HL Deb 12 March 1919 vol 33 cc668-9

My Lords, I rise to ask the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what tonnage of British ships is at present employed in the repatriation of American troops; and whether in view of the urgent necessity of repatriating British troops from the East before the summer, and Colonials, many of whom have served since 1914, His Majesty's Government cannot now use all available British tonnage for these purposes.


My Lords, the noble Viscount's Question only appeared on the Order Paper this morning, and I have not therefore had much time to obtain the necessary information from the Ministry of Shipping. In fact, the figures only reached me since I came to the House this afternoon, but I think I can say enough to the noble Viscount to dispel any impression, if such exists, that the home-coming of our own troops from distant theatres of war or the repatriation of Dominion troops from Europe has been delayed by an excessive allocation of tonnage to the repatriation of American troops. The fact is that at the present time only one ship is being used by the Americans for the repatriation of their troops. This ship is the "Haverford," of 11,635 tons. In addition, space for 1000 American troops has been allowed in the "Mauretania." Neither of these ships is at all suitable for service in the East. All the ships which were on North Atlantis; work and which were suitable for other military transport have been withdrawn, and are now engaged in military work in other directions.

The words used by the noble Viscount in the second part of his Question are rather vague, and I am not sure what he means by "the East." So far as the Mesopotamian Force is concerned, I am informed that satisfactory arrangements have been made for the repatriation of the British troops from Basra. The Ministry of Shipping is providing for the whole number to be repatriated according to the requests received from the War Office, and with the utmost possible rapidity. So far as that part of the East, therefore, is concerned existing requirements have already been met. With regard to Canadian requirements, these are a first claim on the shipping in the North Atlantic, it being only a balance of shipping available after Canadian and other Imperial needs have been met that is placed at the disposal of the American authorities. Delay in supplying the needs of Canada and other Dominions has recently occurred owing to a prolonged strike of ship-repairers, but except for the delay due to this cause I may say that all the requirements of the War Office for military needs have been met, and that repatriation has not been held up for want of tonnage.


I am much obliged to the noble Earl, and I am sure the House will have heard his statement with great satisfaction.