have said, because I think that is what is fair. I shall withdraw everything I have said about Sir Archibald Bodkin, and will read the evidence, because I shall certainly never attempt in my privileged place in this House to make a charge I would not make outside. I suggest this cross-examination was more suitable to a Criminal Court than to a court-martial, and I suggest it is an amazing thing that the War Secretary should have secured the consent of the Army Council to employ an eminent criminal lawyer to use arts, which, after all, are the arts usually employed in that Court. Let me read the evidence:You said you were an Irish Nationalist. Is it your view that the English Government has ill-treated Ireland?—Yes, that is my view.How long have you held that sentiment?— Ever since I was born ever since I could think.And you have expressed that opinion, I have no doubt, on many occaions?—Oh, yes, I have frequently expressed that.Did you say in that room, 'When the time comes I shall come over and help the people in their struggle against the tyrannical English Government'?—No, I did not.That is your sentiment, is it not?—No.That is not your sentiment?—That is not my sentiment.I suggest that, proper as that cross-examination undoubtedly would be—[An HON. MEMBER: "It was!"]—in an ordinary Court, it is not fair in a court-martial to submit an accused person to a cross-examination of that kind. Now I hope I have dealt quite fairly with Sir Archibald Bodkin, and I think I have made a point which seems to me unanswerable. I would like the right. hon. Gentleman to give me an answer to this question. Will he tell the House who paid for the services of Sir Archibald Bodkin'? [HON. MEMBERS: "The Treasury!"] The Treasury. It comes to this. The right hon. Gentleman when he said to-day in his answer, "Oh, we handed the whole thing over to the Australian Government. They had a court-martial. They dealt with it in their own way and acquitted the officer. We have nothing to do wit h that. All we have 733 to answer for is the sending from Dublin." As to who paid a King's Counsel to prosecute this padre in the Court, not a word is said. Is it right that the rates and taxes of this country should be used to pay a King's Counsel to prosecute. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is not a King's Counsel!"] What does it matter? A learned gentleman prosecuted in this case.
§ Captain BENN
I do not know what the real explanation of this case may be. It is very difficult to tell. Some think that the thing has been a mistake, and that the right hon. Gentleman has got hold of the wrong man altogether. I do not know. The "Irish Times," on the 19th December I think, said that the rev. gentleman had been arrested under a misunderstanding and was going to be released. I do not know whether that was so. Here is a curious thing. When that appeared in the "Irish Times" the Governor of Tasmania, Sir Francis Newdegate, who was lately a Member of this House, telegraphed to say the people of Tasmania were very glad to hear that this popular and influential priest had been released. So I think a mistake has been made from the very beginning. Here is another point. When Lieut. Chambers, who was a witness against the padre, got his evidence together, he went to the head of the hotel and said, "Oh, that fellow is not a captain." This officer was wearing a captain's uniform and this witness, who was a casual witness, just doing 'his duty as an officer in reporting what he imagined to be seditious language, went to the proprietor of the hotel, and after the pleasant complimentary exordium about the padre being three parts drunk, went on to say. "He is no captain; he is no priest." How did he know that?
§ Captain BENN
It goes very much deeper than that. It lends colour to a much different suggestion when we find the witness for the prosecution saying in advance, "This fellow is no captain." Did not he really mean that he thought it was somebody altogether different, disguised? That is the point and the statement in the Press that there had been 734 a misunderstanding certainly lends colour to the suggestion that a mistake had been made throughout, which the right hon. Gentleman will not acknowledge. What is the duty of this House to-night? I am very sorry indeed it my advocacy of this reverend gentleman has been unwise or if, perhaps, I was the wrong person to bring it forward. But what is our duty as Members of this House? Do we doubt the facts? It is impossible to doubt the facts. Do we not know he was acquitted by a court-martial? We do know. Do we question that indignity has been heaped upon him? It is impossible to do so, and I say our duty, especially at a time when Imperial ties are perhaps more delicate than in the memory of any man. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, there are elections going on in Australia. I ventured to make that remark in a question the other day, and the hon. Gentleman who stands for the Empire, for which, of course, we cannot pretend to stand, laughed. What is happening is this, that these people in Australia who are fighting for the Empire, and for the Imperial connection, are met with a case like this, and they are told, "Look how your men are treated when they go over and fight for the Empire." This case is of no assistance to any party with whom I may be supposed to sympathise. It is of assistance to all people who want to disrupt the Empire. I simply say this in conclusion. If the right hon. Gentleman can contradict the facts, I shall be glad, but if they are as I have stated, I do suggest to the House it is the duty of all, regardless of our party, to see that justice is done to a man who has been most gravely ill-used.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The speech of the hon. Member for Belfast reminded us of the great influence upon all our affairs which was always exercised by the skill and gifts of those who represented the Irish Parliamentary party in this House. I take it as an object-lesson of the power and influence which Ireland might exert in all our affairs, and, for her own sake, if she were fully represented in this House, if the hon. Member for Belfast, with one or two colleagues beside him, alone is able to make a small incident of this kind—an obscure incident of ordinary administration—into which no matters political enter at any point, a repeated feature at Question-time day after day, till, finally, there is a formal adjournment of this House and a very important discussion upon the subject. My hon.
735 Friend—if he will allow me to call him so—complained most of all that I expressed no regret. No, Sir, if I were to try and express regret for all the regrettable things that are happening in all parts of the world where the British have direct or indirect responsibility, where British troops are in occupation or partial occupation, I am sure I should have my work cut out. It is not possible for me to undertake the general task of expressing regret except in cases where I am satisfied that I, by some decision for which I am responsible, or some neglect, am directly involved in a wrongful or unfortunate occurrence, or where an officer serving in the Department for which I am concerned and responsible, can be shown, to my conviction, to have committed some wrongful act. I cannot feel that I am to be blamed because I have not found it my duty to make an expression of regret in regard to persons who, having been tried by courts-martial, are acquitted, for the inconvenience they may have suffered in the preliminary procedure which takes place, in the harsh conditions of military procedure, in regard to their characters and their fortunes, or at having to defend their liberty or their honour. These things are frequently happening. Many people have been subjected to them during the dark and evil years through which we have been passing, and are still passing.
While I do not in the least refuse a measure of compassion towards persons who, through an unfortunate series of events, find themselves in disagreeable situations and are injured and reflected upon, I cannot feel that I am blameworthy because I do not accept, as part of my duty as Secretary for War, to make formal and express regret to persons who are acquitted by court-martial. At the same time I have no hesitation in saying to the House that this is a very regrettable occurrence. Almost every circumstance tends to make it a very regrettable occurrence. First of all, there is the personality of Father O'Donnell. He is an Australian, and, therefore, dear to us on that account. He is an Australian soldier who has come across the sea and has fought. He is a priest, and, therefore, deserving of special respect. He was visiting Ireland—
§ Mr. CHURCHLL—with which he had a racial connection. It is regrettable on account of the other officer in the matter. Lieut. Chambers also has had a distinguished record. True he was only a second-lieutenant; but I observe he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1909. He rejoined on the outbreak of War, and proceeded to France on 21st August., 1914. He served for 3½ years in France and Belgium, during which time he was wounded on three separate occasions. He was first wounded in the leg, groin, wrist and hand at Combles, then in the leg at Largemarek, and, thirdly, in the leg at Money Arras. I thought I heard someone say, "What has that to do with it?" Are we only to take a one-sided view of the case? Is every word spoken by the accused in this matter to be accepted and every circumstance connected with the evidence of others in the trial to be thrown aside as if they were persons of no reputation? What has it to do with it? It has this to do with it: My hon. Friend opposite described this young officer as "a Zabern sergeant." I did not understand what that meant, and inquired. I found out it was a rhetorical expression. But I see nothing in the case to make me believe that Lieut. Chambers was not acting bonâ fide the report he made to his superiors. He may have been mistaken. It is quite possible that the fragments of conversation which he thought were grave and incriminating were capable of legitimate explanation—quite possible! That is what the Court found. I am not going to stand against the report of the Court. It is perfectly possible to say what I have suggested, because the Court, on full examination of the circumstances including all the hardships which had been entailed, and with the fine record of this Australian officer before them, found him not guilty on the charge and acquitted him. It. is going too far to turn and treat Lieut. Chambers, who has been wounded three times for his country, as if he were some paid spy and informer. But Lieut. Chambers was not alone. There was a Captain Clark in the room at the same time whom he did not know, and had never seen, and whose evidence was quite separate. Captain Clark, of the Royal Naval Reserve, is new employed under the Board of Trade. Both officers were —rightly or wrongly—greatly offended. They may have been entirely mistaken. They were greatly offended, even in- 737 furiated, by the language which they heard, or thought they heard, at the adjoining table. They remonstrated with the offender. The cause of complaint stopped. Lieut. Chambers then makes a report to the proper military authorities. I am not able to state exactly what the circumstances were, but I have no ground to think that his report was not bonâ fide. That report attributes no improper motives to Father O'Donnell. He made his report to the competent military authority, and, in consequence of that report, the machinery of military discipline was set in motion. The hon. Gentleman speaks as if I had been anxious to grasp this unfortunate Australian soldier priest and seeking to employ people to ruin him or get him into my grasp. I never heard of this matter at all until Monday last, when I found that my hon. Friend had been putting questions.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Is the right hon. Gentleman like the Provost Marshal? Does he not read the evening and morning papers?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Yes, I do in a Ministerial sense, and in justifying that responsibility surely I am entitled to repudiate this odious and invidious kind of almost personal malevolence which the hon. Gentleman—although I am sure he did not believe it—indulged in. These two officers arrived at these conclusions, and as a result of the report of Lieut. Chambers the military machinery of discipline was put into operation and Father O'Donnell was arrested the next day on a charge of using seditious language against the King. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the Government!"] Yes, and the Government. No one would ever object to any language being used against the Government in Ireland or anywhere else, but language used by an officer in uniform in an hotel against the King—I am, of course, assuming the allegation was correct because in this case the court-martial has acquitted him—language of that kind which was alleged, if true, would constitute a very serious charge against an officer, and, in consequence, this machinery, which is a very rough machinery, as those who have served in the Army or in the War know, was put 738 into operation. It is not unfair or by any means corrupt machinery, but it is a rough and ready machinery. This was set in motion and the gallant and reverend gentleman was arrested. I have examined the case of how he was treated immediately after his arrest, and when he was in the-custody of the British military authorities; and I cannot see from any of the evidence that there is any ground for complaint.
Of course, I do not say that he did not have a very disagreeable time. I regret that he should have been treated in this manner, but I do say that there was no ground for very many of the charges—finding fault with the officers or non-commissioned officers to whose charge he passed before he was handed over to the-Australian military authorities. He would have been handed over much earlier to the Australian military authorities but for the fact that an application was made in the. King's Bench Division, Dublin, for a writ of habeas corpus, and he was ordered not to be removed until the matter had been tried. That application was made by himself. Eventually, after eight or nine days' confinement, he was handed over.
An officer accused of using seditious language in a place like Ireland, where the military authorities have a very difficult task to perform, and where no one can doubt that a very dangerous state of opinion exists, is under a very serious charge. After eight or nine days he was removed. The Australian authorities took him over into their charge and brought him over to England. I should like to point out how very widely opinions may differ in regard to these matters of the administration of justice. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last complained bitterly that this man was shipped off to England, and he asked, "Why could he not be tried in Ireland and have the inquiry there where the witnesses were on the spot? Why ship hint off to England?" and he tried to make this out as another instance of my extraordinary malice. Another hon. Member said that if he had been tried in Ireland instead of England he would not have been acquitted, so I leave it to hon. Members opposite to settle this point between themselves.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman is magnificent. I was not discussing the geographical position, but the character of the tribunal, and I was speaking of the Australian officers. I say that if 739 he had been tried by a court-martial set up in Ireland he would have been found guilty, and that is my point.
§ Captain BENN
The right hon. Gentleman has certainly made a magnificent display, but it is all air. The hon. Gentleman was referring to the tribunal administering so-called justice in Ireland, and I was referring to the Australian court-martial. Therefore, there is nothing in his point at all.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It seems to me clear that however you may argue about the tribunal there is a distinct difference between the hon. Member who moved and the hon. Gentleman who seconded this Motion as to which side of the Channel this man should be tried. It was a very serious charge, and I do not believe there can be any dispute about the procedure adopted. I have seen the statements made by the non-commissioned officers and the warrant officers concerned in providing the quarters for the confinement of Father O'Donnell after he was arrested. I do not want to read them, because they go into all sorts of squalid details, which, in view of all the circumstances, I do not think it is desirable to deal with. They are plain statements of officers who gave up their bunk. They declare it was clean, that there was plenty of bedding, and that all the requirements of an officer were provided. I am not prepared to say as between Father O'Donnell and these non-commissioned officers of the Wiltshire Regiment that either were telling an untruth. I am not going to say that just because Father O'Donnell takes this view that these men are necessarily lying, but there is a conflict of testimony, and it is not in my province to decide. I am not going to found a charge against these officers simply on the statement of Father O'Donnell.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
These officers did not give evidence at the court-martial. Father O'Donnell did. These are his sworn statements before the court-martial. Why did not the counsel employed by the Treasury cross-examine to prove that his statements were untrue?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Because Father O'Donnell was brought before the court-martial on a charge of using disloyal language, and the question of any ill-usage or what kind of usage he had received from the military authorities during the 740 time that he was in custody before trial was really not relevant except to this extent, that he had been in custody under these unpleasant and disagreeable circumstances, and the Court were entitled to take that into consideration in their general view of the affair. The hon. Member has said that this affair was an outrage —an intolerable outrage. I want to know, Where is the outrage? Does the outrage consist in the bonâ fide statement of Lieutenant Chambers? Does the outrage consist in the arrest that followed upon this bonâ fide statement reaching the higher authority? No doubt the higher authority was ignorant of Father O'Donnell's record except that he knew that he was an officer of such a rank and of such a name and that he was charged with having used seditious language. Where, in the face of those statements, is the outrage in the higher authority issuing orders for arrest? I dispute altogether—according to the information that I have received I am entitled to dispute altogether—that his treatment under arrest was different to that which would have been meted out to any other officer who came to our overcrowded and congested barracks and military centres. Was there any outrage in handing him over at the very earliest moment that could be arranged to his own Australian authorities, who deal with all these cases of Australian officers and men in this country, and with whom we do not interfere in any way except to give them any assistance that they require? If they want a place of confinement in which to put a man the General Officer in London provides it, and if they require counsel in a case of court-martial, the War Office assists them, but purely as a matter of form and upon their request and on their initiative and as a. matter of general routine. Where is the outrage there? Was there any outrage on the part of the Australian authorities in trying Father O'Donnell by court-martial? On the contrary, we are in agreement about that.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It is a very important thing—in fact it is nine-tenths of the whole transaction. A man is accused of having used improper or seditious language. He is put under arrest. At the earliest moment he is brought to trial and is acquitted. That is the whole transaction. There is no brutal 741 outrage against liberty and freedom that can possibly be made out of the arrest of a man for a bonâ fide prima faeie case, or out, of his trial according to recognised procedure, or out of his acquittal. An innocent man sentenced to a long period of imprisonment without a trial—that is an outrage. An innocent man convicted and proved guilty on false evidence—that is an outrage. An innocent man brought to trial and given an opportunity of vindicating his character and triumphantly acquitted—that is not an outrage. I do not see how in the circumstances, after this unfortunate episode had begun, after the officer had been put under arrest, after a writ of habeas corpus had been moved for, and after publicity had been given to the matter, any authority dealing with it could have refused to try him by court-martial. Certainly the War Office would not have done so. Although we do not admit the fight of an officer to trial by court-martial, we should have said in the circumstances that it would have been unfair to this officer to deny him a full opportunity of vindicating his character. There is no outrage there, nor can there be any outrage in his being acquitted. I am asked, am I prepared to express condemnation? I am not prepared to express condemnation at any stage in this affair, although I regret, very much the course which events took. I do not see in respect of what individual or at what stage in this affair I should intervene at this moment and express condemnation and mete out punishment. I am bound to say that the impression left on my mind was that the reverend gentleman acted very imprudently in all the circumstances, and I notice, although these grave charges were brought against him, and although a lot of very painful matter was brought up, the Court did not honourably acquit him, which, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Benn) has pointed out, is the usual and recognised manner in which charges of this kind are dismissed. They acquitted him, and that acquittal stands, but I am not prepared to mete out condemnation to any persons concerned at any stage in this business.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I would like to say a word about the difficulty of the military 742 authorities in Ireland. They are very, great. Nothing is more unpleasant to our soldiers than the repeated conflicts with the civilian population, with individuals in the civilian population, into which they are led by the unhappy course of affairs in Ireland. It would be quite impossible to expect them to do their duty in all these difficult circumstances if the authorities, whenever anything occurred which gave rise to Parliamentary criticism or was the subject of comment in the newspapers, were ready to go and look for some victim on whom to pounce and of whom to make an example. As a result, you would not get that service from your military officers and authorities in all their grades which the state of affairs actually needs. The hon. Gentleman said that this was an out rage, and I observe that the Leader of the Opposition rose in his place to support the Adjournment. If you call these disagreeable experiences of the Rev. O'Donnell an outrage, what language are you going to apply to the murder of police-sergeants in Dublin? If you are going to rise in your place to support adjournments on a matter of this kind, which I regret, and which I do not in the least deny is an unfortunate episode, but which I say is trivial and petty in almost every respect, if you are going to try to make out of an ordinary episode of administration, accidental and unfortunate, in its course as it undoubtedly was, a cause of quarrel between Great Britain and Australia, and rupture the slender Imperial tie, what words have you to say of the conspiracy of murder against the police? I am not making a reproach of it. I am only warning the hon. Gentleman not to exhaust his vocabulary too soon.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
There was a time when the Secretary of State for War prepared his speeches, and when he came down here and entranced the House with epigrams which savoured very much of midnight oil. I think it is to be regretted that on the present occasion he has departed from that practice, and has appeared to regard this House as ready to accept anything he chooses to give it. The right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech with a characteristic peroration, and I am at a loss to understand why he associated this case with a number of murders in Ireland, and why he triumphantly asked the Members of the front Opposition bench what they had to say about those murders? What in God's 743 name has that to do with this case? Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Members on the Front Opposition Bench are engaged in a conspiracy of murder? Does he suggest that I and my colleagues are engaged in such a conspiracy? If not, what was the object of bringing in this matter? It was one of those little tricks of oratory with which the right hon. Gentleman has made us quite familiar, but which are quite as unjustified as the arithmetical calculation he occasionally indulges in on financial topics. I regret the speech of the right hon. Gentleman for many reasons, because it included some subjects which call for very serious consideration. I would ask the House to have regard in the first instance to the gross contempt which in this case of Father O'Donnell has been shown by the Government, and especially by the Secretary for War, for Colonial opinion. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, has gone the best possible way to break up the Empire. I heard an hon. Member laugh. This is not a laughing matter, and if the hon. Member cannot get up and make a coherent speech, which he has never yet been able to do, at any rate he might refrain from laughing.
What happened with regard to the Dominions? The Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth sent several cables to the Government here with regard to Father O'Donnell. How were those cablegrams treated? The Leader of the House got up at that table the other day and told the House of Commons that he did not know anything about any cablegrams from Mr. Hughes. Probably they were received, but he did not know. Today the Secretary for War told us he had never seen the telegrams, and though he believed they were received he had never read them. That is the respect which this Government is showing for the Dominions, and I ask any thoughtful English or Scottish Member what effect he thinks that is going to have on the Prime Ministers and subjects in the British Dominions all over the world. But that is not all. The Governor of Tasmania sent a telegram to Father O'Donnell with regard to the prosecution. What happened to that? It was held up by the Government. It was not delivered to Father O'Donnell until the Tasmanian Agent called at the Colonial Office and said he had received a message from the Tasmanian Government stating that the Governor's message had not been delivered. Then it was produced and de- 744 livered after three weeks suppression at the Colonial Office. What does the House think of that? This does not affect me, it does not affect Father O'Donnell in the slightest, but it does concern patriotic Englishmen and Scotsmen, and it is they who have to judge the seriousness of these things in our relations with the Dominions.
The Secretary for War offered only a half-hearted expression of regret for the manner in which Father O'Donnell was treated. Indeed, I think he put it in a negative form, "I do not say," said he, "that it was not regrettable," Surely that is the most qualified condemnation that was ever pronounced upon an outrage of this kind. I may go further. He pooh-poohed the incident as one of no consequence whatever, and he suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin) and those who are associated with him, have been guilty of a sort of impudence in raising this question at all on a, Motion for Adjournment. He said, and this is a fact that I would emphasise, that he had consulted the Attorney-General for Ireland, a very worthy politician, and that he never made any statement with reference to condemning the illegality. If there is one thing which the Attorney-General and his friends in Dublin castle like to talk about it is that politicians do not condemn with sufficient vehemence the murders that have taken place in that country. But what did the Secretary for War tell us to-day? His pronouncement will be read from every Sinn Fein platform in Ireland and at every meeting. He said, "I refuse to undertake to generally condemn illegalities for which I am not directly responsible." That is exactly the view held by leaders of opinion in Ireland today, and they may now claim the Secretary for War as on their side.
The right hon. Gentleman stated that Chambers's statements to the court-martial were bonâ fide. But they were proved at the court-martial not only not to be bonâ fide, but to be untruthful. I was sitting in the Court when the judge-advocate, addressing the court-martial at the close of the proceedings, called the attention of the officers who constituted the Court to the very remarkable fact that Chambers had never produced his notebook, and to the still more remarkable fact that although he alleged he took notes of the conversation under the table in the dining room, a gentleman who was 745 sitting at the same table did not see him taking the notes, and nobody else in the dining room either saw him doing so. The judge-advocate told the court-martial they must have regard to these facts when deciding on the credibility of the evidence advanced by Chambers. That is not the only thing. We heard a long record tonight of Chamber's services. But there was one incident as to which the Secretary for War said nothing. He did not tell us about the occasion when Chambers was invited to retire from the officers' mess at Harwich. Perhaps he will make some inquiries, so that on the next occasion his record may be more up to date.
The right hon. Gentleman also towards the close of his speech made what I think was a very unworthy observation; one which I believe he will regret having made. I think sufficiently highly of him to believe he will be ashamed of it. He made the point that the court-martial did not honourably acquit Father O'Donnell, but simply acquitted him. I will do the right hon. Gentleman the justice of assuming that he does not know how that was brought about. I will tell him. I heard the judge-advocate say to the court-martial when they were retiring, and because he knew their desire was to return a verdict of honourable acquittal—I heard him say, "You can return either a verdict of acquittal or a verdict of honourable acquittal, but with regard to honourable acquittal you are not entitled to find such a verdict unless there has been a charge reflecting on Father O'Donnell's personal honour." There was no such charge in this case. Speaking as a lawyer representing the War O[...]ce, as a man with authority, he told them in the most distinct fashion that they were not entitled, as a matter of law, to return a verdict of honourable acquittal. He quoted the Duke of Wellington, who, in I forget what year, said, "You should never return a verdict of honourable acquittal unless in circumstances which provide reason for general rejoicing by the whole Army."
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
Everything is wrong. Everything the right hon. Gentleman said is wrong. That does not surprise me in the slightest. I am telling the House now what the judge-advocate said, and I challenge anyone to contradict it. He told the Court that they had no power to re- 746 turn a verdict of honourable acquittal. The right hon. Gentleman offers no apology, except the very half-hearted one to which I have referred. He seems to think that this is a matter of no importance whatever, an everyday occurrence. I doubt very much whether any Member in this House—I do not care who he is, or how partisan he may be, or how anxious he may be to vote with the Secretary of State for War—I do not think there is a Member in this House who believes that this is an everyday occurrence in the British Army. Where the right hon. Gentleman is right is in this, that it is an everyday occurrence in Ireland. One of the most remarkable things about the whole situation is this, that the liberty of the whole Irish people is to-day in the hands of these military martinets who have treated Father O'Donnell in this way, and there is not an Irishman living at home to-day who is not liable to be treated in the same way. The right hon. Gentleman does not care, but I can promise him this, that the people of Australia care, and, though hon. Members laughed when it was mentioned that a general election is now taking place in Australia, they will laugh in a different way when they learn the result of that election. When they learn, as they will learn, the effect which the prosecution of Father O'Donnell has had upon the fate of Mr. Hughes in Australia, they will begin to appreciate the seriousness of this question.
There were various illegalities in this case, with which the right hon. Gentleman did not deal. In the first place, no charge was preferred against Father O'Donnell when he was arrested, nor was any charge communicated to him until he was brought before the Australian authorities. He got this slip of paper telling him he was charged with conduct prejudicial to military discipline. That is not a charge. How can any man prepare a defence to that charge? It is not a charge. It is merely a general statement, and the giving of a document of a kind so vague as that is not providing the accused with any charge which he is in a position to rebut.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
He was not, until he was brought before the Australian officer. As long as he was under the control of the Secretary of State he was never told 747 what the charge was. Moreover, by the Army Regulations, this charge should have been reported to Father O'Donnell's commanding officer before any action was taken. Was that Army Regulation carried out? Was Father O'Donnell's commanding officer communicated with before he was placed in custody? Of course not. The Secretary of State tells us that the first he knew of this case was three or four days ago. The first thing the Australian commanding officer knew of it was when he saw it in the newspaper. Yet, according to Army Regulations he should have been told before Father O'Donnell was taken into custody. The right hon. Gentleman told us to-clay, in answer to a question, and he repeated it to-night, because he is very anxious that it should be conveyed to Australia, that the Australian Army officer here did nothing but what was absolutely correct. Of course. No one ever suggested anything else. That has been our case all through. Our complaint is not against the Australian officer, who acted as a gentleman, and gave. Father O'Donnell a court-martial when he demanded it. Our complaint is against the officers who are under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for War. I should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman had gone a little more fully into the particulars as to how Father O'Donnell came to be placed under arrest. He has told us he was arrested on the orders of the Commander of the Forces in Ireland. Was Lord French consulted before that was done? We do not exactly know what Lord French's position is. He is at the head of the civil administration in Ireland, or such civil administration as is left, and he is also at the head of the military. Was he consulted by the military before or after Father O'Donnell's arrest, and, if so, what did he say and what action did he take? Is he entirely free from responsibility?
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I do not know how the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows. I do not know who was responsible for the arrest.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
Lord French knew all about the case, and never interfered directly or indirectly. I would ask the 748 House to note what a commentary this O'Donnell case is on the Government's much vaunted intention of producing a settlement of the Irish question. One thing absolutely certain in the troubled sea of Irish politics is that so long as the present Lord Lieutenant and the present Chief Secretary and the present military administration remain in Ireland you are face to race with an insuperable obstacle to the settlement of the Irish question. As long as you have a state of affairs under which—
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I am only making a passing reference. I have no intention of debating the point. The O'Donnell case shows that as long as you have the present military system at work you will not be able to effect a settlement of the Irish question.
Another point on which I think the right hon. Gentleman might have been a little more frank was with regard to the very base, unworthy and utterly false suggestions which was made by military officers all over Ireland, which was made by this man Chambers at the beginning of the case, but afterwards abandoned by him when he came face to face with the court-martial, that Father O'Donnell was under the influence of drink. The right hon. Gentleman cannot dismiss it so airily as he sought to do to-night. That statement was made by members of his own Government in this House, and it was circulated all over the House that Father O'Donnell was arrested because, in a state of intoxication, he had indulged in disloyal expressions. It is greatly to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman did not frankly, straighforwardly, and freely offer an expression of regret to Father O'Donnell for the manner in which he has been treated. Apart from political feelings altogether, I think, all in this House will regard the treatment of Father O'Donnell as having been enormously aggravated by the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has dealtwith the case to-night. He will hear of this case again and again. He will hear of his defence to-night. The story will ring in America. It is ringing at this moment all through Amerca and all through Australia. For many a year to come the story will be told in Ireland as well.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I am sure: that I am voicing the opinion of every 749 hon. Member when I say that this case has caused every Member extreme regret. Everyone, especially those who have had the privilege of fighting for any considerable time with the Australian Forces, and who know what we owe to Australia, must feel that this is a most deplorable thing to have occurred. But, having said that, I frankly do not believe that there is any single resident of Australia, at any rate those who have been over here and who know the British people, who would imagine for one instant that the question of Australia came into this matter at all. When we have said that, we can properly discuss what really the right hon. Gentleman could do in the circumstances. Everyone knows that there have been courts-martial, unfortunately a very large number. There was bound to be when we had a great Army. There may have been thousands of acquittals, certainly hundreds, from courts-martial. Can it be maintained that the right hon. Gentleman should write to the newspapers or make a statement in Parliament expressing his regret because an Australian padre has been acquitted, when to thy certain knowledge English padres have been acquitted from courts-martial, and no such demand has come from any part of this House? I would ask the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin) to treat this question in its proper perspective, and not to drag in Australia again and again, and to try to persuade this House that this question is going to have any real effect upon the Australian elections. It was interesting for the first time to hear the hon. Member (Mr. MacVeagh) express solicitude that Mr. Hughes should be returned as Prime Minister for Australia. I am glad to find that he has come round to my view on that question.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
If the War Office could have court-martialled you at the General Election they would have done it.
§ General CROFT
Perhaps that is perfectly true. The hon. Member perhaps knows what the War Office thinks of me. The fact remains, that we are going to make a grave blunder if we treat this question in the manner in which the Mover and the Seconder of the Resolution treated it. The hon. and gallant Member who spoke for the Liberal party (Captain Wedgwood Benn) again and again referred to the minions or myrmidons of the right hon. Gentleman, and said that they were doing this, that, or the other, as if they were 750 doing this under the direction of the Secretary for War. The hon. and gallant Gentleman at one time wore with great distinction the uniform of His Majesty in the Forces of the Crown, and because he was an officer it would have been a gross insult for us here to have described him as a million or a myrmidon if he did what he conceived to be his duty and if he performed the very unpleasant duty of reporting against someone who was also wearing the uniform of the British Empire. It is almost impossible to conceive that this officer, whom we are all glad to see has been acquitted, was not doing something on the occasion in question which was hardly worthy of the uniform of the British Army, or you would not have found two officers, who did not know each other, both getting up and protesting against that officer's behaviour in public.
§ General CROFT
Against the way he was conducting himself. I am not referring to the other suggestions, but there must have been some strong cause to make two of them in a public place approach a total stranger and request him to modify his attitude. I hope that the matter will not be proceeded with, because, if it is, it is evident that it can be wily for one reason, and that is to stir up political troubles and make difficulties where no difficulties ought to exist, and magnify this question in Australia, when every Australian ought to know that in thousands of cases innocent men have been court-martialled and acquitted, and that it is impossible to make a special exception in the case of any one man however gallant he may be or what part of the Empire he may come from.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I did not intend to take part in this Debate, as I have no knowledge of the personalities or the facts except what I have gathered from the newspapers, but I do not think that the speech of the Secretary for War can remain without a reply from these benches. The word Zabern has been used frequently in the Debate. Zabern was one of the signs of that position which created the complications in Europe from which we have just escaped. Zabern gave an object-lesson to the outside world as to what militarism in Prussia meant. But there was an incident in connection with Zabern which was quite as remarkable as the con- 751 duct of the German militarists in the War. That was the letter, practically of approval, which the Crown Prince, as he then was, sent to the officer who was convicted of this outrage upon the civil liberties of the people. The Crown Prince wrote a letter to the officer who was the principal in this Zabern outrage. He was also present at a debate in the Reichstag, if I remember aright, in which he clamourously applauded the defence of the Zabern officers. The speech of the Secretary for War to-night, in my opinion, is exactly on a par with the letter of the ex-Grown Prince to the officers connected with Zabern. With the indulgence of the House I will prove that statement. I never heard an unwiser speech, and, what is more important, I never heard a more ungenerous speech in my life than that of the right hon. Gentleman. He wound up by dragging in wantonly the horrible series of crimes which have taken place in Ireland. What was the meaning of dragging them in?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Does the hon. Gentleman think that I am foolish enough or blind enough or deaf enough not to know that there has been deplorable crime in Ireland?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My reason for referring to that was to show the difficulties in which the military authorities are placed in Ireland, the dangerous situation which exists, and consequently the sharp and rough measures which are taken with military officers who are believed to have used seditious language.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but the Howe heard his words. They were accompanied by an allusion and almost a challenge to right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite, who were twitted with not calling attention to these crimes while exhausting their vocabulary on this particular incident. What was the meaning of that allusion? I do not know what was in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, but that allusion, brought in in connection with the trial of Captain O'Donnell, was 752 designed to bring prejudice into this discussion, and to suggest that because we take up this case we are to be held in some way responsible for the odious series of crimes in Ireland. I say that was a most ungenerous and unfair thing, unfair to us and unfair to Father O'Donnell. The right hon. Gentleman asked what outrage there has been to apologise for. I will tell the House what the outrage was. The outrage was his speech. Captain O'Donnell has been acquitted; the charge against him has been proved to be untrue. I am not going to make an attack on this gentleman, Lieutenant Chambers, who originated the case. The right hon. Gentleman has passed a eulogy upon the services of this gallant officer, as to which I am not going to make any denial or diminution.
I must say that it appears to me very poor business for gallant officers to go around the dining-rooms of hotels eavesdropping and formulating grave charges of disloyalty on what must necessarily be imperfect understanding of what was said. If all of us had a sentence or two taken from the context of our table-talk, there is none of us could live and carry any reputation for the rest of our days. Therefore, I interpret the conduct of Lieutenant Chambers in this matter from an entirely different point of view from that of the right hon. Gentleman. My interpretation is that it is a symptom of the thoroughly morbid state of mind into which a number of military gentlemen in Ireland have got, and their desire to look around and search and find treason and sedition in every single conversation they may happen to hear. It has been stated that Captain O'Donnell was guilty of bad manners because he was talking loudly. As a matter of fact he was speaking loudly because he was talking to a deaf man. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the indiscretions of Captain O'Donnell. What were the indiscretions? Is it contended that a man is to be subject to the possibilities of imprisonment and trial by court-martial because he talks loudly in the dining-room of an hotel in Ireland? You could not have a more eloquent symptom and demonstration than this incident of the horrible state of mind which has been produced among the military authorities in Ireland.
Why do I call the right hon. Gentleman's speech an outrage First, for the reason I have already given, that I think the winding-up of his speech was a most 753 unfair introduction of extraneous and prejudiced matter. But I have another reason. I have listened to all the right hon. Gentleman's answers about this case, except on one day when I did not happen to be present. I heard every word of his speech to-night, and I will tell you the opinion I would form if I were an outsider and read his speech, of the right hon. Gentleman's mental attitude towards the whole thing—"not guilty; do not do it again." That is the best he can say for Father O'Donnell. He has not a word of real, sincere and whole-hearted regret for all the incidents of this transaction. I do not want to use strong language and I hate using any language which would hurt any lady's feelings, but I must say the right hon. Gentleman descended to what I thought was one of the most ungenerous devices I ever heard in this House when he laid stress on the fact that though Father O'Donnell was acquitted he was not "honourably acquitted." My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. MacVeagh), who is a member of the Bar, gave an explanation as to the use of the word "honourably." That was a technical, legal explanation of which I am not in a position to judge, but is not the interpretation you must take for such language by the right hon. Gentleman that, though this man was acquitted, he was not honourably acquitted, and that, after all, he does not owe a whole-hearted apology to Father O'Donnell. I put it to the House, ought he to have got a sincere and whole-hearted apology or not? My hon. and gallant Friend (Brigadier-General Croft) said that there had been many courts-martial, and asked were they to review every single court-martial in the High Court of Parliament and call on Ministers to make an apology? Nobody would lay down a proposition so absurd, but this case is unique in the fact that here is a man who fills the double capacity of a fighting soldier and a chaplain, and who came across the seas in order to fight for the cause of liberty and who defended against people of his own race Mr. Hughes' appeal for Conscription. I reiterate the statement made by the hon. Members who spoke that he was subjected to unusually rigorous, offensive, and degrading treatment. A man with a record like that and a member of a force to which we owe so much as the Australian force and a man whose case has now become known to the world is not to have a full and ample reparation at least in words, from the right hon. Gentleman 754 who is the guardian of the Army. My hon. and gallant Friend (Brigadier-General Croft) says do not talk so much about the Australian Force, but I do not think we can talk too much about what we owe to Australia and to the Australian Army, and, therefore, we are under a particular obligation to mark our reprobation of the unjust and degrading treatment to a gallant member of that force—that is my point.
The right hon. Gentleman speaks as if nothing had happened to this gentleman out of the ordinary. I am not a master of any law, still less of military law, but the fact remains that he was kept in close confinement. As to his prison treatment, we have a conflict of evidence, and either one side or the other side is lying. A man knows whether a bed is comfortable or unhealthy. Father O'Donnell has given testimony, which has not been challenged in Court, that he was put into a filthy cell with a filthy bed. Now I ask my hon. and gallant Friend, if that statement be true, do we not owe an apology to the force and to the country from which that man came? [Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Gentlemen laugh at that observation. I will take another point. Is it or is it not true that the man was for several days without the opportunity of seeing his counsel and his other legal assistance? Was not that an outrage, and ought not that to be apologised for? As to the charges about the reverend gentleman's habits, all I can tell the right hon. Gentleman is this, that these charges were first stated, according to the evidence of Lieutenant Chambers, in the hotel, and that these charges have been circulated wide-cast. I have heard the charge made on these benches that this was only a drunken Irish priest, and that it was absurd for us to take up the time of Parliament in discussing the case. Are the characters of gallant soldiers to be whispered away by this sordid campaign of calumny, and especially the character of a man who occupies the sacred position of a chaplain in the Army? The right hon. Gentleman, I am sorry to say, does not come well out of this transaction. So far as he can do it, he has defended the conduct of the officers engaged in the matter, and so far as he could avoid it he has refused to say one word of sincere apology to this reverend and gallant officer. There is one little difference between the Zabern incident and this. It is quite true that the right hon. 755 Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, with a certain sneaking tenderness for militarism which I regret to say one can trace in most of his recent proposals and speeches, which perhaps may be intelligible in a man who has served some years of his life in the Army, has imitated the ex-Crown Prince of Prussia in practically giving, so far as he could, his apology and his defence for the soldiers who are guilty of this outrage, but in one way the Zabern incident differs from this incident. When the Zabern incident was brought before even the servile and impotent Reichstag under the Kaiser, the Reichstag for once rose to the courage of its opinions and, by practically a unanimous vote, denounced and reprobated the conduct of the Zabern officers; but here, in this British Parliament, the Mother of Parliaments, and supposed to be the guardian of liberty, this outrage can take place on a gallant officer and you cannot get the House of Commons or a Minister to say a word in honest regret.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I entirely agree with everything the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has said. I can quite understand his feelings on this matter, but the Secretary of State for War has served as a soldier in the Regular Army. I served in the Regular Navy, and we both understand that it is quite necessary for the head of a fighting Service to be ready to defend with the greatest energy the doings of his subordinates in that Service. Both the Secretary of State for War and myself have been brought up from our youth to defend our subordinates to the utmost. Any accusations against them we have both been bound to refute with the greatest energy, and therefore I find myself, in this matter at any rate, in much sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman. I hope always the Secretary for War will go out of his way to defend with all the energy he can the doings of his subordinates. I hope the heads of the Air Service and the Admiralty will always do the same. But, having said that, I think the right hon. Gentleman might have been a little stronger in his regret for the whole set of circumstances which arose, and regretted that the matter had not come before a senior officer in Dublin who had sufficient good sense to know it would be more tactful, more diplomatic, more statesmanlike, to have quashed at 756 once the proceedings and allowed the matter to drop. We must remember that this was a case of an officer of Irish descent, with an Irish name, and a Catholic. Would this have happened in the case of an Englishman, an officer in one of the smart regiments in this country? Would Lieutenant Chambers in that case have gone out of his way, as I think he really did? Would an officer, for example, in a Cavalry regiment—possibly the right hon. Gentleman's own regiment—have been haled up in this way? The right hon. Gentleman knows that at this moment all Irishmen, if only by descent, are hypersensitive. [Interruption.] Under the circumstances, I think the condemnation might have been more severe. Irishmen at this moment, as I say, are hypersensitive. They know that many of their race have served in the War, and they feel it to be unfair that all of their countrymen should be tarred with the same brush because of a few unfortunate and regrettable outrages in country districts in Ireland.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I regret if I strayed from the subject. I will at once return to the subject. [HON. MEMBERS "Sit down!"] May I say that the right hon. Gentleman himself dragged in these murders, which I do not think were mentioned in any speeches which preceded his speech. The case of Australia has been mentioned, and I am not going to mention it again. One might remember another great English-speaking nation—the United States of America.. At the present moment there is an intense propaganda going on there against the good name of England. The proceedings in this Chamber are not going to do much to allay that. Hon. Members who take upon themselves to. interrupt, and twit, and attempt to shout down—
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I apologise again, Sir. There is this intensive propaganda going forward. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why don't you sit down?"] It spoils the relationship between ourselves and another great English-speaking nation. Under these circumstances I think it is even more regrettable, and only lends weight to what I say, that the right hon. Gentleman, while having 757 to defend, as it was his duty to do, his own subordinates in every way he could—I perfectly agree with him—sympathise with him—did not at the same time regret the occurrence—as we all on these benches do—and find himself ready to offer a more sincere—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide"]regret, but must needs draw a distinction in the matter of an honourable acquittal in this most unfortunate and regrettable case.
Mr. J. JONES
I would not have intervened in this Debate, because I think the matter has already been so well dealt with from all points of view that any remarks of mine might appear superfluous—[An HON. MEMBER: "Sit down!"]
§ Mr. STANTON
On a point of Order. Mr. Speaker, may I ask whether, when an hon. Member rises and declares that he has nothing really to say, he is entitled to take up the time of the House?
§ Mr. STANTON
May I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the remarks made by the other side — an hon. Member calling me names. I will hit back if you do not protect me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]
If I said so much, and knew so little, as the hon. Gentleman who has interrupted me, I should never intervene in debate. I am speaking from a different point of view to previous speakers. I happen to be an Irishman representing an English constituency—
§ Mr. STANTON
I know you are not!
It being Eleven of the clock the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.