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British Army

Volume 440: debated on Tuesday 22 July 1947

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War Graves (Relatives Visit)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that the near relatives of men killed in the war feel hurt that they are not allowed to visit the graves in Germany two years after the end of hostilities though others have been allowed to go there for one reason or another; and if he will now say that all obstacles to these visits will be removed forthwith.

This question has recently been reviewed, but owing largely to shortage of accommodation and travel facilities it is not at present possible to make general arrangements for visits to war cemeteries in the British zone of Germany. In these circumstances, it was felt that it would be unfair to offer facilities for any such visits until an equal opportunity can be given to all who wish to visit war graves.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that his answer will cause great dissatisfaction to parents who are aware that other people have been allowed to go there and who fail to understand why, after two years, they should not be allowed to visit the graves, and cannot he reconsider this matter and grant facilities to those who want to go to Germany for this purpose?

If my hon. Friend will read in HANSARD my answer to Question No. 33, he will see what I am attempting to do in the way of arranging for these relatives to visit war cemeteries.

Will my right hon. Friend inform the House when he will be in a position to indicate when these facilities will be available?

In the answer to Question No. 33, I have indicated that I am now in consultation with voluntary societies to effect that purpose.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman believe that many bereaved people in this country, even though they themselves cannot visit their relatives' graves, would be proud if other people who could do so were allowed to go now?

The situation with regard to Germany is very difficult, and I can hold out no hope of visits to Germany this year.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Americans are allowing ordinary tourists to visit their zone?

I am only asked about the British zone, and I can assure my hon. Friend that there are very great difficulties.

Even assuming that relatives cannot visit Germany, can the right hon. Gentleman say why they should not be permitted to visit other cemeteries?

Military Training Area, Dartmoor (Inquiry)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that, in accordance with the promise of the Prime Minister, a public inquiry into the use of Dartmoor for military training purposes was held at Exeter; and why, prior to this inquiry, and without notice to commoners and cattle owners, he is already using Peter Tavey Great Common without regard to the danger to pedestrians and cattle, or any clearance of the ranges except by the firing of blanks prior to using live shell.

As was explained by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 25th February, where a proposal to retain permanently land already occupied by one of the Services is to be the subject of a public inquiry, the land will continue to be occupied until the inquiry is held and a decision taken. Peter Tavy Great Common is part of an area which has been requisitioned under Defence Regulation 51 since 1942, and is still so held. The inquiry referred to has recently been held, and the land will continue to be used until a decision has been made. No firing of live ammunition has recently taken place in the area, but during an infantry exercise carried out periodically, smoke bombs are used.

As the common in question is in my constituency, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware of the growing resentment in the Tavistock Division at the increasing disregard, since the war, by Government Departments of the rights of commoners and private individuals; and will he bear in mind that many of us are determined to defend these ancient rights of Englishmen?

It I may say so, I welcome that belligerent attitude in a good cause, but I can deal only with one Department. So far as the Army is concerned, I will endeavour to see that the commoners' rights are not unnecessarily interfered with.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the representatives of many of the commoners are dissatisfied with the inquiry because of their being denied the opportunity of stating their case fully, and will he ensure that an opportunity is given to them for doing so?

Is the right hon. Gentleman or the Government aware that the inquiry was very unsatisfactory, and caused a lot of local dissatisfaction?

Perhaps it would be as well to wait and see what is the outcome of the inquiry.

Requisitioned Land, Fylingdale Moor


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give an immediate decision with regard to the question of the derequisitioning of Fylingdale Moor, in view of the fact that his predecessor, in a reply on 7th May, 1946, expected to give a decision in the course of that summer.

It is not possible to give an immediate decision as to the derequisitioning of Fylingdale Moor, since the area is proposed for permanent retention as a military training area, although this proposal is under consideration by the Inter-Departmental Committee on Service Land Requirements, and a local public inquiry will no doubt be held before a decision as to permanent retention is made. I regret that investigations into the question of training areas have taken considerably longer than my predecessor foresaw.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the dismay in the locality at the Government's inability to come to a decision in this matter, and can he give some assurance that in no case does he propose to fire across the Scarborough-Whitby High Road, or across that part of the moor which carries the electricity to Whitby?

I think that, in answer to the first part of the Question, it only goes to show what careful examination is being given to conflicting interests. With regard to the second part, I could not answer that without notice.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the retention of this area and other areas, in spite of all the pledges which have been given, is not unconnected with the lack of enthusiasm for recruitment to the Army, and will he therefore hasten on the local public inquiries, as, otherwise, the Army will grow more and more unpopular?

Is it not rather unreasonable to expect the Government, if they cannot carry out their promises, to carry out those of their predecessors?

Citadel, Plymouth (Visitors)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the ramparts of the Citadel of Plymouth are inaccessible to visitors; that prior to 1914 these ramparts had been opened to the general public; and if he will now revert to the practice obtaining before 1914.

The Citadel is in full use as a military barracks. To admit the public would seriously interfere with the training of an important section of the Army. I regret, therefore, that I cannot accept my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his Department are taking more and more land, and are depriving the citizens of Plymouth of the privileges which they have held for hundreds of years?

Apparently, according to my hon. Friend's Question, they have been denied this access since 1914.

Minefield, Flimby


asked the Secretary of State for War what steps have been taken to restore to its original condition the foreshore at Flimby, Cumberland, which was used as a minefield during the war.

The minefield was cleared of mines by September, 1945, and the ground under the perimeter fence was swept, and the fence removed a few months later.

Requisitioned Site, Eastleigh


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will now derequisition the derelict site at Chickenhall Lane, Eastleigh, Hampshire, so that the Southern Railway Institute and Club may resume its sports activities.

The accommodation is now under the control of the Ministry of Health for temporary civilian housing purposes. The Southern Railway Sports Club has been given the use of the football ground for recreational purposes.

Colonial Development (Economic Planning Board)


asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will request the Economic Planning Board to give early consideration to the need for the rapid rehabilitation of those Colonial enterprises, such as tin production, which are potential large earners of dollars, but which are still unable to obtain the necessary machinery to achieve their prewar production.

As I announced in this House on 7th July, the primary function of the Economic Planning Board will be to advise His Majesty's Government on the best use of our economic resources, both for the realisation of a long-term plan and for remedial measures against our immediate difficulties. Problems of Colonial development and rehabilitation as such are not a matter for the Planning Board. Certain types of plant and equipment in short supply may, however, be required both for such development and for production at home, and naturally this is one of the problems to which the Planning Board would direct its attention.