HC Deb 13 April 1948 vol 449 cc774-5
20. Sir G. Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the present position as regards advice and assistance for persons wishing to visit the graves on the Continent of relatives who lost their lives during the recent war; and whether in this connection he is prepared to grant recognition to the National War Graves Visit Fraternity, the object of which is to organise and facilitate such visits.

Mr. Shinwell

A scheme for assisting relatives to visit war graves will be brought into operation next month. I will, with permission, circulate details in the OFFICIAL REPORT. It has been necessary to limit strictly the number of voluntary organisations by which the scheme will be administered and I regret that it has not been possible to include the organisation referred to by the hon. and gallant Member.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

When I first raised this question two years ago, the Minister then in charge at the War Office said that transport was the difficulty. When he is bringing in his new scheme next month, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that these bereaved parents and relatives get preference over Members of Parliament and others who want to go out to Germany, in order that those parents and relatives may satisfy their very natural desire to see the graves of their men?

Mr. Shinwell

We shall certainly provide all the facilities that are available.

Mr. Somerville Hastings

Does this scheme apply also to graves outside Europe?

Mr. Shinwell

The Question applied to graves on the Continent.

Mr. N. Macpherson

Does this apply also to those who have died or lost their lives while on foreign service in those countries since the war?

Mr. Shinwell

I think there is a distinction, though I am not quite certain about that.

Following are the details of the scheme:

The voluntary organisations which have undertaken to assist relatives to visit war graves will be in a position to receive applications on or after 1st May. These should be addressed to one or other of the five following voluntary organisations: The British Legion, 49, Pall Mall, London, S.W.1. The Church Army, 55, Bryanston Street, London, W.1. The Church of Scotland Committee on Hut and Canteen Work for His Majesty's Forces, 121, George Street, Edinburgh. The Salvation Army, War Graves Department, William Booth Memorial College, Denmark Hill, London, S.E.5. The Y.M.C.A.,
  • 112, Great Russell Street, London, W.C.1.
  • 10, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh.
  • 22, Howard Street, Belfast.
  • 53, Park Place, Cardiff.

Although these organisations are prepared to help relatives to visit graves early this summer, they cannot in the first instance cover a wider area than France, Holland and Belgium. As soon as circumstances permit, the scheme will be extended to cover the other countries of Western Europe, and when this is possible an announcement will be made. In the case of Germany there are special difficulties of accommodation and transport which make it impossible to promise that visits to that country will be organised this year.

In making their applications, relatives should state clearly their names and addresses and should give full particulars of the grave and cemetery which they wish to visit. A choice of dates should also be given, as the voluntary organisations must be allowed some latitude in fixing the timetable for visits to particular graves.

Relatives who wish to make these visits should not be deterred from applying if they feel they are unable to meet the full cost of the journey. In genuine necessitous cases, some assistance will be given in this respect.