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Royal Air Force

Volume 411: debated on Wednesday 6 June 1945

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Aero-Engine Mechanics (Badge)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that first-class fitters in the R.C.A.F. are en titled to wear a distinctive badge on their uniforms; and whether he will consider granting a similar distinctive badge, after certain tests, to first-class fitters in the R.A.F.

I am aware that the Canadian Air Council has authorised the use of a trade badge for Royal Canadian Air Force airmen and airwomen qualified as aero-engine mechanics. The introduction of a similar badge for the Royal Air Force would be contrary to present practice, but the question of badges will be further reviewed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a considerable desire on the part of first-class fitters in the R.A.F. for this distinctive badge?

Yes, but there is a sort of practice or doctrine, and I think it should be carefully considered before changes are made.

Aerodromes (Agricultural Land)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many acres of former agricultural land in Norfolk are at present being used for aerodromes; and when he proposes to release part of this area for farming.

The answer to the first part of the Question is, approximately, 24,400 acres, of which nearly 5,000 were in use as airfields before the war. Approximately 1,450, acres are at present let to farmers. With regard to the second part of the question I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my predecessor to the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on 28th February last. Meanwhile, there should soon be substantial increases in the acreage let for agriculture from these airfields.

How soon can we expect a statement from the right hon. Gentleman's Department about the future use of this kind of land?

The hon. Gentleman will recognise that it requires very careful consideration of the whole defence and strategic position of the future, and he would hardly expect me to make that investigation at the present time.

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that there are thousands of families homeless in Norwich, and that there is aerodrome accommodation available in the vicinity of Norwich?

Yes, Sir. We will make every possible effort to make every alleviation consistent with strategic needs.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that his officers at these various aerodromes discuss this matter with individual farmers, so that in cases where the complete aerodrome cannot be passed back, yet those parts which could be released can be handed back for agricultural purposes?

That is being done. That is the increased land released for agricultural purposes.

Has the Minister started his careful examination of the defence and strategic considerations involved?

These matters are, of course, under consideration by the post-war planning authorities of the Service Departments.

Night Flying, Peterborough

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware of the inconvenience caused to the people of Peterborough by the noise of a certain type of training aircraft which keeps children awake at night and is extremely annoying to the adult population; whether he will now arrange for training on this type of aircraft to be carried out on other airfields instead of at Peterborough; and pending such an arrangement, whether he will forbid all flying of this type of aircraft from R.A.F. station, Peterborough, between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. with immediate effect.

I sympathise with my Noble Friend in this matter. Efforts are being made to find suitable accommodation for the Unit elsewhere, but I cannot yet say when a change will be possible. Meanwhile instructions have been issued that night flying is to be reduced to the minimum compatible with efficient training.

Low Flying Aircraft

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will have inquiries made about machines flying low over in habited areas; and whether there is a stated height to which machines shall not come below unless under special circum stances.

Careful inquiries are always made in order to identify aircraft which disobey the orders in force against unauthorised low flying. Members of the public often give valuable assistance by reporting the identification marks of low flying aircraft to the authorities. All aircraft are required to maintain a height of not less than 2,000 ft., except, of course, when taking off or landing, or when weather conditions would make this unsafe, or when flying in certain areas which have been selected for low flying training. When over towns and thickly inhabited areas, aircraft are required to fly at a height which would enable them to glide clear in case of engine trouble. The hon. Member will, however, appreciate that conditions in this island often make it necessary to fly below the normal stated heights.

I thank the right hon. Member for his reply, and would like to ask him whether he is aware that when I was recently in Blackpool aeroplanes were flying low over the town—much too low to give a feeling of safety—and I thought a warning ought to go forth?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will make representations to the American Air Force because I think some of these machines are American aircraft? Could he not make friendly representations?

The American authorities have been most co-operative and have taken very stern disciplinary measures parallel to our own.

Will the right hon. Gentleman issue further instructions on this matter, as this is a common practice all over the country and is really abominable?

Yes, Sir, the attention of all Air Force Commands was recently drawn to the order in force against unauthorised low flying and that has been specially emphasised lately, but I would re-emphasise the fact, which I am sure those who have had flying experience will know, that there are many days in the climate of this island when you must fly lower than 2,000 feet.

Will the Minister state shortly what the deterrent is? What happens to pilots who disobey the rule?

Very strong disciplinary measures have been taken, and I regret to say that even in my short period of office, it has been my duty to approve of sentences of dismissal from the Service for this offence.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware of the disturbance to rest caused by aeroplanes which fly constantly over Bristol at low altitudes throughout the day and night; and whether he will take steps to abate this nuisance.

This matter has been brought to my notice. The following steps have been taken: pilots who regularly fly near Bristol are specially warned to avoid the town; appropriate arrangements have been made for the observation and reporting of offenders; and in addition, the attention of all Royal Air Force Commands has recently been specially drawn to the orders in force against unauthorised low flying.

Overseas Postings (Demobilisation Priority)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will set out in detail the principles which are to be applied in drafting R.A.F. personnel for service in the Far East so far as the various demobilisation priority groups are concerned.

Men in early age and service groups for Class "A" release are not normally posted overseas except to Western Europe. For purposes of assessing priority of release there is no distinction between service at home and overseas; nor will a man be required to complete his overseas tour when his turn for release arrives.

Is it a fact that men in the 25 group have already been informed by commanding officers in France that they are liable to be drafted to the Far East?

I think this question was raised before, and any such order, if given, has been cancelled.

Is the Minister aware that I have a reply from his predecessor which indicates that the people on the spot determine these things and that men of the 25 group have been notified that they are liable to be so drafted?

That was an order of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in France which has been cancelled.

Royal Observer Corps

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether members of the Royal Observer Corps are authorised to retain any part of their uniform or any badge which would show that they had been of service to their country.

Yes, Sir. Former members of the Royal Observer Corps may retain the main articles of uniform, including the lapel badges which may be worn with civilian clothes. In addition, members who have been injured are in certain circumstances eligible for the King's Badge, and those who fulfil the qualifying conditions will receive the Defence Medal. Though the Corps is no longer actively employed, most of its members, with commendable public spirit, have volunteered to continue their membership. These members will, of course, retain their uniforms.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there will be any special recognition of those members of the Observer Corps who are allowed to wear the shoulder flash "Seaborne" because they volunteered for service at the time of D-Day in circumstances of great danger and difficulty in boats crossing the Channel?

Marshal Stalin's Message

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will publish the congratulatory message that he received on or about 16th May from the Soviet Ambassador on the glorious part played by our Bomber Command in forging the victory.

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the message addressed by Marshal Stalin to the Royal Air Force as a whole. That message and my predecessor's reply were communicated to the Press on 16th May. They have also been published to the Service in an Air Ministry Order. I am circulating the full texts in the Official Report.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether this message has also been widely published throughout the whole of Russia?

The messages are as follow:

From the Soviet Ambassador, Monsieur F. T. Gousev:

"I have the honour, on behalf of Marshal J. V. Stalin and my own, to express to you and to the valiant Royal Air Force sincere congratulations on the great victory over our common enemy—German Imperialism. Allow me to express to you my hope that the friendly co-operation between the peoples of Great Britain and the U.S.S.R., built up during the course of the war, will be successfully and happily maintained and developed in the post-war period."

Sir Archibald Sinclair replied:

"It is a great pleasure to receive your letter of yesterday, and on behalf of the Royal Air Force I thank you and Marshal Stalin for your congratulations. I share to the full your hope that the war-time comradeship between the peoples of Britain and Russia will ripen into a firm and lasting friendship. In that friendship, the mutual respect between the airmen of the Royal Air Force and those of the glorious Red Army will be a strong element."

Personnel (Re-Engagement)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Air if men over 30 years of age, who signed on for a further period of service in the R.A.F. as an alternative to being transferred to the Army, will now be given the opportunity of reconsidering the obligation taken.

No recent regular engagements have yet been made final. Every airman who is provisionally accepted will have an opportunity of confirming that he is still willing to enlist.

Medical Staffs (Release)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will give an assurance that doctors, medical orderlies and other medical staffs will not be retained in the R.A.F. after their release group has been reached.

Generally, the position is as stated by my predecessor on 25th April in his reply to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). I can, however, say that in the categories to which the hon. Member refers it has only been necessary to restrict the release of nursing orderlies in the group lists so far promulgated.

Clerks And Cooks (Release)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether R.A.F. personnel engaged in clerk general duties are likely to be delayed in their release from the Services; and whether recruitment for this trade category will be expedited.

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Air why it is not found possible to release cooks in the R.A.F. at the same time as the rest of the release groups to which they belong; and whether he will take the necessary steps to remove this inequality as soon as practicable.

The proportion of men in the earlier release groups is greater in the trades of cook and clerk (general duties) than the average for the Air Force as a whole. It is, therefore, necessary, at any rate for the present, that the rate of release of cooks and clerks should be below the average, but steps are being taken to reduce the variation to a minimum by the re-training of airmen not due for early release and by training new entrants as they become available.

General Election

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether service candidates for Parliament have now been given leave to contest the election.