HL Deb 20 July 1943 vol 128 cc605-7

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the following question of which I have given private notice: To ask His Majesty's Government why the bombing of Rome had been found necessary; and whether any damage other than damage to military objectives had been done. Before my noble friend, the Leader of the House, replies, I should like to be allowed to explain what I find is not very generally known. That is that under the Lateran Treaty a large portion of the City of Rome belongs to the Vatican City. This includes many of the larger churches, including St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major's, and an enormous number of buildings and institutions which are the headquarters of various religious bodies throughout the whole world. This portion also includes several other buildings among them those of Congregations such as the Gregorian Congregation. All these establishments are really the property of the Vatican City, although they are situated in the City of Rome. In these circumstances it is natural that there should be a great deal of anxiety prevailing, not only from the cultural point of view but also on the religious side, as to what damage may have been done. One can easily realize that, in the bombing of a congested area, accurate aiming is most necessary and most important, but is not always easy to obtain. I hope we shall hear that no damage has been done to other than military objectives.


My Lords, as the noble Viscount will remember. His Majesty's Government have always made it clear, in repeated public statements on this subject, that the Allied Nations could not forgo their right, should the situation require it, to bomb military objectives in Rome, both as the centre of the Fascist Government, and on account of military objectives which the city contains. That situation exists today. The marshalling yards in Rome are a bottleneck through which the main railway traffic from the north to south of Italy must pass, and it is of the first importance to prevent the passage of reinforcements and supplies for the hard-pressed Southern Axis forces. I can assure the noble Viscount, however, that special instructions were given to all those taking part in this operation that the greatest care should be taken to avoid damage to religious and cultural monuments. In reply to the second part of the question, I regret that no detailed information has yet been received as to the results of the operation.


My Lords, I beg to thank my noble friend for the kind reply which he has given. I regret that he has not had any information as to the damage, if any, that has been perpetrated. I should have thought that by this time the information might have arrived, especially as there has been a good deal of allusion to this matter in the Press. But we must wait more patiently. I will only add that there is naturally a great deal of anxiety prevailing, as to what damage, if any, has been done. I hope that my noble friend will soon be in a position to be more communicative.


My Lords, I think I should say, and I think the House will understand, that information cannot be got from our side until it has been possible to examine the pilots who took part in the raid. That inevitably takes a certain amount of time, whereas reports from enemy quarters are sent out at once. I hope that we shall have the information at a very early date. I can assure the noble Viscount that I shall be very ready to give him any information that I have as soon as it comes to hand.