HC Deb 18 July 1944 vol 402 cc4-6
18. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the average time taken for delivery of mails to and from Normandy.

1. Mr. Loverseed

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction which exists among members of His Majesty's Forces and their relatives over the serious delays in the delivery of mail addressed through the Army Post Office, England; and what steps he proposes to take to establish a speedy and efficient service.

Sir J. Grigg

As the brevity of my answer of 4th July seems to have created some misunderstanding, perhaps the House will allow me to elaborate it somewhat. Until recently all mail, both letter and parcel, was sent by sea. Excluding abnormal factors such as the deliberate holding up of correspondence for security or other operational reasons, prolonged interruption of traffic due to bad weather and insufficient direction on the part of senders, it would at the beginning of July have been reasonable to expect that letters posted in this country would take 5 days to reach the troops in Normandy and that letters in the reverse direction would take 6 days. Parcels, for obvious reasons, would take rather longer than this. Recently all letters have been sent by air, and the times mentioned above have been reduced by, perhaps, as much as two days. Parcels still go by sea and there has accordingly been no acceleration with them. For the normal case this seems to me to be a result highly creditable to the Army postal services. I certainly would not accept the suggestion that there is general or even widespread dissatisfaction. Certainly the exceptional cases which I have mentioned do not cover more than a very small proportion of the whole volume of traffic. And it is only these exceptional cases which impinge on the attention of hon. Members. Unlike the sun-dial, their postbag chronicles only the overcast hours.

Mr. Bellenger

I have had three letters from a staff officer in France who tells me that, though the outward mail has been expedited, there is still considerable dissatisfaction—as is testified by well over 100 letters that I have received—at the mail coming back from Normandy to England. Is there any chance of speeding that up?

Sir J. Grigg

It has been speeded up and, of course, we shall continue to address our efforts to speeding it up further. Even if there are a hundred cases, that is a very small proportion of the whole number of letters which have been passing between this country and Normandy.

Mr. Salt

It is only fair to say that a letter sent yesterday week was answered last Friday—five days there and back. I think that is a credit to those concerned and shows the work that has been done.

21. Mr. Keeling

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the delay of five weeks in announcing a postal address to which cigarettes for the troops in Normandy can be sent duty-free caused great annoyance and inconvenience, and whether he will state the cause of the delay.

Six J. Grigg

The device of an A.P.O. number is adopted, as the hon. Member doubtless knows, to conceal the exact whereabouts of troops during their transit from this country to a theatre of operations or from one theatre of operations to another. When the movements in- volved are very large and spread over a period of time this precaution is more than ever necessary and it may have to be kept in force for a substantial time. I do not think there was any avoidable delay in removing it.

Mr. Keeling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in this case it was not a number; and does he not think that a delay of five weeks after the Normandy campaign opened was excessive?

Sir J. Grigg

No, Sir, I do not, and when the full facts are known, I have no doubt that my view will be upheld.

Mr. Turton

Could my right hon. Friend explain why in the intervening period, the address "B.W.E.F." was given for troops serving in Normandy?

Sir J. Grigg

That was given out by a journalist in France, so far as my present information goes.

Commander Agnew

Would my right hon. Friend publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the correct address to troops in Normandy?

Sir J. Grigg

It was published last Thursday when an answer was given by my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office.

Mr. Driberg

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether letters addressed "B.W.E.F." are in fact delivered to the soldiers?

Sir J. Grigg

They were in fact delivered.