HC Deb 13 October 1943 vol 392 cc886-7
The Postmaster-General (Captain Crookshank)

With your permission, Sir, I should like to make a short statement on the question of Christmas communications to the Forces. The question of telegraphic communication between this country and members of the Forces overseas during the Christmas period has been reviewed by the Government in the light of the experience of last year, when, owing to the great number of messages handed in and the limited capacity of the wireless and cable circuits on the various routes, many Christmas messages could not be delivered until long after Christmas. Since then, operational needs have increased and the public has been making much greater use of the E.F.M. service. It is clear that it would be impossible to handle without delays of several weeks the numbers of telegrams which would have to be expected at Christmas this year if existing facilities for E.F.Ms. were maintained, and the result could only be to cause disappointment to senders and recipients alike. The Government have therefore been reluctantly compelled to suspend the acceptance of E.F.M. telegrams to and from members of the Forces overseas during the Christmas period. An announcement will be made shortly giving the duration and actual dates of the suspension.

During the suspension of the E.F.M. service the "concession" (C.S.N.) telegram service, where available, between Forces overseas and their next of kin, for messages relating to essential business of an urgent and private nature, will remain in operation, and the ration will be doubled. The normal telegraph services will also be available. The public are asked to use the Postal services for the purpose of sending their Christmas greetings to the Forces, and it is hoped that any disappointment caused by the unavoidable suspension of the E.F.M. service will be mitigated by the issue of a Christmas Airgraph form which has been specially designed and will be available for sending Christmas messages to the Forces and friends overseas. A further announcement will be made, giving particulars and the dates from which the form will be available to the public. In the homeward direction the Government have arranged as a special concession for five free air letters to be issued to each man during the Christmas period, in addition to the ordinary rationed issue.

Mr. Turton

Will there also be an increase in the free issue of cards?

Captain Crookshank

I do not quite know the position about that. At present that is a matter for the Services. The troops get one air letter a week, for which they pay 3d. Under this concession they will get five air letters free.

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

Does this apply to the troops in India?

Captain Crookshank

Yes, Sir, it applies to all overseas Forces.