HC Deb 08 July 1915 vol 73 cc543-4W
Commander BELLAIRS

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the unusual character of the German attacks on unarmed merchant vessels, whether the Government would ask all neutral Governments to allow merchant vessels, armed for purposes of defence only with a gun in the stern, to be allowed to trade with their ports in spite of the fact that they carry a gun?


Merchant vessels of a belligerent Power are entitled, by the established and uninterrupted usage of the sea, to carry and use an armament in self-defence. Several neutral Governments were communicated with in this matter at the outbreak of war, and several more have been approached since, as circumstances suggested. The principle of merchant ships carrying arms for self-defence has been generally recognised, and British ships so armed have been trading regularly with various countries since an early stage in the War.