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Pack Drill

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 24 March 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for War the date of the abolition of pack drill as a form of Army punishment; in how many cases has such punishment been improperly imposed during the present war, including the awards by Lieut.-Colonel Gates; and what action has been taken in consequence?

Pack drill, which is a colloquial term for punishment drill, was abolished in 1930 except in detention barracks. As my right hon. Friend said yesterday, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. I. Thomas), pack drill in detention barracks was abolished in 1935. Certain complaints were received in March, 1942, that pack drill was being used as a form of punishment, but as no details were given, no investigation of the individual cases could be undertaken. A letter was, however, issued on 28th of that month reminding all Commands at home that pack drill had been abolished for some years. No further instances of this form of punishment were brought to the notice of the War Department until the case referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend. A further case has now been reported, and that is being investigated.

While thanking my hon. and learned Friend for that answer, might I ask whether, in view of the fact that no commanding officer has power to introduce any form of punishment that is not laid down by authority, he will consider circulating that fact to Commands and to officers commanding units?

I have already indicated to my hon. and gallant Friend that last year a letter was sent to Army Commands drawing attention to the fact that pack drill had been abolished. I do not think it necessary to repeat that circular. If any action is necessary in relation to the particular case to which our attention has been drawn, that action will be taken.

Is Lieut.-Colonel Gates the only officer who has received promotion for breaking that Regulation?

Is it not a fact that if a private soldier breaks King's Regulations he gets punishment? Should not an officer who breaks King's Regulations also be punished?

Is not this Regulation more honoured in the breach than in the observance? Will my hon. and learned Friend consider some examples I will give him? Is he making a distinction between pack drill as a punishment and pack drill as training in barracks?

I cannot accept the suggestion that the Regulation is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. If my hon. Friend gives me any information, that will be investigated. The difference between pack drill as a form of punishment and for other purposes does not depend on the carrying of the pack, because every soldier in operations or carrying out exercises may have to carry his pack. The object of the Regulation is to prevent the soldier being compelled to carry the full pack for punishment purposes.