HC Deb 08 June 1943 vol 390 cc521-4
30. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the list of the regiments engaged in the recent Tunisian operations recently given officially was partial and incomplete; and whether he will make a statement in this House giving, in their proper order, a complete list of the regiments and corps engaged, including the individual regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps and Brigade of Guards, so as to correct the wrong impressions which are current?

31. Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has now given the further consideration promised in September, 1942, to the fact that units of the Royal Artillery are practically never mentioned by name, although the good work of the artillery in the Middle East is acknowledged generally, and as one unit is acknowledged to have earned the title of the V.C. battery, will he let the British public know of its performances?

Sir J. Grigg

I will, with my hon. and gallant Friends' permission, answer these Questions together, and I will take this opportunity to answer an unstarred Question standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). To ask the Secretary of State for War whether he will give a list of all the regiments and units of the Army, including Indian and Dominion troops who took part in the Egyptian and North African campaign. Everyone will sympathise with the wish expressed by my hon. and gallant Friends that credit should publicly be given to all the regiments and corps to which was due the outstanding success of the campaign in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. I am most anxious to have published a full list, including units of the Royal Artillery. I am, however, advised by General Alexander, with whom I have been in communication, that the publication of such a list at the present time would be of definite value to the enemy and might prejudice the success of any operation pending and the safety of the troops. I need hardly add that the military authorities are as anxious as anyone that the achievements of all the units concerned should be fully appreciated and they will release further names whenever possible, particularly in the case of units associated with individual distinguished actions such as that referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth.

Sir Hugh O'Neill

Can the right hon. Gentleman say, in view of the fact that it may not be possible to publish the names of all units, on what considerations a selection was made of those that were published?

Sir J. Grigg

No, Sir, except that I imagine that the list which was announced in another place was merely confined to those units which had actually been mentioned in messages from North Africa.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is considerable feeling in the Army that the publication of names and numbers—I am speaking for the Royal Artillery—is long overdue. Will he bear in mind the feelings of the men and their families?

Sir J. Grigg

I am well aware of the great interest in this question, both in this House and the Army, and I will do everything I can to meet this desire, but the final decision must be that of the commander on the spot.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my Question need never have been put down if three weeks ago he had seen fit to answer a letter I addressed to him arising out of the original statement?

Sir J. Grigg

I would not have been in a position to answer the letter until two days ago. I hope that disposes of any appearance of undue delay in answering a letter.

Sir R. Glyn

Can my right hon. Friend satisfy the House that there will be no more official statements made of an incomplete character? Does he not appreciate the position that units and relations are in if they do not see the names of the regiments with which they are associated? The House would agree that there should be no question of doing anything to risk public safety, but, on the other hand, it is exasperating when Ministers make incomplete statements.

Sir J. Grigg

I am aware of the consideration to which my hon. and gallant Friend draws attention, but I think that if his principle was carried to its logical conclusion there would be a diminution in the number of names of units published.

Mr. Lawson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the feeling on this matter is fairly universal in the country?

Sir J. Grigg

Yes, Sir. I have said that, and it is a feeling with which I have sympathy, but the final criterion in this matter is the safety of the troops as judged by the general commanding on the spot.

Mr. Wood

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that certain units which have not been mentioned have already had prisoners taken and so their presence would be known?

Sir J. Grigg

Yes, Sir, I am aware that that has happened, but again I say that the final word in this matter must rest with those on the spot who are responsible for the conduct of operations.

32. Viscount Hinchingbrooke

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will publish the names of corps and divisional commanders in the North African campaign where their formations have already been publicly referred to?

Sir J. Grigg

I could not give a categorical answer to this Question without consulting the military authorities in North Africa. It may very well be that the enemy do not know the names of all these commanders.