HC Deb 04 March 1964 vol 690 cc215-6W
15. Mr. Wigg

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement on the loss of arms consigned from Cyprus to the United Kingdom in the S.S. "Livorno"; and whether he is satisfied with the security arrangements in Cyprus made to safeguard this shipment.

Mr. Ramsden

32 boxes were consigned from Famagusta, Cyprus to this country on the S.S. "Livorno". 20 of the boxes contained a total of 95 self-loading 7.62mm. rifles, and the remainder radio and signal equipment. All the boxes were sealed and secured with metal bands, and gave no indication of their contents. They were taken by military transport on the 2nd February from the security compound of the Ordnance Depot to Famagusta Docks, under armed guard. They had been checked on loading on to the vehicle and again at the exit of the Depot.

The boxes were unloaded on to the quay by the military, but under the Port Rules they were then handled by civilian dock workers, who transferred them to the ship under the supervision of two ship's officers. A receipt was given by the ship's representative when all the boxes had been received over the ship's rail. Responsibility passed from the Army to the ship as soon as the boxes crossed the tail; but in this case the military detachment commander boarded the vessel and watched the boxes being stowed in the hold. The usual lock-up space was not available. The cases were therefore put in the bottom of a hold and general cargo was stowed on top. The hatch planks were placed over the hatch and after further loading of other cargo the main hatch to the hold was secured by a locking bar and a lead seal. This seal was intact the following morning when the hold was reopened to complete loading. The ship sailed the next day, 4th February.

On arrival in London, it was found that nine of the cases containing the rifles had been opened and 39 rifles were missing. Five of the other 12 cases containing radio and signal equipment had also been opened, but none of these stores were missing.

In view of this theft and in the situation prevailing in Cyprus, I have given instructions that whenever possible we should use R.A.F. aircraft for the movement of arms. When this is not practicable, shipments of armaments must travel in lock-up stowage. I have also given instructions for the tightening up of measures to safeguard arms while ships are in Cyprus ports.

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