London (Aug. 26)
The three British ships returning the 4,400 Exodus refugees to Germany reached Gibraltar today and immediately started recoaling for their journey to Hamburg.
A Reuter correspondent on board the Runnymede Park, one of the ships, cabled “the tension of the long odyssey is beginning to fray the immigrants’ nerves.” He also reports that members of the British crew are “fed up” and several plan to quit the ship at Hamburg. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transport denied reports that the crew of the Ocean Vigor had refused to sail the ship from Gibraltar.
The already miserable conditions on board the ships were worsened by dense clouds of coal dust that covered the vessels’ decks. According to the correspondent, the refugees were being restricted to the holds and the wired deck cages while the refuelling was proceeding. He said that heavy troop reinforcements had sealed off the docks.
A clash was narrowly averted yesterday when the fingers of one passenger were crushed by troops closing a hatch. Several of his younger comrades wanted to retaliate, and the leaders of the refugees had difficulty in restraining them.
An indication that the deportees would not disembark peacefully at Hamburg, despite statements to that effect by the commander of the convoy, was given as an aftermath to the incident. Explaining his difficulty in keeping the refugees under control, the spokesman of the refugees on Runnymede Park told an officer: “I want you to understand that I am doing my best to keep the people quiet, but I am not backed by military discipline. The people are willing to fight if I give the word, but we are conserving our strength for the final struggle at Hamburg.”
In what was apparently a move to forestall any legal action to free the deportees while they are at Gibraltar, the government of the Rock issued a special administrative decree declaring that all persons aboard the ships were to be considered legally detained for the period they remained here.
(Max Seligman, Palestine attorney who has represented many of the extremists, said in New York today that the habeas corpus writ served yesterday on Foreign Minister Bevin and Colonial Minister Creech-Jones should have been served on the First Lord of the Admiralty, challenging the Royal Navy’s authority to transport the refugees from French waters to Germany.)