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National Service Men

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 22 March 1949

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40.

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of National Service men who have been killed on active service overseas during each of the past two years; with particulars of their ages and length of service.

This information is not available centrally in the form asked for. I am, however, circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table giving such information as is readily available.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is a fact that some of the men killed in Malaya in fact only had five months' Service?

I have no information on that score and I doubt whether I could get it easily.

It is very difficult to ask the officers on the spot to prepare information of this character, although I do not complain about hon. and gallant Members asking for it. But they have a pretty tough job on their hands at present, and I do not want to embarrass them unduly.

Surely that information comes over to the Casualty Branch of the War Office and can be checked without any interference with the officers on the spot at all?

I happen to know better than the hon. Member. This requires a disproportionate amount of work.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a matter of the greatest concern to all of us—at any rate on this side of the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, certainly, and I am glad if I have the support of other hon. Members—to know that men are not sent into action with inadequate training.

I deny emphatically that men are sent into action without adequate training.

Following is the table

British Army officers and other ranks who have been killed in action or who have died of wounds in Palestine and Malaya
OfficersOther Ranks
Palestine, 1st January, 1947, to 7th July, 194815160
Malaya, 1st May, 1948, to 28th February, 1949821

These figures include Regulars as well as National Servicemen. It would not be possible without a disproportionate amount of work to give separate figures for National Servicemen or to give particulars of their ages and length of service.

41.

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of National Servicemen who have been sent overseas from this country during each of the past two years to stations where they are engaged on active service, such as in Palestine and Malaya.

This information is not readily available and could not be produced without a disproportionate amount of work.

Does not the Secretary of State have always in the War Office a list of personnel sent overseas and a return of casualties? Cannot that be checked as a normal routine matter in the "A" Branch without any additional work?

Yes, but the hon. and gallant Member has specified two particular theatres, Palestine and Malaya. Men are not always sent to a particular theatre in that sense. For example, men sent to Malaya would be posted to the Far East and then allotted to Malaya from there, and the same applied to Palestine, where men were posted from the Middle East. It is not quite so easy to get the information as the hon. and gallant Member suggests.

My Question was designed to cover areas considered as areas of active service and I instanced Palestine and Malaya not as specific areas but as active service areas.

Is it not the case that Tories can at any time get any information they want at the War Office?

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that all the information required in this Question must be in the possession of officers in charge of records and of the War Office? It must be, "A" branch is for that purpose.

Of course, if it must be, I would have given the information, but it does not happen to "must be."