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British Army

Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 6 May 1947

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Railway Transport Officers


asked the Secretary of State for War the number of railway transport officers and their staff employed in each of the London main-line railway stations.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Would it be possible to revert to the peacetime practice of commanding officers and adjutants arranging for moving of their formations without a very large staff of railway transport officers?

The figures which will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT will show that there is not a large staff of railway transport officers. Considering that they had to deal with more than one million inquiries in the first quarter of this year, I hope the hon. and gallant Member will find that the staff disclosed in my answer is very economical.

Following is the answer:

The numbers of railway traffic officers and their staff now employed in the mainline London railway stations are as follow:

Station.Railway Traffic Officers.Other Ranks.
Liverpool Street28
Fenchurch Street
London Bridge
Cannon Street
Kings Cross314
St. Pancras
Victoria including Caterham.310
Charing Cross including Woolwich Arsenal.
Holborn Viaduct
Paddington including Marylebone.28
Addison Road
Totals: 18 Stations1566

Personal Case


asked the Secretary of State for War for what reason 14289339 B.I. Private Yusof, has been refused permission to re-enlist in the Army, in view of the fact that he is medically fit and it not over the age limit.

I have written to the hon. Member about this case. Private Yusof is above the age limit for a normal Regular enlistment.

Is the Minister aware that according to the man's own Service book the Army have admitted that he is under 30? Is not the real reason why this man is not allowed to enlist because he is of non-European ancestry, and is it not Army policy to exclude British subjects unless they are white?

The hon. Member asked about this particular case. I gave a full answer in my letter, and that answer shows that the suggestion he has put to me is not accurate. As for the man's age, my information is that he is above the age limit.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in his own Service pay-book, which I hold in my hand, the Army has admitted that this man is 2g years of age? Is not the real reason something entirely different, which the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to disclose?

I do not know why the hon. Member should continue with that insinuation. If he will show me that Army book 64 I will have a look at it.

Par Beach Minefield


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that no start has yet been made to re-sweep the minefield at Par Beach, Cornwall; and when the special party referred to in his letter of 25th March to the hon. Member for Bodmin will commence operations.

I regret that it has not been possible to start re-sweeping at Par Beach during April, as had been hoped. The delay has resulted from a shortage of officers, caused by the run-down of the Army, in Bomb Disposal Companies, R.E. The work will be carried out as soon as officers become available. As the hon. Member will be aware, however, the enclosure of the area suspected to contain mines does not prevent access to the beach.

Can the Minister give me a little more satisfactory answer, and some indication that he may be able to have this carried out in May, and is the Minister aware that this matter is very important to our invisible export?

I will endeavour to do everything I can to give satisfaction, but Par Beach was cleared by United States Army troops, and they believed every mine was cleared. Unfortunately, the local inhabitants have an idea that there are still some mines left there. We have to test that, but unfortunately I have not the officers to do that.

Will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that the beach is cleared of mines?

No, Sir, I cannot, but I will do so as soon as I can get the staff to make sure there are no more mines there.

Postings (Publication)


asked the Secretary of State for War why he has now decided not to publish information about the numbers and proportion of men of the Army intake posted to each arm of the Service.

I have come to the conclusion that to continue to give these particulars periodically in reply to Questions might enable deductions to be made as to the detailed composition of the Army from time to time which it would be contrary to our present policy to divulge.

In view of the importance to the Army, may I ask first how, in view of the complete blackout on information about the use of manpower in the Army, my right hon. Friend reconciles this step with Parliamentary control over the Army? In the second place, may I ask whether this information will be given, if requested, to the Select Committee on Estimates?

As regards the last part of the question, that is another matter. In regard to the first part, I think we discussed the matter fully on the Army Estimates, and I do not think I can go any further at the moment in question and answer.

Is my might hon. Friend aware that he sends a free copy of the Army Estimates to every embassy in London, from which this could be worked out, and also that we are going to have less information in the Army Estimates next year than this year?

I do not know how my hon. Friend knows that. I have not heard that he has been at the War Office and knows what the policy will be. If he is correct in the first part of his question, perhaps he will have a talk with my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) who wants the information.

May I ask why it has been considered necessary two years after the war ended to keep these matters practically secret? Why should we not publish them?

As I have said, we discussed this at length on the Army Estimates, and I then said that for next year's Estimates I would look into the matter to see if we could have a change of policy.

Am I to understand that the Secretary of State has not decided yet whether he will give the information to the Select Committee on Estimates, or not?

My hon. Friend asked if I would give it to him, to which my answer is, "No, Sir."

Raynes Park Camp


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now release to the local authority, for housing purposes, the camp at Raynes Park, recently occupied by German prisoners of war, and about which the honourable Member for Wimbledon has had correspondence with him.

The future of this camp is under consideration at the moment, and I regret that I am not yet able to make any announcement about it.

Would my right hon. Friend send an answer about it very soon, because it is a matter of great urgency to the district, and it is occupied by squatters to the great embarrassment of the local authorities?

Reporting Sick


asked the Secretary of State for War what are the current instructions regarding men desiring to report sick; and whether it is in accordance with those instructions that men at 2 P.T.C., Stoughton Barracks, Guildford, have to march to the M.I. room to report sick.

The current instruction regarding men wishing to report sick is that

"soldiers … will not parade for this purpose but will inform the orderly N.C.O. and proceed independently to the M.I. Room at a specified hour."
Arrangements for transport are of course made if the. M.I. Room is at some distance from the unit lines. My information is that these instructions are being carried out in the unit referred to, and that it is not the case that the men have to march to the M.I. Room to report sick.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a considerable number of my constituents are stationed in these barracks, and their information is not the same as that of my right hon. Friend?

If my hon. Friend would be good enough to give me any further information he has, I will look into it.

Fornham Park Camp


asked the Secretary of State for War why it has become necessary to recondition and re-equip Fornham Park Camp, Bury St. Edmund's, which has stood derelict for 18 months; what will be the cost of this work; and if there is no barrack or permanent camp more suitable for peace-time military occupation.

Fornham Park Camp, Bury St. Edmunds is being reconditioned and re-equipped to accommodate a regiment returning from overseas. The camp was evacuated approximately six months ago by Polish Forces when it was certainly not in a derelict condition. The cost of the work being carried out is estimated at £700, and there is no more suitable barrack or permanent camp available at present for the purpose for which it is required.

Could the Minister look again at his answer, because no Polish troops had been there until six weeks ago? In fact, Polish troops in a neighbouring camp were given permission to go and take the stuff out of this camp with the result that the camp is empty. Is it the policy of the Government to allow one part of the Service to take it somewhere else so that money has to be spent to take it back again?

No, Sir, we do not give that permission to the Polish troops, but, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman will know, sometimes they do not wait for permission.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that general negligence in regard to empty camps only leads to looting and destruction of very valuable equipment?

No, Sir, that charge of general negligence is unfounded. The fact is that I have not the large number of troops necessary to guard these empty camps.