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British Army

Volume 391: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Home Guard


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that, as regards members of the Home Guard, no endorsement of the identity card is permitted similar to that placed upon the old identity cards which showed the holder to be, in fact, a member of the Home Guard; that cards of members of the air-raid precautions personnel do carry details of the rank, etc., of the holder; and, in view of the desirability of a member of the Home Guard being able similarly to establish his bona fides, will suitable arrangements be made to achieve this result?

The identity cards of Home Guards in anti-aircraft units will, for operational reasons, be specially stamped. The application of this measure to all members of the Home Guard would involve administrative difficulties which probably outweigh the advantages which might be gained.

Is there any reason why the existing endorsements upon the old identity cards should not be transferred to the new identity cards when the cards are exchanged, because many Home Guards are proud of having the original endorsements on their cards?

Apart from the administrative difficulties, to which I have referred, I am not aware of any difficulty, and I shall be glad to look into the matter to see whether it is possible to adopt the suggestion.


asked the Secretary of State for War what number of Regular officers under 35 years of age and medical category A are now employed as Home Guard training officers?

There are seven such officers directly employed with Home Guard battalions.

Will my right hon. Friend consider whether they can be more suitably employed?

These are special cases, and there are very few of them. They are confined to cases where the circumstances do justify the use of Ai officers.

Recruits (Training)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that the efforts of recruiting authorities to attract young volunteers with promises of continuation of training in their present trades are not being frustrated by the drafting of such recruits to non-technical arms subsequent to enlistment?

On enlistment all young soldiers sign a certificate in which they express a preference for a particular regiment or corps. But this certificate includes the words:

"I realise, however, that such may not be in the interests of the Service and may not therefore be possible."
Generally speaking, they are not diverted from the arm of their choice unless they are urgently needed elsewhere.

War Department, Palestine (Civilian Staffs)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the financial difficulties being experienced by members of his staff employed in Palestine, owing to the increase in the cost of living; and whether he will expedite the decision on the claim for compensation which was lodged by the staffs through their association with the military authorities in Palestine in March last?

A revised scheme of payments to meet the increased cost of living in Palestine was authorised in May last, and instructions have been issued for the additional payments to be made to War Department staffs with effect from 1st April, 1943. The scheme embodies the recommendations of the Wages Committee set up by the Palestine Government.

It refers to civil employees of the War Department in Palestine, and not to the Army.



asked the Secretary of State for War when the first psychiatrist was appointed by his Department during the present war; how many are now in the service of his Department; and how many men have already been discharged from the Army consequent upon examination by psychiatrists?

There were psychiatrists serving in the R.A.M.C. many years before the war, but the first new appointment after the outbreak of war was made on 8th September, 1939. There are 198 now serving. Since the beginning of the war about 23 per cent, of those discharged from the Army on medical grounds have been discharged for psychiatric reasons.

War Department Constabulary


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the associations which cater for the War Department constabulary have the same rights as regards arbitration as other bodies of workers enjoy?

No definite procedure has been laid down for arbitration on questions affecting the War Department Constabulary, but the War Department Constabulary Association, which raised this question has been informed that in the event of failure to reach agreement on any matter under negotiation between the War Office and the War Department Constabulary Association it would be for settlement between the Department and the association whether the matter should be referred to the Industrial Court or to some other arbitration body set up specially by agreement to decide the particular case.

Does that mean applying the agreement as to the particular piece of machinery to be used, that the War Minister does agree that these men should be entitled to increases without Question?

It means precisely what I have said, in the specific answer I have given to the hon. Member's question.

If the meaning of the answer is specific, perhaps the Minister will be good enough to tell me what it is?

The answer is that it is a matter for agreement in any particular instance whether the case should be referred to arbitration and what particular form of arbitration should be adopted.

While I thank the Minister for that reply, would he not then agree that there should be an automatic right of reference to arbitration, as there is in the case of employees of every other body? Why should these cases be looked at separately to see whether they are for arbitration or not?

The position of the War Department Constabulary is not the same as that of other civilian employees.

Is not the Minister aware that this right is already enjoyed in some sections?

Royal Armoured Corps (Cavalry Regiments)


asked the Secretary of State for War why the cavalry regiments, which now form part of the Royal Armoured Corps are not allowed to wear on their uniforms their regimental badge or name, as this decision has caused great dissatisfaction to these regiments with their individual traditions and long roll of battle honours?

These regiments are now part of the Royal Armoured Corps and follow in this matter the practice in other corps such as the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers. Personnel may, however, wear a flash in the colours of their particular regiment and they may wear a regimental cap badge.

Does not the Army A.C.I, begin with the words "In order to foster esprit de corps," and does the right hon. Gentleman think that this part of the A.C.I. will help that spirit? May I take it that it is not the policy of the War Office gradually to-destroy the individuality and identity of these old cavalry regiments?

Yes, Sir, that is the case but they have been transferred for some years past to the Royal Armoured Corps, and this A.C.I, was produced after very-careful consideration and after a very wide range of consultation. On the whole, I think it solves the difficulties of a very difficult problem as best they can be solved.

Is not keen regard to tradition a part, not only of the spirit of the British Army, but of the whole nation, and will not this really be a blow at the traditions which have made our Army great?

No, Sir, I do not think so at all. As regards the first part of the Question, it is necessary at times to compromise between tradition and the facts of the case, and on the whole, as I say, I think that this is a reasonable solution of an extremely difficult problem.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of these regiments which are now done away with are, so far as tradition is concerned, among the oldest regiments in the British Army, and is not this unfair discrimination against the cavalry units?

They are not being done away with in the least. Some years ago they were transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps. Special arrangements were made to preserve their identity as much as possible, subject to their being transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps.

Mechanics (Upgrading)


asked the Secretary of State for War what percentage of mechanics in the Army has been upgraded during the war from the lowest grades in the trades to which they have been attached?

The process of upgrading is continuous, and a large number of men have qualified for a higher grade since enlistment. I regret that no figures are readily available from which an answer to my hon. Friend's Question can be calculated.

Could the right hon. Gentleman suggest that it would be desirable to have more men upgraded than at present, considering the type of warfare we are experiencing at the present time?

To the best of my information all the people who can be upgraded are upgraded.

Is it not a fact that a considerable amount of accommodation and of teachers available for this are not being used at the present time?

I am not aware of that. If the hon. Member has any specific instances of that, I shall be glad to see them.

Royal Artillery (North African Campaigns)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many Batteries of Royal Artillery have been mentioned in the campaigns in North Africa up to the first battle of El Alamein and how many after; and will he consider releasing the account of further exploits especially where the enemy knows the units concerned?

No batteries of the Royal Artillery but 12 regiments were mentioned in the Press or on the wireless prior to the October battle at El Alamein as having taken part in the North African campaigns. Three batteries and four regiments have been mentioned since. In addition ten yeomanry regiments, now Royal Artillery, have been mentioned under their territorial titles. I am as anxious as my hon. and gallant Friend that the achievements of all units should receive the public appreciation due to them. I outlined the military factors which limit such publicity in a reply I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend on 8th June.

Pioneer Corps And Royal Engineers (Commissions)


asked the Secretary of State for War what grounds there are for barring promotion to commissioned rank in the Pioneer Corps and Royal Engineers, Dock Group, to any man over 40 years of age, provided he is in other respects a suitable candidate?

The normal age limits for candidates for commissions generally are 18 to 40 years. Candidates over 40 years of age are, however, considered for commissioned rank if they have technical or special qualifications for a particular arm.

Are we to understand that any suitable man over 40 in either of the Corps mentioned in the Question is debarred from getting a commission unless he has special technical qualities?

My answer was intended to convey the exact opposite, that the general rule for the Army is 18 to 40 years, but that exceptions are admitted much more readily in the particular arm which the hon. Member has mentioned.

Infantry (Regimental Designations)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will authorise that the coloured shoulder strips, laid down by A.C.I. 905 of 1943, should be in conformity with regimental tradition and permit all infantry regiments to wear the distinctive colours of their respective regiments?

The regimental designations laid down by the Army Council Instruction referred to by my hon. Friend are intended to denote the arm of the Service, in this case infantry, and are coloured accordingly. The text of the designations shows the regiment to which the soldier belongs and he may in addition wear a flash in the regimental colours and a regimental cap badge.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the name of the regiment in the regimental colours is a part of regimental tradition? The colours have been won by battles in the past.

That is why they can wear a flash in the regimental colours in addition to the infantry title.

Official Report, House Of Commons


asked the Secretary of State for War what pamphlets on the subject of Parliament have been issued by the Army educational authorities?

Two of the booklets, "The British Way and Purpose," prepared by the Directorate of Army Education and issued monthly to all units at home contained sections on the subject of Parliament.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these excellent pamphlets suffer from one serious omission, that is, that neither in the text of the pamphlet nor in the bibliography of books of Parliament is there any mention made of Hansard at all, and will he be prepared to rectify that in future editions?

I do not think it is possible to go back and re-write them retrospectively.

I asked whether in future editions this omission could be rectified?

Future editions may deal with different aspects of the question, and I will take that into consideration, but so far as I know there are not going to be any future editions of these pamphlets.

I take it that if the right hon. Gentleman does as is suggested he will give this publication its correct title? Hansard ceased publication in 1908.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether copies of Hansard are supplied regularly to the headquarter offices of the Army commands in Great Britain?

Heavy Guns


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information as to the use of heavy calibre guns and howitzers by the Russian and German forces on the Russian front; and whether these weapons have been used in any substantial numbers?

On the Russian front both sides are known to have used considerable numbers of heavy guns and howitzers, and super-heavy siege guns and railway equipments were used at Sebastopol and Leningrad.

In view of the shortage of heavy guns and howitzers in the British Army, are the Army Council constantly bearing in mind the fact that we may need a good supply of heavy guns and howitzers when we come to invade the Continent properly?

Without in the least admitting what is contained in the preamble to the hon. Member's supplementary, the answer is, "yes, we are constantly bearing this in mind."

Kit Allowance


asked the Secretary of State for War what items of expenditure the 5½d. a week kit allowance to soldiers is expected to cover; and when was this allowance fixed at its present level?

Until the outbreak of war this allowance was an element in clothing allowance, the rate of which was last changed in February, 1939. It is a grant in aid of the expenditure incurred by the soldier on such items as haircutting, toilet and shaving soap, razor blades, toothpaste and blanco.

Has my right hon. Friend had any experience himself which would lead him to believe that 5½d. a week is sufficient to meet the necessities he has mentioned?

No, it is not sufficient to cover the whole cost. That is why I said that it was a grant in aid.

That question was dealt with in the general settlement of pay and allowances, which was debated in this House some months ago. I think that at present it is as well that that settlement should stand.

Would it not save an enormous amount of labour if the sum was made a round 6d.? That would save the reckoning of small sums which has to be done now?

Missing Personnel (Dependants' Allowances)


asked the Secretary of State for War, when other ranks are reported missing, for how long their Service allowances, including any voluntary allotment and war service grants are continued, and is the wife or dependant thereafter placed under the Ministry of Pensions on allowances based on the assumption that the serving person is dead?

Family or dependants' allowances, allotments of pay, whether qualifying, contributory or voluntary, and war service grants are continued in the case of a soldier reported missing for 26 weeks from the date his relatives are notified of the casualty, provided that he continues to be recorded as missing. Normally, after the end of that period, the allowance payable, for so long as the soldier remains missing, is the same as the pension which would be payable if he were dead; but this allowance is administered and paid by the War Department, and not by the Ministry of Pensions. The period of 26 weeks has been specially extended in respect of those missing in the Far East. The latest decisions in this respect were contained in the statement circulated with an Answer given on the 29th June to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oswestry (Major Leighton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward).

Does my right hon. Friend not consider that it would be more just to retain the dependants on full Service allowance until such time as the position is clarified?

This subject has been considered and argued very strenuously in this House, and various concessions were made some time ago. Special concessions have been made for the Far East. On the whole, I think the present system is about as fair as any that can be devised.

Do the Admiralty and the Air Ministry hold the same views as my right hon. Friend's Department?

Officers' Widows' Pensions


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the hardship to many widows of officers, who died during peacetime service, resulting from the low rates of pension which have not been raised since 1911 in spite of the greater cost of living; and whether as the rates as laid down in the Royal Warrant for Pay, Appointment, Promotion and Non-Effective Pay of the Army, 1940, varying from £40 a year for a lieutenant's widow to £100 for a colonel's widow, are inadequate, they can now be increased at least by a cost-of-living bonus?

I have been asked to reply. I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) on 4th August last.

In view of the strong feeling in the House and in the country in favour of more generous treatment for the dependants of all Service men, cannot this long-neglected question be dealt with?