HC Deb 08 November 1939 vol 353 cc197-8
24 and 27. Mr. Lambert

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty (1) whether he can now make a statement relating to the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Royal Oak";

(2) the total British shipping tonnage sunk by enemy action, specifying tonnage sunk by submarine and surface warship, respectively, since the commencement of the war; and the total of enemy submarines and surface warships known to have been destroyed during the same period?

25. Commander Sir Archibald Southby

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is now in a position to make a further statement to the House regarding the loss of His Majesty's Ship "Royal Oak"?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Shakespeare)

I would ask my right hon. Friend and my hon. and gallant Friend to await the statement which my right hon. Friend the First Lord is making later to-day.

30. Mr. Poole

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that a midshipman of 18 years of age was called upon to assist in the identification of those killed in the sinking of the "Royal Oak"; and whether he can say why one so young was selected for this duty?

Mr. Shakespeare

I am not aware that any midshipman was called upon to assist in the identification of those killed in His Majesty's Ship"Royal Oak,"but in any case the hon. Member will appreciate that it may be necessary to call upon any survivor to perform a similar duty.

Mr. Poole

In view of the fact that the midshipman concerned was not at that time on the "Royal Oak," and if I give the hon. Gentleman the particulars, will he make further inquiries and give us an assurance that in no circumstances will one so young be called upon to perform this work if anyone else is available?

Mr. Shakespeare

I will certainly make inquiries if the hon. Gentleman will give me the information, but I cannot give that undertaking. I can well conceive that in certain circumstances the midshipman may be the only person who can do this work.

Mr. Poole

While willing to concede that point to the Parliamentary Secretary, does he not realise the serious effect this will have upon the boy in subsequent life and, where there are other people older who can perform this work, will he relieve young men of this somewhat harassing duty?

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the last war thousands of young officers of this age were always leading their men and were always asked to give such evidence on such occasions without any ill effect, and that they would resent the hon. Member's suggestion?

Mr. Davidson

That is why we lost so many men?