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British Army

Volume 441: debated on Tuesday 29 July 1947

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Printed Matter (Paper Supply)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether a reduction has been effected in the amount of paper made available for the publication "Soldier," issued by his Department, proportionate to the reduction imposed by His Majesty's Government on daily newspapers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that this publication is now an affair of 48 pages; and is it not a little unfair that it should be permitted to use paper on this scale when the popular Press is reduced to four pages?

I do not think so. It serves a very useful purpose. At any rate, there is no discrimination between this publication and other publications of a similar nature run by private enterprise.

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is no one class of newspaper which is more appreciated by men in the Forces than their local newspaper; and would he not consider using some of the paper allocated to this publication to bring the local newspapers back to something more nearly approximating to their normal size?

No, I do not think I could do that, because the allocation of this paper comes from the Control Commission for Germany. I would say that this publication is very greatly appreciated by members of the Forces.

How is paper obtained for a publication which was not published in 1939, before the war, when such a prohibition applies to all civilian publications?

That question is much too technical for me to answer. I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member apply to the President of the Board of Trade, who knows the answer.

But it is the Secretary of State for War who publishes this publication.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a reduction in the purchases by his Department of the publications of the Bureau of Current Affairs, proportionate to the reductions in newsprint imposed by His Majesty's Government on the daily newspapers.

No, Sir, but in view of the continuing shortage in the supply of paper special instructions have been issued in the War Office that every effort is to be made to reduce demands for printed matter, including instructional literature of this kind.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not allow his natural modesty to prevent him from conveying his own good example to his colleagues, with particular reference to the Minister of Fuel and Power?

No. I would prefer that hon. Members opposite made. those references to my colleagues.

Will the Minister ensure that all the copies of these publications which are supplied are displayed to the best advantage, and are not tucked away in orderly rooms and other places?

Yes, Sir. I am constantly trying to see that all publications like these are used to the best possible advantage by the troops.

Is the Minister aware that if he gets as many attacks and criticisms from hon. Members opposite as the Minister of Fuel and Power does, he will be a very popular man with the working classes?

War Graves


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will report progress in the matter of dealing with war graves by his Department and the War Graves Commission.

Progress in dealing with War Graves may be said to be generally satisfactory. All cemeteries and graves in the Middle East, Italy and North Africa have been handed over by the Army Graves Services to the Imperial War Graves Commission for maintenance. In addition, there are some 80,000 graves in the United Kingdom which have been registered and maintained by the Imperial War Graves Commission from the outset. In France and the Low Countries, the Imperial War Graves Commission have accepted the care of some 35,000 graves, and many more cemeteries in these countries and in the British zone of Germany will be ready for transfer by the Army Graves Service during the next few months. In India and the Far East, measures are being taken by the Imperial War Graves Commission to take over the cemeteries in these areas in the near future.

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate when he thinks that bodies like the British Legion may, with advantage to bereaved relatives, arrange pilgrimages or missions to these cemeteries?

I thought the hon. Member knew that we are now engaged in conversations with the British Legion, in which he occupies a very important position, and certain other voluntary societies, to achieve that end.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a further announcement regarding facilities for visits to war cemeteries of relatives of men killed during the war; or, if impracticable at present, when he expects a scheme will be possible, so that parents and relatives can have the consolation of looking forward to making such visits in the future.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for Stockport (Wing-Commander Hulbert) on 22nd July, to which I have at present nothing to add.

Requisitioned Land, Plymouth


asked the Secretary of State for War to what purpose the land surrounding Agaton Fort, Plymouth, in the ownership of his Department and amounting to 12½ acres, is being used; if he is aware that the city council has for the past 18 months been trying, with the support of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, to come to an arrangement about its future use, and that the delay of his Department is holding up the building of some 100 houses; and if he will expedite its release.

This land is let for grazing. I am aware that the Plymouth city council wish to acquire it, but I regret that I cannot agree to make it available, as it will most probably be required for War Department buildings.

Is the Secretary of State aware that this fort was built for defence in the Napoleonic wars, that it was never used then because the enemy did not come that way, that it is not being used now, and that it would be much better used for housing purposes? Will he please show a little common sense in regard to its use?

I can certainly give the assurance asked for in the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

I would remind my hon. Friend that the Question deals, not with the fort, but with the land surrounding it, where we may want to build houses for soldiers.

Does not that answer make the original answer even more imbecile?

Leave (Melf And Cmf)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will arrange that men who have qualified for 30 days' leave through service in M.E.F. are not cut down to 19 days because of being transferred to C.M.F. before leave is granted.

Men serving in M.E.L.F. are eligible for 30 days' leave in the United Kingdom once only during the overseas tour, provided they will still have four months to serve after returning to M.E.L.F. Men in C.M.F., however, get 38 days' leave in the United Kingdom each year, this leave being taken 19 days at a time. The leave in the United Kingdom of men transferred from M.E.L.F. to C.M.F. is therefore increased and not decreased.

As I had some difficulty in following the right hon. Gentleman's answer because I am not near enough to the amplifier, may I ask does he mean that arrangements are in force to prevent this anomaly from taking place?

No, Sir, it means that those who are far away from this country can get only one leave of 30 days, and that those who are nearer get two leaves a year, each of 19 days, making a total of 38 days.

Golf Course, Aberdeen


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that a substantial part of King's Links Corporation Golf Course, Aberdeen, though no longer used by the military authorities, is still under their control; that it is used by four clubs with a combined membership of over 2,000 and hundreds of unattached players; that it is a seaside links to which the public have access; that it is encumbered by masses of broken barbed wire and other things which are dangerous to the players and public who resort there; and if he will have it cleared immediately and restored to its former condition suitable for golf championships.

The area on this golf course held by my Department contains a hutted camp and some additional land. The camp is required for futher military use. The additional land is no longer required by my Department, and the possibility of clearing it is being investigated.

Is the Minister aware that this site is required, particularly during the summer months, for the use of visitors but that it is now cluttered up with huts which could be used for housing civilians? Will he see that these huts are removed so that people can live in them and enjoy the amenities of life?

No, Sir. I said that the huts are required by my Department. As soon as the land is cleared, it can be given back. If the hon. and learned Member can help in finding labour to clear the land, we should be prepared to pay for it.

Is the Minister aware that these huts, which would accommodate several families, have been occupied by only two men for months past?

Central Moribund Accounts Office (Duties)


asked the Secretary of State for War what are the duties of the officer i/c Central Moribund Accounts

The Central Moribund Accounts Office has been set up to maintain and administer the accounts of all non-effective soldiers, that is, soldiers released from the Service, discharged unfit, or who have died.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how many persons are employed under the officer-in-charge of this Department?

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the title of this appointment is not the new title of the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

If hon. Members will look at this matter in a serious way, they will understand that the whole purpose of creating this Department is to relieve the Pay Office of a lot of matter which will disappear in a short space of time. We do not want to clutter up the living tiles with what we consider to be dead or nearly dead matter.

Civilian Clothing (Cash Allowances)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the cash allowance issued by the officer in charge of Central Moribund Accounts in lieu of civilian clothing on demobilisation is £2 15s. 1od.; how that sum is arrived at; and whether he is satisfied that it is an adequate equivalent of the suit of clothing, shoes, shirt, hat and other articles issued as civilian clothing on demobilisation.

I would refer my hon. and learned Friend to the reply which I gave to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey and Otley (Colonel Stoddart-Scott), on 19th November, 1946, of which I am sending him a copy. In the event of an application from a man who was discharged before 16th October, 1944, without receiving either clothing or a cash grant in lieu, the officer in charge. Central Moribund Accounts, would issue a cash allowance based on the wholesale price of the garments at the time of the man's discharge.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us where we can get these goods for this price?

I do not think anywhere, but if my hon. and learned Friend had been in the last House, he would have known that on many occasions we raised this issue of the small cash allowance. It was only by the action of a previous Government that we got it increased in 1944. There has to be a date line drawn somewhere, and it was decided to make it 1944.

If a discharged soldier was not in the last House, how is he to get these clothes with this money?

Ordnance Depot, Thatcham


asked the Secretary of State for War when the residents of Thatcham, Berkshire, may expect to re gain the use of the footpath closed during the war for the purpose of an ordnance depot; and if a decision has now been reached about the future of this depot.

I regret that I am not yet able to give a decision on the future of this depot, and that until this question has been settled the reopening of the foot path cannot be considered.

While the right hon. Gentleman is making up his mind, can he not allow the people of Thatcham an alternative right of way to get to and from their jobs in the mornings and evenings?

Barton Stacey Camp (Discipline)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to repeated burglaries at Longparish, Hampshire, by soldiers identified as coming from Barton Staceycamp; that camp officers disclaim responsibility on the grounds that the matter is one for the local police; and whether, in view of the disquiet throughout the neighbourhood, he will take steps to re-establish discipline and control of personnel, particularly at night.

No, Sir, I was not aware of these incidents. I am making immediate inquiries and will write to the hon. Member.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask him to bear in mind that the officer in charge has said that nothing less than six policemen are required to maintain security in the village under present conditions, and that there is not one policeman there at the present time?

I am not responsible for the police, and I would not like to form an opinion on these allegations until I have investigated them.

Senior Training Corps


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement upon the future role and conditions of service of the Senior Training Corps in amplification of the Government's policy upon the future of the Cadet Forces.

I am not yet in a position to make a statement about the future of the Senior Training Corps, but I hope that an announcement will be made in the near future.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have been pressing for this information for over a year? We have been told at varying times to await decisions about compulsory military service, liability for auxiliary service, and the future of the Territorial Army. As all these things have now been decided, when can we expect a decision on this matter?

To a certain extent it bears on the composition of those at the universities. At present, most of them have no need for any further training, as they are ex-Service men, and a decision is not so urgent as it would appear to be. Within the next year, according to the composition of the university students, we shall make a decision.

Will my right hon. Friend see that their service does not compete with the academic years?



asked the Secretary of State for War how many officers and men of the British Army have been killed,


Casualties since VJ-Day (14th August, 1945) to 30th June, 1947 (latest date for which figures are available).

1. Deaths (all causes):
(a) From 1st August, 1945, to 31st January, 194722,404
(b) From 1st February, 1947, to 30th June, 1947840
(c) Total of deaths (all causes) reported as struck off strength from 1st August, 1945 (nearest date to VJ-Day) to 30th June, 194723,244
Reported in the period mentioned irrespective of the date when they occurred and may therefore include deaths which occurred earlier. Figures for the period Ist-I4th August, 1945, cannot be separated without considerable difficulty.

2. The only precise information readily available on battle casualties is as follows:
Covering period.Officers.Other Ranks.All Ranks.
(a) Killed and died of wounds.
Palestine1st August, 1945 to 30th June,156479
Java and Sumatra1947 1st October, 1945 to 9th November, 1946.3822
These figures are included in the totals of deaths from all causes given above.
(b) Wounded
Palestine1st August, 1945, to 30th June, 194724156180
Java and Sumatra1st October, 1945, to 9th November, 1946.6362125
(c) Missing
Palestine1st August, 1945, to 30th June, 1947None reported
Java and Sumatra1st October, 1945,10 9th November, 1946.61420

No information is readily available as to the numbers kidnapped.

With regard to the last part of the Question, figures for the period 1st January, 1947 to 30th June, 1947. in respect of Palestine only (no other date available) are as follow:

Office.Other Ranks.All Ranks.
(a) Killed and died of wounds72128
(b) Wounded10100110

wounded and kidnapped in the period from VJ-Day until 28th July, 1947;and how many in each case since 1st January 1947.

Following are the details:

Motor Vehicles, Germany


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has yet completed the hand-over to the Ministry of Supply of the 10,000 motor vehicles referred to on page 31 of the May, 1947, Report of the Control Commission for Germany; and when he expects to complete his plans for disposing of the remainder.

Of the 10,000 vehicles which, at the end of May, were in course of inspection and hand-over to the Ministry of Supply, only some 600 remain on Army charge. These will be in the hands of the Ministry of Supply within the next few weeks. As a result of the reduction in the strength of the Army of the Rhine, a further 6,000 vehicles are now undergoing final inspection and segregation before handing over to the Ministry of Supply for disposal.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that handing over these vehicles to the Ministry of Supply is no guarantee that anything further will be heard of them?

Territorial Units (Equipment)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many Territorial infantry battalions are not yet complete to peace establishment in weapons and transport.

Commanding officers of all Territorial units have been instructed that they should not demand more transport or equipment than they can handle, house, and maintain. At present, no unit could maintain its complete peace equipment. Until units have obtained a sufficient number of recruits and, in most cases, additional buildings have been provided, the full peace scale of equipment and vehicles will not be issued.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are many units which have sufficient recruits to maintain some equipment, that there are units today that have not one carrier, that have one anti-tank gun with nothing to pull it, and not sufficient wireless apparatus to carry out a skeleton exercise without borrowing from another unit? Does he not agree that three months after recruiting has opened for the Territorial Army this is disgraceful?

Where there are recruits in units, they will get sufficient equipment for their purpose.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the equipment is at least up to date, since the equipment being issued at present was obsolete in 1942?

I should not be surprised if, during the next two or three years, a certain amount of Army equipment became obsolete at the pace we are moving nowadays, but the Territorial Army will be equipped with the same equipment as the Regular Army.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the Territorial Army is incomparably better equipped than it was at the time of Munich, after many years of Conservative government?

Yes, Sir, very much better equipped, as many Members who were in the House then will recollect.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will recollect the votes he cast against the provision of that equipment?

The right hon. Gentleman has been a bit hasty in putting that question to me. I do not think that I voted on that issue.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the North-West, where units are struggling to be come fully established, recruiting has been retarded because there is no modern equipment?

I would not accept that for one moment. I can assure the House that there will be no shortage of equipment for the Territorial Army, even if they recruit up to the ceiling. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows of any particular case let him bring it to me, and I will look into it.