HC Deb 09 July 1919 vol 117 cc1788-9
25. Mr. INSKIP

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he Las been made aware of a notice issued during hostilities by the Director of Transports warning masters of transports to be on their watch against treachery on the part of British pilots; what foundation is alleged to have existed for the suggestion that British pilots are capable of treachery so as to require a special watch to be put upon their actions; whether British pilots have displayed throughout the War the same loyalty as the masters of transports; and whether steps can be taken to withdraw these imputations?


I find that the following Circular was issued in May, 1916, by the Director of Transports: In view of the possibility of treachery on the part of pilots, British or otherwise, engaged in outlying waters, masters of transports should remain on the bridge with the pilot, strictly watch his navigation and not hesitate to interfere if the safety of the transport is being endangered by the pilot. It should be clearly understood, however, that this warning is given as a precaution against possible treachery, and is intended to apply only when the acts of the pilot give rise to suspicion of his good faith. It will be seen from the wording of the Circular that it was precautionary only, and applied to pilots of all nationalities in every part of the world, and, whether happily phrased or not, it could not fairly be described as an imputation upon any one. No incident involving treachery had occurred, but the Director of Transports thought it his duty to issue such a general instruction, on consideration of the vital importance of the safety of our transports and the ease with which a vessel could be cast away.

I gladly take this opportunity of stating that, in the view of the Admiralty, the loyalty, devotion, daring, and skill of British pilots throughout the War have been beyond praise, and their services merit the admiration and gratitude of the Empire.