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Church Parades

Volume 52: debated on Thursday 24 April 1913

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asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether officers commanding regiments in the Regular Army are forbidden to grant leave to officers desirous of obtaining leave for the purpose of working for the entrance examination for the staff college; and, if so, and if the principle now extended to the police force of one day's rest in seven is still to be denied to officers in the Army, if he will at any rate increase the facilities for young officers to work for such examinations by limiting the numbers of those at present compelled against their wishes to attend church parades and services on every Sunday of the month; (2) if he is aware that the compulsory attendance still insisted upon of such a large proportion of the officers in many regiments of the Regular Army at the weekly church parades and services in full uniform is with a number of officers disliked; in view of the shortage of officers and the desirability of making the service more generally popular, will he take such steps as may be necessary to issue Regulations to permit officers commanding regiments to detail only two officers, one of whom shall be of junior rank, for such compulsory duty on Sundays and Christmas Day, so that the officers remaining, after these two have been deducted in turn each week, shall enjoy the privilege of greater freedom either to work for their examinations or to take a rest on at least the great majority of Sundays in each year; (3) if he will cause inquiries to be made as to the safety or otherwise of permitting the present compulsory church parades or church services to be held under the actual supervision of two officers in uniform to each regiment; if at the same time he will ascertain whether the danger of a regiment being left under the control of two officers on Sunday is greater than on such other days of pleasure and regiments, when regiments are left under the control of only one officer, as occurs on the dates of various race meetings; and (4) how many officers above the rank of second lieutenant and lieutenant are made to attend compulsory religious services or parades on Sundays in the regiments comprising the 4th Cavalry Brigade at Colchester and the 1st Cavalry Brigade at Aldershot, respectively; whether the number of such officers is fixed; if not, whether he can say how many officers in each regiment of the two brigades, respectively, were actually compelled to take part in uniform in such services since 1st January. 1913, to 30th March?

The whole question of compulsory church parades is now under consideration, and I do not think any good purpose would be served by calling for the special Return suggested in one Question. I hope, therefore the hon. Gentleman will not press for it.