HC Deb 02 November 1943 vol 393 cc506-8
25. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for War how many British prisoners of war in Italy have been able to join the advancing Allied Forces; and whether he will request the Protecting Power to ascertain whether any further transfers of prisoners from Italy to Germany are now taking place?

33. Captain Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement with regard to the number of prisoners in Italy who have been removed to Germany and the numbers who have escaped or who have found their way to Switzerland?

41. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War how many British prisoners have now reached Switzerland from Italy; whether their relations in this country have been notified without delay; and whether the Protecting Power or the International Red Cross is looking after them financially and otherwise?

The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg)

I would refer the hon. Members to the replies I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) on 26th October and to my hon. Friends the Members for Stockport (Wing-Commander Hulbert) and Plaistow (Mr. Thorne) on 12th October. I am, however, circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT information which has been forwarded by the Protecting Power about the camps in Germany to which prisoners transferred from Italy have been sent. Arrangements are made by His Majesty's Minister and the Swiss Government for the accommodation, clothing, feeding and welfare of British prisoners who reach Switzerland and for advances of pay for them.

Mr. Driberg

Can the right hon. Gentleman further say whether there has been any speeding-up of communications between the Protecting Power and the War Office, which were at one time very slow?

Sir J. Grigg

If the hon. Member wishes to make that particular accusation, perhaps he will put down a Question, and I will answer it.

Captain Gammans

Are there any instances of our prisoners having been prevented by the Italian authorities from escaping after the Armistice terms had been signed?

Sir J. Grigg

I should require notice of that Question. The only case I have in mind at all in that connection is one to which the Minister of State referred in an answer a few days ago. If the hon. and gallant Member will put down a Question, I will try to get him the information.

Sir A. Knox

Have the relatives of those prisoners who have escaped into Switzerland been informed?

Sir J. Grigg

Yes, Sir.

Sir A. Knox

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me the number?

Sir J. Grigg

As I have previously said, I would rather be excused from giving any information about the number who have escaped.

Major Petherick

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it would be dangerous to give the figures of prisoners who have escaped across the frontier, as it would clearly tell the Germans how many they had to look for?

Sir J. Grigg

That is precisely the consideration which I had in mind.

Following is the information:

The Protecting Power reports that the Transit Camps in Germany being used for prisoners of war from Italy are Stalag VII A, Stalag XVIII A and Stalag XVIII C, from which officers are sent to Oflag XII B and Oflag V A, and other ranks to Stalag IV B, Stalag VIII A and Stalag VIII B. British officers, whom it has not yet been possible to accommodate in Qflags, owing to lack of space, are temporarily accommodated in these Stalags. All these camps will be visited by the Protecting Power during October and November.

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