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Ex-Prisoners Of War And Internees (Far East)

Volume 415: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1945

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the anxiety caused to relatives by the absence of any official information about British prisoners of war in Borneo; and whether, in view of the fact that Borneo was liberated last May, he will now make a full and detailed statement in this connection.

:Yes, Sir. Allied landings took place in May, June and July, but at the time of the Japanese surrender only a comparatively small part of Borneo had been liberated, and no United Kingdom prisoners of war had been recovered. On the surrender immediate steps were taken to contact the known camps. Eight hundred and sixty-eight prisoners of war were found at Kuching, over 400 of whom have embarked direct for the United Kingdom, theremainder being moved to India as the next stage of their journey home. The prisoners of war held at the Sandakan camp had been marched out by the Japanese earlier in the year, and their destination is not known. While every effort is still being made to trace them it is known that many deaths occurred and it is feared that the number of survivors from this camp will prove to be very few. The Australian authorities are forwarding all available information and a thorough interrogation of all recovered men, including those from Kuching, will be carried out. I much regret that I am not able to make a more satisfactory report. I am sure the House would wish me to convey our deepest sympathy with the relatives of the men who have lost their lives and to give theassurance that everything possible will be done to obtain additional information and to trace any survivors.


asked the Secretary of State for War how many British prisoners of war and British civilian internees formerly in Japanese hands have reached this country; and how many still remain to be repatriated.

:It is assumed that the figures required are those of United Kingdom and not British Commonwealth personnel. Up to 29th October, 1945, about 39,000 prisoners of war had been recovered by British or Allied Forces; of these, all but a few have already left the country in which they were interned on the first stage of their journey home. This figure includes 6,000 who are on ships proceeding direct to ports in the United Kingdom, 5,506 bound for the United Kingdom through North America and 21,471 who have already reached this country. At the time of the Japanese surrender it was estimated that there were not less than 38,000 and not more than 43,000 UnitedKingdom prisoners of war alive in Japanese hands. It was not possible to make a more accurate estimate owing to the Japanese failure to notify casualties. A small number of internees have arrived in this country by air. At the moment some 3,000 from Colonial territories have arrived by sea and so far as can be ascertained about 1,000 are now on the way and will be arriving in the course of the next few weeks. The internment camp at Singapore has been cleared of United Kingdom internees and only a few are still left in Hong Kong. Internees from Borneo are in process of being evacuated.

:The right hon. Gentleman has not really answered the most important part of my Question—the final part, which asks how many still remain to be repatriated. It is a simple question.

:I do not know whether this point is contained in an answer I have already given, or in one which I have to give later to-day, but as a matter of fact we are very indefinite about the number of prisoners who were there at any time. Consequently we do not know the number who have to be repatriated, but in one case there have actually been more prisoners liberated than we at first thought were in that particular place.

While not pressing the right hon. Gentleman as to the exact number, because I realise the difficulty he has mentioned, may I ask him to make quite certain that all available British shipping is devoted to the project of repatriating liberated British subjects before any Allies are repatriated?

:Yes, Sir, and the very encouraging and most moving thing I found in the Far East was that men who have long been there agreed to the principle suggested by the hon. and gallant Member.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether all the British subjects in that area have been recovered by the occupying forces?

:The indication in this answer is that there are some people who have not been recovered and who were known to have been in a particular place, and we fear from what we have heard that their bodies will not be recovered.