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Royal Air Force

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 17 March 1943

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Aircraft Accident, Whittlesea


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can give any information in connection with the aeroplane that crashed into two semi-detached villas near Whittlesea; how many people were killed; and whether compensation will be paid?

This regrettable accident, the causes of which are under investigation, occurred during the night of 4th-5th March, when a Wellington aircraft of the Royal Air Force crashed in the course of a training flight. Four civilians and four members of the crew were killed; the fifth member of the crew was seriously injured. Two cottages were damaged, one of which was demolished. The question of compensation for personal injuries is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions. Claims for compensation in respect of the damage to property will be considered by my Department. The House will wish to join with me in expressing sympathy with the relatives of those who were killed and with the injured.

Personnel (Walking Arm-In-Arm With Women)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that Royal Air Force personnel are forbidden to walk arm-in-arm with their wives when off duty and on leave; and whether he will cancel this instruction which is resented by the personnel concerned and in no way assists the war effort?

The instruction that R.A.F. personnel should be discouraged from walking arm-in-arm with women in public has been withdrawn. There was never any formal regulation to this effect.

Does the right hon. Gentleman ever take any disciplinary action against commanding officers or persons responsible for issuing such foolish orders as this?

There is no question of disciplinary action in a case of this kind. There was an instruction which was not well worded. It was brought to my attention, and it was altered at once, and I am sure that the House will be satisfied.

No, Sir, I cannot say who authorised the instruction. It is a question of the wording of an instruction which has now been put right, and nobody has suffered from it.

Could not the right hon. Gentleman issue some form of instruction to commanding officers in order that these matters shall not arise again and that in the main men and women in the Services shall be treated as human beings and not as children?

I cannot issue an order that nobody in the Royal Air Force shall ever make the slightest mistake of any sort. For the instruction, as originally framed and for the alteration which has been made, I take full responsibility.

Aircrews (Pay And Promotion)


asked the Secretary of State for Air when a full reply to the letter dated 19th December, 1942, from the hon. Member for Ipswich, regarding the pay and promotion of wireless operators and air-gunners may be expected?

I sent a reply on 31st December last to certain points raised in the hon. Member's letter. The remaining points raise the question of altering the relative position and prospects of different categories of aircrews and of altering the relation between the position of aircrews and that of certain other classes of Service personnel. I will send the hon. Member a reply on these outstanding points as soon as a decision has been reached.

Does not my right hon. Friend recall that this very matter was under consideration by his Department at the time I first wrote to him last December? Three months have now elapsed, and is it not a fact that it is really the Treasury which is standing in the way of proper adjustments being made?

These are very complicated matters. We have to be fair as between the various classes of airmen concerned and between them and men similarly employed in other Services. We are being as quick as we can, and I will let my hon. Friend know.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any kind of approximation when a decision will be arrived at? Will it be before Easter or next Christmas?

Air Sea Rescue Service Badge


asked the Secretary of State for Air why the award of a badge to the Air Sea Rescue Service is confined to non-commissioned ranks?

The Air Sea Rescue Service badge is not a meritorious award but a distinguishing mark worn by airmen. It is not the custom in the Royal Air Force for officers to wear such marks, with the exception of those who are qualified as aircrew or whose service is confined to the Medical, Dental, or Educational Branches, or to the Royal Air Force Regiment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the resentment felt among the various sections of the Forces, who regard this decision as being a most undemocratic decision?

Oh, no, Sir; it is really not undemocratic. The position is that these are general duties officers and officers of the Administrative and Special Duties Branch who may be in the Air Rescue Service one month and in Fighter or Bomber Commands the next. The only marks they wear are those which are permanent and which they wear the whole time.



asked the Secretary of State for Air after what interval airmen, who have been interviewed by a Selection Board with a view to a commission, are informed whether they have been recommended or not?

An airman candidate for a ground commission who is recommended by a Selection Board is not commissioned until he has successfully completed a specialist course, if this is necessary, and in any case a course at the R.A.F. Officers' School. He receives instructions to attend a course of training usually within a period of about three weeks from the date of the Selection Board and this indicates to him that he has been recommended. In the case of an unsuccessful candidate, notification through Service channels is normally despatched within 24 hours.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether an intimation is given to those who fail to qualify as to why they have failed? If not, why not?

I do not think it is possible to go into details of that kind, which could only lead to lengthy controversies.

8,000-Pound Bombs


asked the Secretary of State for Air what evidence, photographic or otherwise, is in his possession which justifies the use of 8,000-pound bombs in circumstances where double the number of 4,000-pound bombs can be carried; and whether he is satisfied that the use of the 8,000-pound bomb is so much more destructive in its effect as to more than counterbalance the disadvantage of the smaller number of probable direct hits?

I am satisfied that the use of the 8,000-pound bomb is tactically justified. It would not be in the public interest to say more.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that only last autumn Bomber Command regarded the 8,000-pound bomb as an experiment which would be continued only if photographic evidence proved of such a character as to justify its continuation, and will he say whether, in fact, he is now in possession of such photographic evidence?

I can only tell my hon. and gallant Friend that the use of this bomb is considered tactically justifiable.

Vesuvius (Bombing Of Crater)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the larger bombs we now have available, he will arrange, at the first opportunity, for a heavy bomb to be dropped down the crater of Mount Vesuvius in order to make a practical test as to whether the disturbances created thereby will give rise to severe earthquakes and eruptions?

All possible targets for our bombing attacks are carefully considered. It would not be in the public interest to say more.

Can the Minister give an assurance to the House that Bomber Command will not drop a "Purbrick" on this mountain?