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British Army

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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Royal Military Academy

10.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many vacancies there will be at the Royal Military Academy at the beginning of the next term; how many of these vacancies will be filled by "R" and "E" Cadets, respectively; and what steps he proposes to make the Army career more attractive to potential officers and thus overcome the present shortage of volunteers.

There are 300 vacancies for the next term at the Royal Military Academy. For these vacancies there were 281 "R" candidates, of whom 126 were successful. As far as can be seen, at least 134 further vacancies will be filled by "E" candidates, but this number may increase as the selection board for next term has not yet completed its task. As regards the last part of the Question, I do not accept the suggestion that the Army career is not attractive.

Does not the difficulty which has been experienced in getting sufficient candidates for the Royal Military Academy disclose a very serious state of affairs indeed? May I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that he is bending every effort to improve the conditions of the Army, and that there is no intention of lowering the standards of entry?

The position is not quite as bad as the hon. and gallant Member suggests, because on 1st January this year the total number of accepted candidates was only 40 less than was required, and it is hoped that a smaller deficiency will occur next term. As to the general conditions, there is no doubt that they have been vastly improved.

When the Secretary of State says he is satisfied with the attractions of the Army, does that mean that he is satisfied with the present officer situation in the Army as a whole?

When I say I am satisfied about the conditions for officers in the Army, I do not mean that conditions are perfect. There is much that remains to be done, but we are addressing ourselves to the appropriate tasks.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman take a most serious view of the fact that there is a shortage of candidates for the Royal Military Academy, or is he trying to pretend that it does not matter in the least?

Of course, it does matter that there is a shortage, however slender or slight that shortage may be, but nevertheless we have taken account of the fact that there are variations from year to year.

No 1 Dress

11.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will now issue No. 1 dress to officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy.

Approval has been given for officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, to wear No. 1 dress, and instructions will shortly be issued on the subject.

Does this herald the issue of the No. 1 dress to the Army as a whole, or does it mean the abandonment of the absurd rule that until the whole of the Army is issued with it, it will not be issued at all?

All that this reply indicates is that we have gone some way on the road.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Territorial Army will be issued with No. 1 dress?

Overseas Service (Training)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that 22097647 Sapper R. Morrin, E.P.D., Mombasa, Kenya, was called up on 3rd December, 1948; had two months' training, spread over three different camps; after a fortnight's embarkation leave, was sent abroad on 8th March; and if he is satisfied that this short period of actual training at home, prior to being sent to a distant Colony, is adequate and in accordance with his instructions.

I understand that Sapper Motrin was called up on 4th November, 1948, and not 3rd December, as stated in the Question. When he embarked for the Middle East he had completed his basic training and trade training, and had just over four months' service.

In any case, why does the right hon. Gentleman continue to send out to distant parts of the Empire these raw young conscripts to fulfil tasks for which only Regulars are fitted?

In the particular case referred to in the Question the incident occurred before I decided to change the regulations. As the regulations are at present, we are not sending raw and untrained men out to any part of the world. In our opinion, they are being trained in all basic tasks.

Will the right hon. Gentleman have those who have already been sent out sent back?

Fever Outbreak (Mombasa)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the fact that, since May last, a typhoid epidemic has been raging in the British Army Camp at McKinnon Road, Mombasa, Kenya, from which disease two British and five African soldiers have died, whilst some 85 other cases of infection have been reported; and if, in view of the danger to all the other men in the camp and the anxiety now being felt by their parents and many other citizens, he will either have them brought home or removed from the area of contact.

I have now received a full report on this unfortunate outbreak in East Africa. A total of 88 cases of typhoid and enteric group fevers were reported up to 8th July, of which 34 were British and 54 African. I regret to say that, in addition to the deaths of the two British soldiers which I mentioned on 24th May, four African soldiers have died. I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my sympathy with the relatives.

The outbreak originated amongst the African troops, but the source of infection cannot be definitely stated. The water supply was thoroughly investigated and it seems most unlikely that it was the cause. Everything possible has been done to ensure that the hygiene of the area is fully up to standard and to ensure that all troops and civilian employees are fully protected by inoculation. A good number of civilians in the area have also been inoculated. The outbreak is now under control, although the possibility of further cases occurring cannot be ruled out.

Is it a fact that before this outbreak the occupants of this camp had not been inoculated? Does it mean that these precautions have been taken only because of this outbreak?

Discharge By Purchase

15.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many soldiers of the Regular Army have been permitted to purchase their discharge from the Service during the past 12 months; and under what conditions is discharge by purchase now granted.

The number of soldiers who purchased their discharge during the year ended 31st May, 1949, was 4,110. This figure includes 700 who obtained their discharge free either on compassionate grounds or after 16 years' service.

The conditions governing discharge by purchase are laid down in Army Council Instruction 768 of 1948, a copy of which is in the Library of the House. These instructions are amended from time to time in accordance with manpower requirements, and for this reason it has recently been necessary to impose for the time being a ban on the purchase of discharge of all soldiers having more than three months' but less than three years' service.

Married Quarters (Private Houses)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements have been made for taking over private houses rented by officers or other ranks as military quarters; and how many officers and other ranks respectively, have taken advantage of these arrangements.

Arrangements have been made for the hiring of furnished houses on short lease for use as married officers' and married soldiers' quarters where the existing number of married quarters is below the scale of entitlement. These arrangements only apply to new hirings. Houses already rented by officers and soldiers privately will not be taken over, but they may be considered for hiring under this scheme when the private agreement expires. So far, 77 houses have been hired for officers and 10 for other ranks.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the scales of rent paid are adequate, in proportion to the present size of rents, to ensure that proper advantage can be taken of this scheme?

We are providing a maximum of £250 annually, and, on the whole, that is a fair figure.

Would it not be far better to pay these sums of money to officers who cannot be allotted married quarters? Would it not save a great deal of work? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the owners of private houses are naturally most reluctant to rent their houses to the War Department without being able to choose their tenants? Would he look into the whole question again?

I have made very careful inquiry, personally and otherwise, and I understand that the officers are very satisfied with this present arrangement.

Is there any possible objection to paying the sum of money which these arrangements cost the War Department, to the officers and other ranks to enable them to find their own married quarters? Would that not save work?

It is very much better to provide a quarter, whether an Army quarter or a private quarter, and for the War Office to pay for it, than to allow an officer cash so that he can obtain it himself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why? "] Because the War Office can handle it much better.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great difficulties of this scheme in an area such as Aldershot and Camberley where many officers and other ranks are wanting houses which are not obtainable at the amount which the War Office is prepared to pay?

Of course, if houses are not obtainable up to a maximum rent of £250 I am afraid we must seek some alternative.

Building, Stanmore

17.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many squatter families remain on land belonging to his Department at Kestrel Grove, Stanmore; how many huts there are in habitable condition; and when building of a permanent character on the site is expected to begin.

Two unauthorised families are occupying the two remaining habitable huts belonging to my Department at Kestrel Grove, Stanmore. Planning in connection with the building, of permanent accommodation is proceeding, but I am not yet able to say when it will begin.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for War what housing accommodation now requisitioned by his Department is expected to be released as the result of the buildings planned to be erected at Kestrel Grove, Stanmore.

The erection of permanent accommodation at Kestrel Grove, Stanmore, forms only part of a larger re-accommodation plan. When this part of the scheme is completed it will be possible for my Department to release two requisitioned properties.

Water Carting (Rural Areas)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he has considered the request made to him by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle, to make available water carriers, or other vehicles suitable for carrying water, to local authorities to assist them in carting water for the uses of country people living in areas where wells are dried up and there is no water supply; and what answer he has made to this request.

There is a limited number of water trucks which could, if necessary, be made available at the request of the Ministry of Health for this purpose. I hope, however, that the recent break in the weather will obviate any such request.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that in many districts the break in the weather will not fill the wells? It will take some considerable time for that to happen. Would the right hon. Gentleman communicate with the hon. and gallant Member for Horn-castle so that he may know how his local authorities can get this service?

Of course, the Army cannot be expected to provide everything; we do our best in the limited circumstances.

Cadet Camps

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War, if he is aware that all arrangements were made for the annual camp for the cadets to take place at the Languard Camp, Felixstowe, many cadets, officers and others making arrangements to take their summer holidays in order to attend this camp, and now, at the last moment, they have been informed that the numbers are to be drastically reduced, the camp transferred to Walton, and the cadets to run this camp themselves; what was the reason for this; and what action he proposes to take to enable the cadets to have their camp, as originally arranged.

Owing to the recent calls upon the services of the Army, it will not be possible to provide all the military assistance for the cadet camps this year which would have been given. Consequently, the arrangements for these camps have had to be modified, and a few, which could not be manned, have had to be cancelled. Every effort has been made in those cases to make alternative arrangements for the same dates, but, unfortunately, these will not cover in this case all the cadets who were going to camp. I should like to express to the officers and cadets concerned my regret that circumstances outside my control have caused so much disappointment.

Can my right hon. Friend say why he did not allow the cadets to run the camp themselves, as they originally requested, particularly in view of the fact that I understand that, so far as Walton camp is concerned, they are going to man it themselves?

It is quite impossible in every case to allow the cadets to run the camps, because we have to provide catering arrangements which are not within the compass of the cadets' organisation.