HC Deb 07 March 1938 vol 332 cc1538-40
Mr. Sandys

(by Private Notice) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can give particulars of the circumstances in which able seaman George Long of His Majesty's ship "Boreas" was killed by a bomb yesterday; and whether His Majesty's ship "Kempenfelt" and His Majesty's ship "Boreas" were acting in accordance with procedure agreed upon by the Non-intervention Committee in transferring back on to other Spanish Nationalist warships the survivors whom they had rescued from the sinking Nationalist cruiser "Baleares"; and what it is proposed to do with the remainder of the rescued seamen who are still on board His Majesty's ship "Kempenfelt"?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Shakespeare)

Yes, Sir. I very much regret to inform the House that able seaman George Long, of His Majesty's ship "Boreas" was killed by a bomb splinter while survivors picked up from the Spanish insurgent cruiser "Baleares" were being transferred from His Majesty's ships "Kempenfelt" and "Boreas" to the Spanish insurgent cruiser "Canarias." During the course of this operation, the Spanish cruiser "Canarias" was attacked by aircraft which dropped the bomb in question. The answer to the second part of the question is that this matter is not covered by the Non-intervention Agreement. With regard to the last part of the question, the remainder of the rescued seamen have been landed at Palma.

Commander Marsden

Can my hon. Friend say whether able seaman Long was deemed to have been killed in action, and whether his dependants, if any, will be treated in accordance with the regulations?

Mr. Shakespeare

I think most certainly full compensation will be given.

Mr. Sandys

While warmly welcoming the rescue work performed by His Majesty's ships, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he considers it necessary that British lives should be risked in this work of transhipping rescued seamen back to belligerent warships?

Mr. Shakespeare

I appreciate the sentiment behind the question of my hon. Friend, but in carrying out this rescue the British Navy acts in accordance with the finest traditions.

Colonel Wedgwood

Can the hon. Gentleman say on what grounds these seamen were transferred back to the insurgent forces and were not interned as they should have been, or would have been in an ordinary war?

Mr. Shakespeare

His Majesty's Government do not take the view that we are bound by the obligations of neutrality.

Sir H. Croft

Is it not the fact that in the Northern operations in Spain many thousands of those who were combatants in these actions were transferred by ship to France and, in fact, came back?

Mr. Shakespeare

Equality of treatment is accorded to both sides. The House will remember the case of the Spanish Government destroyer which put in for repairs at Falmouth and remained there for three weeks. If the obligation of neutrality under the Hague Convention had been recognised by us, that ship should have been interned, but it was allowed to go on its way.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes

Is it not the fact that when the "Aboukir," the "Cressy," and the "Hogue" were sunk by a German submarine, a number of their crews were picked up by Dutch fishing craft, which took them to Holland, and they were promptly sent back to England?

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Has the hon. Gentleman any information as to the nationality of the seamen rescued from the Franco cruiser, and, if not, will he take steps to ascertain it?

Mr. Shakespeare

I have not that information, but I certainly will ascertain it.

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