HC Deb 21 August 1945 vol 413 cc439-40
40. Captain Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is in a position to make a statement on the release and repatriation of prisoners of war and civilian internees from Japan and Japanese-occupied territories.

86. Major Symonds

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements are being made to bring home from the Far East by air those released prisoners of war who are fit to travel immediately.

Mr. Lawson

I will, with permission, make a statement on these Questions at the end of Questions.


Mr. Lawson

I am glad to assure the House that all possible measures are being taken to ensure the release and rapid repatriation of British Commonwealth prisoners of war. The failure of the Japanese to notify casualties and locations, however, makes it difficult to give exact figures or a detailed distribution of these prisoners.

As has already been announced, the terms of the Allied reply to the Japanese Government stated that immediately on the surrender the Japanese shall transport prisoners of war and civilian internees to places of safety as directed, where they can quickly be placed aboard Allied transports.

It is the responsibility of Theatre Commanders, both British and American, to arrange for the evacuation of all prisoners of war from their respective areas and the necessary instructions have been issued for this purpose by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The guiding principle will be that all our prisoners shall be repatriated as quickly as transport and their health permit, and use will be made of available aircraft, but it must be realised that in many cases the prisoners, when released, will not be fit enough to stand the strain of long journeys by air. The routes of evacuation will, of course, depend on the place of recovery, since prisoner of war camps are widely dispersed throughout the areas occupied by the Japanese.

Throughout their evacuation everything possible will be done for their welfare and plans provide for adequate medical treatment. Arrangements have been made for prisoners of war to send a free fixed message cable as soon as possible after their release, and it may be that in many cases this may be received before any official notification of recovery. Careful plans have also been made for the reception arrangements in this country, which will be similar to those made for prisoners of war released from Germany.

So far as civilian internees are concerned, those who are recovered in S.E.A.C. will be repatriated under arrangements made by the British military authorities and those in Japan and Korea will be brought back to Manila as a first step. In the case of China, the arrangements are being concerted with Generalissimo Chiang-Kai-Shek and his American Chief of Staff, who commands the American Forces in China.