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Casualty Lists (Publication)

Volume 356: debated on Tuesday 30 January 1940

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can state what policy he proposes to follow in the matter of publishing casualty lists?

Lists of casualties sustained in action with the enemy will be published from time to time, the frequency of the lists depending upon the numbers of such casualties. The lists will be of arbitrary length, covering casualties in all theatres of active operations, and will not be referable to any particular engagements. The casualties will be published under the general headings of "Killed," "Wounded" and "Missing," and usually no indication will be given of the precise date or circumstances in which the casualty occurred. No casualty will be published until the next of kin has been informed. Fortunately, the number of Army casualties in action has so far been small. The first list, covering the period from the outbreak of war to the 31st December last, will be published to-morrow. It contains some 40 names, including wounded.

The list will also include under the heading "Died" a list of some 720 deaths from accident or disease at home and overseas during the same period. I am sure the House will join with me in expressing sympathy with the relatives of those officers and men who have lost their lives in action or otherwise. The list of deaths from accident and disease may seem a long one, but having regard to the large number of personnel serving, and the period covered by the list, the number of such deaths is not larger than might have been expected in the circumstances. There has been no undue number of deaths from disease, although there has been a number of regrettable deaths from traffic accidents.

The House will appreciate, I am sure, that there is a strict limit to the amount of detail that can be disclosed in Casualty Lists, without giving useful information to the enemy. I must ask hon. Members to bear this in mind if the lists do not seem to them to be as informative as they could wish.