HL Deb 03 April 1980 vol 407 cc1463-4

11.17 a.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether consideration could be given, at the independence celebrations in Zimbabwe, to the commemoration and recognition of the part played by all races in the Rhodesian forces who came to Britain's assistance in the last war, and in particular that country's contribution to victory in the establishment of the first Empire Air Training Scheme in Salisbury.


My Lords, the independence celebrations are a matter for Mr. Mugabe and his Ministers. The important contribution of those many Rhodesians who served alongside us in the last war was given appropriate recognition at the time.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that in 1940 this small country of Rhodesia provided 12 contingents of black and white Africans to the armed forces who served in that capacity, and they served in many lands and on many fronts? Is he aware that of the 14,000 black Africans who served, 146 made the supreme sacrifice and gave their lives to the service of freedom? Is he further aware that out of a total population of 65,000 whites in Rhodesia at that time, 8,500 men and 1,500 women joined the armed forces, and 746 gave their lives? Is not that a worthy cause in the interests of freedom, and are not the independence celebrations soon to be held in Zimbabwe a worthy way to remember them?


My noble friend is entirely right, my Lords; in fact he slightly understated the numbers. The total number of Rhodesians who served with various units of the armed forces during the last war, was no fewer than 26,121, of whom more than 9,000 were white males and 15,000-odd were Africans. I think, however, that the appropriate method to recognise that splendid service was what was done at the time, when a very large number of gallantry awards were made.


My Lords, may I say that from this side of the House there would be very warm support for the spirit motivating the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Gridley. May I also thank the Minister for giving us those impressive statistics and facts about the contribution made by Rhodesians of all creeds and colours at a time when the democracy which has now been set up in Zimbabwe was last challenged.


My Lords, are the Government aware that as the Minister who was responsible in those far-off days for the administration of the Empire Air Training Scheme, I found that whenever we asked Rhodesia for any help, be it financial, manpower, technical, Rhodesia, though our smallest partner in that great enterprise, never failed to be in the forefront of assent and help to this country; and that we owe them a debt that we can never repay in full?


My Lords, my noble friend is of course quite right. In fact I see that no fewer than 10,000 aircrew of one form or another were trained by the Empire Air Training Scheme in Rhodesia.


My Lords, from what the noble Lord has said, may we take it that the right of these men to honour their dead at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day will be restored?


My Lords, I am sure that it will be.