HC Deb 01 July 1947 vol 439 cc1125-7
28. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for War how many Jews were enlisted in the Jewish Brigade and served outside Palestine during the recent war; what were the numbers of the Jewish Brigade; whether it was necessary to complete it with non-Jews owing to the lack of Jewish recruits; and if he will give the casualty figures of the Jewish Brigade.

Mr. Bellenger

Three thousand, one hundred and seventy Jews were serving in the Jewish Brigade Group outside Palestine at the end of the war in Europe. The total strength of the Brigade Group was then 4,021. The answer to the third part of the Question is, No, Sir; the non-Jewish personnel were included because a nucleus of experienced officers and other ranks was necessary, not because of lack of Jews; there were many Jews in other units. The answer to the last part of the Question is 33 killed, 157 wounded and four missing.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Are we to infer from the Minister's reply that the actual services of the Jewish Brigade were not of a very important kind, and that the actual part they took in the fighting was not a very great part?

Mr. Bellenger

I, personally, should not like to draw that deduction from my answer. I have given the facts, and the House must draw its own conclusions.

Mr. Janner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that ever since 1939 the Jewish Agency had pressed for a Jewish Brigade or Group to be formed, that their request was not granted until 1944, that the first opportunity the Brigade had of fighting was in 1945, and that high tributes were paid to them by the Leader of the Opposition and by other eminent persons?

Mr. Stokes

And in 1946 they blew up the King David.

Mr. Janner

On a point of Order. May I ask for your Ruling in this matter, Mr. Speaker? My hon. Friend has made a statement which is a direct insult' to a very gallant force, and I am asking you, Sir, whether he was in Order in making that imputation without having the slightest ground on which to make it?

Mr. Stokes

The White Paper.

Mr. Speaker

This is a matter of great controversy and I know that each side feels very strongly about it, but I think that the hon. Member was not out of Order.

Mr. Wilkes

Without wishing in any way to add to the amount of heat that has been generated, would it not be wise for the House to remember that, owing to the late formation in the course of the war of this force, through no fault of the Jewish people in Palestine, at the same time as the formation of the Brigade itself. 22,000 Jews were actually serving as attached forces to the British Army, with divisions and brigades, all over the Middle East and in Europe, and should not this fact weigh with the House?

Mr. Speaker

I am bound to point out that this Question relates only to the Jewish Brigade, and not to those serving in the Armed Forces.

37. Mr. Edelman

asked the Secretary of State for War what percentage of the Jews of the Jewish Brigade were volunteers and what percentage conscripts; when was a request first made by Jews to form a fighting brigade and when was permission given; and what com- parison the enlistment of Palestinian Jews in His Majesty's Forces during the war bears with that of His Majesty's other subjects.

Mr. J. Freeman

As regards the first part of the Question, exact figures are not available; the great majority, however, were volunteers. The first official request by Jews to form a Jewish Force was made on 26th November, 1943. A signal was sent to the then Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, on 2nd September. 1944, ordering him to raise this force. Insufficient information is available readily to answer the last part of the Question.

Mr. Edelman

Will my hon. Friend answer the first part of the Question, which asks what percentage were volunteers and what percentage were conscripts?

Mr. Freeman

I have already stated that I have not got the figures, but the great majority were volunteers.

Earl Winterton

In justice to the very large number of Jews, the majority of them non-Zionists, who served with great gallantry in His Majesty's Forces, will the hon. Gentleman make it clear that this relates only to the comparatively small number from the Jewish Brigade in Palestine? Is that so?

Mr. Freeman

Yes, Sir.