Sunday, 5 January 2014

WW1 German Submarines at Westminster?

Everyone has heard of the House of Commons, haven't they? It's the mother of parliaments, the rock of democracy, the far-famed Thames-side debating chamber that considers very great matters ...
During arguably the hottest fighting of what we now call the First World War, the Commons chamber heard the following remarks on the 20th of July, 1916. A Mr. J. D. Gilbert MP had asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether it was the Admiralty's intention to exhibit a captured German submarine, and, if so, what opportunity the public would have of seeing her. Dr. Macnamara MP, in reply, said that Admiralty proposed to bring the said submarine up the Thames to lie alongside at Temple Pier and to be shown to the public.

"It will be on view at this pier for a fortnight, beginning Wednesday, 26th July. I ought perhaps to say that it will not be possible to go on board. From the point of view of the police it is considered necessary to control admission to the pier and to charge a small admission fee. The charge will be 6d. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3d. from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Parties of children from schools and institutions will be admitted in the mornings, by arrangement, at a charge of 1d. a head.  The hours of admission will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day (including Sundays). The proceeds will be devoted to Naval and Merchant Service charities, with a contribution to the Police Orphanage, and the amount and its distribution will be made public in due course."
Who happened to be in the chamber at the time, but Winston Churchill MP. He asked in characteristic fashion, "Is there no means of making use of this weapon against the enemy?  Dr. Macnamara opined: "I am afraid it might be mistaken for an enemy, but I will note the point.  Then a Mr. Field MP, mindful no doubt of Member's privileges, asked hopefully, "Could it not be exhibited on the terrace of the House of Commons free of charge?"  To which the adroit Macnamara swiftly retorted, "I presume the hon. Member means "off" the terrace, not "on" the terrace. I do not think it possible, but I will have the point considered."

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