§ 5.16 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government if they can state the reasons for suppressing the news of the sinking of the "Lancastria," and whether they consider that such action is calculated to strengthen the morale of the country or to assist our propaganda abroad.]
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, the reasons for withholding the news of the bombing and sinking of s.s. "Lancastria" were the following: This ship was engaged on a military operation, and it was evident from the German wireless announcement that the enemy were totally unaware of the identity of the ship which had been sunk. Further, it is contrary to the general policy of His Majesty's Government to announce the loss of individual merchant ships. The number and total tonnage of merchant ships lost are given in a weekly statement. The tonnage of s.s. "Lancastria" was included in the statement issued on July 2. The policy of His Majesty's Government in this matter is decided primarily by considerations of security. Moreover, the withholding of this particular item of news is not considered to have had a bad effect either upon morale at home or upon prestige abroad.
§ LORD DAVIES
Arising out of that answer, may I ask the noble Lord whether in his view the brutality displayed by the enemy on that occasion and the wonderful heroism displayed by our troops and sailors should nor have been broadcast to the world, although there may have been some need for regulation, as the noble Lord has explained?
§ LORD SNELL
The question of precisely when an announcement can be made must always be a matter for the discretion of His Majesty's Government. 94 There were also other influences which weighed with them in not detailing the story at that particular time.