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War Graves, Italy (Relatives' Visits)

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1949

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31.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether visits to war graves in Italy can now be arranged.

Provisional arrangements have been made to extend to Italy the scheme for helping relatives to visit war graves in France, Belgium and Holland, which I announced in reply to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (General Sir G. Jeffreys) on 13th April, 1948. I will, with permission, circulate details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can my right hon. Friend say how this information will be made available? Will it be given direct to the relatives concerned or not?

I think my hon. Friend had better see the full reply and the details which I am providing in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but, at the start, the matter will rest with the British Legion, who have voluntarily offered their services.

Following are the details:

The British Legion have arranged for parties of 24 to fly to Italy and Sicily and back in specially chartered aircraft. They are now ready to receive applications, which should be submitted eight weeks in advance of the intended visit. It is hoped to continue these visits throughout the summer, except that they will not be arranged to Sicily in July and August, owing to the excessive heat in those months. It should be realised that in a number of cemeteries the erection of headstones and other structural work will still be in progress.

Special arrangements will be made for those relatives who do not wish to fly, but surface travel to Italy under this scheme presents many difficulties. Application to travel by surface route may, however, now be submitted to any of the five voluntary organisations handling the scheme. The British Legion do not expect to be able to make arrangements for surface travel before 1st October, 1949, and even then visits will be limited to cemeteries north of Bologna.

It is unlikely that visits under this scheme to war graves in Italy will be possible in 1950, as it will be a Holy Year and accommodation will therefore be extremely difficult to obtain.