HC Deb 12 October 1943 vol 392 cc692-4
26. Mr. Keelinģ

asked the Secretary of State for War the arrangements made to protect ancient sites, historic buildings and works of art in parts of Italy occupied from time to time by the Allies?

34. Sir P. Harris

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any arrangements are being made to safeguard the priceless art treasures of Italy, such as frescoes, paintings and sculptures, as far as is within the power of the competent military authorities as soon as they obtain control of Italian territories?

11. Mr. Austin Hopkinson

asked the Secretary of State for War whether adequate steps are being taken to safeguard our troops in occupied territories against accusations of wanton damage to, or looting of, objects of aesthetic or historic value?

Sir J. Griģģ

British and American experts are engaged in occupied territory for the protection and supervision of ancient monuments, museums and works of art. British officers sent or provisionally selected are drawn from the British Museum and from the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments (Ministry of Works), the National Gallery and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Lists of the aesthetic and ancient monuments, prepared by experts in this country, have been supplied to these officers. Detailed instructions have been issued regarding the closing and guarding of museums and buildings containing works of art, which troops have been forbidden to enter. Italian curators and their staffs where suitable have been retained in their previous appointments. Damage caused by operational activities is, of course, unavoidable but where historic buildings and those containing works of art have been damaged, immediate steps are being taken to effect such temporary repairs as may be necessary to prevent further damage to the building or theft or damage to its contents. At home an adviser on archaeological questions is being appointed. He will direct and supervise measures for the protection and conservation of ancient monuments and works of art in territories where British troops are operating.

Sir P. Harris

Are these experts available at the earliest opportunity after the occupation of territories?

Sir J. Griģģ

I imagine that they are attached to the civil affairs part of the military organisation and that certainly a part of it accompanies military formations.

Mr. I. Thomas

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider publishing the names of some of these experts?

Sir J. Griģģ

I will consider it without making any promise.

Captain Cunninģgham - Reid

Will we safeguard these Italian treasures as well as we are safeguarding Roatta and Ambrosio?