HC Deb 10 November 1942 vol 383 cc2259-60
49. Wing-Commander Hulbert

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make any statement on the present hostilities in Madagascar?

The Prime Minister

Since my last statement on the Madagascar operations our Forces have continued to advance southwards, hampered by road blocks and obstructions. On 2nd October there was a sharp engagement approximately 70 miles south of the capital, as a result of which Antsirabe was occupied. The local populace gave our troops an enthusiastic welcome.

The Vichy resistance was next encountered about 130 miles south of Tananarive, but as a result of vigorous action by our Forces, Ambositra and Ivato were occupied on 19th October. The last organised resistance north of Fianarantsoa, which is the chief town in the south of the island and is approximately 180 miles to the south of the capital, was overcome on 29th October, and the town was occupied on the evening of the same day. Upwards of 1,000 prisoners were taken during this period.

The advance southwards continued, but a French emissary arrived at our forward brigade headquarters on 5th November and asked for an armistice. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon hostilities ceased. The armistice was signed at midnight on 5th–6th November, and everything is proceeding very smoothly.

Between 10th September—when further operations in Madagascar began with the assault on Majunda—and 17th October we lost only 17 killed and 45 wounded. Since 17th October our casualties have been extremely light, but details are not known.

Sir Percy Harris

Will my right hon. Friend say what has happened to the Vichy Governor of Madagascar?

The Prime Minister

I am not quite sure.

Mr. Thorne

Will my right hon. Friend state the amount of material that was handed over?

The Prime Minister

All the fighting material that is taken in the course of action falls into our hands, but I have no doubt that some of it will be used for the French Forces who under the French flag will take charge of the island in future.

Mr. Leach

What happens to the prisoners; are they released after disarmament?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. My recollection is that prisoners of war are in our hands, but it may be that arrangements have been made for repatriating some to France and others may wish to join the Fighting French Forces.

Mr. Molson

If there is any question of repatriation, will an attempt be made to secure the exchange of officers who are at present interned in Vichy France under unfavourable circumstances?

The Prime Minister

I shall get into difficulties if I try to answer all these questions out of my head, but I agree with that.