HC Deb 20 May 1941 vol 371 cc1496-7

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn." — [Mr. James Stuart.]

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

I must apologise to the House for having introduced a distraction into the keen and workmanlike discussion which has been proceeding upon the Bill before it, but, as I mentioned to the House this morning that a serious attack had been begun upon the Island of Crete by air-borne troops, I thought that the House would like to know, before it separated, what is the latest information in the possession of the Government. But I cannot pretend that the statement is of momentous importance. It is only because we are all together in this matter that I thought that the House would be most anxious to be kept fully informed, as it is my duty to do whenever possible. After a good deal of intense bombing of Suda Bay and the various aerodromes in the neighbourhood, about 1,500 enemy troops, wearing New Zealand battle-dress, landed by gliders, parachutes and troop-carriers in the Canea-Maleme area. This message was sent at 12 o'clock to-day, when the military reported that the situation was in hand. Apparently the capture of Maleme aerodrome was the enemy's object, and this has so far failed.

A later report at 3 o'clock says that there is continuous enemy reconnaissance, accompanied by sporadic bombing and machine-gunning, chiefly against anti-aircraft defence. The military hospital between Canea and Maleme, captured by the enemy, has now been recaptured. There is reported to be a fairly strong enemy party South of the Canea-Maleme Road, which has not yet been mopped up, but other parties are reported to be accounted for. Heraklion was bombed, but there has been no landing so far. I must apologise to the House for intruding on them, but I thought they would like to hear how the action has so far developed.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)

What is the position of enemy soldiers wearing British uniforms?

Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)

May I say, as one whose speech was slightly interrupted, that I am exceedingly grateful to my right hon. Friend, as I am sure are the other Members of the House?

Motion, "That this House do now adjourn," by leave, withdrawn.