HC Deb 12 December 1944 vol 406 cc1033-5
8. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement regarding the supply of parcels to prisoners of war in Germany, giving the number of parcels at present, respectively, at Lisbon, Marseilles, Gothenburg and Geneva and an estimate of the average reserves at camps in Germany; the cause of delay in transport by various routes; and the plans and prospects for the future.

Sir J. Grigg

Since the route to Geneva was re-opened the parcel position for prisoners in Germany has steadily improved. But as I have said in previous replies, this is subject to the difficulties due to operations of war and to the dislocation of the German transport system. I am circulating further particulars in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Sir A. Knox

What would be the recognised line of supply? Through Marseilles or through Gothenburg?

Sir J. Grigg

The statement I am circulating is quite a long one, and there is a good deal of information in it on that point.

Following are the particulars:

The number of standard food parcels for British prisoners of war now at Lisbon has been reduced to about 1,250,000 and there is now a regular service of shipping from Lisbon which is clearing the accumulation there. The transport position in the South of France has improved owing to the active co-operation of the military authorities. All Red Cross supply traffic is now passing through Toulon. There is little or no delay after supplies are unloaded at Toulon before they are despatched by rail to Geneva.

The latest figure I have for parcels at Geneva is for the end of October when there were about 1,000,000 parcels as a result of some trainloads having been returned from Germany as undeliverable owing, I presume, to restrictions caused by military requirements. More than half of the total supplies for all prisoners of war sent to Gothenburg have already been distributed into Germany and I hope that this rate of despatch will continue, and may be improved. It is not at present clear whether these included the 400,000 Canadian food parcels which were sent to Gothenburg.

Such delays as still take place in Transport of parcels to the camps from Gothenburg on the one hand, and from the south of France on the other, are due almost always to circumstances arising out of military operations and difficulties of communications in Germany. It is difficult to find out at any given moment what reserves are held in camps and I would prefer not to give any estimate.

As to the future, my hon. and gallant Friend may rest assured that as soon as it is considered the supply position so justifies, the scale for British prisoners of war supplies will be restored to its former level. The International Red Cross Committee have already been authorised by the British Red Cross War Organisation to despatch three parcels for every British prisoner during the month of December, and I hope that one of these may be the special Christmas food parcels, most, if not all, of which have already reached Geneva. The prospects of maintaining supplies to the camps on the scale we regard as desirable must, of course, depend on the course of military operations.

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