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Personnel, South East Asia (Term Of Duty)

Volume 400: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1944

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asked the Secretary of State for War if he will consider reducing the period of the term of duty of Army personnel in the South-East Asia Command in view of the climatic and other conditions; and if he will consider instituting or expediting a system of exchanges.

The scheme whereby British troops are brought back to this country when they have been abroad for over five years applies to all commands, including South East Asia Command. Every man who returns under this scheme must be replaced. All available man-power has been concentrated on giving the maximum strength to our operations on the Continent but when shipping and man-power permit I hope to reduce the period. While troops are overseas steps are taken to ensure that they do not stay for excessive periods in the more unhealthy areas.

Can the Minister say why airmen can return and soldiers cannot? Do they not have the same difficulties in regard to shipping?

Yes, Sir, but the number of soldiers involved is, I believe, seven or eight times that of the corresponding number of airmen and, therefore, seven times as many ships are required.

Is the Minister aware that some soldiers are very doubtful whether the promise to bring them back in the stated time will be kept?

Will the Minister consider, particularly, the claims of married men, some of whom have been away since early in 1940?

I have made it clear that I am extremely anxious to consider the claims of both married and single men, but in the present situation of shipping and man-power my hands are completely tied.

When my right hon. Friend says that the soldier has no right to doubt, has he borne in mind the particular case I put forward for the attention of his Department, in which a soldier was sent behind the enemy lines in Burma, after his period had elapsed?