§ 14 and 15. Mr. Molson
asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether he is aware that Major Lockwood, of a battalion of which he has been informed, was killed on 26th June; that the widow was notified of this event on 10th July by a letter from the battalion commander; and why, up to the 12th July, no official notification has reached her;
1144 (2) whether he is aware that Lieutenant Firth, of a battalion of which he has been informed, died of wounds on 1st July; that his widow received notification on 5th July that he had been dangerously wounded on 26th June; and why no official notification of his death reached her until 16th July.
§ Mr. Molson
Since these two Questions relate to separate individuals, I prefer them to be answered separately.
§ Sir J. Grigg
Perhaps the hon. Member will listen to my answer. Before dealing with the specific cases I will make a short general statement about the delays which may unfortunately arise in reporting casualties.
When a casualty occurs it is the duty of the unit concerned to notify it to the base. As the hon. Member will readily appreciate, this may be a difficult duty to carry out in the midst of a battle. A further difficulty arises from the fact that in the early stages of an operation such as this, the troops overseas are, in fact, merely a bridgehead. During this stage their base is separated from them by the Channel. The delays which may occur from these factors are, I am afraid, unavoidable, though of course they are none the less distressing for the relatives concerned.
I have also seen some complaints that the official notification of a casualty is often preceded by an unofficial letter from the Commanding Officer or chaplain of the unit or even from a friend of the man concerned. Before an official notification can be sent the facts must he most carefully checked and in view of the great speeding up of mails from Normandy it is possible, and indeed probable, that relatives may in certain cases hear unofficially of the casualty before the official notification arrives. This is even more probable in cases where an officer or man has been evacuated by air to a hospital in this country.
I am afraid, however, that in these specific cases raised in the hon. Member's Questions there was undoubtedly exceptional delay, which I very greatly regret, in reporting the casualties to the War Office. This delay arose from circumstances which are still being investigated, and which I hope will not recur.
§ Mr. Molson
May I put down a further Question upon these two cases later in order to elucidate the facts?
§ Sir J. Grigg
Certainly, Sir, and I will, if I have not got the facts by the time the House rises for the Summer Recess, send them in writing to the hon. Member.