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Leave (Middle East)

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that a number of officers have returned from the Middle East for various reasons, he will make arrangements to have a certain number of non-commissioned officers and men sent home each year from every battalion in the Middle East, to be chosen by their commanding officers as a reward for good service?

It is necessary from time to time to bring home a few officers from the Middle East in order to give the Army at home the benefit of their experience of active operations. Occasionally it is possible to bring individuals home for other reasons. I gave a brief outline of the arrangements for such transfers in an answer to my hon. Friends the Members for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and East Fulham (Mr. Astor) on 8th December, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy. I fear that the shipping situation and operational needs do not enable any more extensive scheme for bringing officers and men home to be introduced at the present time.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that to some of the soldiers M.E.F. stands for "Men England Forgets" and that this proposal would do a great deal to destroy that illusion?

Yes, Sir, and I have not the slightest doubt that this is one of the things which render it extremely desirable to have more shipping.

Is not the reason why some of these officers are brought home that they want to see their relatives and for no other purpose?

I do not know of any, and if the hon. Gentleman can give me instances, I shall be glad to investigate them.

Has my right hon. Friend gone into the whole question of priority passages, and cannot some of these be cut down so as to give the men referred to in the Question an opportunity of coming home?

I do not think that that arises, because at the moment there is a large back lag even in the priority passages.