HC Deb 12 October 1943 vol 392 cc681-3
9. Wing-Commander Hulbert

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement in regard to British prisoners of war who succeed in escaping from Italy to Switzerland?

17. Mr. Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for War how many British prisoners of war have been sent from Italy to Germany during the past 12 months?

The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg)

There has always been some movement to Germany of prisoners captured in North Africa and, more recently, in Sicily. In some cases it is known that they were held for a time in transit camps in Italy. 2,40o prisoners were transferred from Italian camps other than transit camps shortly before the fall of Mussolini. I referred to this transfer in a reply I gave to a number of hon. Members on 21st September. I said then that it was probable that since the Italian Armistice the Germans had transferred British prisoners from those parts of Italy which they have occupied. Some hundreds of names have recently been received of prisoners who have arrived in Germany and it seems clear that large numbers of such notifications will be received in due course. At the moment I do not know how many there will be. The next-of-kin will be informed as the names arrive.

A number of British prisoners of war have escaped from Italy to Switzerland and others have reached the Allied lines in the South. Next-of-kin of these prisoners are being informed as soon as names are received. Some prisoners may still be at large elsewhere in the country.

The Protecting Power is continuing to do what is possible to obtain information about our prisoners and to safeguard their interests.

Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House roughly how many British prisoners have reported to the British authorities either in Switzerland or Southern Italy?

Sir J. Griģģ

I hope that the House will excuse me from giving that information. As this process is still going on, I think it is extremely important not to say anything which may interfere with the prospects of the final escape of those who are still at large.

27. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make inquiries, through the International Red Cross, as to what happens to parcels of books addressed to prisoners of war, as a soldier in Stalag XVIIIA, to whom several expensive books have been sent during the past two years, has received none of them?

Sir J. Griģģ

Book parcels addressed to individual prisoners of war in Germany are despatched through postal channels to the camps in the same way as other individually addressed parcels. If my hon. and gallant Friend will forward me the particulars, such as the authors of the missing books, the names of the permit holders who despatched them and the dates when they were despatched, inquiries will be made through the Protecting Power.

28. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information of the intentions of the Japanese Government with regard to removing prisoners of war from the occupied countries to Japan?

Sir J. Griģģ

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hornsey (Captain Gammans) and my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Gledhill) on 22nd September. I regret that I have nothing at present to add.

29. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War how many exchange ships have reached Japan; how many parcels for prisoners of war they carried; and whether there is any prospect of voyages by other such ships?

, Sir J. Griģģ

Four exchange ships returned to Japan last autumn. They carried, for distribution to prisoners of war and internees, nearly 4,000 tons of foodstuffs, medicines and clothing. Another exchange between America and Japan is to take place shortly. I regret that it has not yet been possible to arrange any further exchanges.

Sir A. Knox

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information as regards the success or otherwise of the conference now taking place in America?

Sir J. Griģģ

No, Sir, I have not yet. If the hon. and gallant Member will put down a Question, I will give him an answer.

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