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Eastern Europe (Imprisoned British Subjects)

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 14 June 1950

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British subjects have been imprisoned since 1945 in the Soviet-controlled zones of Germany and Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Roumania and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; whether their present whereabouts and conditions are known; and how many British subjects have disappeared in those countries during the same period and whose present whereabouts are not known.

I will, with permission, circulate the required information in the OFFICIAL REPORT. This list includes only those cases where we have conclusive evidence of imprisonment or disappearance. In most cases repeated protests to the appropriate authorities have had no effect and the present whereabouts and conditions of those imprisoned are not known.

Whether the list is long or short, can the House have an assurance that, in cases where the present whereabouts are not known, His Majesty's Government will continue to exercise every possible pressure to try to rescue these unfortunate people and see that these countries observe the decencies of international law?

The House can certainly rest assured that His Majesty's Government will do everything that is possible. What can be done has been discussed on a good many previous occasions in this House. As the House appreciates, if the Governments concerned are not prepared to observe the normal courtesies and decencies in this matter, then it is very difficult to know what can be done effectively.

Can the House have any assurance that some of those persons have not shared the fate which overtook Polish prisoners-of-war in the Katyn Woods?

I cannot give any assurance about persons whose whereabouts are completely unknown to us.

Following is the reply:


1. Mrs. Ackman and 2, Mrs. Whitehead, who were employed as telephonists in H.M. Embassy, disappeared in October, 1948.
3. Mrs. Burke, another telephonist, was so intimidated by the police that she attempted suicide.
4. Mrs. Greenhalgh, Soviet-born wife of a British subject, was arrested in May, 1948, and imprisoned for some months without trial and later sentenced to two years' imprisonment on a technical charge of false registration.
These four women are all Soviet-born wives of British subjects.
5. Seaman John Connor was sentenced at Murmansk in February, 1945, to one year's imprisonment. As a result of representations by H.M. Ambassador the Supreme Soviet Court commuted his sentence, and he was released on 20th May.
6. Max von Trutzschler, a dual national (British and German), who fought for the Germans during the war. He was imprisoned in a P.o.W. Transit Camp near Odessa. The Soviet authorities chose to regard him as a German citizen, and he was subsequently released as a P.o.W.
7. Miss Peters, another telephonist at H.M. Embassy, who may have acquired Soviet nationality, disappeared on 17th January, 1949, after the police had tried to persuade her to leave her employment.



8. Private F. W. J. Kelly, 133, Parachute Field Ambulance, was arrested early in 1946 and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for alleged espionage. H.M. Representatives have still been unable to visit him.
9. Private N. Moncaster, Royal Pioneer Corps. Absent May, 1947. No reason given.
10. Private A. Baker, 2nd South Staffs. Absent December, 1947. Soviet authorities acknowledge that he was detained, but no reason given.
11. Private J. Stuart, 2nd Parachute Battalion. Absent August, 1949. According to the Soviet authorities he defected to them for political reasons.
12. Private W. Crossley, 15 Base Ordnance Depot. Absent November, 1947. Soviet authorities acknowledged that he was detained, but no reason was given.
13. Private D. Eggleton, 1st Manchester Regiment. Absent October, 1947. Soviet authorities acknowledged that he was detained, but no reason was given.
14. Major R. J. Squires, R.A.E.C. Absent September, 1947. Soviet authorities state that they have no trace of him.
15. Private Tyrell, Queen's Royal Regiment. Absent November, 1948. No reason given.
16. Corporal Garrick, Absent September, 1948. No reason given.
17. Corporal A. Schultz, 14 Battalion, W.R.A.C. Arrested by the Soviet Zone German Police while going to visit her mother, although she had a Russian permit. Has since returned.


18. Private Tyndall, Northants Regiment, and
19. Private Newsam, Northants Regiment. Detained 27th September, 1949, by Austrian Gendarmerie and handed over to Russian authorities. Have since returned.


20. Group-Captain Merton, Air Attaché at H.M. Embassy, Prague, and his wife were detained on 27th March, 1948. Despite his official position, the Group-Captain and his wife were treated with scant courtesy and the former was held for a couple of hours in circumstances tantamount to arrest.
21. Mrs. Jolan Barbara Ellis, a British subject of Hungarian origin, was arrested on 26th September, 1948, for currency offences, and was released on the 1st October. H.M. Consul was not officially informed until the 29th September and then only after energetic and repeated representations.
22 and 23. J. W. Dixon and E. Dwyer, senior Chancery servants at H.M. Embassy in Prague, were arrested by the Czechoslovak Police on 19th November, 1948, on a charge of attempting to smuggle two Czech citizens out of the country. Both were released some days later.
24. Christopher Portway, married to a Czechoslovak lady, was arrested and held for about a month in prison at Cheb. He had apparently crossed the frontier illegally to contact his wife with a view to persuading her to return with him to the United Kingdom. The Czechoslovak authorities claimed to know nothing about his whereabouts and did not inform the Embassy of his arrest.
25 and 26. Ivan Svarc, with his wife, both naturalised British subjects, visited Czechoslovakia early in 1949 on a business trip. They were arrested by the Financial Police on suspicion of being involved in some black-market deals, were imprisoned for five days, and were then released as there was no evidence against them. They were refused permission to contact the British Consul at Prague.
27. Dr. Pinkas, employed for many years as a clerk at H.M. Embassy, Prague, and granted British nationality a few months ago, was arrested on the 25th May, 1950, on a charge of being implicated in anti-State activities. The British Consul in Prague at once sought permission to visit him, but the request was refused. Five days after Pinkas' arrest, a note was received at H.M. Embassy denying that Pinkas had ceased to be a Czech citizen, despite documentary evidence to the effect that he had been released from Czechoslovak nationality.


28. Mrs. Blakely, a British subject, present in Poland at the outbreak of war, was arrested soon after the end of the war. Approaches by H M. Embassy at Warsaw have given no further information or satisfaction since 1945.
29. Mr. T. H. Ayre, Chief Engineer of the s.s. "Sheaf Field," arrested at Danzig on 6th February, 1949, and released a few days afterwards.
30. Mr. W. J. Butts, of the same ship, arrested and released at the intervention of H.M. Consul-General after a night in prison.
31. Mr. C. H. Turner (a former Air Attaché at H.M. Embassy, Warsaw).
32. 2nd Officer H. Upperton, and
33. 3rd Officer G. Elmes were all arrested on 17th May, 1950, for allegedly trying to smuggle a woman out of Poland. They are still held by the Polish authorities, who have not allowed a British Consul to visit them.
34. Mrs. Halina Firth, Polish-born British subject, arrested on 13th May, 1949, and convicted on 9th March, 1950, to three years' imprisonment for sheltering an escaped prisoner.
35. Mr. Otakar Kornhauser, a naturalised British subject, arrested on 2nd February, 1950, and released on 21st March, 1950, without any charge being made.


36. Mr. K. Elliott, an official of Unilever Ltd. who was arrested on 26th September, 1948. and released on 6th October, 1948.
37. Mr. Edgar Sanders, an official of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, who was arrested on 22nd November, 1949, and sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment on 21st February, 1950, for "espionage." Present whereabouts and conditions unknown.
38. Mr. C. W. Lamerton, a British business man resident in Hungary who was arrested on 11th April, 1950, and expelled from Hungary on 7th May.
39. Mrs. Martin (alias Bone), a British journalist, who was last heard of in Budapest on 1st October, 1949.


40. The Rev. Emmanuel Manolov (British subject by birth), a Nonconformist Protestant Minister who was arrested on 17th February, 1948, and released on 25th February. 1948. He was again arrested on or about 26th July, 1948, charged with offences against the currency regulations, and released on 26th March. 1949 after serving a term of imprisonment.


41. Mr. Alexander Evans, former director of the Steaua Romana Oil Company, was arrested while travelling to Budapest on 8th June, 1948. He was held in prison for 5½ months and sentenced to three years' imprisonment; after repeated protests from His Majesty's Government he was finally released on bail of £25,000 and allowed to leave the country in January, 1949.
42. Mr. Boaden and Mr. Wilson, both oil company managers, were arrested on 28th July, 1948, and detained for two days. They have now both left Roumania.
43. Mr. Sarell First Secretary at His Majesty's Legation at Bucharest and at the time Chargé d'Affaires, was seized in the streets of Bucharest on the night of 25th July, 1949, and detained by the Roumanian police for two hours. His recall was subsequently demanded by the Roumanian authorities on the ground that he indulged in activities which were not in accord with his diplomatic status.