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British Army

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1949

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Ambushed Soldiers, Malaya


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will made a statement regarding 22204837 Gunner C. M. Bailey, who was ambushed, together with three other young soldiers, and killed by Communists near Mentakab, Malaya, on 19th January last.

This soldier and three other gunners were killed on the afternoon of 19th January while on military duty in aid of the civil power. A party of civil officials and police, with a detachment of soldiers as escort, was travelling in two vehicles along a road which, in the area mentioned in the Question, passes through thick jungle. The vehicles were travelling together but became separated, and the second vehicle was ambushed by bandits as it neared a road bend. Their opening bursts of fire knocked out the driver and overturned the vehicle. The bandits then murdered all the occupants, except one seriously wounded civilian, who was left for dead. After searching the bodies, stealing all available weapons and setting fire to the vehicle, the bandits withdrew.

I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my sympathy with the families of the victims of this brutal outrage.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this 19-year-old soldier joined up on 5th May last year, that he had had only five months' training, had his embarkation leave in September, embarked for Singapore on 5th October and arrived there on 4th November; that, in a matter of a week or 10 days, he was actually taking part in jungle warfare; and does he really consider that this boy had had adequate training for such an operation?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is completely misinformed.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, completely misinformed. The facts are as follow. The four soldiers concerned were all Regulars. Two of them had had six months' service before disembarkation in Malaya and a further two and a half months' and nine months', respectively, since disembarkation. Of the remaining two, one who was 23 had had four and a half years before disembarkation and a further two and a half months in Malaya, and the other, who was 19½, had 13 months' service before disembarkation and another 13 months after.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the vehicle to which he refers was a proper vehicle for carrying out these duties, and whether there is a shortage of armoured and protected vehicles in Malaya at present?

On a point of Order. As I have letters from Gunner Bailey himself to his parents and grandfather, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest opportunity on the Motion for the Adjournment, in order to bring the facts to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman and the House.

Customs Dues (Currency)


asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements are made to provide Service men returning from overseas with sufficient British currency to pay Customs and Excise dues for which they may be liable on disembarkation.

Service men returning from overseas are provided with sterling in exchange for foreign currency which they have received as pay and allowances, and in some cases they receive advances of pay in sterling en route. They can use this sterling to pay the dues for which they are liable.

As in many cases the pay departments concerned are so far in arrears that they are not able to provide the necessary sterling, will the Minister arrange for these accounts to be kept up to date?

If the hon. Gentleman can give a specific instance where the accounts are not kept up to date, I should be obliged if he would give me the information before making allegations of that kind.

Extended Service


asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements are made to enable time-expired warrant officers and senior noncommissioned officers to extend their period of service in suitable cases.

Soldiers who have completed 22 years' Colour service may be allowed to continue to serve for a year at a time beyond 22 years, provided that there is a vacancy, and that they are medically fit and recommended. Subject to the same conditions, warrant officers Class I may be allowed to extend their service beyond 22 years for as long as is necessary to allow them to complete five years in the rank of warrant officer I.

Is it not a fact that many of these men with long experience are at present being denied the opportunity of carrying on with their service?

As it happens, there is a surplus of warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s in infantry, and we must have regard, all other things being equal, to the need for promotion.

Pay Department, Canterbury


asked the Secretary of State for War why ex-Service men of the 1914–18 war, employed in the pay department at Canterbury Barracks, have been down-graded from T.C. Grade II to T.C. Grade III, the down-grading becoming effective on the same day as their dismissal.

Any temporary clerk who becomes redundant in a grade higher than the basic grade III is allowed to revert to any lower grade from which he has been promoted, so that he can be given further employment in the lower grade, if there are vacancies. If he does not want to revert, he can be discharged in the higher grade. The clerks referred to in the Question were surplus in both Grades II and III. There was no point, in this case, in the down-grading, and instructions have been issued that the clerks in question should be discharged as Grade II clerks.

No 1 Dress


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give an approximate estimate at present prices of the cost of supplying blue uniform to the Army.

As No. 1 dress for other ranks is not in production, it is not possible to give any accurate indication of what the cost at the present time might be. It is, however, estimated that the cost of providing No. 1 dress for other ranks of the active Army would amount very approximately to rather more than £4 million in the first year and to about £3 million in succeeding years.

In view of the high cost of the blue, is the Minister considering going back to red?

War Injuries (Compensation Scheme)


asked the Secretary of State for War when he will be able to announce the rates and conditions of the new scheme, which is to take the place of the scheme, framed under the Injuries in War (Compensation) Act, 1914, and which covers Women's Auxiliary Air Corps and others who were disabled while serving abroad as civilians in the 1914–18 war.

This scheme is in an advanced state of preparation. I cannot say exactly when details will be announced, but I hope it may be possible to do this during the next few weeks. In the meantime, however, persons affected by it have been given the revised rates of compensation which are embodied in the scheme.

When this scheme is announced, will it cover members of the Auxiliary Nursing Yeomanry who were wounded on active service in the 1914–18 war?

Yes, I rather think so, but perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to look into the matter.

War Graves, Italy (Relatives' Visits)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether visits to war graves in Italy can now be arranged.

Provisional arrangements have been made to extend to Italy the scheme for helping relatives to visit war graves in France, Belgium and Holland, which I announced in reply to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (General Sir G. Jeffreys) on 13th April, 1948. I will, with permission, circulate details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can my right hon. Friend say how this information will be made available? Will it be given direct to the relatives concerned or not?

I think my hon. Friend had better see the full reply and the details which I am providing in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but, at the start, the matter will rest with the British Legion, who have voluntarily offered their services.

Following are the details:

The British Legion have arranged for parties of 24 to fly to Italy and Sicily and back in specially chartered aircraft. They are now ready to receive applications, which should be submitted eight weeks in advance of the intended visit. It is hoped to continue these visits throughout the summer, except that they will not be arranged to Sicily in July and August, owing to the excessive heat in those months. It should be realised that in a number of cemeteries the erection of headstones and other structural work will still be in progress.

Special arrangements will be made for those relatives who do not wish to fly, but surface travel to Italy under this scheme presents many difficulties. Application to travel by surface route may, however, now be submitted to any of the five voluntary organisations handling the scheme. The British Legion do not expect to be able to make arrangements for surface travel before 1st October, 1949, and even then visits will be limited to cemeteries north of Bologna.

It is unlikely that visits under this scheme to war graves in Italy will be possible in 1950, as it will be a Holy Year and accommodation will therefore be extremely difficult to obtain.