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British Army

Volume 389: debated on Tuesday 18 May 1943

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Billeting Allowances


asked the Secretary of State for War what revision is to be made in billeting allowances to civilian householders?

The details of the new rates will be published in a Statutory Rule and Order which will be laid on the Table of the House in the course of this week. I will also arrange for some copies to be available in the Vote Office.

Cadets (Education And Recreation)


asked the Secretary of State for War what educational and recreational schemes exist for Army cadets?

In units based on schools the governing bodies of the schools are responsible for the education and recreation of the cadets. Other units are encouraged to develop their own club life, and they are often connected with existing boys' clubs and youth centres. In co-operation with the Board of Education and the local education authorities, a technical training scheme for these cadets was introduced in 1942, which includes such subjects as engineering.

Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the schemes run under the supervision of the Air Ministry and the Admiralty, because his scheme is considered much inferior to those in respect of the facilities offered to these youths?

I will certainly do that, without accepting the implications of the last part of the Supplementary Question.

El Alamein (Losses From Mines)


asked the Secretary of State for War what number of the 13,600 officers and men lost at the battle of El Alamein were lost owing to the necessity for going ahead of the armoured equipment in order to detect and remove mines?

I have no information which makes it possible to allocate casualties to one specific hazard or enemy weapon rather than to another.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Prime Minister in his statement in November last remarked that severe casualties were suffered by Engineers and Pioneers in mine-removing? On what basis did he make that statement?

The statement that severe casualties were involved in one particular incident is not the same as a specific calculation such as the hon. Member asks for.

Tank Accident, Bath


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give any information in connection with the Army i6-ton tank that killed a boy and knocked down a wall whilst going down a hill at Bath; the age of the boy; and whether the parents will be compensated?

This accident was the result of sudden mechanical defect, which put the steering gear and the brakes out of action. A military court of inquiry is being held. A boy seven years old was killed, and I should like to take this opportunity to express my sympathy with his parents in their loss. The War Department Claims Commission will carefully consider any claim.

Pending consideration of that claim, will the boy's parents have the right to sue for loss of expectation of life?

Voluntary Aid Detachments


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the Committee appointed to consider the status of the Voluntary Aid Detachments in military hospitals has finished its work; whether it has reached an agreed settlement; and whether its recommendations will be carried into effect?

As I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) on 13th April, I have received the Committee's report. I am consulting the other Departments concerned, and hope to be in a position to make a statement to the House before very long.

Will that be done as soon as possible, in view of the anxiety and the bad effect on the Services caused by this whole question?

Inoculation Experiments


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the recent experiments in inoculating Service men and women with the object of producing the disease known as impetigo contagiosa were performed with his knowledge and consent; and whether the consent of the subjects was obtained in every case?

I assume my hon. Friend is referring to some investigations reported in "The Lancet" of 1st May. The regulations do not require an officer to obtain authority to carry out research work of this kind unless it is likely to interfere with his specific military duties. I understand that all the experiments were carried out on volunteers.

Will the War Office make itself responsible if any harm is caused to these people as a result of the experiments?

I would like notice of that. As I said just now, I hesitate to answer questions about legal liability without careful consideration.

Married Men (Living-Out Allowance)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that married men serving in the Eastern Command, for whom no married quarters are available, are no longer allowed to draw living-out allowance and rations; whether this change is universal; and whether he is prepared to reinstate the arrangements prevailing up to November, 1942, when the allowances in question were granted?

The separation of officers and men from their families is a normal feature of the exigencies of war-time service. For operational reasons, officers and men of the Field Army or on the staffs of establishments With operational responsibility are not in general allowed to live with their families. They are usually accommodated in War Department buildings, and have their meals in mess. They cannot at the same time draw allowances for accommodation and rations. But officers continue to draw family lodging allowance for their families, and soldiers families continue to draw family allowance. I have recently considered this question very carefully, but I am satisfied that there is no case for altering these arrangements at this stage.

Will the Minister have regard to married men in static employment disconnected with operational units, with a view to making some concession, so that their conditions may be more comparable with those of men for whom married quarters are available?

I think that the trouble in the case which has been brought to my hon. Friend's notice is the difficulty of drawing the line between operational and static units. That is a point which I have very much in mind.

Detention Barracks (Conditions)

15 and 17.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether, in view of the widespread anxiety caused by allegations made in evidence at the inquest on Rifleman Clayton, he will make a statement on conditions and methods of discipline and inspection in detention barracks generally;

(2) whether he is aware that treatment, similar to that which led to the death of Rifleman Clayton, has been administered regularly to prisoners in detention barracks for at least 18 months past; and what steps he proposes to take, having due regard for disciplinary necessity, to introduce penal standards in greater conformity with normal civilised practice?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has now been able to review the evidence given at the coroner's inquest on the death of Rifleman William Clarence Clayton, caused while undergoing sentence of detention, and, in particular, the jury's expression of grave dissatisfaction with the camp medical supervision; and what action he proposes to take?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give any information in connection with the charge against Regimental Sergeant-Major Culliney and Quartermaster-Sergeant Salter for the punishment inflicted on Rifleman Clayton, of Enfield Wash; and what action he intends taking against the officers?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the findings at the inquest on the death of Rifleman William Clayton, he will cause a searching investigation to be made into the methods of discipline employed in detention camps?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the recent revelations of ill-treatment in connection with the death of a soldier in delicate health, he will bring to an end in the British Army harsh treatment of any member of His Majesty's Forces as the present case has caused unrest among the parents and friends of serving soldiers?

In the first place, I should make it clear that I do not believe that the case of Rifleman Clayton is in any way usual or typical of the treatment received by men in detention barracks. A departmental investigation was made some 18 months ago as to whether the treatment, training, accommodation and feeding of soldiers under sentence in detention barracks were in accordance with modern standards and satisfy the requirements of a war-time Army. It was found that in general the conditions were good. Moreover, a number of improvements have been made since then. The life of the men in detention barracks must obviously be subject to certain restrictions, but their treatment is humane and in general they now lead a normal life. This includes military training outside barracks, exercise such as football and boxing, and the lectures and debates of Army Education and A.B.C.A. Every detention barracks is inspected weekly by an officer not below field rank, and the commander of the area or district often visits the detention barracks in his command. In addition, the Inspector of Military Prisons reports direct to the War Office on his frequent visits. Since this departmental investigation four cases only of striking or bodily ill-treatment have come to notice, and in only two of these were convictions obtained.

On this particular case, I cannot at present add anything to the findings of the inquest and to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) on 4th May. Two men concerned have been charged with manslaughter and now await their trial by a civil court. The inquiry by the military authorities must therefore be suspended until the trial is over. I can assure my hon. Friends that when it is resumed it will deal fully with all the issues raised by this distressing case.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is not the case that the inspectors' "frequent visits," of which he spoke, are always notified in advance to the responsible authorities in each barracks?

I think that that has been the practice, but if the hon. Member is suggesting that the inspectors can have wool pulled over their eyes, I emphatically disagree with him.

I take it for granted that, if the man in question is found guilty of the offence against him, the right hon. Gentleman will consider as to the advisability of allowing such a man to remain under the War Department?

As I explained to my hon. Friends, the two men concerned are under trial by a civil court, and I think it is inadvisable to say anything while the case is sub judice.

Can my right hon. Friend say what is the usual rank of an officer in charge?

Not without notice. I imagine it is "lieutenant-colonel," but I will let my hon. Friend know.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered that portion of my Question which I do not think need wait until the result of the criminal trial. I refer in particular to "the jury's expression of grave dissatisfaction with the camp medical supervision."

I am sorry, but there is another Question later on, and I will answer that in connection with it.

The right hon. Gentleman has, with my permission, answered or purported to answer my Question, and cannot he say whether we have to wait until this criminal trial finishes before we can get some improvement in the medical supervision?

There are various Questions on the medical aspect later on, and I think that it is convenient to deal with these together. I am sorry if it does not meet the convenience of the hon. Member.

In spite of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman talked about wool being pulled over the eyes of inspectors, does he not think it would be right to have impromptu inspections?

That raises a very large general question about the system of inspection in the Army, and I would not like to deal with it now on a particular case.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that the two medical examinations of soldiers sent to detention barracks are carried out generally with sufficient care?

The regulations on this point are clear and explicit. The military court of inquiry which will be held as a result of the case of Rifleman Clayton will no doubt examine whether the regulations were observed in his case and whether they are generally observed at the Chatham detention barracks. The medical officer of this barracks has now been transferred elsewhere.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the considerable publicity that has been given to this case in the newspapers, he will disclose to this House and the country the results of the inquiry which he proposes to set up?

I will certainly make a statement in regard to the inquiry, and none of the issues will be burked. I hope that the hon. Member will be content to leave it at that for the time being.


asked the Secretary of State for War the medical category of the late Rifleman William Clarence Clayton on admission to detention camp; and whether there was any diagnosis of tuberculosis recorded on his medical history sheet?

Rifleman Clayton was in medical category C. The answer to the last part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is customary for men in medical category C to be sent to detention camps to undergo the rigours of these camps, of which he is aware?

I hoped that the long answer which I gave just now would have shown that, normally speaking, conditions at these camps are not unduly rigorous.

Wounded Soldiers (Drugs)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the drug M and B, or any allied preparation, is supplied to American soldiers in Africa for use if wounded; whether there are any figures as to the precentage of lives saved thereby; and if British troops are so supplied?

I am informed that drugs of this type were issued to American soldiers in Africa. These drugs are not issued to individual soldiers in the British Army, but medical officers hold the necessary stocks of them. The figures asked for by my hon. and gallant Friend are not available.

Will my right hon. Friend consult with the American authorities and find out what the results are, and, if necessary, adopt them?

I will certainly collect any information from any source possible, but I must say that I am prima facie indisposed to distribute these drugs broadcast among the troops, without control.

Lectures, Ipswich (Cancellation)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the reasons which led to the suspension, after the eleventh lecture, of a series of lectures by Mr. John White to certain troops at Ipswich imply any reflection against his moral character?

I am sorry if anything I said in the recent Debate was capable of conveying any kind of reflection on Mr. White's moral character. I certainly had no intention of conveying anything of the sort.

Are we to understand that the reasons for which these lectures were stopped were purely political? They cannot be anything else.

No, Sir. The hon. Member is capable, I am sure, of inventing other reasons than moral and political.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is to clear up the situation by making a statement to the House of the reasons why these lectures were stopped?

In view of the most unsatisfactory nature of the reply [Laughter]—it really is nothing to laugh at— I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment at as early a date as possible.

Prisoners Of War


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give, up till 30th April or latest available date, the total number of British prisoners in German hands and of German prisoners in British hands, and also corresponding figures as regards the Italians?

On 15th April there were 33,315 German and 284,776 Italian prisoners in British hands. Since then about 109,000 Germans and about 63,000 Italians have been captured by Allied Forces in North Africa. There are about 8o,000 British prisoners in German and about 70,000 in Italian hands. These figures include all the Services and Dominion, Colonial and Indian troops.

The only exchange which is under consideration at the moment is that of badly-wounded prisoners and pro- tected personnel under the Convention. I have answered Questions about that quite recently.

Are the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has just given the complete figures for the North Africa campaign?

No; they are an approximation to the final figures as far as we can tell at the moment, but they may be subject to variation.


asked the Secretary of State for War what deductions are made monthly from the pay of officer prisoners of war of different ranks on account of the food received in German prison camps?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether prisoners of war receive notification of alterations in pay or rank; and, if so, by whom?

Notifications of alterations in rank of officers are sent through the Protecting Power to the detaining Power, and should be communicated by the latter to the prisoner concerned. Arrangements have now been made for paymasters to notify other ranks of such changes as occur in their rank. Notifications of alterations in pay are not sent automatically to prisoners, but statements of account are furnished to all who ask for them. The addition to the mails and to the work of pay offices involved in sending notifications in other cases would not, in my view, be justified.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that it would be better to indicate these alterations in the rates of pay to the nearest relatives of the prisoners, as there are many cases where civilian employers make up the pay of men serving to the level of their civilian emoluments, and if these men are called upon after the war to refund money, it will give rise to trouble?

That is a matter which the hon. and gallant Member has ventilated more than once in this House. I have answered the Question.

Would it be possible, if a prisoner indicates that he would like matters affecting his rate of pay to be notified to his next of kin, for that to be done?

I have said before that if a prisoner indicates that he would like such notification to be made to his next of kin, that is invariably done.

Arrested Woman (Error In Posting)

18, Mr.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Miss Frances Sanderson, of Middleton, who was awaiting call-up for the Women's Auxiliary Air Force was, on Saturday, 8th May, arrested at her home by an Auxiliary Territorial Service escort on the charge of being an absentee from the Auxiliary Territorial Service; whether, prior to orders being given for her arrest, reference was duly made to the Minister of Labour to substantiate Miss Sanderson's claim to have been earmarked for the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and whether he will now arrange for Miss Sanderson to be transferred to the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and for her to receive an apology for the inconvenience and unpleasantness she has suffered?

This case has been investigated. The A.T.S. Training Centres are notified of the recruits they are to receive, and they are concerned to see that these recruits report for duty at the appointed time. The commandant of the centre concerned in this case genuinely thought that Miss Sanderson had properly been posted to the A.T.S., particularly as it was on medical grounds that she did not originally report for duty and as it was on these grounds that the commandant of the centre granted her deferment for some weeks. But I agree entirely that it would have simplified matters if inquiries had been made into Miss Sanderson's claim. I understand that she has been discharged from the A.T.S. and will no doubt be called up into the W.A.A.F. in due course.

Will my right hon. Friend answer that part of my Question which asks that Miss Sanderson should have an apology from his Department?

The Minister of Labour is, I understand, answering that Question in a sense which, I hope, will be satisfactory to my hon. Friend.


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will have inquiries instituted into the mistaken posting of Miss Frances Sanderson, of Middleton, to the Auxiliary Territorial Service, instead of to the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, the service of her choice, for which she had already been earmarked; and why no steps were taken by the North-eastern Regional Office to rectify this erroneous posting between 19th March, 1943, the date when the error was brought to their notice, and 8th May, the date of Miss Sanderson's arrest by Auxiliary Territorial Service military police?

I very much regret that owing to a clerical error in the Ministry, Miss Sanderson was posted to the Auxiliary Territorial Service on 19th March instead of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. When she called attention to the error it was too late to cancel the posting notice. Owing to sickness, however, she did not join on 19th March and obtained sick leave from the A.T.S. Centre to which she sent medical certificates. Owing to an unfortunate oversight, for which I apologise, the Regional Office did not bring the error to the notice of the Ministry Headquarters who alone could take steps to rectify it, until a day or two before the escort visited Miss Sanderson on the expiration of her last period of sick leave. Miss Sanderson was formally discharged from the A.T.S. on 15th May; arrangements to post her to the W.A.A.F. proceeded immediately and will be completed in the shortest possible time.

Ministry Of Supply (Inspection Staff Meeting, Chilwell)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Colonel R. T. Raikes, D.S.O., M.C., proposes to pay an official visit to Chilwell, on Saturday, 26th June; that light tea will be served followed by a cabaret; that vouchers will be issued, covering inward and outward journeys of considerable distances, and that the staff will be allowed to claim travelling allowances and subsistence; that overtime and subsistence allowance will be payable to anyone unable to return on Saturday evening; and whether his approval was given to these arrangements?

I have been reply. Colonel Raikes, the Chief Inspector of Fighting Vehicles of the Ministry of Supply, proposes to hold a meeting of the inspection staff in the Chilwell area in order to explain to them the changes which have recently been made in the inspectorate system. Since attendance at this meeting will be obligatory, pay and allowances at normal rates will be issued. I am satisfied that the meeting will serve a useful purpose. If, after the meeting is over, the staff care to arrange social activities in their own time and at their own expense, I can see no objection.

Is the hon. Gentleman able to state what qualifications this officer holds?