HC Deb 06 July 1948 vol 453 cc186-7
13. Sir G. Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any statement to make regarding the loss of three British tanks in the neighbourhood of Haifa; and whether he is satisfied as to the state of discipline and vigilance in the unit concerned.

Mr. Shinwell

During the night of 28th-29th June, a troop of four tanks, attached to an infantry battalion, was located at the Haifa Airport. Double sentries guarding the tanks were provided by the tank troop, and the remaining sentries in the airport were found by the infantry battalion. At 1.30 a.m. on 29th June, sentries from the infantry battalion heard the noise of the tank engines starting, and they immediately turned out men of the tank troop. Both of the sentries on the tanks were found to be missing, and tank tracks were found leading through the eastern perimeter of the airport. All troops in the perimeter were stood to and a carrier patrol from the infantry battalion searched the perimeter. Orders were issued for a reinforcement troop of tanks to arrive at the airport and for the infantry battalion to follow up the tank tracks outside the airport at first light.

At about 4 a.m. a British patrol found one of the tanks abandoned. At first light a force consisting of tanks, carriers and two platoons of infantry set out to follow the tracks left by the remaining two tanks outside the perimeter. At 7 a.m. a search was also started from the air. Both the air reconnaissance and the force reported intermittent tank tracks on roads running south of Haifa, but the missing tanks could not be found. As the two sentries are still missing it is not possible, nor would it be right, to give an opinion on their conduct. With this reservation, there is every reason to believe that the discipline and vigilance of the unit concerned were satisfactory.

Major Legge-Bourke

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken any steps to have the two men returned, or to see whether the two men are still alive?

Mr. Shinwell

Obviously, in a matter of this sort, inquiries are proceeding. When we discover the two men we shall return them all right.