§ 17. Mr. Wedgwood
asked the Secretary of State for War, concerning the French Foreign Legion which fought beside British troops in Narvik and is, or was, recently in this country, whether he can say how many of the Spaniards, French, Jews, etc., of the rank and file are now interned or in prison in this country or have deserted because they were unwilling to serve under officers in sympathy with the Pétain Government and wished to serve under British officers; and when the report of the inquiry to be held into this matter and the conduct of Major Ruding Bryan may be expected?
§ Mr. Eden
There are at present 114 legionaries who are detained in a camp in this country, all of whom have volunteered to serve under General de Gaulle. The reason for their detention is the commission of offences against French military discipline, and this detention was carried out at the request of the French officer commanding who was General de Gaulle's representative at Trentham. Of this number, 16 are men who had absented themselves, but I am unable to state the reason for their absence. There are also others in military custody who had absented themselves but who are not volunteers. These are also detained at the request of General de Gaulle. There are no legionaries in prison in this country.
I have had an inquiry made into the allegations made against Major Ruding Bryan's conduct, with specific reference to the Supplementary Question put by my right hon. Friend on 9th July, and the charge that Major Ruding Bryan was a Fascist. As a result of this inquiry, which was attended by individuals who had been concerned in the framing of these allegations, I am satisfied that they have no foundation of truth. No evidence was produced that Major Ruding Bryan had used his influence in any way to persuade the French troops to return to France; that he was a Fascist or had 15 any connection with the Fascist organisation; or that he refused to allow the circulation of a leaflet giving the terms of the Armistice signed by the French Government, and had thus destroyed our chance of getting over 10,000 into the British Army. Moreover, General de Gaulle has authorised a statement to the effect that neither he nor any of his officers has any complaint to make against Major Ruding Bryan and that the latter has been most helpful in all that he has done. I am satisfied that Major Ruding Bryan has carried out a difficult task very well and has earned the approbation of those under whom and with whom he has been serving.
§ Mr. Wedgwood
Is it not a fact that 8,000 of those Frenchmen were sent back to France with their machine guns and their arms?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that 8,000 Frenchmen returned to France with their machine guns and rifles?
§ Mr. Sorensen
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is in Pentonville Prison a young man who served with the French Army and who came to this country and has been in prison since that time?