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British Army

Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1947

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Overseas Married Quarters


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement on progress in providing married quarters in overseas commands for soldiers serving on Regular engagements; and state the number of officers and other ranks, in each of the overseas commands, provided with married quarters at the latest convenient date.

In all overseas commands semi-permanent married quarters are being built, or existing permanent quarters renovated. The numbers are largely dictated by the availability of labour and materials, and the paramount need to provide reasonable accommodation for the single soldier, but I am satisfied that all commands are doing their best to provide the maximum number of married quarters within the means at their disposal. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the information asked for in the last part of the Question.

Does the Under-Secretary realise that there is considerable anxiety about the policy in this matter, especially in the 'Middle East and in India Command, for obvious reasons, and will he see that there is published in command orders a statement of policy to bring home to every married soldier what is the exact situation?

Bearing in mind what the Under-Secretary has just said, may I ask him to take particular note of the position of wives who have to remain in England, and see that they get some married quarters in the English camps?

I share the anxiety mentioned by my hon. Friend, but not on the score of policy. I believe that soldiers overseas are aware of the difficulty, but I will certainly look into the suggestions made in the last part of his supplementary. In reply to the hon. and gallant Member, I am certainly aware of the needs of wives in England.

Will the Under-Secretary make certain that wives, for whom quarters may be made available, get passages to go out to them?

Following is the information:

The following numbers of married quarters in overseas commands were in occupation by officers and other ranks on 31st March, 1947 (31st December, 1946, in the case of M.E.L.F.):

OfficersOther Ranks
B.A.S. (France)6777
East Africa74100
West Africa13
North and South Caribbean Areas (including Bermuda)49129

Burnham Beeches


asked the Secretary of State for War why Burnham Beeches is still closed to the public; and when it is expected that this pleasure spot will be restored to public use.

Burnham Beeches has been retained under requisition in order that the land within the perimeter could be made safe for the public. This was completed at the end of March, and the barbed wire is now being removed. The public may, therefore, use the area, and, in fact, have already started to do so.

Discharges (Psychiatric Cases)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many men were discharged from the Army between September, 1939, and VJ-Day as psychiatric cases; how many were discharged on medical grounds, other than psychiatric grounds, not due to wounds received in action; how many were discharged as a result of wounds received in action or as a result of enemy action; and how many of those discharged on psychiatric grounds were classified as frontline troops who had been under enemy small arms or artillery fire.

Approximately 109,000 men were discharged from the Army between September, 1939, and VJ-Day on psychiatric grounds; 288,000 on account of other diseases and accidental injuries; 26,000 on account of injuries due to enemy action. I regret that the information asked for in the last part of the Question is not available.

When will the information asked for in the last part of my Question, which is of considerable interest to a large number of people, be available?

It would be quite impossible to produce that information without a wholly disproportionate amount of work

War Graves (Visits)


asked the Secretary of State for War when he expects to be in a position to make a statement outlining facilities which will be given to relatives of deceased servicemen to visit graves overseas.

The Interdepartmental Committee set up to investigate the problem of visits to war cemeteries by relatives of the fallen has completed its report, which is now being examined. I fully appreciate the very natural interest in this matter, and hope to be in a position to make a statement in the near future.

Does the Under-Secretary appreciate that many families, wanting an opportunity to go abroad, are writing very regularly to Members, and will he give the most generous facilities at the earliest possible moment to these people who have a real claim?

I will do the best I can, but I would ask my hon. Friend to remember that they are also writing to me.

Does the Under-Secretary mean that he intends to bring forward some scheme to assist relatives to go overseas?

Marriage (German Women)


asked the Secretary of State for War why British troops who have made application to marry German nationals, under the six months qualifying regulation, are debarred from doing so after that period has expired by the new rules which were published on 14th April, 1947; and if he will remove this injustice.

My hon. Friend appears to have been misinformed. I presume he is referring to an amendment to the regulations governing marriage in the Rhine Army to German nationals, which was issued by H.Q., Rhine Army on 3rd April, 1947. This amendment does not debar any man previously eligible from marrying, but removes a restriction that was previously in force under the regulations as they stood prior to 3rd April, 1947. There is, therefore, no question of any injustice having been done.

Will the Under-Secretary made it perfectly clear in the amendment to the regulations which has been posted in stations?

It must he understood by now, although I imagine there was a temporary misunderstanding when the amendment was first published.

Colour Bar


asked the Secretary of State for War what progress he has now made in his discussions with the Admiralty and the Colonial Office with regard to the abolition of the colour bar against applicants for Regular engagement in the Forces.

My right hon. Friend regrets that he is not yet in a position to make any statement about this matter.

Can we take it that it is not the Colonial Office that is responsible for the dilatory nature of the discussions?

Is the Minister aware that I asked a Question on this matter in April, 1946, and can we have some statement about where the difficulty arises, and what constitutes the difficulty?

I am well aware that my hon. Friend asked this Question a long time ago. The matter has been reopened, and is being re-examined, and I think some sort of statement—whether it will be favourable to him or not, I cannot say—will be made before long.

If it is not—as I take it from my hon. Friend's silence—the Colonial Office which is causing the delay, and if it is the Admiralty, will he point out to the Admiralty that, rather surprisingly, there is no such discrimination even in the United States Navy?

When the Under-Secretary says that he is not sure it will be a favourable statement, will he tell us who is preventing a favourable reply?

I do not know on what grounds the hon. Member says there is not to be a favourable reply. I have not promised that, but I have told my hon. Friend that there will be an answer in the near future.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that white regiments are for white men and that white regiments want only white men?

Is my hon. Friend aware that the sentiment expressed by the hon. and gallant Member opposite is a most retrograde and reactionary sentiment, which is certainly not shared by the Royal Air Force, which instituted this reform a year or two ago? I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Personal Case


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that an error in the payment order book issued to 10596154 Sergeant P. M. Bartlett, on his demobilisation in October, 1946, was brought to the attention of the Regimental Paymaster, Leeds, in that month and that, despite repeated representations, only a formal acknowledgment, dated 12th December, has been sent to this ex-Serviceman, and he has not received the balance of pay owing to him; what is the cause of this delay; and if he will expedite the payment.

The amounts contained in the release payments order book issued to this non-commissioned officer were correct, and all payments to which he was entitled were properly assessed and duly made. I regret, however, that the regimental paymaster failed to inform him to this effect in reply to his representations. A letter of explanation has now been sent to him.

Palestine (Terrorist Threat)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the military authorities in Palestine have brought to his notice the threat of the Irgun Zvai Leumi to hang any British soldier they capture in future; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir; the military authorities in Palestine have brought to my right hon. Friend's notice this threat, from which I feel sure that all responsible Jews would wish to dissociate themselves completely. If any terrorists attempt to kidnap and murder British soldiers who are carrying out their duty the most vigorous measures will be taken to bring them to justice.

Farm Work


asked the Secretary of State for War what help is to be given by men serving in the Army to assist agriculture during the 1947 harvest.

The general arrangements for providing military assistance to farmers and agriculture will be continued this year as in recent years. Although the number of troops likely to be available in the United Kingdom for loan to farmers during this year will be considerably fewer than in previous years, the need for the Army to give the maximum possible assistance has been emphasised to formation and unit commanders. During the harvest months the provision of assistance to agriculture will have priority over military training, and authoritative requests for assistance will be met by the Army even though they may entail serious loss of military training time.

Would the Minister later be prepared to make a statement showing the number of soldiers who will be available in each county area, and also give details as to how farmers should make application for this labour?

I will consider that, but the machinery we have now is working satisfactorily. However, I would like to have notice of the question.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in one or two areas last year O.C.T.U. training was interrupted, and a good deal of dislocation caused by young officers having to help with the harvest? This meant a good deal of anxiety for those administering the O.C.T.U. Will he see that these men are not used for agriculture unless it is absolutely essential?

It is a question of assessing, in each case, which should have the greater priority. On the whole, I am inclined to agree with my hon. Friend that O.C.T.U. training had better not be interrupted, but I cannot give any guarantee.

If men work on the farms out of their ordinary working hours, will they be allowed to receive pay for the work done?

Will my hon. Friend use the full power to see that children are protected from going into the Army?

Polish Troops (Leave Rations)


asked the Secretary of State for War why the Polish troops stationed at Seighford, in the county of Stafford, have been issued with ration cards and clothing coupons.

A limited number of leave ration cards has been issued to these Poles, to which they are entitled in the same way as British troops. No clothing coupons have been issued to them.

Is my hon. Friend aware that although there is every sympathy for these unfortunate men in my constituency, some disturbance is being caused because of the large number of purchases being made there? Will he get into touch with other Departments to see that additional supplies of goods are sent to the constituency to meet this extra demand?

That would not be necessary. These leave ration cards are issued on exactly the same terms as to British troops, and I am sure that now we are looking after these Poles my hon. Friend would not wish them to be deprived of the ordinary facilities of Army life.

Would not my hon. Friend agree that where several thousand Polish troops are involved there is a great additional demand for supplies? That is having a peculiar effect on supplies in the shops.

Ordnance Establishments (Manpower)


asked the Secretary of State for War what economies in manpower have been achieved to date as a result of the investigations into the methods and processes in Ordnance establishments; and what further economies are anticipated.

These investigations have not been completed, and I cannot, therefore, yet say what economies may be found practicable.

Can my hon. Friend say at what rate these investigations are being made? Can he say whether the Committee is working whole-time, or part-time? In view of the large numbers of people still employed at Ordnance establishments, will he speed up the inquiry?

There would have had to be a jet propelled investigation if I could answer, "Yes," to the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, but the fact is that the investigations started only a short time ago. I have no reason to suppose that they are not proceeding with proper speed, and I hope we shall have the conclusion before long. It would be absurd to kill the investigations by hurrying them along too much.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Minister of Defence stated on 12th March that the investigations were then in progress?

Training Areas


asked the Secretary of State for War whether in view of the immediate needs of both the Regular and Territorial Armies, he has any statement To make on training areas.

I am not at present in a position to add anything to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 25th February.

Is not the Minister aware of the pressure, both by village communities and military authorities, that some definite decision should be made on this subject? It was promised on 4th February. Surely it is time that a decision was made?

Close and detailed consideration has been given to all the areas in the country, and I hope that the time is not far distant when a statement will be made.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is the intention to requisition land only for Territorial units?

That is part of the question to which, I hope, we shall give an answer very soon.

Is the Minister aware that the decision to set up these local public inquiries was taken four months ago? What is the reason for the delay? Why are these inquiries not being constituted now?

Because His Majesty's Government wish to present a total picture to the House before going into details which will probably necessitate local inquiries.

Redford Barracks, Edinburgh


asked the Secretary of State for War how many soldiers are still sleeping in a garage in the I.T.C. at Redford Barracks, Edinburgh.

In view of the fact that there is a palatial residence there which is now vacant-Holyrood Palace—could not that be used instead of a garage?

Officers (Education)


asked the Secretary of State for War what records are kept in his Department concerning the educational background of newly - commissioned officers; and why a disproportionate amount of work is involved in securing information on this subject.

An officer's personal records contain an entry showing the schools at which he was educated. As, however, this information is not of great importance for Army purposes it is not collated into any one single statistical statement, or other readily accessible form. The preparation of such a statement would involve the compilation of a complete nominal roll of the officers concerned, the collection and scrutiny of their personal records and the consolidation of the information obtained. To cover, in this way, any category of officers sufficiently large to be representative would be a considerable task.

Is my hon. Friend aware that these statistics are of very great importance in judging the character of a man for promotion? Will he give an assurance that there is no reluctance on the part of the War Office to disclose such information, particularly so far as prestige is concerned?

I have said in my answer that this information is of no great importance to the Army.

Why not have personal records, so that classification could be applied when required?

Because the Army is endeavouring to do what my hon. Friends want us to do, namely, democratise itself. In that connection, it is of no concern "whether a potential officer comes from Eton or a London County Council school.

Separated Families (Accommodation)


asked the Secretary of State for War when men are posted abroad if he will make arrangements for their families to remain in the married quarters or, before they are asked to move, ensure that satisfactory accommodation is found.

Married quarters are provided so that entitled serving Regulars, officers and other ranks, can enjoy a normal family life in the station in which they are serving. Unfortunately, a large number of quarters are now occupied by families who are separated from their husbands by the exigencies of the Service, and this prevents united families from being provided with quarters. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend that no entitled Regular family, which cannot find somewhere else to live, will be asked to leave a quarter without the offer of some form of alternative War Department accommodation.

If I supply my right hon. Friend with evidence showing that an order was posted on a notice board stating that no alternative accommodation was being provided, and that men were being turned out, will he give instructions that the notice must be withdrawn at once? Will he see that families of men posted abroad continue to use married quarters until satisfactory alternative accommodation is found?

Yes, Sir, I shall be only too happy to receive that information from my hon. Friend and to effect the purpose he desires.

If I send the Minister a case from Sheffield, where parties have been threatened with eviction from married quarters, will he look into that?

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is a "Regular family," and, while he is at it, what is a prestige regiment?

I never mentioned a prestige regiment. I mentioned Regulars, not a "Regular family." What I said was, "a normal family."

Extra-Regimental Employment


asked the Secretary of State for War the numbers of officers and other ranks who are now extra-regimentally employed; and how many of these are in employment which is not of a strictly military character.

I regret that this information is not readily available, and could not be obtained without a disproportionate amount of work. As regards the second part of the Question, the number of officers and other ranks employed in non-military capacities is small, and kept to the minimum.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries as to the number of men extra-regimentally employed? Are there not many who are still extra-regimentally employed, and is it not time that a great many of these employments were terminated?

Yes, Sir. I think there are quite a number of extra-regimentally employed in the Brigade of Guards, which the hon. and gallant Gentleman will know something about. I have answered the Question, and I cannot go further than that today.

Surely it would be quite a simple matter for the Minister to check up through his records department?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether Regular officers who are not recommended for promotion or who have expressed a wish to retire are still retained on the regimental lists of their units; and whether he will now arrange for such officers and all Regular officers extra-regimentally employed to be seconded or placed on a supernumerary list in order to make vacancies available for qualified candidates for Regular commissions.

Officers who have been superseded for promotion to substantive lieutenant-colonel and who are over 45 years of age, are, in fact, not counted against a vacancy. Those who have submitted an application to retire, and whose applications have been accepted are at once struck off the regimental list. It would not be practicable to second or place on a supernumerary list all Regular officers extra-regimentally employed, as the number of officers so employed is very large at present, but is decreasing, which means that officers are returning to regimental employment. It would be undesirable to second them, and so fill up their places on the regimental list now, knowing that their return is certain.

Is it not a fact that before the war it was the normal practice to second extra-regimentally employed officers, and is there any reason why, this being peacetime, we should not return to the normal practice of prewar days in that respect?

I am not inclined to agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the situation now corresponds exactly to that before the war, but what he wants is what we are endeavouring to do.

Retired Pay Reassessment


asked the Secretary of State for War when the reassessment of officers' pensions for those Regular officers who served throughout the war and were placed on retired pay before the new rates were announced, will be promulgated.

A scheme for the reassessment of these awards was approved over a year ago, and details were announced by my predecessor in his reply to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport) on 15th April, 1946, of which I am sending the hon. and gallant Member a copy. With few exceptions, the reassessment of the retired pay of the officers benefiting from the scheme has been completed.

Can the Minister say when the officer is likely to receive this money?

I hope that he has received it, if the assessment has been completed.

How does the officer know that it is assessed? I have heard nothing myself.

I think that the best thing would be, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman has any individual case in mind, to let me know.

Ta Quarters (Possession)

35 and 36.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) how many writs for possession have been issued by the Territorial Army and Air Force Association against tenants in Islington and in other parts of London respectively;

(2) whether he will give an assurance that none of the tenants against whom writs have been issued by the Territorial Army and Air Force Association will be dispossessed until the decision in a test case which is being fought by one of the tenants to determine the legality of the Minister's proceedings.

Eleven writs have been issued with a view to obtaining court orders for vacant possession of Territorial Army married quarters in Islington, and 35 for quarters in other parts of London. I am not aware of the test case to which my hon. Friend refers, and I am, therefore, not in a position to give the assurance for which he asks.

War Office And Command Staffs


asked the Secretary of State for War the number of officers now employed in his Department and at the headquarters of each of the home commands; and how do those numbers compare with the numbers correspondingly employed in May, 1939.

DetailWar Office H.Q. StaffArmy Commands in the United Kingdom.
A.A.Eastern.Northern.Scottish.Alder-shot.Southern.Western.London District.Northern Ireland District.Total Commands in U.K.

H.Q. Staffs

Military A.T.S. and Nurses.
1. 30th June, 1939:
(i) Establishment37354452169833087317
(ii) Posted Strength351(a) 319
2. 31st March, 1947:
(i) Establishment1,7368110998971191049245745
(ii) Posted Strength1,72578106971021181009650747
(a) Analysis by Commands not available.
(b) This Command now forms part of Southern Command.

Manpower Economy Committee


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has yet appointed a committee to inquire into economy in the use of manpower in the Army.

I have appointed a committee, whose terms of reference are:

"To consider the methods of fixing and revising establishments and the use of manpower in the Army and War Department establishments, bearing in mind that efficiency for war is the primary object; and to recommend measures for ensuring that the greatest possible economy of manpower is secured in peacetime without detriment to this primary object."
The chairman is Sir Ronald Weeks, and the other members will be: Mr. Gavin Martin, nominated by the Trades Union

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

Is it not a fact that these commands, as well as the staff of the War Office, are very much swollen as compared with prewar times; and, as it is now two years since the war was over, is it not time that these various staffs were reduced to normal proportions?

I am inclined to agree-with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but it is not possible to liquidate them as quickly as that. We are doing our best.

Following is the answer:

Congress, the Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the Scientific Adviser to the Army Council, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for War, and one other independent member of the public.

If hon. Members have any suggestions perhaps they would communicate with The Secretary, Army Manpower Economy Committee, The War Office, S.W.I.

Will the Minister give the House an idea as to the time it will take before this report is received?

I cannot say at this early stage. They had better get on with their work first, and then we can see how they go. I have no doubt that they will make their representations to me as quickly as possible.

Would it be within the competence of this committee to substitute civil labour for military personnel, where the work is clearly of a civil character?

Can my right hon. Friend say why this committee was not constituted over 12 months ago?

I do not think that it would have been quite appropriate then when the manpower in the Army was in a much more swollen condition; now, probably, is the appropriate time.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if there are any representatives from all sides of the House of Commons on this committee?

No, Sir. We have not asked Members of Parliament to serve on this committee, but we hope that if they have any information to give, they will give it to the committee.

Is the Minister aware that the amount of evidence or advice which hon. Members can give to this committee is very much curtailed by his recent decision not to make available to this House in formation which was previously available to Parliament?

Will my right hon. Friend say whether this committee will have made available to it information not given to this House in the Army Estimates?

They will have all the information necessary to enable them to carry out their duties efficiently.

Records Offices, Leicester


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the anxiety caused to the employees of R.A.O.C. and R.E.M.E. Records offices, Leicester, by the pressure to vacate existing premises without alternative accommodation being yet available, and whether, having regard to the administrative difficulties to the two corps which will be involved in a move from Leicester, he will give an assurance that the offices concerned will remain at Leicester.

I am aware that the civilian staff employed in these offices would deprecate any move from Leicester. As the hon. Member knows, however, the offices are accommodated in requisitioned premises, which cannot be retained indefinitely. The possibility of keeping them in Leicester will, therefore, depend on whether suitable alternative accommodation can be provided. For this reason, I regret that I cannot give any definite assurance that these Records Offices will remain in Leicester although I am anxious that they should stay there.

In view of the enormous difficulty all over the country in obtaining housing accommodation, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will not staff these offices from Leicester unless he is absolutely compelled to do so?

I am anxious they should stay there, but it depends on their being able to get accommodation.

Allowances (Income Tax)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that under the new pay code system by which allowances are taxable, many officers and men now receive less than they did before the system came into operation in spite of the recent increases in pay; and if he will take steps to remedy this matter.

Paragraphs 42–44 of Cmd. Paper 6750 and paragraph 27 of Cmd. Paper 6715 explain why allowances must in future be subjected to Income Tax. It was not possible to make individual adjustments to provide against loss in remuneration in every case, but the arrangements in paragraph 66 (ii) of Cmd. Paper 6750 ease very substantially the position of officers and men of the categories principally affected. As a result, the great majority of those who were serving before 1st July, 1946, and have continued to serve since that date in the same rank or appointment now receive no less than they did before that date. I recognise that many individuals will receive lower net remuneration after 6th April, 1947, than during the preceding nine months. This is because the new allowances, fixed on the basis that they would be taxable, were introduced on 1st July, 1946, but were made liable to tax only from 6th April, 1947.

May we take it that the answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes"?

Will the Minister say how he expects to raise the voluntary element in the Armed Forces if he continues to penalise officers and men like this?

I am not continuing to penalise officers at all. The only condition is that officers and men must be subject, so far as their allowances are concerned, to taxation like any other person.

Is it not a fact that the minority of officers are penalised by the new regulations, and how does the right hon. Gentleman expect to attract officers if they feel that they may be in the minority who are penalised?

I have every confidence, and I have reason to think that my confidence is not misplaced, that we shall get all the officers we want in the coming year.