§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
asked the Secretary for War how many British soldiers have been returned as missing during the War, how many of that number have been proved killed, how many have been recovered, and how many are still missing without any trace; and whether he will make a detailed statement in the House of the efforts which the War Office has made, or is making, to scour Germany for the recovery of the missing or evidence of their fate?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The present net total number of officers, and men reported "missing," including prisoners of war for all theatres and all Services (Imperial and Colonial), is approximately 359,800. Of this total it is estimated that approximately 198,000 have been prisoners. 299W Death has been presumed in the case of 97,000 owing to the absence of any indication for a long period that they were alive. There are, therefore, still about 64,800 whose fate remains to be determined. As a preliminary step to recover from Germany all who might still be detained there on account of illness or any other cause after the great majority of the British prisoners of war had been repatriated, medical units, fully staffed and equipped, were sent into each Army Corps district in the country with orders to search every camp, prison, mine, asylum, hospital, or anywhere else, with a view to gathering in all that might be found, both sick and well. The former were concentrated in central hospitals in each Army Corps district and moved from there by hospital train. Other Allied Powers undertook the same service, and each collected all of any Allied nationality. The German authorities called for a complete roll of all Allied prisoners still in the country on the 25th January, and issued a proclamation threatening heavy penalties against any who did not bring those of whom they knew to notice.
A list of those who are known to have been prisoners of war and who have not yet been repatriated, or whose death has not been reported officially, is in course of preparation. It will be presented to the German Government with the demand that they account for every one of them. A central inquiry office under British supervision will shortly be established at Frankfort, from which inquiries regarding any who may be still in Germany will be prosecuted. It is possible that a certain number of men may elect to stay in the country, and these may not make their presence known.
It does not appear practicable to make a systematic search of every village in Germany unless the co-operation of the German people can be enlisted. The question of offering a reward for the discovery of British missing in Germany was discussed at the Interdepartmental Committee a short time ago. It was considered to be most inadvisable at present, and to be adopted, if at all, only in the last resort.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
asked the Secretary for War what steps have been taken to trace in enemy countries British sailors and soldiers reported as missing; what records were preserved in enemy countries of wounded men and prisoners taken; what records were kept of those who died 300W and of their places of burial or other disposition of their remains; and what steps have been taken, or are being taken, to verify the accuracy of enemy records or reports?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Official reports are received from enemy countries of the prisoners taken by them, and these are supplemented by the evidence of the private correspondence of the prisoners them selves. Reports are also received of the dead found by the enemy on the battle field. If a soldier who is reported "missing" does not appear as a prisoner of war, and if no report is received from British or enemy sources of the finding of his body, it is almost certain that he has fallen without his fate becoming known to the authorities of either country. The only evidence likely to be available in enemy countries of his fate is that of comrades taken prisoner at the same time. With a view to obtaining this evidence lists of the missing have been circulated among the camps in enemy countries where British prisoners were detained. Inquiries have also been made in individual cases where there was evidence to show that a soldier had been in enemy hands. There is no exact information as to the form of enemy prisoner records, but it is believed that they are kept in considerable detail and are practically complete, except in the case of Turkey. The defects of description in the official records are made good by the unofficial information as to the prisoners. A considerable number of reports have also been received of the deaths and burials of prisoners and of the finding of our dead by the enemy on the field. The suggestion that many of the missing are in Germany in secret camps, asylums, etc., has not so far been substantiated in any case although every supposed case has been investigated as far as possible.