HC Deb 11 November 1941 vol 374 cc2019-20
13. Mr. Wedgwood

asked the Secretary of State for War how many of the 1,541 Palestinians, presumed prisoners of war, were left in Greece unsurrendered; whether they were left without arms to defend themselves; whether British officers were in command; if so, did they stop with their men; and what proportion of the Palestinians left in Greece and Crete were Jews and Arabs, respectively?

The Secretary of State for War (Captain Margesson)

The latest figures from the Middle East show that the number of Palestinians missing in Crete and Greece total 1,444. Of these, 1,023 are Jews, of whom 583 are unaccounted for and 440 known to be prisoners of war, and 421 Arabs, of whom 376 are unaccounted for and 45 prisoners of war. All the Palestinian personnel in Greece and Crete belonged to pioneer or labour units, of whom a proportion were armed. They were commanded by British officers, and these naturally remained with their men. I may add that I strongly deprecate my right hon. Friend's suggestion, in this and other recent Questions, that the conduct of British officers in this war has been in any way inconsistent with the high traditions of the Service.

Mr. Wedgwood

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that it is stories like these which are spreading through the bazaars of the Near East; and that they must be answered in order that any recruiting can continue at all?

Captain Margesson

I really do not think it is in the interests of the country or of the Army to give publicity to rumours of that sort.

24. Mr. Silverman

asked the Secretary of State for War how many British military prisoners of war are interned in the camp of Miranda-del-Ebro, in Spain; whether he is satisfied with their treatment; and what steps have been taken, or are contemplated, to secure their release and repatriation?

Captain Margesson

I am having inquiries made, and will communicate with the hon. Member.

Mr. Silverman

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say that he does not know the answer to this Question now? Have any previous inquiries been made? Have such inquiries not produced any information?

Captain Margesson

I have not all the necessary information at my disposal, or I would not have spoken about having inquiries made.

Mr. Silverman

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not realise that at the present moment, in a neutral country, some thousands of British subjects are illegally imprisoned? Have not the Government made up their mind what they are going to do about it?

Captain Margesson

As I have said, I am making further inquiries.

Sir H. Williams

Can any British subject be a prisoner of war in Spain, since we are at peace with that country?

Captain Margesson

I must have notice of that question.

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