HC Deb 08 July 1919 vol 117 cc1595-7
42. Mr. LUNN

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to statements as to the conditions existing in the concentration camp for suspected Bolsheviks at Muding Island, off Archangel; and whether he has any information that the inmates are grossly overcrowded, half-starved, and deprived of medical necessaries, and that forty out of the 250 have already died?


I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT, as it is too long to read out in the House, a full statement which has been furnished to me regarding this camp. It shows that there is no foundation for any suggestion that the inmates are overcrowded, half-starved, or deprived of medical necessaries. There are only twenty-eight altogether in the prison at present, and I gather that these are practically all, if not all, bad cases of sentenced criminals or men charged with serious civil crimes, such as murder.

The following is the statement referred to:

The prison was an overflow from Archangel main prison. It was inspected by General Ironside shortly after his arrival in October, 1918, when he decided that only the worst cases of sentenced criminals, and men charged with serious crimes, such as murder, should be sent there. Many of these cases had been imprisoned by the civil authorities before the Bolsheviks entered Archangel, some by the Bolsheviks during their stay in Archangel, and some by the Russian authorities when the Allies arrived. The records were in hopeless confusion when taken over by the Allies. Many prisoners, in nearly every case civil, were in poor condition, and there was a large proportion of syphilitics among them. General Ironside at once placed the prison under Colonel Donop, the French Governor of Archangel, under whose charge it remained until handed over to the Russian authorities in May, 1919. The guard was made up of French Marines. Staff and medical officers of the British Command made constant visits to the island, and all the necessary medicines were provided. The present number in the prison is twenty-eight, and General Ironside states that conditions are excellent. Many have been released, as they have completed thier sentence.

Early in November, General Ironside increased the rations of all prisoners after reports by an Allied Commission, and, having regard to the approach of winter, ho again increased the ration on 25th November.

In January, scurvy appeared in some cases, and an absolutely free hand, as regards medicines and rations, was given to the deputy-director of medical services. All sick were treated in exactly the same way as our own cases in hospital.

Lime juice has always formed a portion of the rations.

As soon as summer came, the whole establishment of Muding Island vacated the winter barracks and went under canvas.

As regards prisoners incarcerated for Bolshevik tendencies, unless they were under suspicion of definite crimes, General Ironside, in April, personally gave all prisoners the option of going over to the Soviet Russians if they so desired. The greater portion, however, declined to accept this offer. Including men from the army and civilians, who were also given this opportunity as well as prisoners, only some 400 availed themselves of it.

There has never been any overcrowding on the island, and General Ironside states in his Report on the subject that, considering the state of things when the medical authorities took over in October, they carried out their work most efficiently.

The rations scale fixed on 25th. November was: