asked the Secretary of State for War if he will describe the steps taken by the anti-tank unit, whose camp was raided by Jewish terrorists at Pardus Hanna recently, and by other units, to recover the arms stolen from them, to capture the vehicles used by these terrorists and to kill or capture those responsible for the attack; and what success has attended these efforts.
asked the Secretary of State for War how many sentries were on duty at the Pardus Hanna Camp of the 12th Anti-Tank Regiment when it was attacked by Jewish terrorists on 6th April; whether they had anti-tank weapons immediately available; and what anti-tank obstacles there were to prevent the camp gates being rushed.
The unit had four sentries on duty at the gate. The obstacles were perimeter wire and a drop-bar entrance. It must be realised that entry to the camp was effected by subterfuge. The terrorists arrived in Army and police vehicles dressed as officers and other ranks in correct British R.A.S.C., R.E.M.E. and Palestine Police uniforms. The unit was preparing to move and was expecting R.A.S.C. transport to arrive. Officers and soldiers made for the spot instantly the alarm was raised. Although no anti-tank weapons were immediately available covering the gate, on hearing the shooting officers in the car park ordered self-propelled anti-tank guns to be set up, and move inwards. This caused the terrorists to abandon the attack, and withdraw. As they withdrew they were engaged by small arms, and subsequently by 17-pounder high explosives, which killed one terrorist and wounded an unknown number. The military and civil authorities were at once notified and the whole area surrounding the camp was systematically searched, but this was hindered for about an hour by fire from nearby orange groves. A curfew was imposed in the neighbourhood. It seems clear that the unit concerned and other available units took all conceivable steps open to them.
In view of the fact that it had been known for some time that Jewish terrorists were in possession of British vehicles, both fighting vehicles and transport vehicles, were not steps taken in all camps to check vehicles as they approached to see whether they were hostile or friendly vehicles?
Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that this sort of thing may happen again, or is there now some system of recognition, whether by password or otherwise, which might prevent this sort of thing from happening again?
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is perfectly obvious to any trained soldier that the merest elementary precautions, Which should be taken in a case like this, were not taken, and as to his statement that the camp was in process of being packed up, is he not aware that to any trained soldier that is the most dangerous time of all? Why was not something done in accordance with ordinary military training?
In view of the increasing uneasiness amongst people here, is the right hon. Gentleman quite satisfied that the people in charge are competent, because people here do not think they are?
All officers and other ranks in Palestine carry arms when outside defended areas, whether they are on or off duty. They go about outside camps in parties of not less than two by day and four by night. If circumstances necessitate it, further precautions are taken by increasing these numbers or restricting movement after dark1altogether. Since the attack on 6th April all units have been ordered to mount an inlying picquet in addition to the normal guards on gates and perimeters and to cover all road exits with anti-tank weapons tactically sited as well as light machine guns.
While recognising the importance of these belated precautions, ought not these things to have been done before? Is it not outrageous that they have not been done before?
While appreciating what the right hon. Gentleman said about every soldier gaining by experience, which soldiers recognise, may I ask him whether there is not perfectly clear proof that, although the people in charge may know their job, on this occasion they fell down badly on it; and what is he going to do about it?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the directive to which he referred in answer to a supplementary question of mine the other day, in which he said that the military authorities had been given full power to take every possible precaution, includes a directive to the troops that they are to treat these terrorist gangs exactly as they would an enemy in war time and to inflict the maximum of casualties upon them?
In so far as security of camps is concerned, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that no administrative units are stationed alone in these camps and that there are always fighting units there for the purposes of protection?
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will describe the attack made a few miles south of Tel Aviv on a British troop train on 12th April; what steps were taken by those travelling in the train and by other units to kill or capture those who carried out the attack and to recover stolen ammunition; and what success has attended these efforts.
There was no attack on a British troop train on the date mentioned. There was, however, an incident in which armed Jewish terrorists held up the crew of a rail car and stole four berets and battle-dress blouses and two automatic weapons.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he had acquainted himself with the facts last week, when he failed to deny the fact that it had been reported, these Questions would not have been put down?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I asked a question on this particular incident last week and he replied, rather sarcastically I thought:
Hon. Members do no seem to be aware that there are military operations in Palestine."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th April, 1948; Vol. 449, c. 773.]
From his answers to previous questions and to this, does it not seem more fair to apply that to the right hon. Gentleman himself?
In view of the obvious anxiety on both sides of the House about this matter, would the right hon. Gentleman consider issuing a White Paper explaining what exactly is the authority possessed by the Commander-in-Chief in Palestine to take all possible hostile action against those who murder our soldiers?
The Government and hon. Members on this side are as much concerned about the position of our officers and men in Palestine as hon. Members on the other side. I can hardly imagine that a White Paper would be of any value. Instructions have been issued from time to time to those in command in Palestine and we have every reason to believe that, in the very difficult circumstances, those instructions have been fully implemented.