HC Deb 09 September 1941 vol 374 cc2-3


2 and 3. Mr. Wedgwood

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) to what regiment did the bulk of the troops belong who did the removing of wedding rings, &c, from refugees on board the "Dunera"; and did the ship's company or naval ratings take any part in such actions? (2) Whether the evidence at the court-martial showed that the officer commanding troops on the "Dunera" knew that many hundred wedding rings and gold watches, as well as cash, were taken by the troops from the Jewish refugees in his charge and that no record was being kept of property so taken, or that this was done without his knowledge?

5. Mr. Edmund Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he now can make a statement as to the measures taken by him for compensation to the internees sent to Australia on the steamship "Dunera" in respect of the loss of their property?

Captain Margesson

The escort for the internees on board the "Dunera" was composed of a company of the Pioneer Corps. There is no evidence that the ship's company or naval ratings were concerned in the charges which formed the subject of the Court of Inquiry. The evidence at the court-martial did not show that the commanding officer knew that articles belonging to internees were being taken by the troops or that no proper record was being kept of property so taken. As regards the question of compensation, the claims to which I referred in my Answer of 5th August have since arrived from Australia. The circumstances of the case are such as to make it extremely difficult accurately to verify all the claims, and any attempt to pursue a detailed investigation into each case would hold up settlement for an indefinite period. It has therefore been decided to authorise immediate payment on a basis which will result generally in the smaller claims being paid in full and in the larger ones being met in substantial measure. In addition certain special items will be reserved for further investigation.

Mr. Wedgwood

How is it possible that the commanding officer in charge of the troops did not know that this robbery was going on?

Captain Margesson

That was the subject of the court-martial, which found a verdict, and it is not for me to comment upon it.

Mr. Harvey

Would my right hon. and gallant Friend issue a White Paper giving full details of the compensation and general details as soon as the appropriate stage is reached?

Captain Margesson

I think that the action I have taken will ensure that payment is made as quickly as possible.