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Royal Air Force

Volume 395: debated on Wednesday 1 December 1943

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Personnel, North Africa (Beer)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that airmen in North Africa complain that they can only get one pint of English beer a week to drink; and whether arrangements can be made to increase this quantity?

I am aware that there has been a shortage of English and other beer for the Forces in North Africa. Efforts are being made to increase the supply but the difficulties, of which transportation is one, are considerable.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration that I have had a letter from the commander of a squadron who says that morale is likely to suffer if these troops do not get beer?

I am very anxious, I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend, to get more beer out to the troops.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also press for an improvement in the quality?

Bombing Policy

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the policy of limiting objectives of Bomber Command to targets of military importance has, or has not, been changed to the bombing of towns and wide areas in which military targets are situated?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave him to a similar Question on 31st March. There has been no change of policy.

May I say that the reply of my right hon. Friend does not answer this Question? Am I to understand that the policy has changed, and that now the objectives of Bomber Command are not specific military targets but large areas, and would it be true to say that probably the minimum area of a target now is 16 square miles?

My hon. Friend cannot have listened to my answer. I said there has been no change in policy.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Air the area in square miles in Berlin within which it was estimated that 100 per cent. of the 350 block buster bombs recently dropped in a single raid would fall?

I regret that this Question cannot be answered without giving useful information to the enemy.

No, Sir. Berlin is the centre of 12 Strategic railways; it is the second largest inland port in Europe; it is connected with the whole canal system of Germany; and in that city are the A.E.G., Siemens, Daimler, Benz, Focker-Wulf, Heinkel and Dornier establishments; and if I were allowed to choose only one target in Germany, the target I should choose would be Berlin.

Does not my right hon. Friend admit by his answer that the Government are now resorting to indiscriminate bombing, including residential areas?

The hon. Gentleman is incorrigible. I have mentioned a series of vitally important military objectives.

Will the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that while we deplore the loss of civilian life everywhere we wish to encourage and applaud the efforts of His Majesty's Government in trying to bring the war to a speedy conclusion?

Is it not a fact that these bombings are likely vastly to reduce our military casualties when we invade the Continent of Europe?

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Air the approximate weight of bombs dropped on Germany during November and the estimated weight of bombs dropped on England during the same period?

During the month of November aircraft of Bomber Command dropped approximately 13,000 tons of bombs on Germany compared with some 120 tons dropped on this country by the enemy.

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity of informing the German nation that this ratio will increase?

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will give figures showing the comparative losses of night and day bombing over Europe from 1st January to 30th November this year; and whether he has any information as to similar figures for American losses?

From 1st January, 1943, to 6 a.m. on 30th November, 1943, 2,083 British bomber aircraft operating from this country were reported lost over Europe by night and 106 by day. 829 bombers of the United States Army Air Forces operating from this country were reported lost by day over the same period.

Flight-Sergeants (Remustering)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Air why flight-sergeants, on being found unfit for aircrew duties, are remustered to general duties with consequent loss of rank and pay?

Flight sergeants and other ranks of airmen aircrew who are temporarily withdrawn from flying duties for medical reasons suffer no loss of rank or pay. If however they are permanently withdrawn from flying duties for medical reasons they are remustered to ground duties. Provided they have undertaken operational flying duties or the equivalent, they retain their rank and pay is regulated to that of the appropriate ground trade. If, however, the airman has not attained the requisite standard of trade proficiency, a lower rate of pay is applicable until such standard is reached. A lower rate is also applicable when airmen are remustered to trades in which posts have not been established in their ranks. Since airmen on flying duties normally receive promotion more rapidly than those on ground duties, the retention of both rank and flying rates of pay on remustering to ground duties would create invidious anomalies within the Service.

Is it not a fact that in this respect there is one law for officers and one for flight-sergeants, because officers are not remustered?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there are numerous cases in which flight-sergeants who have been engaged upon operational duties and have in the course of those duties become unable to continue have been taken off them, remustered and given the rank and pay and menial tasks of an A.C.2?

If there have been such cases in the past, they can no longer occur in the future.

Is it not a fact that officers who go off flying duties are very frequently, especially in the case of the younger ones, remustered to the Administrative and Special Duties Branch?

Pyjamas (Laundering)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Air why airmen have recently keen forbidden to send pyjamas to the Service laundries each week?

Airmen's laundry is sent either to a R.A.F. laundry or, under contract, to a commercial laundry. R.A.F. laundries cater only for barrack laundry and airmen's clothing which is a Service issue and therefore do not accept pyjamas, which are not an official issue. No new rule has been introduced, but owing to the general shortage of laundry facilities throughout the country I understand that it has been necessary for certain Regional Officers of the Board of Trade to issue instructions that commercial laundries shall not accept items additional to issue clothing.

The difficulty arises from the great restriction in laundry facilities.