§ LORD LANG OF LAMBETH had the following Notice on the Paper: To call attention to the importance of preserving objects of special historical or cultural value within the theatres of war, and to ask His Majesty's Government what measures they have taken or propose to take for this purpose; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to call attention to the importance of preserving objects of historic or cultural value within the theatres of war. Perhaps I ought to have added to the Motion the 814 words "subject to overriding military necessity," but I hope that those words will be regarded as governing anything that I may have to say. I assume with confidence that your Lordships realize the importance of this matter. Indeed, how could it be otherwise? I am speaking to-day mainly of Italy—of Italy as a country rather than as a nation with its somewhat chequered political history. As a country Italy has inspired not only the interest and admiration of all who have known her, but love. I do not suppose there is any country in the world that has been the object of such love for centuries as Italy. Indeed, its monuments of the great past, its architecture, its sculpture, its pictures are among the noblest expressions of the human spirit. Think of Rome itself. Rome does not belong to Italy; it belongs to the world. It does not belong to any particular time; it belongs to all time. It justifies its title as the Eternal City. I need not remind your Lordships that it is the object of veneration by millions of our fellow Christians in all parts of the world. I notice that last week in the debate which your Lordships will remember, my noble friend Viscount FitzAlan, though he described himself as an out-and-out bomber, said that it would be deplorable both on religious grounds and also on cultural grounds if any damage were done to the city of Rome. It must have been a satisfaction to him to hear the assurance given him by my noble friend the Leader of the House, that it was not the intention of His Majesty's Government to drop bombs on the Vatican City nor so far as it could be avoided on the city of Rome.
§ But Rome does not stand by itself. I wonder whether anywhere in the world there is such a constellation of lovely cities, towns and villages as in the north of Italy, into which the devastating tide of war must sooner or later flow. May I venture to remind your Lordships of some of them and the great monuments in them? There is Assisi with its memories of St. Francis and the pictures of Giotto; Siena with its memories of St. Catherine and its lovely buildings; Florence, of which I need not speak because Florence abides in the memories of all who have seen it; Padua, Perugia, Pisa, Ravenna, retaining in the twentieth century in its mosaics the austere splendours of Bizantine art, and perhaps most of all, Venice, that 815 Queen of Beauty enthroned on the seas. All these places are beautiful in themselves. Most of them contain treasures whose value it is impossible to measure. Must we not think with dismay of the possibility of any of these wonderful creations and expressions of the human spirit being damaged or destroyed by the ravages of war?
§ In this matter, as in so many others, there are always two extremes, and wise men will try to find a just mean. On the one hand, there are those who ask impatiently, and rather contemptuously: "What is the worth of these dead stones and dead pictures in comparison with the life of one single soldier?" But these things are not dead. They are always alive; they have, as has been truly said, the quality of enhancing life, of giving fresh vitality to the mind and spirit of successive generations. And it must not be forgotten that they are part of that humane civilization which it is one of our aims, in this war, to protect against barbarians. On the other hand, there are those who, in their zeal for history and art, tend to forget the inexorable necessities of war. Just because the issues involved in the war are so great, just because it is being waged for the whole of civilization and not only for this aspect of it, just because from all the enslaved and oppressed countries a cry for liberation is rising, it is impossible to sanction anything that would seriously hinder the one essential thing—that the enemy, who is prepared to bring all this evil on the world, should be defeated rapidly and completely. It must never be allowed, for one moment, to be supposed by the enemy that if he chooses to occupy any of these centres of history or of art and to use them as posts for his own operations, he will be allowed to remain immune from attack.
§ We have a crucial instance at the present time before our eyes. Monte Cassino, as your Lordships are very well aware, is crowned by one of the most famous monasteries in the world. It was founded by St. Benedict; he was buried there; and it has always been the central home of the Benedictine Order, renowned through all these centuries for its scholarship and devotion. It contains priceless manuscripts and books of its own, and many which, I believe, have been sent there from other parts of Italy. Orders 816 were given to our gunners and airmen that, so far as and so long as possible, it should be spared, and I have nothing but admiration for the patience with which, hitherto, these orders have been observed. But now we learn that the Germans are in possession of this place, that they are using it for their own purposes, and it is not thinkable that they should be allowed to use it as a safe sanctuary for themselves from which they can seriously hinder the advance of our Armies or deal destruction upon our soldiers who are fighting the grim battle below. Therefore, I am sure that the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, who, I am glad to say I understand is to reply for the Government, will be able to assure us that the Allies and their Commanders will observe that just proportion, will recognize the two-fold obligation—not by our care for these objects of interest and value and beauty, great as that care must be, to play into the hands of an unscrupulous enemy, and (I emphasize the word "and") to see that, subject only to quite overriding military necessities, these objects, these things of beauty, will be preserved from the ravages of war.
§ I think I have spoken enough on the importance of the subject. I turn for a moment to the second part of my Motion, to ask His Majesty's Government what measures they have taken or propose to take in connexion with this matter. Some measures from the very beginning have been taken. I think it is admitted that in the North African campaign they were defective. Not unnaturally, there was very little available information, and the swiftness of the campaign made it extremely difficult to stop and think as to what exactly was being done with the monuments of a very ancient civilization through which the Armies were rushing. When the area of war was tranferred to Italy and Sicily greater care was taken. Officer experts were sent out, mostly by the United States but partly by our own Government, and the efforts of these officer experts have been in many ways successful, particularly, I like to recall, at Palermo, where most fortunately that wonderful cathedral and arcade at Monreale were never touched, and where these officers, and others connected with Amgot, have been able to repair already some eighteen buildings against further deterioration. Above all, General 817 Eisenhower has issued instructions to all the Commanders reminding them of their great responsibility in this matter. But I think it must be admitted that in South Italy it has been found that the organization, however excellent in intention, has not been conspicuously successful in practice. The experts have not been distributed, it seems, in the areas where they were most needed. They have had too little authority to back their recommendations and their advice. When Sir Leonard Woolley, who has been appointed adviser in archaeology to the War Office, was sent out to report, he was obliged, I think, to say in his report that the organization, such as it was, was greatly in need of strengthening.
§ In these circumstances, last January, at the request of the Standing Committee of the British Museum, I ventured to approach the Prime Minister direct, knowing the interest he has always taken in these matters, and I sent to him a memorial signed by the three principal trustees of the British Museum, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons, by myself as Chairman of its Standing Committee, by the Chairman of the Trustees of the National Gallery, Mr. Vincent Massey, and by the Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Lord Harewood. In that memorial we set forth strongly, but I hope temperately, the great need of doing everything that could be done, beyond what had already been done, to carry out more perfectly what had already been begun. In reply, the Prime Minister sent a full and careful memorandum, drawn up on the instructions of the War Cabinet. As that is a Government document, I propose to leave it to my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack to deal with it as he sees fit. Incidentally, I should like to say how glad I am that it is he who is to reply for the Government, because he has always taken a special interest in this matter.
§ There is one question which I desire to ask him, and it is this. Last August the President of the United States of America, to show his sense of the immense importance of this matter, appointed a strong Commission, with one of the Judges of the Supreme Court as its Chairman, to co-ordinate the work of the experts in his own country and at 818 the Fronts and to make recommendations to the military authorities, and particularly to help in dealing with that most difficult question, which can only be dealt with after the war, of the salvage and restoration and restitution of objects of art which have been appropriated by the Axis Powers and by individuals. My question to the noble and learned Viscount is whether the Government propose to appoint here a similar Commission with similar functions. If so, I venture to hope that its duties will not be confined to those which will arise after the war in the most difficult matter of restitution; I hope that it may function during the war as a body with authority to survey what is happening on the various Fronts, to make representation to the military authorities—who alone, of course, can take executive action—and to give advice and information on particular matters about which it may be consulted.
§ I feel sure that there will be need of some such body. There must be a tendency on the part of many of our keenest officers and men, when they are in the middle of fighting, to regard the orders of the Higher Command in particular cases as irksome and embarrassing. They may tend to forget the reminder given by General Eisenhower in his instructions to the Commanders, a reminder which I think goes to the root of this matter, that the term "military necessity" is sometimes used when it would be more truthful to speak of military convenience, or even of personal convenience. We can all understand those who are in the heat of conflict finding it irksome to be obliged to have remembrance of considerations which obviously and naturally cannot be of special interest to them. I am sure, therefore, that there will be need of constant vigilance lest the excellent orders and instructions of the Higher Command may prove to be a façade behind which, through ignorance, carelessness and heedlessness, much damage may be done.
§ These are the points which I wish to lay before your Lordships. I feel confident that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will be able to assure your Lordships and all those outside your Lordships' House—and they are many—who are deeply concerned about this matter, that so far as possible everything will be done to preserve these 819 treasures which are the pride and glory of the Old World for the New World which will arise when the war is over. I beg to move for Papers.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, I think that it is not a misinterpretation of this Motion if it be regarded as a continuation of the debate which took place in your Lordships' House last week.
§ LORD LANG OF LAMBETH
My Lords, may I remove a misapprehension? I said in that last debate that I was particularly anxious that this subject should not be considered in connexion with anything said in that previous debate.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, I should be the first to desire to respect the wishes of the noble and most reverend Lord, but the circumstances governing the debate this afternoon will be regarded by the public here and by our Allies as a continuation of the debate which took place last week. I think that it is a thousand pities that the saving words which the noble and most reverend Lord used at the commencement of his speech—namely, "subject to overriding military considerations"—were not included in the Motion when it was put on the Paper. This Motion has gone out to the world as it stands on the Paper, without that reservation. I am not a Philistine or a Vandal, but I wish to enter a strong protest against any policy being adopted by His Majesty's Government, whether as regards the strategy of aerial bombing or as regards military operations, in which proper military decisions and necessities are affected by considerations of culture or of aesthetics.
I cannot help feeling that no more unfortunate time than this could have been chosen to raise this issue. It has already brought comfort to our enemies. Goebbels has not been slow to seize upon some of the statements made by the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chichester. It has spread alarm and perturbation among our people and among the people of the United Nations. It has spread dismay among the Fighting Forces of the United Nations. I may speak with some feeling in this debate, but, if I do, I am persuaded that I shall do no more than reflect the feelings of people outside. I was told at lunch-time to-day in this House of a conversation which took place in an East London train yesterday between three airmen. One 820 turned to the others and said, "This is funny. These Bishops think buildings are more important than we are." And that is the issue. Let us be perfectly candid; that is the issue.
Now I was a little disturbed last Wednesday at some remarks of the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang. No one would contest the facilities—sometimes unwelcome perhaps—that he has for ascertaining the feelings of the people of this country, but there are some of us who are also not without facilities; and I confess that, to judge by the people of London, for whom I have an undying respect, I can perceive no desire to gloat or to exult over the heavy bombing of Germany. That is not a characteristic of our people. They are undaunted in adversity and they are modest in achievement. If they are open to any criticism it is that they sometimes show themselves too modest as regards their achievements, and notably the achievement of saving culture and civilization for the world in 1940. I can find no trace of a rather truculent spirit among the people. They are, happily, steadfast and resolute, and I would not have them otherwise. It docs not fit in with the character of our people that they should be supine, and civilization and culture—life itself—cannot be saved from our present enemy by turning the cheek to the smiter. Civilization can be saved only by the exercise of paramount and supreme force. Anything that is likely to impede the efforts of our Fighting Forces, anything which is likely to delay for one hour the achievement of victory, is to be deprecated, and I cannot approve it.
I was struck last Wednesday by the almost complete absence of any reference to the little homes of the little people. Nobody seemed concerned about what happened in the East End or in Coventry; and let us understand that these little men's dwelling are more important to the people who live in them than the glories of Northern Italy, which they have not seen and which they are not likely to see. And I really was disturbed when the right reverend Prelate said, I thought with some little—I must not say cynicism, but with some little lack of feeling perhaps, that you can replace damaged houses and flats by mass production. I do not view the destruction of the dwellings of the people in that 821 way. To them their little homes are their pride. The Russian village and the Russian hut are the pride of the Russian peasant, and are as important to the Russian peasant as any cultural or historic building. I was also disturbed that the right reverend Prelate seemed to regard the bombing of industrial targets as being outside his ethical censure. Surely the right reverend Prelate knows that it is in the industrial districts that the people live, it is around factories that the people's, homes are; and if the destruction of the life of the people is what it is desired to avoid, then by the text of the right reverend Prelate's submission, industrial districts ought to be exempt as a first priority.
I was amazed that the right reverend Prelate, having referred to Hamburg and Berlin, having condemned what he described as the policy of obliteration, should use the words, "This is not a justifiable act of war." Those words ought not to be used against those gallant men who day and night risk their lives to save something which is much more precious than any buildings—to save life, liberty and freedom. We are all as much concerned about the American soldier or the soldier of any of the United Nations as we are about our own soldiers. The fighting men of the United Nations will resent, and will justly resent, words of that kind being used in connexion with their activities. After all, it is the United Nations alone which will save civilization itself from being sacrificed. The right reverend Prelate submitted that certain of our arguments smacked of the doctrine that might is right. Well, when might is employed to defend light, it is right. How otherwise can Right be preserved and maintained except in the final analysis, by the exercise of paramount and dominant Might? And I do not regard the exercise of that Might as being a reflection upon our people or upon our Government.
I want to say frankly that I would not be willing to sacrifice my son for any building there is in the world, and I believe when I say that I am expressing the views of the people, of the wives, the sweethearts, the mothers and the fathers of all the Forces of the United Nations. It is a false analogy to seek to excuse the attitude which I am criticizing by saying that people will on occasion risk their lives to save a work of art. That is true, but that 822 is a voluntary action. Then some wise people point out that it is unwise and it is the function of the fireman very frequently to prevent a person from risking his life in order to save something in a burning building. That situation is here, and it has been proved as regards Monte Cassino. I assure Lord Lang that I profoundly appreciate the courage that has been shown by those who sought to preserve that monastery, but I cannot and I will not withhold my regret for any lives which may have been unnecessarily lost because we did not take the appropriate action against that monastery at the appropriate time.
It is a small consolation to hand out to the bereaved to say that courage was shown and patience was exhibited. There can be no culture and no civilization except for life. I know it is argued that life can be replaced, whereas works of art cannot be. I submit that that is a false statement. Life renews itself, it is true, but life which is destroyed is never replaced. The generation that we lost in the last war, and the infinite number of generations which that generation could have begotten, can never be replaced. We know in the years between the wars how much we suffered as the result of the loss of that generation. We are now in the process of losing, maybe, another generation. No one can justify adding to the dreadful toll in this war by one single life in order to save a building. I regret I cannot subscribe to this doctrine of "Culture über alles." I accept the definition of Ruskin that there is no wealth but life—life, with all its powers of love and joy and admiration. It is to preserve this that this terrible and indeed shaming conflict is being waged, and nothing must be permitted to interfere with its prosecution or to delay securing final victory at the earliest possible moment.
I have one further comment to make upon the speech of the right reverend Prelate last week. It seems to me that he quoted with some satisfaction a telegram that he had received from a well-known Anti-Nazi Christian leader who had to flee from Germany for his life long before the war. It was, he said, sent from Zurich, and "puts what millions inside Germany must feel":Is it understood that present situation gives us no sincere opportunity for appeal to people because one cannot but suspect effect of promising words on practically powerless population convinced by bombs and phosphor that their annihilation is resolved?823 I could have attached more importance to that telegram if it had been sent when Rotterdam was destroyed, when Belgrade was destroyed, when we learnt of the almost unbelievable tortures which had been visited upon the Poles and the Jews and the others oppressed in Europe. I think of the language of Dr. Johnson, in his famous letter to Chesterfield, "Had it come earlier it would have been appreciated." There is nothing in that telegram which condemns the frightful conduct of our enemies.
I realize that a person can be a strong Anti-Nazi and still be a strong Pan-German—still believe in Germany's destiny to rule the world as a dictator. I cannot subscribe to the doctrine of the right reverend Prelate that you can separate the people of Germany from the crimes of Germany. I am sorry; I wish I could; I have tried; but the facts are against it. The people of Germany, by and large, must be held responsible for the dreadful things, the almost unendurable misery and torture, they have inflicted upon the world. I ask the Government, therefore, not to falter. The people of this country will not understand a repetition of what happened at Monte Cassino. The people of this country will not submit to their boys being sacrificed—even one of them being sacrificed—unnecessarily to save whatever building it may be. When America came into the last war President Wilson, who was not a Philistine, who was not without cultural appreciation, said, "We are at war, we must make war without stint." That is our business to-day. We must make war without stint, and bring this dreadful thing to an end, to preserve liberty and freedom for mankind. There is nothing else that matters. I do not wish to see Europe stocked with cultural monuments to be venerated by mankind in chains and on its knees. It has been said that he who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword. All right. The enemies of mankind in Europe and in the Far East have chosen the weapon. Let them have it. Let us go on unfalteringly to the final end of complete victory, which alone can save culture and civilization for mankind.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, there is no doubt that this topic has aroused intense interest throughout the country and is the subject of widespread public dis- 824 cussion. There is every reason to believe that, amongst large numbers of the public, the issue is regarded as the perfectly simple one which has just been put to the House by the noble Lord who has spoken with so much sincerity and eloquence—the simple question: Are we to sacrifice the lives of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen, are we to risk victory in a battle or, perhaps, in a whole campaign, because some building or town of artistic or historic interest may be damaged or destroyed in the course of warlike operations? To that question there is, of course, only one answer—namely, that military considerations must prevail. On that we are all agreed. The noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang of Lambeth, clearly stated at the outset of his speech that that is his own doctrine. Therefore the whole of the speech of the noble Lord who has just spoken, in so far as it was an attack on or criticism of Lord Lang, is beside the mark.
In the particular instance of Monte Cassino, where you have a very venerable and highly important monument at stake, that has been the rule which has been adopted. As soon as it was clear that this was being used by the Germans as an observation post and machine-gun emplacement, orders were given for the destruction of the monastery, no matter what hurt might be done to our historic feelings. The noble Lord who has just spoken said that if this had been done sooner it would have saved more lives, and suggested that some false sentimentality had resulted in delay. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will be able to give any answer to that, but so far as I am aware there is no evidence that the military authorities on the spot were delayed in any action that they would wish to take before the moment when, two days ago, they were bombarding all along the line, possibly on the eve of a general attack. However, the principle which is adopted and which we all support is that if it had been a military advantage at an earlier time to have undertaken this bombardment certainly that should properly have been done. It was believed that many precious manuscripts belonging to the learned Benedictine Order had been sent for safe refuge to this monastery and that they might also be destroyed. Clearly it was the duty of the Germans occupying 825 the place to remove them to safety as soon as they were in real danger of being subject to the swaying tides of battle. This monastery came within the zone of military operations and it is now claimed, I see, by the Germans that they had done so. I am sure that fact will be a great relief to all who care for the interests of history.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Well, they will be recovered afterwards. But when that has been said not all has been said. That does not end the matter, as apparently the noble Lord who has just spoken thinks it does. At all events it is not General Eisenhower's opinion, for General Eisenhower issued, it will be remembered, a general order quite recently which has been published in the Press and was given verbatim in the other House on 1st February. General Eisenhower said:If we have to choose between destroying a famous building and sacrificing our own men, then our men's lives count infinitely more and the buildings must go. But the choice is not always so clear-cut as that.The noble Lord thinks it is, but General Eisenhower does not think so. He said:In many cases the monuments can be spared without any detriment to operational needs. Nothing can stand against the argument of military necessity. That is an accepted principle.He went on:But the phrase 'military necessity' is sometimes used where it would be more truthful to speak of military convenience or even personal convenience. I do not want it to cloak slackness or indifference.Therefore he gave orders that certain considerations should be taken into account, and he has established a large organization, as part of the campaign, for the protection of ancient monuments and buildings of historic and artistic interest which may be imperilled in the fighting.
Does the noble Lord condemn General Eisenhower for that? Apparently he does, according to the whole tenor of his speech. These points should be disposed of he says because, he says with a flourish of rhetoric, everything must be sacrificed to the importance of our winning the war. I must say the speech of the noble Lord seemed to me to be simply a confusion of counsel. When the Goths, the Vandals and Saracens swept over Roman civilization the loss to the cultural treasures of 826 mankind was incalculable. The noble Lord would apparently think it is not a matter which we need consider whether similar consequences are to follow now the war is creeping up through Italy.
We quite agree on that, but the noble Lord would dismiss the whole matter. He says he greatly regrets that the noble Lord, Lord Lang, should have brought the matter before the House so that it could be discussed here. Now the contending Armies are moving up Italy; they will pass over Rome and, as the noble Lord, Lord Long, has suggested, through Tuscany, Florence, Pisa, Assisi, Perugia, Ravenna, Venice. All these places may be theatres of violent campaigns, and yet the noble Lord thinks that it is not a matter which need attract the slightest attention in any way in this country or anywhere else. The noble Lord should not have spoken in the strain he did and should not have made those very sweeping assertions without saying that care should be taken so far as possible that these ancient monuments may be spared. The noble Lord, Lord Lang, has asked for nothing more than that.
§ LORD LATHAM
I am sorry I must intervene. The noble Viscount must remember that I addressed most of my remarks to what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester who was concerned with aerial bombing.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
But this debate is not concerned with aerial bombing. The debate upon that took place last Wednesday, and I am not sure that the whole of the noble Lord's speech or the larger part of it would not have been ruled out of order in another place.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
No, I know, I did not suggest it was. The noble Lord has been a member of the other place.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
No, I forgot, you have not. However, without entering into this personal and somewhat historical wrangle any further, I would merely point out that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester last week raised a 827 quite different matter, and the noble Lord who moved this Motion to-day said that it was his desire and intention that his Motion should have no relevance to the previous debate, that all this was entirely separate from it. Indeed, he spoke in the previous debate, and informed the House he was not going to speak on the occasion of the Motion of the Bishop of Chichester upon the subject raised by his own Motion to-day, because his Motion would deal with a different topic. Now the noble Lord sweeps that aside and prefers to reply on this day in this week to a speech made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester in the previous week on an entirely different Motion.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
It would not conduce to the dignity or efficiency of this House if each week we reply to speeches made in a previous week upon a different Motion. What many of us are concerned about is that the reputation of this country and this nation for caring, and caring deeply, for matters of art and culture should not be lightly cast aside even under the exigencies of war. When we look back on these years from the years that are to come and to the history of this war, we want to take pride in the victory that will have been won by the steadfastness and valour of this nation without any feeling of regret and without having to make any apology for disasters that may have fallen upon our human heritage through carelssness or neglect in the course of the campaign. Of course this matter does not rest only with one of the contending parties. The Germans also are deeply concerned as to what will happen during the remainder of this campaign in Italy. Suppose they decide to defend Rome and defend it by fighting from street to street and from house to house, as they have defended Nikopol or, now, the town of Cassino. Suppose they make fortresses out of the massive ruins of the Colosseum and the Baths of Caracalla and Diocletian, and other historic buildings defying anyone to turn them out. Then these ancient monuments will be made centres of conflict, not through our fault, but through theirs, and if there is blame for destruction in such circumstances as those the disgrace will fall upon them and not upon us.
828 One may think it would be impossible for people such as the Germans to take such a course, but one cannot have any confidence in that, seeing what has happened already in this campaign. The Germans have always had the reputation of being a highly cultured nation, and of being proud of their culture; their museums and picture galleries were visited by millions from all over the world and have been the admiration of all other nations. But the German Army has a kind of malignity which is terrible. Mark what happened at Naples in this campaign. It was again given by the Government in the House of Commons where the Secretary of State for War mentioned the case of the burning of the Royal Society's Library in the University at Naples. He said:That outrage was committed by troops acting under orders and was carried out methodically; the Italian guards who attempted resistance were shot, armed pickets in the streets kept the Italian fire brigades away from the scene, the bookshelves were soaked with petrol and the troops having flung hand grenades into the rooms remained in the vicinity until the fire could be seen to have taken thorough hold.That is one of the most famous libraries in Europe and one of the most valuable. An Army which could commit crimes like that, and crimes like the burning in the last war of the University and Library of Louvain in Belgium, may commit any cultural atrocity.
Again, though it is not precisely in point, your Lordships will remember another action of the German Army in Naples. They placed an extremely powerful delayed action bomb in the principal public post office in Naples, so that some days after the Germans had quitted Naples that bomb exploded when ordinary members of the public in crowds were doing their normal business in the post office, resulting in the death, I believe, of hundreds and the wounding and maiming of a further number. That action was one of the most shocking in the whole history of war, so purposeless and so cruel. Therefore we should not be surprised if in the later stages of this campaign Germans deliberately use some of these ancient monuments of the greatest possible interest as armed posts so as to put the blame on the British for the necessity—as there will be necessity—for attacking them even at the risk on certainty of their destruction.
829 One of the key words of the Nazi vocabulary is "ruthlessness." If you remember Hitler's speeches, and if you remember the literature of the modern Germany, you will know that ruthlessness is always exalted as a great virtue. It is not a British word. I do not know any British statesman who would sing the praises of ruthlessness. By this practice of ruthlessness Germans have gained for themselves the hatred as well as the contempt of civilized mankind. They are in the position of the man of whom Dr. Johnson said "He is a man who has the hiss of the world against him." That is a terrible thing, as they will find, for any nation.
No British officer could conceivably give an order such as the order for the burning of the great library and university at Naples or for putting a delayed action bomb in the cellars of a post office of a town they were going to quit. But not all British officers and men realize the importance of objects of historic or artistic interest. Not all of them have any keen sense of history or any special care or knowledge of the arts. In the turmoil and violence and disturbance of a military campaign they may undoubtedly sometimes forget that these things are of any importance at all. That is why General Eisenhower has issued an order which apparently the noble Lord, Lord Latham, would regard as unnecessary, if not contemptible. That is why the British Government have established an organization under Sir Leonard Woolley to take steps on the field of battle and throughout the campaign in order to do what is possible—always recognizing the supremacy of military exigencies—to preserve these monuments for the generations that are to follow.
As the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, has said, this organization was not very successful in one theatre of war. There is reason to believe that in the towns in North Africa, in Sicily and in the case of Pompeii it did not function very efficiently. In Pompeii, where unfortunately a good deal of damage was done, I am told that buildings were left unrepaired for months, exposed to all the damage of weather in their dilapidated condition. The reason for that is apparently that there has not been enough officers recruited for this duty in the forward areas, that they have been lacking 830 in means of transport, and that they have not been supplied with sums to pay for work urgently necessary. General Eisenhower provides for the setting in proper cases of military police and military guards especially for protection of particular buildings. It is a question whether that in fact has been sufficiently done.
It is very difficult to find the right officers for special tasks of this kind. The men who are needed are not men of the professorial type but men who have military experience and who have military aptitudes. They should have also a knowledge not only of archaeology but of renaissance and modern art. Moreover, they should have a knowledge of the language of the country, personality and authority. That is a combination of qualities not easily found. Fortunately, among the American forces there are available a number of men of very high qualifications in these regards. But we ought to have our own officers among our own troops and I hope the Government will see that there are appointed a sufficient cadre of officers to take proper measures in this matter.
One other question I would like to ask is whether, when the Second Front is opened on the Continent of Europe and no doubt the same procedure will be taken so far as possible to save places of historic and artistic interest, the Governments of other countries, France, Belgium, Holland or wherever it may be will be invited to appoint liaison officers with the knowledge of the facts in order to co-operate with our Army. I do not ask of course that the Government should give any general assurance of immunity for particular buildings or particular towns whether from bombing or other attack. That would be merely an invitation to the Germans to put their most important headquarters and the nerve-centres of their organization in those very towns and those very buildings. Nor do I ask—I would repeat what the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, has said in contradistinction to the noble Lord, Lord Latham—that this consideration of the value of monuments should have priority over all else. That is not asked. I would repeat that military necessity must in all cases prevail. The fact remains that at this moment, in this year 1944, some of the most treasured possessions of mankind are in peril by the course of military operations, and we would not have it thought that the British Army, or the British 831 Government, or the British Parliament is careless or indifferent as to their fate.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just spoken seemed to object very strongly to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Latham. I equally disagree entirely with the noble Viscount. When he reads the report of his speech to-morrow he will see he asked for officers of the best type to look after monuments. He talked about troops as well. I disagree, with that. The noble Viscount said that Lord Latham's speech was totally irrelevant. I thought that in this House our debates were generally irrelevant. I do not know that the noble Lord's speech was any more irrelevant than that of anybody else.
Having said that I would like to turn to the speech of the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang. He informed the House last week that he was going to put down this Motion. I thought he told us that before the noble Viscount the Leader of the House had replied to the debate initiated by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, and I imagined that after hearing the speech of the noble Leader—or after reading it if he was not here to hear it—he would have thought fit to withdraw his Motion. I must say that when I saw that it was still on the Paper I could not understand it. I have listened to the speech of the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, and I must say that I am now more than ever surprised that he did not withdraw his Motion. He asks that new orders and new regulations should be issued to all troops. I suppose he looks upon our airmen, soldiers and sailors as though they were vandals, as though they were men who wanted to knock down every monument.
§ LORD LANG OF LAMBETH
If the noble and gallant Viscount will forgive me interrupting, may I point out that I never suggested anything about new orders? I called attention to the orders which had been issued.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
Well, he wanted those orders repeated, and seemed to speak as if the troops, airmen and sailors did not know of them and were, as I say, anxious to knock down all the monuments which he wishes to protect. They are not. Then the 832 noble and most reverend Lord referred to the question of military necessity. He said that he hoped this would not be taken to mean military convenience.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
But the noble and most reverend Lord did refer to the feeling that there might be military inconvenience. I think that when he reads the Official Report of his own speech he will see that I have not interpreted it wrongly. And now I would like to point out the effect that debates of this sort in this House have not only on Germany but also on our Allies—notably the United States—and in this country. More particularly I feel that I am competent to say a word for the young men who are called upon and ordered to carry out this absolutely necessary work of destroying the power of the enemy's resistance. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House, replying the other day to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, referred to his eloquent, moving and sincere speech. I do not wish to, and I do not, cast any doubt on the sincerity of the right reverend Prelate or the noble and most reverend Lord who has raised this Motion to-day. But sincerity, I fear, may sometimes cover a multitude of sins. I feel that they have not asked themselves—and do not ask themselves—whither their sincerity leads them. They cannot have thought enough of what their speeches would mean. They have not gone into the subject with sufficient care, in my opinion, for it is surely palpable to all that, although we want to preserve all we can of the old buildings, and spiritual institutions and other monuments which have associations with great days of the past, we do not wish to do it at the cost of young life.
The world progresses through the spirit that moves the young, and not so much through the spirit of the older people. Think of the feelings of the young men who go out on these great bombing battles day after day and night after night. Do the noble and most reverend Lord and the right reverend Prelate realize what the pilots and the air crews feel, and what they endure in order to carry out their danger- 833 ous, hazardous and important work? Do they realize what they feel in the long hours of flying, being attacked every minute, through a terrific barrage of antiaircraft guns and awful weather? Think, too, of our soldiers advancing up a difficult valley in order to carry out their difficult and perilous task. Do the noble and most reverend Lord and the right reverend Prelate realize what it means when the men whom they look to for help and advice and counsel publicly declare that their work is all wrong and that they should not be ordered to do it?
§ LORD LANG OF LAMBETH
I never said or thought anything resembling what the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, is now suggesting.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
I am sorry if I have misinterpreted anything which the noble and most reverend Lord said. Certainty a great many other people seem to be interpreting his remarks in the same way as I am doing. Do the noble and most reverend Lord and the right reverend Prelate realize what it means when the men to whom I have been referring see that it is the bearers of such names as theirs who raise these questions? Do they realize—or are they living in a gone-by age—that this is total war? Total war is a horrible thing, there is no doubt about that. Total war means that nations are pitted against nations—the nations of right and freedom against the nations of evil. Do the noble and most reverend Lord and the right reverend Prelate really mean to imply that the men who make the rifles that kill the young men of this country and our Allies are not just as much combatants as the men who fire them? I, anyhow, cannot see the difference, and if anybody can then I say he is not realizing what modern war is.
The noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, in a letter to The Times on January 31, referring to Rome, wrote:Preserved as it has been through the vicissitudes of thousands of years, it may truly be called the Eternal City. It would indeed be lamentable if, by the action of our Armies and Air Force any of its incomparable treasures of history, of art and of religion were destroyed or even seriously damaged.Not a word about the action of the enemy damaging this wonderful property. Nothing about their causing this destruction. We all want to save Rome; there is not a man in the country who does not 834 want to save it; but I ask your Lordships at what cost? Is it at the cost of prolonging the war in Europe for years and sacrificing millions of lives? Do they not know, do you not know, that every pilot, member of an air crew, soldier and sailor does not want to kill women and children, least of all? These men know, and they know full well, that if they can shorten the war they will save lives of women and children and men, too.
In their speeches neither the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, nor the right reverend Prelate has stated the meaning of what they want, in terms of lengthening the war and increasing suffering. The noble Viscount who has just sat down, too, with his demand for officers and troops to look after the monuments when they get into new territory in the course of this invasion which is talked about, does not seem to realize that by the taking of and separating man-power for the special work of protecting and guarding these places, the war would Be lengthened. My Lords, I have inadequately described what I feel in this matter. I feel that the last debate and this debate have been given undue prominence because of the people who raised them and because the Government have thought it necessary to put up people of the calibre of the noble Leader of the House and, now, the Lord Chancellor, to reply. These questioners know that nothing they say will alter the Government's policy or the nation's policy. Therefore why have they raised the question? I would ask them sincerely to withdraw the Motion even before the Government reply and thus show that they have a sense of the realities amid which we are all living.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I fear that I shall draw upon my head the same strictures from the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, as those which he addressed to Lord Latham, because with your Lordships' permission I certainly propose also to reply to a speech which was made in this House last week. I defer with genuine respect to the noble Viscount's knowledge of political procedure, but it certainly is news to me that one may not take a suitable opportunity to reply to a speech which has been made on an earlier occasion, particularly if one believes that that speech has done a considerable amount of mischief. If the 835 noble Viscount is so anxious upon these nice points, may I say that I am surprised that he devoted so many remarks to the post office at Naples on a Motion which is dealing with objects of historical or cultural value? I have frequently visited that post office, and have never discovered anything of historical or cultural value about it.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Latham that this debate to-day will certainly be regarded by the public and by the Armed Forces—and he might well have added by the enemy—as a continuation of the debate which took place last week. The principal speech made in that debate last week was an effort to induce the Government to modify or suspend their present bombing policy. That is a most serious responsibility for any one to take upon himself, and must provide food for enemy propaganda, as we know that it has done. It must also have a very disheartening effect upon our bomber personnel. If such a case is to be brought forward and argued, however, it should at least be argued upon firm ground and facts; and in my opinion the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chichester, was not on firm ground in the case which he presented, as I shall endeavour to show. The noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, speaking in the debate last week, praised the sincerity, the courage and the impressiveness of the Bishop of Chichester's speech. I shall certainly not subscribe to the word "impressiveness." I never wish to question any man's sincerity or courage, but in a matter of this nature to be judicious is perhaps even more important than to be courageous and sincere.
The implication in the speech was that we bombed civilian non-combatants and non-military and non-industrial objectives, including ancient buildings and art treasures and museums, as a matter of deliberate policy. What evidence is there for making such a statement as that? We are told that some agreement was entered into as the result of an appeal to bomb only military objectives, and that both sides accepted this agreement. What is this agreement? It would be interesting to know. Is it intended to convey that Germany entered into such an agreement but that the Allies broke it?
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, the agreement which was underwritten by His Majesty's Government and by the French Government, and also by the German Government, was an agreement in answer to an appeal made by President Roosevelt just before the war broke out.
§ LORD WINSTER
Is it contended that, having entered into this agreement, Germany has kept it but we have broken it?
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
I said at the beginning of my speech that the Germans had broken this agreement; I left no sort of doubt about that.
§ LORD WINSTER
I accept that, of course, but I think it is equally unfortunate to convey the impression that the Allies have broken an agreement of this nature, because I know of no evidence that they have.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene again, but this is a point of principle. I did say in the course of my speech that His Majesty's Government gave notice in May, 1940, that they no longer considered themselves bound by it. That was quite proper notice to give, and I mentioned it.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I accept that, but the right reverend Prelate said that there are recognized limits to what is permissible. It would be interesting to be told of any such limits which are being recognized by Germany. Why are the Allies to be blamed for doing things which they agreed not to do only if others did not do them? Who began these breaches of what was at one time accepted? That seems to me to be an important question. We were told by the right reverend Prelate that to obliterate a whole town because certain parts of it contained military establishments is wrong. If you know that a certain town is producing a large volume of munitions, how can you possibly tell which parts to bomb and which parts to leave alone in order to destroy that production? It may be the case that activities which are 837 essential to that production are being carried on right alongside a museum or an art gallery.
How, for instance, is it thought that targets ought to have been selected in Hamburg? It is all very well to be concerned over the fate of Hamburg and the 28,000 people who were killed there, but why not mention the 30,000 killed in Rotterdam, a neutral and perfectly innocent city? We are asked to express some regret about 600,000 books destroyed in a university library. What about all the books which have been wantonly destroyed by the Nazis in the countries which they have occupied? I have been given a figure of the number of books destroyed in London. It is so huge that I shall refrain from quoting it, because I have not yet had time to check the information; but, if what I am told is true, 600,000 books is a very small affair compared with the number of books destroyed in London. I would also remind your Lordships that perhaps the principal agents in destroying books in Germany have been the Nazis themselves, for I am sure that we all recall those public bonfires in which the Nazis burnt some of the best books in the country.
We were accused of deliberately destroying museums and art galleries in Berlin, and we were told that our bombing of Berlin is not a justifiable act of war. I should like to ask the right reverend Prelate whether he will repeat those words to-day, and say that our bombing of Berlin is not a justifiable act of war. If the contents of these art galleries and museums have been destroyed in Berlin, that is the fault of the German Government, who should long ago have removed such treasures to a place of safety. From what I have been able to observe and to read, however, I think that the main interest of the rulers of Germany in art matters is; to steal what is valuable in other countries for their personal enrichment. We had better get a list of what has been looted in this way from other countries before shedding too many tears over what has been destroyed in Berlin. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham, has on several occasions called your Lordships' attention to this looting of art treasures and valuables from other countries.
It may be true that 74,000 people have been killed in Berlin and 3,000,000 ren- 838 dered homeless, but Berlin is the city from which the extermination of a whole race was proclaimed as a definite political aim of German policy. That is Berlin. It is Berlin from which the murder of millions has been planned and directed. I think if we have these statistics of casualties in Berlin, we might as well have some statistics about the number killed and rendered homeless, for instance, in Warsaw. The right reverend Prelate dwelt on the beauty and historical interest of Dresden, Augsburg, Munich, Regensburg, Hildesheim and Marburg and he asked these vandals who have destroyed Mainz and Hamburg to spare these other cities in the interests of European culture.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
May I object to the use of the word "vandal." I never used or suggested that word.
§ LORD WINSTER
That is my word. I did not use the word as having been employed by the right reverend Prelate; that is the implication of the right reverend Prelate's words. But there was a great deal of culture in Naples, and in the parts of Russia which have been visited by these art-loving persons the Germans. I remember when the Germans were invading Russia they did not hesitate to defile and desecrate and destroy the home of Tolstoy, one of the greatest apostles of peace who have ever lived. The culture in the occupied countries has not survived the visit of the Germans, and in my opinion European culture is and always has been in far more danger from Germany than from the bombers which aim at preventing a German victory.
The right reverend Prelate said:The destruction of the main Roman monuments would create such hatred that the misery would survive when all the military and political advantage that may have accrued may have long worn off.I am really at a loss to know what is intended to be conveyed by those words. Is it contended that we ought not to try to take Rome, but that we ought to leave the city to the art-loving, cultured Germans? If it is agreed that we are entitled to try to take Rome, then Rome is a military objective. Are we to understand that the Commander-in-Chief charged with achieving that objective ought to be mainly guided by 839 care for ancient monuments? Is it the view that British lives would be well lost if some of the ancient monuments of Rome were preserved? I would not like to try to tell that story to an industrial audience of men and women whose sons are being conscribed for service in the Armies in Italy. The hatred that I should rightly incur if I did so would certainly survive as long as the misery caused by the loss of life involved. We know that, British commanders being what they are, there will be no wanton destruction of any ancient monuments or of any works of art. But surely the first duty of a commander in the field is to achieve his objective in the minimum time at the minimum cost of life, and he would only be justified in not acting upon that principle if he had received direct orders not to do so from the Government as a matter of high policy, dictated by political or religious considerations. That being so, why couple the name of our commanders in the field with the Goths and the sack of Rome, and talk about blame falling on those who are professing to create a better world? If that phrase is not meant to convey the suggestion of hypocrisy what is it intended to mean? Why are the words used? In my opinion, simply to imply hypocrisy on the part of the Government—that while professing to wish to create a better world their actions in this matter are quite contrary to their pretentions.
The right reverend Prelate referred to the argument that area bombing is designed to diminish the sacrifice of British lives and to shorten the war. He dismissed that as an argument of expediency smacking of the Nazi philosophy. He dismissed that contention, that bombing would save lives and shorten the war, as speculation. Those who have access to information not available to the public certainly do not regard that argument as speculative. But note how this argument about speculation is sustained. The right reverend Prelate quoted a statement by the Prime Minister made in August, 1940, to the effect that one of the surest, if not the shortest, of all the roads to victory is bombing. The right reverend Prelate comments: "We are still fighting." The Prime Minister did not say that bombing would bring us victory soon. His words 840 were that it was one of the surest roads to victory—quite a different thing. Over and over again the Prime Minister has reminded us that all the roads to victory are long. The point at issue is this. Should we be as far along those roads as we are to-day but for the bombing policy carried out by the Government? In any case, the intensive bombing of which the right reverend Prelate complains had not begun in August, 1940; it only really began last year. And if the right reverend Prelate says that in spite of it German production is going forward, that is not the question. Of course it is going forward or the war would have stopped. The question is how far has German production been retarded by the bombing, and I think the answer to that is "Very considerably indeed."
Again, the right reverend Prelate mentioned "certain military quarters" which questioned the value of bombing. He gave no indication whatever of what those "certain military quarters" are, and until we are told who they are I think we can dismiss them as hearsay. The effect of bombing upon morale was also dismissed by the right reverend Prelate as pure speculation, and in support of that statement he gave us two quotations from Swedish newspapers. Well, I think we can be quite sure that the War Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff dispose of far better information on this subject than the Swedish Press. It is really not good enough to found a case of this serious nature upon hearsay and quotations of that kind from the Press. It is the same flimsy evidence that led to the quotation of the telegram from Zurich, to which my noble friend Lord Latham referred, from the man who fled from Germany long before the war and yet claims to be able to tell us what millions inside Germany feel. What is the value of such evidence as that in support of a serious case? The right reverend Prelate thinks the war can be shortened if only the Government would speak a word of hope and encouragement to the tortured millions of Europe. Our bombers every night when the weather serves are speaking the only word of that nature which is likely to be heard for a very long time to come. The noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, described this speech as one of courage, sincerity and impressiveness of which he did not wish to diminish the effect.
§ LORD LANG OF LAMBETH
May I point out that those are exactly the words that the Leader of the House used?
§ LORD WINSTER
Well, I am sure the Leader of the House will answer for his own words. I am pointing out that the noble and most reverend Lord did not wish to diminish the effect on the public and on the world of a case brought before your Lordships upon such flimsy and unsubstantial evidence. The noble and most reverend Lord spoke about exultation and gloating. Where is the evidence of this exultation and gloating of which he spoke as existing in large sections of our people, and of which he said there were many signs to-day? It is a slander upon the spirit of our people to use such language without producing the evidence in support of it. The noble Lord spoke of correspondence he had had in which his correspondents said, "Let them have it, they did it to us, let us do it to them." That is not a spirit of gloating and exultation, to my mind. I share in these sentiments whole-heartedly. I could quote good Scriptural authority in support of that except that I should be afraid that a proverb referring to the danger of quoting Scripture might be brought against me. I see nothing to take exception to in the spirit of such remarks as these: "Let them have it, they did it to us, let us do it to them." The enemy began this thing. But when he began it he did not foresee the end, and it is we who are going to drive this matter through to the end and make the enemy regret he ever began it. Where is the improper stimulation, spoken of by the noble Lord, by the Press, of feelings leading to what he called "real moral deterioration"? That is a very serious charge to bring against the Press and a very serious charge to bring against the British Broadcasting Corporation which was also included in that remark. Where is the evidence of improper stimulation by the Press or by the B.B.C. of matters which, as the noble Lord said, "will lead to real moral deterioration amongst our people"?
No case whatever for asking the Government to vary their policy in this matter has been made out. The case advanced has been based upon error, upon hearsay, and upon bad history. The truth is that those who are opposed to bombing will not face the facts. They are humane men who avert their eyes from what is un- 842 pleasant and uncomfortable, like the anemone which curls up when you prod it with a stick. They avert their eyes from what is unpleasant to them, and they are prepared to run the risk of Germany winning this war. If that is what is in their minds, let them come forward and say so, and come out straightforwardly as conscientious objectors. The military advisers advise the War Cabinet that our bombing policy will enable us to win, and that to abandon it might mean that Germany would win. What Prime Minister is prepared to say to the nation, because of the doctrine that we must not do harm for fear that evil will come out of it, "I am afraid I must advise the country to give up this bombing policy and run the risk of Germany winning the war"? I am glad that the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack is going to reply to this debate because I recollect upon one occasion, when the independence of Abyssinia was threatened he said—I think I have his words correctly—that he was not prepared to run the risk of losing a single British warship on behalf of Abyssinian independence whilst such great dangers threatened us at home.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
With this necessary addition—"if what was called for was isolated action by this country." I think that is rather important.
§ LORD WINSTER
I agree, and that being so, I feel sure that the noble and learned Viscount will not be prepared to run the risk of the loss of life, or imperil the chances of victory, in order that ancient monuments or art treasures may be preserved. The last word I want to say is this. I feel that the speech of the noble Lord was most unfortunate in its effect on the personnel of our bombers. Why attempt to make them feel that their work is unchristian and morally wrong? Was it a speech calculated to encourage the personnel of the bombers who fight these great battles? Why endeavour to represent them as robots, blindly carrying out orders which are repugnant to their moral sense? I hope that, as the result of these debates, a message will go out to them from this House of admiration and gratitude for what they are doing to ensure that victory which will save the civilization we love and care for.
§ LORD GEDDES
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for long, but it 843 seems to me that in the debate that has gone forward to-day the point of view which I myself would hold has not been expressed. There is no doubt whatever that every one of us, without exception, deplores the loss of great churches, great pictures, and all the other cultural possessions of Europe. We all hate to think that that is going on, but that it not the predominant hatred in our minds. The thing that we hate most and fear most is not that these material creations of the human spirit, as the noble and most reverend Lord calls them, should be lost. Our greatest fear is that the greatest creation of the human spirit—the whole of the Christian civilization of Europe—should be lost. That is a thing of the spirit and not of the material. Its preservation, as the guiding force of Christendom, must depend upon our victory and upon the victory of all who think and fight with us. If we are to allow that great heritage, that great creation of the human spirit, to be destroyed, of what value are these material creations of the human spirit? They are gone. They are milestones, indeed they are caddis cases, of the evolution of our Christian civilization. Yet we do not want to use any expression here that would discourage in any way whatever or limit the initiative of our commanders, soldiers, airmen, and sailors in winning that victory which we know to be essential, which we know we cannot do without, without which we know, if we were not to win the war, there would be no value left in any of the cultural monuments of Europe for our time and probably for any time.
That is the difficulty of these debates. I thought that the debate last Wednesday, at the time, showed two things—first, that the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chichester, refused to face facts, and the other that the spirit of tolerance, the acceptance of the right of man to live without men's leave underneath the law, was very strongly represented in your Lordships' House. I thought it marked a very high level of tolerance and of the exercise of freedom. I feared at that time that it would have the effect which we now know it has had. We know that it has encouraged the German propagandists. We know from direct contact that it has done much to disturb the minds of many of our fighting men. That will pass off.
844 Now we come to to-day's debate, and we have got it coming at the end of a period of intense discussion of this question of possible damage to cultural monuments. A great deal of what has been said and of what has been written in the Press shows a failure to face the facts. It is suggested that the preservation of these material cultural monuments is more important than the preservation of the essential facts of our civilization, and that is where I think we have to get the balance right. Of course we want to preserve the cultural monuments if they can be preserved, but I am sure not one of your Lordships would wish that anything should have been said in this House which would have the slightest effect in inhibiting the action of a military commander to take those steps which are necessary to secure victory. The danger is in continually harping upon these things of lesser importance—because the actual physical, cultural monuments are of lesser importance—and not keeping steadily before our own eyes the great importance attaching to the victory which we are going to win. I think if we fail to keep that steadily before us we apply a brake to the process of winning that victory. What I am sure we want to send out from this House is a message to all the men who are fighting for us, our own flesh and blood, that they will not wantonly do any damage and that we support them in everything they do to gain victory, support them whole-heartedly with all the power and with all the energy that this great Chamber of your Lordships can bring behind them in the perilous work which they have to perform.
§ THE EARL OF HAREWOOD
My Lords, I venture to detain your Lordships for two or three minutes as one of the signatories of the letter which received so sympathetic an answer from the War Cabinet, and which was drafted by my noble and most reverend friend. I venture to think that the present debate has wandered a long way from the point to which we wished to draw attention in that letter. When I read the Motion which stands in the name of the most reverend and noble Lord, I note that hardly a word has been said in this debate which really has any bearing upon its wording. The Motion reads:To call attention to the importance of preserving objects of special historical or cultural value within the theatres of war and 845 to ask His Majesty's Government what measures they have taken or propose to take for this purpose.I think that is far from being a matter which ought to persuade noble Lords to talk purely upon the advantages of bombing. That is very far from being the only way in which objects of historical and cultural importance can be destroyed. I am the last person who would venture to question the very sincere speech which we have heard from the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, on that subject. It was limited to the fact that bombing is eventually going to assist us to win the war. He did not deal with the other means by which buildings are damaged.
I would draw your Lordships' attention to one aspect of this question and hope to get a sympathetic answer in regard to it from the noble and learned Viscount who will reply, and that is to the damage which is frequently done by troops billeted in a newly-occupied town. Many of your Lordships must have been in the same position that I was in as a platoon and company commander in the last war. We became intimately acquainted with—I do not quite like to use the word wanton—the negligent damage that was done quite unnecessarily by troops who occupied a building. Your Lordships must also be well aware that that even happens in this country from time to time. In Northern Italy, of which we hope we are very soon going to be in occupation, there are a number of buildings which should be preserved if possible. The number is very much greater there than it is even in our own country and very much greater than it is in any other part of Europe with which I am acquainted. The matter is of very serious importance. Without in any way limiting the activities of the Royal Air Force or any other of His Majesty's troops who destroy buildings behind the line, perhaps inevitably, I wish to draw the special attention of His Majesty's Government to the number of buildings that can be saved without in any way endangering the lives of our soldiers.
I am the last person who would suggest that you should assess the life of a British soldier against the preservation of an Italian building. The thing seems to me quite unthinkable. That is not at all the object of the Motion as it stands on the Paper. It does not bear upon it. 846 A tremendous lot can be done to preserve these ancient monuments. I know that something has already been done under the guidance of Colonel Sir Leonard Woolley, and I hope we may get an assurance from His Majesty's Government that even more may be done in the future. As we get further into the north of Italy, and therefore into a country which is more full of these important buildings, I hope the number of his staff may be increased in order that he may adequately perform the duties with which he has been entrusted. I venture, therefore, to support the words which are to be found in the Motion that has been moved.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I cannot but think it a little unfortunate that so sustained an effort has been made by some of those who have taken part in this debate to treat the subject under discussion as though it was the same subject as that which was raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester last week. I am not one who desires to see introduced into this House any stricter rules of order. We govern ourselves, which is a very good way of proceeding. But that really does not excuse anybody from failing to appreciate that the two questions raised are quite distinct. The question that was raised last week by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester was this. He attempted to persuade us that the Government should modify its bombing policy and practice. That is what he was attempting to do, and I was not in the least surprised that it aroused the indignant, though somewhat postponed, protest of my noble friend Viscount Trenchard, and also of two other members of the House who have spoken this afternoon on the Motion of the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang. Their intervention really illustrates the principle of the delayed action bomb. They have heard a speech which they greatly resented from a right reverend Prelate last week. They did not take part, I think, in that debate. They have reflected upon it and read reports of it and, it may be, the views of other people upon it, and here, a week later, like a delayed action bomb, they have gone off with tremendous noise and effect. But the result is merely to produce a rather sulphurous atmosphere in which there is danger of 847 your Lordships not seeing what the present question is.
As regards the question raised by the right reverend Prelate last week, the answer for the Government was made by the Leader of the House Viscount Cranborne, and I must say I thought he carried the warm approval of those who have protested so loudly on the present occasion. If it is material, I entirely agree with what he said and I should have been quite prepared, though not in such choice language I dare say, to have resisted what I think was the pernicious suggestion contained in the speech last week. But with the greatest possible respect, what has that to do with the matter which the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, raises now? It has absolutely nothing to do with it at all. He told us in his first sentence that in putting forward this Motion he was of course in his own mind inserting and he wished he had inserted in print "subject to overriding military necessity." I am free to confess I wish those words were there, but really nobody in his senses supposes that the noble and most reverend Lord or anybody else was advocating that our military operations should be in some way restricted out of respect for ancient monuments. I entirely agree with what was said on that point by the last speaker, the Earl of Hare-wood. It is unthinkable, and really it is a rather insulting proposition to suggest, that there is any man among us or any one in this country who would say—I am borrowing the words of the noble Lord, Lord Winster—"British lives would be well lost if an ancient monument be preserved." That is really the height of misrepresentation of what is the universal feeling of every decent, sensible, honourable man in this country.
The question which the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, raised is quite a different question, and I do not feel any difficulty in answering because the answer I am going to give is the answer of the War Cabinet in a personal letter signed "Winston Churchill." It is not a private idiosyncrasy coming from a distorted view or a disturbed mind. Nobody suggests, of course, that the necessities of war are not the primary consideration. I will put the proposition in two very, simple sentences. It is universally 848 accepted and everywhere understood that the necessities of war must be put far in front of any consideration of special historical or cultural value at all. The fierceness of the struggle, the cause for which we are fighting (as the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, said just now) the necessity of getting victory—victory as complete and as quickly as possible—make it ridiculous to compare the needs of that claimant with any artistic or cultural matter whatever. But with equal firmness I wish to assert that that is no excuse for saying therefore it does not matter how little attention is paid to the preservation of valuable works of art.
Let me point out to your Lordships that a large part of the work of preservation is generally behind the lines. Suppose the case of a beautiful building which has been damaged—inevitably damaged—in the course of the advance of our troops, and it has been left in a precarious state. If it is not protected it will go to rack and ruin. Is there anybody in your Lordships' House who would say, "Let it go to rack and ruin. Who cares?" Yet I must say that that was the impression, no doubt not intended, but certainly left on my mind when the noble Lord, Lord Latham, spoke. It is not a question of comparing the importance of the things that are most precious to us, the little home, the life of the husband or son, or the safety of those brave people who are fighting our cause in the air—it is not a question of weighing their importance against some ancient building. As Lord Geddes said, there would not be much use in saving these valuable buildings if we lost the lives and liberties of the very men and women which alone make them monuments valuable to preserve. I should have thought those were the sentiments of all sensible people and it was a distortion of the present debate to suggest the contrary. Yet I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Winster, mentioned the subject of the present debate in one single sentence. I do not think it is good that in this House, with its long traditions of free debate, we should show ourselves unwilling to consider the question that is raised merely because we prefer to spend our time in denouncing opinions previously advanced on a quite different question.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me for these words of introduction which are 849 intended to clear the air which has become somewhat confused by this delayed action bomb. Now that the sulphur has, I hope, to some extent been dissipated, may I call attention quietly and calmly to what the question is? It is not necessary to get into any great heat about it. It is a question which General Eisenhower has thought it worth while to deal with in detail; it is a question which the War Cabinet with all its work has thought it well to discuss, and it is a question about which Mr. Churchill has thought it worth while to reply to this distinguished body of artistic authority in a letter and a document drawn up by the War Cabinet. I hope therefore I shall not be thought to be asking too much indulgence when I ask for a few moments in which to deal with the question asked. The question is this. Granted, as of course we all do, that the achievement of quick and complete victory and the support of our fighting men is the very first object, far in front of anything else, are the arrangements made the best that could be made for preserving buildings of the greatest artistic value?
Let me first deal with the matter generally. I would say, on behalf of the Government, that while the necessities of war stand out miles ahead of everything else, still every practicable step should be taken, consistently with the exigencies of war, to avoid and prevent needless destruction, and especially there should be done all that the Allied Commanders can do consistently with military necessity to avoid damage to monuments and to collections which are part of the inheritance of civilization. I would assure the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, that during the brief period now almost thirty years ago, when in a very modest capacity I had the honour of serving under him as well as I could, I learnt to know very well the nature of the terrific risks and the dangers which flying pilots are constantly facing when they are sent out on an excursion. I know very well that in these matters we must recognize that a terrible task is placed on the shoulders of the flying service, and that a man cannot be expected in the midst of a crisis, and noise, darkness and danger, to obey little instructions about not hitting that or avoiding if you can hitting something else. That is not the point. The point is whether there are 850 any decisions which can properly be made on this subject.
I am going to read again the order which was issued by General Eisenhower, which was, of course, an order issued to troops of all arms, and which shows, at least, the view which he took of the matter. I will read it from the beginning. It is addressed to all Commanders in Italy:To-day we are fighting in a country which has contributed a great deal to our cultural inheritance, a country rich in monuments which by their creation helped and now in their old age illustrate the growth of the civilization which is ours. We are bound to respect those monuments so far as war allows.Does anybody challenge that? Is that evidence that the author of this document does not understand the necessities of war, and needs to be taught them by some of those who have spoken in this debate to-day?
The order goes on:If we have to choose between destroying a famous building and sacrificing our own men, then our men's lives count infinitely more and the buildings must go.There is nothing wrong in saying that, surely. "But," General Eisenhower says,the choice is not always so clear-cut as that. In many cases the monuments can be spared without detriment to operational needs. Nothing can stand against the argument of military necessity. That is an accepted principle. But the phrase 'military necessity' is sometimes used where it would be more truthful to speak of military convenience or even personal convenience.I apprehend that he is referring quite as much to the misuse of buildings behind the line as to the case of buildings exposed to the risk of immediate attack. The order continues:I do not want it to cloak slackness or indifference.It is a responsibility of higher Commanders to determine through A.M.G. officers the locations of historical monuments whether they be immediately ahead of our front lines or in areas occupied by us. This information passed to lower echelons through normal channels places the responsibility on all Commanders of complying with the spirit of this letter.Is it the case, my Lords, that there is anybody in this House who is prepared to say: "What utter nonsense!" It is not nonsense at all. It is recognizing, of course, that the safety of the life of a single man stands in front of any con- 851 sideration of beautiful antiquities, but it is saying at the same time: "Consistently with all this it is our duty, as civilized armies, to do the best we can."
I am very glad to know that although something has been said in this debate about the action of the enemy in this regard, nobody has suggested—and it is a doctrine to which I would not for a moment subscribe—that because the enemy has acted with the most deliberate wickedness in dealing with monuments in Italy we should do the same. I cannot conceive that anybody will say that that would be a proper revenge to take. I was not here for a few moments when the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, was speaking, and I am not sure whether he called the attention of the House to two instances of German practices which are so shocking that really I must be excused for relating them. The first of these outrages was committed at the great library of the Royal Society in the University of Naples. The particulars which have been given of this state:That outrage was committed by troops acting under orders and was carried out methodically; the Italian guards who attempted resistance wore shot, armed pickets in the streets kept the Italian fire brigades away from the scene, the bookshelves were soaked with petrol and the troops having flung hand grenades in the rooms remained in the vicinity until the fire could be seen to have taken thorough hold.That is not an operation of war at all. It is merely a most monstrous example of deliberate and wicked arson committed by these savages who destroyed that great library without any sort of excuse.
Details of the other outrage were also given in reply to a question which was asked in the House of Commons. In this instance it was the Villa Montesano at Livardi near Nola which suffered. It is an isolated country villa, and it was not, at the time, in the area of active operation at all. The Italian authorities had deposited a quantity of art treasures from Naples there, a great many cases of selected documents from the State archives, a quantity of pictures and so on; and what was it that the Germans did? This is the statement which has been officially made:On 28th September a German foraging party discovered the deposit and on the following day a German officer with about six men arrived from Nola, and in the presence of the archives official opened selected cases and veri- 852 fied their contents. On that day the Chief Superintendent of South Italian Archives wrote to the German Command at Nola pointing out the importance of the archives deposit to European history.That was on September 28.On 30th September a German incendiarist squad arrived, produced and tore up the Superintendent's letter, saying that the German Command knew everything and had given the order to burn the deposit. They put straw and incendiary powder in the various rooms of the villa and set fire to it. They then went off but returned an hour later to inspect progress.It is no good selecting epithets about such conduct.
But nobody is going to say that because that monstrous conduct is perpetrated by our German enemies we are going to regard it as a matter of indifference whether valuable libraries and books and the like are burned or not. The claim is made, and quite rightly made, by Viscount Trenchard, I think, and by Lord Winster and one or two others, that these things are things which it is inconceivable that any British soldier would put his hand to. And we know that that is true. At the same time, what is there that is ignoble or misguided in asking the Government, as these learned bodies did, "What are the arrangements which you have made, or that can be made, for the purpose of preserving these monuments—always treating military necessity as the first and overriding consideration?"
I have to say that the War Cabinet entirely approves General Eisenhower's document. I have to say that the Secretary of State for War entirely approves it. I have to say that those who are the heads of the British Army in that area are doing their best to act in the spirit of it, as General Eisenhower was at the time Commander of the Allied Forces. It is on that simple principle that any action that can be taken is being taken—namely, that subject to this one essential proviso—the insertion of which I well understand under the harsh condition of war—that success of our military operations overrides everything else, none the less it is important, as far as we can, to protect works of art and historic buildings. That is fully appreciated.
§ LORD TEVIOT
May I interrupt for one moment with great respect? Was not General Eisenhower's order issued before the debate of last Wednesday? I think I am right in saying that it was.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Yes, I think that it would be, but I am afraid that I have not appreciated my noble friend's point. Perhaps he will explain it further.
§ LORD TEVIOT
With your Lordship's permission I will explain. There was this order by General Eisenhower, and I think there was a reference in the Press to the other order before the debate of last Wednesday. Therefore, it seems to me that the debate which took place last Wednesday and the one to-day were unnecessary.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I understand my noble friend to suggest that, because these documents existed before, it was not necessary to have the debate last Wednesday. Does he also suggest that there is no occasion to have a debate now? I would ask by noble friend to exercise a little patience and to listen, because I have been asked a question and am answering it on behalf of His Majesty's Government. Perhaps I had better repeat the question. I am asked to say what measures His Majesty's Government have taken, or propose to take, for this purpose.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I was referring only to the want of necessity for last week's debate and that of to-day, in view of what was already known by all of us. I am not criticizing what the Government are saying, or what the noble and learned Viscount is saying.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am asked what is the method by which His Majesty's Government are endeavouring to carry out these admirable directions. I understand my noble friend to think that they are quite admirable. It is right and important that we should do all we can in this matter, and I am going to tell your Lordships what we have done, because that is the question which I am asked and therefore the question which I should like to answer. The answer is this. The importance of doing all that is possible to conserve the art monuments of Italy was recognized by our own War Office before the invasion of Sicily began in April last. The invasion of Sicily, like all sea-borne operations, was conditioned by the availability of shipping and by the priority of its use for strictly military purposes. Nothing could be spared beyond 854 what was really necessary for that purpose. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Trenchard is not here at the moment, because that is the point which he made in his speech. The inevitable result was that the service devoted to art preservation, which had already been set up as part of the War Office scheme, suffered in the opening stages of the campaign. Something of the sort was said earlier by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and it is true that some things were damaged in Sicily in the course of military operations because there was really not an adequate system for taking care of them. In the same way the very exacting circumstances in which the advance from El Alamein was made to clear North Africa did not permit of much attention being given at first to the preservation of monuments.
On the American side an initiative was taken and in August, 1943, a special Commission was appointed by President Roosevelt to correlate the work of the independent Committees formed to supply the United States Army with advice, and in particular "to aid in salvaging and restoring to their lawful owners such objects of art as have been appropriated by the Axis Powers or by individuals acting under their authority or consent." In this country we at first put this question of preserving art monuments in war areas under the Civil Affairs branch of the Service. The agreement between us and the United States gave the United States the principal authority; I think that there were twelve American officers as against three British. The organization was on the lines devised by this United States Commission. The object was to provide as far as we could for the protection of monuments in occupied areas, for the application to damaged monuments of such "first-aid" measures as might prevent their further deterioration, and for the collection of evidence of appropriation or wanton destruction of works of art by the Germans. That was all in line with the British view, and indeed a similar arrangement was in course of being made by ourselves.
As I think the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, when Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Leonard Woolley went out as the special adviser of the War Office on this subject, he came to the conclusion that the arrangements were not altogether satisfactory, mainly, I think, because the officers on whom reliance had been placed were, to 855 a large extent, grouped in areas at the back, and it became a question of whether more could not be done in areas where they were most needed. At any rate, Sir Leonard Woolley saw General Eisenhower, and it was General Eisenhower who made the order to which my noble friend has just referred and which I have read. The organization was remodelled, and under the new arrangements some officer experts are attached to the Fighting Commands, while others in the rear of the battle areas are available for posting wherever required. Moreover, the officers in question now exercise a higher authority than before. I think that I shall be confirmed by anybody with experience of soldiering when I say that the only effective machinery to use in the midst of fighting or in an area of active war, is the executive authority of the responsible Commander. The orders have to be given by those who are really responsible as officers commanding troops. The orders which have been given of late are of that character, and we believe that they are working well, and that as far as anything can be done it is being done.
The Secretary of State for War, who takes a very great interest in this subject and does not at all regard it as outside his duties and responsibilities, hopes from time to time to be able to make reports to Parliament as to what has been discovered and the extent to which damage has been done by the Germans, and on what has been done in the way of saving monuments and the like from further deterioration, and so on. I cannot but think that your Lordships, on reflection, will hold that that is a perfectly sensible plan. It does not in the least interfere with the primary function of our troops, and nobody in his senses suggests that these considerations should for a moment interfere with the military necessities of the position.
The noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, asked me a question about a Commission. It was part of the communication made by the War Cabinet to my noble friend. The authorities for when he spoke offered to find, if it was desired, a number of people who might form a Commission for certain useful purposes, and the answer was that His Majesty's Government quite approved of that and hoped that the names which were suggested would be sent forward, I 856 think to the Prime Minister, but at any rate to the Government. The suggestion was that a Commission parallel to that set up by the President of the United States might be formed to deal with the post-war problem of the restitution of stolen works of art. The problem of how to recover loot is a most difficult one, but it manifestly has nothing to do with interference with military operations; it is a post-war question.
I understood my noble friend to ask whether or not those who were appointed to this Commission might have useful work to do at an earlier period, during the war, and the reply which he got, and which I must repeat, is that the Government agree that the selection of names should be made at once. I must not, however, be misunderstood; I do not wish to be misunderstood about this at all. I am not promising, and the Government are not promising, that these doubtless most skilled experts can make what may be called surveys on the spot in time of war. The only people who can really look after an area of warfare are the soldiers, sailors and airmen who are under the orders of the Commanders in the different areas. The idea that we should leave the most eminent experts who have high artistic or archaeological qualifications to walk about the late battlefields for this purpose is really one which I think would not be accepted as at all suitable. But, though the machinery during the war must be the executive authority of the Commander-in-Chief and the officers under his command, questions may arise—they will arise—and His Majesty's Government hope, and the War Office hope, that he will be able to make use of the Commission to which my noble friend referred as advisers in suitable cases.
I have spoken in general terms, and I hope I have satisfied the House that the question which my noble friend has raised is one which he is quite justified in raising, and has nothing to do with the proposition introduced here last week on another Motion.
The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, asked me whether, when the time came, we would not do our best to associate with this Commission suitable experts who would come from Belgium, from the Dutch, the French and so on. I am quite sure that is the spirit in which the proposal is made.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
What I was thinking of was whether similar steps would be taken as are now being taken in Italy, when these officers are moving behind the troops in France, Belgium or Holland.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The proposals which the Government have in mind are not necessarily confined to Italy, but that was the occasion when the matter was raised.
I will end by giving to the House a little information, rather more detailed information about the actual case of Monte Cassino. In the first place the buildings themselves are of small importance. Most of them date from the nineteenth century. They are decorated with frescoes by German artists. The great church inside the abbey is of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. I believe the objects of most interest artistically in the church are its bronze and silver doors. The most important feature of the monastery is the library, which contained over ten thousand printed volumes, some of them extremely rare, and thousands of manuscripts. Early in the war the Italian authorities sent to Monte Cassino for safety the finest objects from the National Museum at Naples, including a unique collection of bronze statues and busts from Herculanæum and Pompeii, all the treasures from the convent of Montevergine near Avellino, and all the objects from the San Martino Museum at Naples—ivories, majolicas and a number of other things. I hope I shall not be suspected of not being a thorough-paced supporter of bombing; when I say that it would be a misfortune if those things were to perish.
But they are no longer at Monte Cassino. I am relying on three or four extracts from German newspapers, which in these highly exceptional circumstances may, I suppose, be trusted. The Berliner Börsenzeitung of November 7 announced that all the treasures of art and antiquity had been removed by the Germans from the monastery and handed over to the Vatican authorities in Rome. On December 9 the Pester Lloyd said that the art treasures had gone first and had been followed by 20,000 volumes of books and quantities of manuscripts. On January 20 the Berliner Börsenzeitung gave the total of books removed as 70,000 volumes and a number of archives. Then you 858 have a superb example of the way in which Goebbels controls the Press. The paper added that "enough of art objects were left in the monastery to satisfy the lust for destruction of an uncultured gang-sterdom." On the same day the Völkische Beobachter reported that the monastery was already being shelled by the Allies and had suffered severely. There you see the Germans were playing a double game. It was perfectly within their power to remove all these treasures. First they claimed they had done so; then there was a revised version that they had removed a lot of them, but they left some in order to be able to make accusations of vandalism. On the other hand they wanted to use the monastery as a fortress, and if possible to profit by its reputation as a sacred storehouse of art. So they invented a story, which was not true, that Monte Cassino had been attacked nearly a month before the first shell was fired at it, and this, according to them, entitles them to use the place as a fortress.
I think that that story is quite sufficient to show that we had better not be too squeamish in this business. It is perfectly plain that the Germans proceeded without any regard to the history or character of the monastery; they deliberately turned it into a fortress and fired from it on our own men, seeking to delay their advance. I do not accept the proposition—as far as I know it is not based on any official information—that anybody was ready to attack the monastery before it was attacked. I believe the decision to attack the monastery was made at a time when military necessity required it. It is unlikely that amateurs are in a position to assert that it would have been attacked before if it had not been for General Eisenhower's order. I made inquiries from the War Office to find out when the time came to attack and was informed that that was of course decided by reference to military considerations. I will only add one other matter about the monastery. The monks are not there. They have retired to Rome.
I would have thought in those circumstances that Cassino was a very good example of the proposition that the military requirements of the Allies come far in front of everything else, and are inexorably met according to the directions of the Allies as soon as they can 859 be. On the other hand, when we once enter that great building, where I believe there are the remains of the tomb of St. Benedict, I cannot think there would be anything wrong in the commander on the spot directing that a guard should be posted to see that the tomb of the saint had not become a place from which you could collect small trophies to send home to your wife and neighbours.
Here then, my Lords, is the conclusion. I do not believe that when this matter is thrashed out there could be the slightest doubt that the question put by my noble friend is perfectly reasonable, and I hope the answer to it has been perfectly plain. Let it be understood, once and for all, that we are the very last to suggest that military considerations have not the first place, but, on the other hand, within the limits within which it is possible, if only behind the lines, to protect that which is part of the inheritance of the ages is not outside our duty. Both the American Commanders and the British Commanders have thought that that was the right course to take, and that is the answer which I have to give to the noble and most reverend Lord. I hope it gives him some satisfaction.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BIRMINGHAM
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack naturally desired to speak on behalf of the Government at not too late an hour, but I trust that for a few minutes I might address this House as I cannot think that the Christian position has been quite adequately understood by some noble Lords who have spoken; notably Lord Latham and Lord Winster. Christian people throughout the country are gravely troubled by the direction which the war is taking. The noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang, has brought up to day the question of the cultural monuments of Italy, and especially those of the early Christian Renaissance. Such things as Giotto's tower at Florence and the great cathedrals At Siena and Assisi bind all Christians together. Too often in the past we have quarrelled with one another, but these magnificent buildings, some of the finest achievements of European civilization, are Christian, and we cannot forget it.
Then there are others of our people, the people in the little homes. I know something of little homes, perhaps more 860 intimately than all but the few who sit on the Benches opposite. There is among the Christian men, and especially the Christian women, great sadness, much searching of heart, pride in their boys and their courage, sorrow at the work they are given to do. It is total war, you say. It may be that there is no other way out than the destruction of great industrial areas and of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of little homes, but the people living in the little homes in this country, for the most part, do not like that aspect of total war, and they would that it could be avoided. The noble Lord spoke of the necessity of retaliation—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. We have been taught otherwise. He spoke of "They that draw the sword shall perish by the sword." I am not going into the question of who drew it first. I think, as does probably everybody here, that the responsibility for this war rests with the present German Government, but a question comes of the command, "Put up thy sword into its sheath." You say that this is not practical politics, that Might is Right, that Might defends Right. Yes, and then the Christian remembers, "Not by might nor by power but by my spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."
We are hoping against hope that somehow or another the Christian spirit will lead to an ending of this war otherwise than by complete collapse of the other side, for we look to a future when we must live in friendship with those who are now our enemies. We wish a free Europe, but we wish also a Christian Europe. I put this point of view. I know many of your Lordships think it is foolishness, and indeed it has been said that the ultimate outcome of that point of view is conscientious objection—Christian pacifism. Yes, but Christians for the first three centuries of the existence of the Christian Church adopted this policy of passive acceptance of wrong, and in the end, against the whole might of the Roman Empire, they won. Is it not possible that there are powers from on high who can join in the conflict, and that if we try to keep our ideals pure, if we do all that we can to avoid the implications of total war, we may yet find a help that at present we do not expect?
§ LORD LANG OF LAMBETH
My Lords, may I thank the noble and 861 learned Viscount on the Woolsack most warmly for the reply he has given to my question? He has abundantly shown that the importance of this matter is not a fad of my own, but is the concern of the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet, which is sufficient justification for my having brought it before your Lordships to-day. With regard to the Commission which I mentioned in my remarks, which appeared to have been mainly forgotten, at the beginning of to-day's proceedings, I particularly note what the noble and learned Viscount said about the necessity of orders of every sort being given only by the military authorities. I think I said that they and they alone could take executive action, but I hope it may be possible for any such Commission as this to give information and advice on any matter that may be referred to them with regard to the conduct of this particular responsibility of our Armies. Therefore I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend for what he has said.
I should also like to thank him for having cleared what he justly called the somewhat sulphurous atmosphere which, somehow or other, seems to have been imported into the House this afternoon. I must not trespass on my privilege of saying a word in reply, but I think I am entitled to a certain measure of sympathy for having spent the greater part of three hours in listening to vehement criticisms of a speech made by another person at 862 another time and on another Motion. When recall was made occasionally to my own observations and the purpose of my own Motion, I can only say I had here again to listen to criticisms of a speech which I had never made. But that is by the way. The main point is that the House has been able to realize, from the reply of the noble and learned Viscount, how very real is the concern of the War Cabinet in this matter. It justifies what I said at the beginning that it is following the wise mean—on the one hand, of not giving any chance to the enemy and, on the other, of not ignoring the importance of this responsibility. I shall not say more. Had he been here I should have liked to reply to the words spoken by Lord Geddes which also showed that he had forgotten what I actually said. He stressed the value of the whole Christian civilization as justifying this war. That is precisely what I said—not this aspect only, tout the whole of civilization—and therefore the necessity of immediate and complete victory.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.