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Pacific Fleet (Welfare Arrangements)

Volume 409: debated on Wednesday 11 April 1945

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can make any statement regarding the welfare arrangements for the Pacific Fleet.

Yes, Sir. Considerable thought and effort are being devoted to the welfare arrangements of the British Pacific Fleet. The Australian Common' wealth Navy Board is undertaking the provision of amenities in the main Australian ports. In addition plans provide for canteens and recreation facilities both at the main R.N. Depot at Sydney and ashore in the forward area. Welfare Service Officers have been appointed to all shore bases in both Australia and the forward area as well as to the staffs of the Commander-in-Chief and the Flag Officer in charge of the fleet train. The Fleet is also to have an amenities ship which will contain a combined theatre and cinema, a canteen, a N.A.A.F.I. shop and restaurant, lending library, reading and writing rooms, as well as tailors, barbers and boot repair shops. The amenities planned ashore in the forward area will be similar but on a considerably larger scale. A number of amenities are also being provided in other ships of the fleet train. It is intended to instal brewery plants both in the amenities ship and ashore in the forward area. The supply of ice cream plant and soda-fountains are also receiving special attention in view of the climatic conditions. My hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that the shortage of labour and materials applies to this no less than to other theatres and a certain amount of time must necessarily elapse before the full provision we are making is realised.

I need hardly add that the citizens of the Dominions are offering a great deal of private entertainment and recreation for the officers and men of the Fleet. Various bodies, such as the Australian Comforts Fund, are providing Clubs for officers and men, and the Lord Mayor of Sydney is raising a fund to establish a recreation centre in the city. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the gratitude of the Board of Admiralty for the liberal welcome which is being extended to the officers and men of the Fleet.

There are other aspects of the Admiralty's welfare arrangements which I should like to mention but as I have already spoken at some length, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, arrange for a fuller account to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

While welcoming that admirable arrangement, may I ask whether there is a special officer and special arrangements to look after the Wrens who have been sent to that area?

Have similar arrangements been undertaken for the Fleet operating in the Indian seas?

Following is the Statement:

In my oral reply I dealt with the provision of amenities in the theatre of operations but the House will be pleased to learn of the other side of the Admiralty's welfare schemes which seeks to alleviate the anxiety of the men of the Fleet concerning their families at home. In addition to their duties with regard to the provision of amenities generally these Welfare Service 'Officers are also available to give advice on the procedure to be adopted in solving men's private and domestic problems. A comprehensive family welfare organisation is in existence in this country to give help and advice to all naval ratings, their wives and families. Affiliated to this organisation is also a free legal aid scheme. The voluntary organisations who handle so many of the men's problems in private life and those of their families work in the closest liaison with the Welfare Services Department at the Admiralty. Financial aid is also available through the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust to provide relief in cases of distress and make provision for training for civil life. Though he is so far from home, every man in the Fleet is able to take advantage of this family welfare organisation if he has troubles at home about which he wishes to set his mind at rest. By arrangement with his Commanding Officer, a signal can be made to his home depot where the organisation will provide a reply in the shortest time about almost any subject which concerns either his own future or the present and future problems of his family. Furthermore, on urgent matters the concession telegram service is available to enable men to receive communications from their families and to send messages to them.

Where it appears to the authorities that a man's domestic problem is serious enough to require his presence at home, arrangements are made to send him home by the quickest possible method, including air transport where this is available. Arrangements are now in force whereby mails for the Pacific Fleet are flown out to the station by air. By this means mails should reach main Fleet Bases with reasonable speed. It is hoped that it will also be possible to fly out every week a large supply of Sunday newspapers and the latest cinema news reels.

In implementing the re-allocation plan, Their Lordships intend to make every endeavour to ensure that those serving in the Pacific will be brought home in time for release in their proper turn. No man, therefore, should need to worry that the prospect of his future employment in civil life is prejudiced by his service in the Pacific Fleet.