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British Troops (Arms)

Volume 154: debated on Wednesday 31 May 1922

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36.

asked the Secretary of State for War why and by whose orders do British soldiers in Ireland leave barracks unarmed; if he is aware that the British military police in Ireland are constantly seen without arms; that there have recently been murders and woundings of British soldiers in Ireland; and if he will give instructions under present conditions that British soldiers in Ireland should carry arms for self-defence?

I am aware that soldiers in Ireland generally speaking carry arms only on the occasions on which they do so in this country. This rule has been deliberately and advisedly laid down by the Commander-in-Chief, who feels sure from experience that the risk to which such soldiers are exposed would not be guarded against, and might be enhanced, by arming them. Men armed with rifles in the streets are no match for murderers armed with pistols or automatics, and it was found that when men carried rifles when walking out, the result was that the men were disarmed and the rifles fell into the hands of the rebels.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give instructions that these troops when walking out in Ireland, should at least be furnished with side arms, which are customary at many stations.

I think I am right in leaving it to the discretion of the Commander-in Chief.