HC Deb 19 December 1919 vol 123 cc860-1W

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the house named St. Catherine's, the property of two maiden ladies, in Lundin Links, Fife, was commandeered by the War Office, in February, 1915, on twenty-four hours' notice; whether an undertaking was given that not more than thirty-five men would be billeted there; that a promise was given that the house would be restored in good condition; that the house and furniture were totally destroyed by fire on 12th February, 1916; that ammunition was stored in this house; and that in an arbitration held in Chambers in Edinburgh it was decided that the insurance company were not liable, mainly owing to the fact that explosives had been stored in the house unknown to the insurance company; whether the Realm's Losses Commission decided in favour of the owner's claim to compensation and gave as their considered judgment that the military authorities were entirely responsible and liable for the loss; whether he is aware that the War Office still decline compensation; and will he now state what action he proposes to take?


The house was taken over under the Defence of the Realm Act in February, 1915. Nothing is known as to any undertaking hawing been given to limit the number of troops quartered in the premises, nor with respect to the restoration of the premises on vacation. The house, with some of the furniture, was destroyed by fire in February, 1916. Evidence was subsequently given before an arbitrator, to whom the question of the Insurance Company's liability under the policy was referred, that ammunition had been stored in the house, and the arbitrator held for that reason the policy had become invalid.

The Defence of the Realm Losses Commission, to whom the matter had been referred by the Department, had previously expressed their opinion that the local military authorities were responsible for the fire. The owners' solicitors are understood to be about to apply to the Commission for their decision as to what amount should, in the circumstances, be awarded by way of compensation for the loss sustained.