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West African Units

Volume 416: debated on Thursday 12 April 1945

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asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that British other ranks serving with West African units in India received no special trainng before joining the R.W.A.F.F.; that they receive no specialist-pay for their duties; that most West African troops speak English and all orders are given in English; that West African troops were originally conducted to India by British troops with no previous experience with Africans; and whether he will revoke his decision to suspend repatriation and leave for British troops serving with West African formations and replace them by other British troops in India of higher age groups who are unemployed.

As will be seen from my reply on 13th November to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Horn-castle (Commander Maitland), it has been found in practice that care must be exercised in the selection of suitable officers and non-commissioned officers for these units. This is particularly necessary in present circumstances, when the units themselves are awaiting repatriation, and I can only say that all practical steps are already being taken to reduce to a minimum the period of deferment of the British personnel.

As the duty for which these men are being retained is mainly draft-conducting, is my right hon. Friend aware that this duty, involving as it does a sea voyage, would be a most healthy occupation for those surplus Army personnel now taking root in G.H.Q., New Delhi?

I understand that the reason these officers and; N.C.O's are being deferred is that they were the leaders of these men in war, and consequently they are trusted by them. The deferment is largely due to the lack of shipping for the repatriation of these men.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether European men compulsorily transferred from the R.W.A.F.F. to the Indian Army are outside the provisions of Regulations for release from the Army, and, if so, will he take steps to have these men treated on the same basis as British troops in other Commands?