HC Deb 22 June 1954 vol 529 cc234-5
46. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Prime Minister if he will specify which State papers it will in future be proper for officers in the British Army to retain in their own hands as trophies of war.

The Prime Minister

It is well known that normally officers do not retain State papers. But notable exceptions are not precluded, and the surrender of any Army of over half a million men should be regarded as one of them. The adoption of this course is optional. I may say that "over half a million men" is a very marked under-statement. It does not include more than one million who had surrendered in addition in the days immediately preceding.

Mr. Thomson

Having regard to the Prime Minister's notable exception of the original document of the surrender of the German Army, and while we are all glad that Field Marshal Mongomery prevented it falling into the hands of the Americans, surely it is utterly indefensible that he should prevent it falling into the hands of the British people to whom it properly belongs, since, not even Field Marshal Montgomery can win a one-man war and round up half a million men?

The Prime Minister

The Queen's Regulations, in their Preamble, say: Officers are expected to interpret them reasonably and intelligently, and with due regard to the interests of the Service, bearing in mind that no attempt has been made to provide for necessary and self-evident exceptions.

Mr. Elliot

Is it not the case that an excellent precedent exists in the case of the document announcing the surrender of Marshal Tallard and his Army at Blenheim to Marlborough? Is it not the case that that document is in a private collection, to the great advantage of everyone concerned, and a notable example for his successors?

Mr. Chetwynd

Are we now to understand that a surrender treaty has replaced a Field Marshal's baton in the knapsack of every soldier?

The Prime Minister

Yes, if he procures the surrender of over half a million men.