HC Deb 01 April 1936 vol 310 cc1973-5
10. Mr. DALTON

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received from His Majesty's Minister at Addis Ababa a report of the bombardment of Harar by Italian aircraft; and whether Harar is an open town?


Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Minister at Addis Ababa reported on 29th March that he had been informed by the Abyssinian Government that Harar had been heavily bombed that morning by a number of Italian aircraft. On the following day, His Majesty's Minister, who had by that time received a report from His Majesty's Consul at Harar, telegraphed that the raid had been carried out by 18 Italian aircraft, flying about 6,000 feet over the town between 8.45 and 9.30 a.m. According to this report, the machines circled wide three times, and in all approximately 300 bombs fell in the town and a few on buildings outside the town limits. Three bombs fell in the Swedish Mission compound, 50 in that of the Egyptian Red Cross, 14 on the Catholic Mission, four on the French hospital arid Agency, and four on the Harar Red Cross, destroying a ground sign five yards square. The apparatus of the wireless station was destroyed and the telephone lines to the British Consulate damaged; the Catholic church and the Abyssinian church of St. Xavier were also badly damaged. Some 10 fires were started, chiefly in the native quarter, and burnt fiercely, but it is believed that the number of casualties was fortunately small, as the town was evacuated at 6 a.m. and the approach of the hostile aircraft notified by minute guns.

As regards the second part of the question, His Majesty's Minister at Addis. Ababa has also reported that on 28th March the Abyssinian Government issued a communiqué denying reports from Italian sources that military preparations had been made in the town of Harar. In this communiqué reference was made to the official Abyssinian notification to the League of 2nd December last, in which it was stated that in order to spare the civilian population and resident foreigners from the effects of possible air bombardments, the Emperor had decided that all Abyssinian combatants should leave the town, which would in future be used solely as a depot for wounded from the southern front, and not for any military purpose whatever.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that British public opinion is increasingly stirred by these horrible atrocities which are being perpetrated, and when are His Majesty's Government going to take any further step to end it, at least by refusing to supply British oil to these murderous airmen?


I would ask the hon. Member to realise that His Majesty's Government are just as anxious as he can be to bring this war, and the miserable suffering consequent upon it, to an end, and I think the record of His Majesty's Government will show that quite plainly. As I have already indicated, we desire that the task on which the chairman of the Committee of Thirteen is engaged should be pursued as speedily as possible, and I can assure the House that we are watching that ourselves.


Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether any warning had been issued by the Government of Italy to the Government of Ethiopia that this bombing would take place?


I have no information of that.


Would not the speediest conclusion to these horrible atrocities be secured by a return on the part of the British and French Governments to the proposals of the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare)?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that considerable pleasure at the result of the raid has been registered by many supporters of the Government, who are also readers of the "Daily Mail"?


The hon. Member does not suppose that I like these raids any more than he does.


Are these the people who are now going to police the Rhineland?