asked the Secretary of State for War (1) on what basis are ambulances of the Red Cross and St. John war organisation used by troops in this country; how many are so employed; what is the number of ambulances as distinct from those belonging to the society; and whether any of the voluntary funds paid to the Red Cross are utilised for the performance of duties which would normally be carried out by Service vehicles;(2) whether, as over 3,500,000 miles have now been covered by the ambulances of the Red Cross and St. John war organisation in United Kingdom commands since the beginning of the war, carrying over 400,000 patients, and as the ambulances of the society are now being used at service convalescent homes, he will say what contribution the society receives from public funds for the use of these vehicles?
At the beginning of the war the Red Cross and St. John War Organisation, as part of the humanitarian services which it is their purpose to provide, equipped a number of ambulances and provided their drivers. After the evacuation of the B.E.F. from Dunkirk the organisation offered the use of some of these ambulances for the benefit of the officers and men in the Army. This offer was gratefully accepted but the ambulances remained the property of the Red Cross and there was no question of a contribution from public funds towards the cost of provision. Where however they were solely used for the Army it was considered that the organisation should be relieved of the direct expenses incurred in carrying out this service. At the present time therefore the War Department bears all the costs of running, garaging and repairing the vehicles concerned, together with liabilities for accident normally covered by third party insurance. The Army sometimes provide on repayment rations and accommodation for the Red Cross personnel with the vehicles. About 400 ambulances are so employed. This is a small fraction of the number of ambulances in the Army, but I am afraid that it is not in the public interest to say what the number of these is. If the services of the Red Cross ambulances were not available the Army would have to provide such of the services as are essential to the well-being of the troops. This might entail the provision of more War Department ambulances but without examining every case it is impossible to say how many. These services provided by the generosity of the Red Cross and St. John War Organisation have added very considerably to the comfort and well-being of the troops for three years of war and I welcome this opportunity to say how much these services have always been appreciated by all ranks of the Army.