HC Deb 21 October 1941 vol 374 cc1606-9
14. Captain McEwen

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is in a position to make any further statement regarding the whereabouts of the officers in the various camps in Germany who have lately been moved?

20. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can ascertain through the Protecting Power the reason for the transfer of British prisoners of war from certain camps, namely, Oflags V.B., VII.C, VII.D and IXA, and to which camps these men have been sent, as the British Red Cross, which is overwhelmed with inquiries from relatives has, though it has repeatedly tried, been unable to obtain this information from the International Red Cross at Geneva?

25. Sir W. Davison

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can inform the House as to the removal of large numbers of British officer prisoners of war from their previous camps to unknown destinations; whether such prisoners of war were compelled to leave behind them most of their personal property as well as Red Cross food parcels, in breach of Article 26 of the Geneva Convention; when were such removals reported to the War Office; and what steps are being taken to ascertain the present addresses of these officers, who are, meantime, cut off from receiving Red Cross parcels and supplies of food and clothing?

Captain Margesson

Information was received from the Protecting Power on 17th October that British prisoners from Oflags VII.C and VII.D had been transferred to Oflag VLB. The British Red Cross Society were at once informed of this move In order that immediate arrangements might be made by the International Red Cross Committee for parcels to be sent to the new camp. Unofficial reports have also been received that prisoners are to be moved from Oflags V.B and IX.A, and further inquiries with regard to these two camps are being made through the Protecting Power. I have no information that any prisoners of war have had to leave their property behind. Such reports as I have received suggest that arrangements have been made for prisoners' personal property and Red Cross parcels to be despatched to their new camp and for the issue of special cards in order that prisoners may notify the International Red Cross Committee of their new address on arrival.

Captain McEwen

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not agree that in view of this incident it would appear that the. usefulness of the Protecting Power is somewhat limited owing to the fact that it is no longer regarded as being strictly a neutral, and might it not be a good thing to ask the Portuguese Government to act as assistant Protecting Power?

Captain Margesson

No, I could not accept that statement at all. We owe a great deal to the Protecting Power for the work it has done.

Sir A. Knox

Has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman obtained a list of the names of the prisoners who have been transferred, so as to enable their relatives to send them special parcels?

Captain Margesson

No, Sir; I have not yet been able to obtain a list.

Sir A. Knox

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman try to obtain it, because some of these officers are very ill?

19. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any consideration has been given to the possibility of the conclusion of an agreement under Section 72 of the International Convention for the transfer to a neutral country of prisoners of war in good health who have been a long time in captivity?

Captain Margesson

I do not think it desirable to make any statement on this subject.

24. Sir W. Davison

asked the Secretary of State for War what is approximately the present number of British prisoners of war; whether he is satisfied that an International Red Cross inspectorate of four persons is adequate for the supervision of 3,000,000 prisoners; and what is the result of recent representations made to the Protecting Power with regard to a necessary increase in their inspectorate?

Captain Margesson

The total number of prisoners of war from all parts of the Empire in enemy hands is estimated to be about 66,000. I have no knowledge of the numbers of prisoners of war of other nationalities, nor of the camp inspectorate system so far as they are concerned. I am informed that, for the purpose of visiting camps in which British prisoners are detained, 10 inspectors have been appointed by the Protecting Power and six by the International Red Cross Committee. No representations have been made to the Protecting Power with regard to an increase in the number of their inspectors, which is considered adequate.

Sir W. Davison

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman think that six inspectors under the International Red Cross are sufficient to supervise and inspect camps in which there are about 3,000,000 persons of different nationalities; and that 10 inspectors under the Protecting Power for our 66,000 prisoners are enough?

Captain Margesson

As I say, I do not know what arrangements are made about other prisoners of war, and I am dealing at the moment only with those belonging to the Empire. I think that the visits by the Protecting Power authorities are about every five or six weeks in each camp and the visits of the International Red Cross Committee about every three months.

Sir W. Davison

While I am glad to hear that the visits are so frequent, may I ask how such frequency is possible with so small an inspectorate?

Mr. Wedgwood

Did the right hon. and gallant Gentleman include Palestinian prisoners, and, if not, will he give the figures?

Captain Margesson

I have not the precise information. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will put a question to me.

28. Mr. Mander

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider the advisability of taking steps to see that all enemy prisoners in our hands are given a full and truthful account of the origins and course of the war, as a beginning of the process of re-education of enemy peoples in general?

Captain Margesson

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah) on 25th February, of which I am sending him a copy.

9. Mr. Graham White (for Lieutenant Grey)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information about the alleged shooting of 25 British prisoners of war at a camp near Munster in Germany?

Captain Margesson

According to my latest information, there are no British prisoners of war in the neighbourhood of Munster, and the suggestion that 25 prisoners have been executed there is entirely without foundation.

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