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British Army

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1949

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Officers (Travel Warrants)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will review the regulations by which officers below the rank of major are now issued with third-class travel warrants for journeys by train; and what is the reason for these regulations.

The regulation, which dates from 1935, provides that officers below the rank of substantive major travelling by train at public expense will journey third class unless necessarily travelling in uniform, when they will travel first class. In this respect when not in uniform their entitlement is similar to that of other corresponding grades in the Government Service. The post-war regulations for travelling generally are in course of preparation.

In reviewing these regulations, will the Minister bear in mind that, owing to the very high cost of civilian clothing and the fact that more than half of those receiving commissions in these days have no private income of their own, the whole situation has altered since before the war? Will he give careful thought to that point?

Will my right hon. Friend also keep before him the fact that one of his declared purposes is to democratise the British Army?

Is not the Minister aware that it is most inadvisable for officers to travel with ratings, whether they are in uniform or whether they are in civilian clothes?

Married Quarters, Sandhurst


asked the Secretary of State for War how many married quarters are provided for officers instructing at the Royal Military Academy; and how many married officers are on the strength of the Academy.

Twenty-two married quarters are occupied by military officers at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. There are 88 married officers on the strength of the Academy.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is a disgraceful state of affairs if only one-quarter of those on the strength of the Academy are enabled 'to live in married quarters, and is he further aware of the very high cost of obtaining other accommodation?

I am aware of all the difficulties, but we have plans in preparation in order to remedy the defects. This is not a new problem; it is a problem which has accumulated over a long period of years.

Is the Minister aware that this problem is much more serious now than it was before the war, and that what these officers and other ranks want are not plans but houses; and will he try to cease showing such masterly inactivity in this matter?

The problem has only become more serious because of our anxiety to solve it.

Can my right hon. Friend say how many married officers were provided with quarters when the Royal Academy was at Woolwich?

In fact, the position was exceedingly bad before this Government came into office.

King's Regulations


asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is intended to consolidate King's Regulations and remove the present difficulty of ascertaining what Regulations are subject to amendment; and when the last revised edition was issued.

The last complete revision of King's Regulations was published in 1940. A reprint of this edition, incorporating amendments to February, 1945, was issued in 1945. A fresh revision will be undertaken as soon as practicable, but I regret that this cannot be at an early date, in view of the pressure of work.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the state of King's Regulations and the difficulties with which officers are confronted in keeping them up to date when they have so many duties in other directions, and will he hasten the issue of an up-to-date edition?

We are very anxious to comply with the hon. Gentleman's request. A great many modifications have taken place since the end of the war, and the Army has not yet resumed its normal state. It requires to reach a condition of normality before we can do what is required.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the suggestion that the amendments of King's Regulations should be of two kinds—the urgent ones to be issued immediately, and the less urgent to await eventual reprint?

Ammunition Dumps


asked the Secretary of State for War how many troops in the United Kingdom are detailed for the protection and demolition of dumps of ammunition left over as surplus to requirements.

It is not the policy to give any analysis of the strength of the Army other than that shown in Army Estimates.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that if a lot of troops are engaged in these duties that does not add to the efficiency of the Army?

We have a very large number of troops engaged in these important duties, but that is no reason why we should give the precise categories.

Territorial Army Recruits (Personal Information)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that men joining the Territorial Army are required to reply to a number of personal questions concerning Christian names and surnames of parents, mother's maiden name, address of birth, etc.; why a simple statement of the name and address of next-of-kin is not sufficient; and if, in view of the embarrassment caused to those who were born out of wedlock, he will consider reducing such questions to a minimum

In the normal case the information asked for as to parentage is limited to the nationality at birth of father and mother, and it is not found in practice that the answering of these questions involves embarrassment. The same questions are put to Regular recruits and National Service men and similar information is asked for from applicants for civilian employment in the Government service. In certain cases where there is an alien connection or the applicant was born in a foreign country, further details are asked for, but they are kept to the minimum consistent with the requirements of security. All information obtained is, of course, treated as confidential.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the cases to which I am referring are not those of aliens or of men with alien connections, and that real embarrassment can be caused, especially in the Territorial Army, when a man may be asked for particulars about his family in front of a lot of other people from the same neighbourhood; and is he sure that the practice is uniform in all parts of the country?

If the practice is not uniform and does not bear out what I have said in reply to my hon. Friend's Question, I should like to make inquiries, and perhaps he will give me further particulars.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when information of this personal kind is asked for in the Territorial Army, it is not asked for, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, in front of a number of people, but confidentially in a small office?



asked the Secretary of State for War if, in order to encourage recruiting, he will consider starting the tattoos at Aldershot and at Tidworth again.

The matter has been under consideration recently, but it is not considered practicable to hold large-scale tattoos during this year or next. Local tattoos will, however, be held, where the general officer commanding-in-chief is satisfied that desirable objects can be achieved without undue interference with training.

Bands (Civil Engagements)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the attempt of the Musicians' Union to prevent military bands from playing at civil entertainments; and whether he will give an assurance that no interference with the bands of His Majesty's Forces will be tolerated in future.

Subject to the exigencies of the Service, Army bands are permitted to accept civil engagements of a nonpolitical character, under certain conditions, one of which is that the terms shall not be lower than those which would in the same circumstances be accepted by a civilian band of the same size in the same locality. I am not prepared to recommend the withdrawal of the longstanding permission given to Service bands to enter into engagements of this kind in accordance with the approved regulations.

Is the Secretary of State aware that in the case which gave rise to this Question there was no undercutting by the Band of the Grenadier Guards, and that the demand of the Musicians' Union that the promoters of the ball should either cancel the show or send the band of the Grenadier Guards away was therefore nothing short of blackmail?

If there was any blackmail it is for the aggrieved parties to take proceedings.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that after their original refusal to allow the military band to play, the union representatives offered, apparently as an afterthought, kindly to allow the band to play so long as they did not do so in uniform; and would that meet with his approval?

Well, I cannot help what happened on that occasion, but I have stated the quite definite principle by which I intend to stand.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the appearance of military bands in uniform is always a popular feature at civilian functions, and calculated to assist recruiting?

Entirely apart from the recruiting objective, I do not imagine that the public would take kindly to any proposal to prevent Army bands from appearing in public.

Will the Secretary of State consider allowing the members of these military bands to join the Musicians' Union?

They have already got a very close corporation and I see no reason for any other.

Soldier's Death (Notification)


asked the Secretary of State for War what medical examination was given Private George F. Carroll, 17th Platoon, "B" Company, Royal Army Pay Corps, T/c., prior to his enrolment as Grade I; and why his parents were not notified of his removal to hospital, where he was for over two weeks, until the day before his death and too late for them to see him.

This soldier was given the usual medical examination by the Ministry of Labour before he joined the Army. Official notification of admission to hospital is sent to the next-of-kin only when a patient is unable to write or is placed on the seriously or dangerously ill list. In this case the soldier was not unable to write on admission to hospital. He was placed on the dangerously ill list on 2nd April, when a telegram was immediately sent to his parents, who I understand were unfortunately not able to reach the military hospital at Aldershot from Glasgow until within a few minutes of the death of their son. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my sympathy with them.

Is the Secretary of State aware that this soldier had four examinations, two of them by specialists, and an X-ray, and that the authorities were well aware of the health of the soldier in his civilian life; and in view of 'the fact that this regrettable state of affairs has arisen in this case, will he take steps to see that the civilian health histories of, soldiers, especially when doubts such as existed in this case have been adequately displayed, are considered in future?

I cannot see that anything wrong was done in this particular case. I am advised that the cause of death was rheumatic fever and bronchial pneumonia, and I would imagine from that that it must he attributable to his service.

Is the Secretary of State aware that a Glasgow boy dropped dead in Egypt; and in cases which are now being passed from the Ministry of Labour, where there are doubts about the heart condition of the individual, should not the benefit of the doubt be given to the man so that these tragedies do not occur?

Many allegations are made and I should like to have confirmation by having the exact particulars.

Does the machinery for dealing with this not allow the Secretary of State and his people to have knowledge of the civilian health of a soldier; and does not the fact that four specific examinations were required to eliminate doubt indicate that there must have been such a doubt as should have been exercised in favour of the soldier so that he was not graded A.1?

I do not see that that has anything to do with the case. This is simply a question whether we should have informed the next-of-kin. As it happens, on admission to hospital the soldier himself was able to write to his relatives; and secondly, in the opinion of the medical authorities of the hospital, he was not then dangerously ill.