HC Deb 05 August 1941 vol 373 cc1778-80
33. Mr. Wedgwood

asked the Secretary of State for War what were the results of the inquiry and court-martial into the looting and mishandling of the Jewish interned refugees on the "Dunera" going out to Australia; and what compensation has been paid to the victims?

36. Mr. Edmund Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for War the progress that has been made with regard to compensation for the losses sustained by the internees, who were transported to Australia on the steamship "Dunera" in June, 1940?

Captain Margesson

As a result of the report of a court of inquiry into the conduct of military personnel on board the "Dunera," orders were issued for the trial by court-martial of the commanding officer, a company serjeant-major and a Serjeant. The commanding officer was found guilty on a charge of failing to ensure that a proper inquiry was made into incidents on board, and sentenced to be severely reprimanded. The company serjeant-major was found guilty on charges of larceny and of receiving stolen goods and was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment and dismissed from the Service. The serjeant was found guilty of disobeying an order and sentenced to be severely reprimanded. As regards the payment of compensation, the report and claims from Australia have not yet reached this country, and I am not therefore in a position to add to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) on 1st July.

Mr. Wedgwood

Was this court-martial held without taking any evidence from the victims, and are we to understand that the net result, as far as the commanding officer is concerned, is that he is severely reprimanded and promoted from captain to major?

Captain Margesson

I remember that at the time the incident arose I was asked particularly to speed up the proceedings so that some decision should be reached. It was not possible to get all these people, who were in Australia. The House will realise that I am in no sense responsible for a sentence passed by a court-martial.

Mr. Harvey

Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman bear in mind that these losses occurred 14 months ago, and will he speed up the payment of compensation?

Captain Margesson

Yes, Sir, but, as I have said, the report has not yet been received from Australia. I understand that it is on its way now and was despatched some time in May.

Mr. Silverman

Is the House to understand that there was no evidence at the court-martial from any of the people against whom the alleged offences were committed? In that case was the court-martial qualified to come to the conclusion at which it arrived?

Captain Margesson

There was sufficient evidence for it to give its decision.

Mr. Wedgwood

When we asked for an inquiry the right hon. and gallant Gentleman promised that there should be a court-martial which would have the same effect as an inquiry. We asked for an inquiry, but we have not had it. Instead, we have had a hushing-up court-martial.