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British Army

Volume 411: debated on Tuesday 29 May 1945

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Billeting With Germans


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that while members of the Forces in Germany have orders not to fraternise with the enemy, in some instances they have to sleep with Germans; and whether he proposes to take steps to prevent this practice.

Instructions were issued by 21 Army Group in January which expressly forbid the billeting of British troops on Germans. I am not aware of any departures from this rule.

Will the right hon. Gentleman read a letter that I have received and consider whether the implications contained in it are correct and reliable?

If the information which the hon. Member has is reasonable information and not mere gossip I shall be glad to investigate it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the letter, which can be accepted as being reliable, and will he treat it privately?

I could not hear properly what the hon. Member said. I will certainly consider any evidence that he has which is more than mere gossip but I really cannot ask people to investigate accusations which are nothing but gossip and have no serious foundation in fact. If he will give me the letter I will consider whether it has a serious foundation in fact.

I take exception to the word "gossip." The letter is from a soldier who speaks on behalf not only of himself but of his colleagues, who are instructed to be billeted with Germans.

If this man was so billeted it was contrary to orders given as far back as January. I hope the hon. Member will assure himself that the letter that he proposes to give me will have enough basis of fact to provide material for a serious inquiry.

Is it not the right hon. Gentleman's duty to consider seriously any letter sent to him by a Member of the House?

Is it not for the hon. Member concerned to decide and not for the right hon. Gentleman?

I assume naturally that, prima facie, orders given in the Army are carried out.

Absence Without Leave (Loss Of Emoluments)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is upon the authority of his Department that an order has been issued that as from a specified date all soldiers charged with absence without leave will forfeit all post-war gratuities and other emoluments that may have accrued to them.

I am not aware of any such order. Perhaps the hon. Member will let me know more precisely what he has in mind.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if he would stand up and not lean on the Box we should hear him better?

Eritrea (Administration)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether lie will take action to terminate the colour and racial discrimination now being exercised under the British military administration in Eritrea against the native people of that ex-Italian colony; and is he aware that notices forbidding the admission of Eritreans are posted outside certain restaurants, hotels, theatres, etc., and that Eritreans applying for land, export licences and permits to cut green wood are refused, although such facilities are granted to Italians.

If my hon. Friend will send me the particulars on which his Question is based inquiries will be made. From my information it appears that nearly four times as many concessions to cut wood have been granted to Eritreans as to Europeans.

Discharge Categories


asked the Secretary of State for War why men in category A1when joining the Army are now being discharged as being in BX2 with 14 days' leave, whereas others in C1 or C2 are discharged with 56 days' leave; and whether he is aware that the difference in treatment is causing dissatisfaction.

Other ranks whose terminal leave on discharge begins on or after 8th May will in general receive 56 days' leave on full pay unless they are discharged on voluntary termination of full pay service, or to enter the Navy or the Air Force, or on appointment to a commission or for misconduct. This also applies to officers.

Does that also apply to those who are discharged on medical grounds?

I think the Question refers to people who are discharged on medical or quasi-medical grounds. Perhaps the hon. Member will study the answer in relation to the Question and, if necessary, put down another Question.

Is it not the case that this period of leave on full pay is intended to supplement the gratuity, in which case should not every soldier have it?

I could not hear the question very well. Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will put it down.

Requisitioned Premises


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will reduce the number of hotels and other properties requisitioned in the towns of Cromer and Sheringham.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now inform the House of the result of his inquiries as to the possibility of releasing schools which have been requisitioned for various military purposes; and whether he is aware that pupils of London schools who were evacuated to the country are in many cases returning with their parents, their country billets being no longer available, and are receiving no education by reason of the occupation by his Department of their schools.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is the policy of his Department to de-requisition shops at the earliest possible moment, so that men discharged from the Services who were previously engaged in retail trade may find premises available.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that East Bilney Hall, Dereham, which was requisitioned by his Department, has not been occupied by troops for a considerable time and that the owner, who is a soldier who has served with distinction in the Middle and Far Eastern theatres of war, urgently requires his home for his family who are obliged to leave their temporary accommodation; and as he is liable to be posted for further duty abroad, whether East Bilney Hall can be derequisitioned forthwith.

The reports on the properties held by the War Department are virtually complete and a programme of de-requisitions is now being drawn up. I will make a statement as to this in a fortnight's time. As I have repeatedly said, priority in de-requisitions will be given to small dwelling houses and schools, and these will definitely come before shops and hotels. A considerable number of small dwelling houses and schools have been released already and of course the process is continuing.

If the programme is now complete, cannot a statement be made next week?

I have very carefully studied that question. I shall be glad to make as full a statement as possible, but I should be grateful if I could be allowed a fortnight in which to produce the answer rather than a week.

Do I understand my right hon. Friend to say that the scheme w0ould begin only after his statement in a fortnight's time?

Not at all. The last sentence of my answer, to which my Noble Friend could not have listened, was that a considerable number of small dwelling houses and schools have already been released and of course the process is continuing.

Cannot my right hon. Friend give a specific answer to this quite simple question in view of the great dissatisfaction that exists, certainly in the town which I represent, in regard to these matters?

As I said, I am in the final stages of an exhaustive review, and if my hon. Friend will allow me, I will make a full statement about it in a fortnight's time.

Is it not a fact that even after derequisition it takes some time to assess the damage done to property?

That is one of the very important elements in the process of de-requisition. It is necessary that the dilapidations statement should be agreed between the parties concerned.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the delay which has taken place in derequisitioning properties which have been commandeered by his department and which are now standing empty, he will take steps to overhaul the existing department dealing with these matters with a view to securing increasing efficiency and understanding, having regard to the urgent public need of increased accommodation.

If my hon. Friend will refer to the answers I gave him on 13th March and 15th May he will, I think, find that there is no lack of understanding, at any rate in the War Office, on these matters. I might remind him that the number of requisitioned and part requisitioned properties still held in Evesham, Pershore and Broadway is less than one-half of the peak figure.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there are still far too many unoccupied premises retained by the War Department, and will he and his Department have enough common sense to derequisition them?

Yes, I have looked into those particular cases. There are not a very great number, and what there are are earmarked for the return of troops from North-West Europe in connection with the release process.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the officials of his Department read his answers before he delivers them but the House of Commons cannot hear them?

Accidental Casualties (Lists)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the termination of the war in Europe, he will consider publishing lists of casualties caused by accidents not due to enemy action.

Lists of casualties furnished to the Press for publication include accidental deaths, but not as a separate category.

Training Grounds (Agricultural Areas)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now make a statement about agricultural areas taken over for military training purposes as a war measure; and whether the Claims Commission can now be authorised to make good damage, gaps in hedges and fences, etc., as previously promised, so that farmers can proceed with their business.

As my answer is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Following is the answer:

All land taken over for military training purposes which is not being used, or which it is clear will not shortly be used for such purposes, is being relinquished, with the exception of training areas on which there is unexploded ammunition. This process has been going on since 6th June, 1944, and over four million acres of training areas have been returned to their original use. Where areas cannot be entirely relinquished the training has whenever possible been considerably lightened, so that there will be the least interference with cultivation.

Repair parties have worked in all the larger training areas and for all major exercises they carry out temporary repairs to fences, hedges, etc., damaged in the course of troop training in order to enable farmers to proceed with their normal farming business. Permanent repairs are not normally carried out by the War Department but compensation is paid.