HL Deb 09 April 1919 vol 34 cc240-2

LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE rose to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether any of the men who joined the so-called Casement Brigade in Germany have been repatriated; and whether any action has been taken with regard to them, and if so, of what nature.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, there are a good many people who are anxious as to what has happened to the men who joined the Casement Brigade. The men who are particularly desirous to know how these men have been dealt with on repatriation are those who stood firm when unusual inducements were held out to them to desert their cause and join the forces of the enemy. Some of the men yielded to these inducements; others did their duty and, "in spite of all temptations, to belong to other nations," remained Englishmen or Irishmen, as the case may be, fighting for the United Kingdom. My information is that the men who joined the Casement Brigade have been repatriated, and on repatriation a proportion of them at any rate have not been dealt with in any way at all. They have been treated exactly the same as the men who stood firm in the face of this unusual pressure, and the fact, if it is a fact, that these men have been treated in this way has called forth a considerable amount of feeling. I do not ask this Question in any spirit hostile to the Government, but I would assure the noble Viscount that if he could give us some answer as to the way in which these men have been dealt with he would be allaying a considerable feeling of injustice. I will be perfectly frank with him and tell him everything I have heard. It may be right, or not; but the idea is there.

My information is that of these men who have been repatriated some proportion of them, either three or five in number, have been arrested and dealt with, while of the remainder, to the number of about thirteen, no notice has been taken at all. I have also heard a rather far-fetched explanation of the conduct of these men, who did the very worst thing any soldier of the King can do—desert to the enemy in time of war. It has been suggested that they joined the Casement Brigade and deserted to the enemy with the idea of being sent into the firing line and possibly getting back to their own side in that rather roundabout and indirect manner. For my part I think that explanation is a thin, a very thin, one, and I am not putting it forward as a serious explanation. It has been suggested, however, and I think it right to say so. I hope the noble Viscount will answer the Question in the spirit in which I ask it, which is merely on behalf of those who did stand firm, and who think it is unfair that those who did not have not been marked out for any special treatment.


My noble friend has asked me a question with regard to those men who, he says, deserted to the enemy, and are supposed to have entered a body known as the Casement Brigade. I take note of the fact that there is much dissatisfaction amongst those in the camps at the same time, who stood firm and did not yield to any sort of temptation. I am afraid, however, I must ask my noble friend to be content with the very shortest statement in reply. I really can only tell hint that the case of these men is now under the consideration of the Government, and the whole matter is being looked into very carefully. As the case is now, as it were,sub judice, my noble friend will I am sure see the impolicy of pressing his rather probing Question upon me any further.


Perhaps I might be allowed to add one question in sequel to what has fallen front the noble Viscount. The question which I desire to ask is whether the noble Viscount can inform us where these men are; whether they are, in fact, in custody, or under observation, and if, when required, they will be forthcoming; or whether they are in the enjoyment for the time being of complete liberty.


They are not, I understand, in custody, but it is quite well known where they are.