HC Deb 24 January 1945 vol 407 cc791-2
9. Mrs. Cazalet Keir

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can state the circumstances in which Mr. Reginald Henderson met his death in Greece.

Mr. Eden

Mr. and Mrs. Henderson were taken from their house at Kephissia near Athens on about 10th December as hostages by E.L.A.S. They were awoken at 11.30 p.m. by E.L.A.S. troops, and were forced to march to a village some 10 miles north of Kephissia. They were allowed to take one quilt and a minimum of clothing. They remained at this village for a few days receiving very little food and sleeping on the ground. They were then sent on to Thebes where their food consisted of a small portion of bread and black olives. For two days they received no food at all. From Thebes the Hendersons and a large number of other hostages were forced to march to Atalante, a distance of about 30 miles, and it was here that Mr. Henderson, who was 69 years old, died of privation and exposure. I am sure the House would wish me to express their sympathy to Mr. Henderson's relatives at this brutal treatment of Mr. and Mrs. Henderson, who could have had no conceivable connection with the hostilities which were taking place in Athens.

Mrs. Keir

Are the Government going to see that those responsible for this crime are punished? May I also ask if there are any other British citizens being treated in this way?

Mr. Eden

The information we have is that, as far as I know, although it is difficult to check it up, these were the only British subjects concerned. There cannot be an undertaking because we have not the fullest information, but I can assure my hon. Friend that this matter has caused much distress and concern and I would rather not go beyond that at this stage.

Mr. Bowles

Although everybody in the House and the country deplores these alleged atrocities, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain how he knows all these things in such detail?

Mr. Eden

I thought the statement I made was a very reserved statement in all the circumstances. I made it so deliberately, not because of doubt about the information, but because of the circumstances which we all know at the present time. The information I have given was given by Mrs. Henderson herself.

Mr. Driberg

While everybody, I agree, must deplore this incident, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the first British officer to be returned by the E.L.A.S. Forces this week bore testimony to the fact that he had been perfectly well treated and that he saw no ill treatment of prisoners?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Member seems to suggest that I answered this Question in a way to try and point political sympathy one way or another. I have not done anything of the kind. I have given the absolute bare facts of what happened to a British subject.

Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman inform the House what steps the Government propose to take to punish the perpetrators of this atrocity?

Mr. Eden

The first thing for us to do is to find out who the perpetrators were.

Back to