HC Deb 30 September 1942 vol 383 cc751-3
12 and 21. Mr. Purbrick

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) what were the reasons for releasing for publication the photographs of Gien as before and after the bombing, which were not representative of the same target, thereby gravely misleading the public;

(2) in view of the fact that the photographs of Gien, which were recently released by the Air Ministry for publication, showed some 2,000 odd tanks in situ, why they were never bombed before they were removed?

19 and 20. Sir Herbert Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) whether, in view of the misapprehension caused by the publication in the Press of the two photographs of Gien, described as before and after bombing, he will ensure that, in respect of any future photographs of this kind released by his Department, the dates will be indicated on which the photographs were taken;

(2) whether the results of the bombing at Gien indicated that the target was vulnerable, lightly defended and easily found?

Sir A. Sinclair

The House will appreciate that any explanation of the reasons why this target was not bombed sooner must be of value to the enemy. The priority which should be accorded to different targets must be decided in the light of all the circumstances, including operational and other considerations which cannot, for security reasons, be divulged. It may, however, remove misapprehension if I confirm that this particular target was selected for attack in accordance with the priority which its relative importance was held to warrant. The photographs referred to were chosen for publication because of their suitability for reproduction and comparison. For the rest, I would refer to the reply which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stretford (Flight.-Lieut. Etherton) on 10th September.

Mr. Purbrick

Is it not definitely misleading to the public to publish the photograph of a target showing thousands of tanks before bombing and then showing another photograph after bombing with only a few tanks left? Is not the inference that these tanks have been bombed and that that is the impression created elsewhere, and is it not gravely misleading?

Sir A. Sinclair

No, Sir. It is quite clear in the photograph that these tanks have not been very much damaged by the bombing. It was known, of course, that the tanks were dry, without petrol in them, and therefore there was not likely to be very much havoc among them. The object of publishing the photographs was to show the tremendous damage that was done to the buildings, and they were photographs chosen for one reason, -and for one reason only, because they were the best photographs available as being sharp and such as would reproduce easily in the Press.

Flight-Lieutenant Ralph Etherton

Had not all the tanks gone to Libya and to the Russian front and so were not on the target any longer?

Sir H. Williams

Is it not true that the first photograph showed about 2,500 tanks on the site and that after bombing took place from 80 to 85 per cent. of the tanks had gone and therefore were not available to be bombed?

Sir A. Sinclair

The point of choosing the photographs, as I have informed my hon. Friends, was to show that the buildings had been destroyed. That was what they brought out.

Hon. Members


Sir A. Sinclair

My hon. Friends must accept it from me that that was our object in publishing the photographs, to show that the buildings were bombed, and we published the photographs which were capable of exact reproduction in the newspapers.

Sir H. Williams

Were not these the very tanks which enabled Rommel to get his victory in Libya and which you failed to bomb in time?

Mr. Purbrick

On a point of Order. Mr. Speaker. Has Question No. 21 been answered? I want to know why these tanks, which were in this place 12 months ago, had not been bombed?

Mr. Speaker

That Question has been answered.