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British Army

Volume 480: debated on Tuesday 14 November 1950

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Shadow Promotion Roll

1.

asked the Secretary of State for War when the strength envisaged by his Department for the post-war Army in drawing up the present shadow promotion roll for regular non-commissioned officers was decided on; how far in the changed circumstances today this figure is still considered accurate; and whether he will revise the shadow promotion roll accordingly.

The shadow promotion roll is based on a post-war order of battle compiled in 1948. A revised order of battle will be compiled as soon as possible and the shadow promotion roll will be revised in consequence.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of uneasiness among warrant officers, particularly in R.E.M.E. units in the Middle East, who feel that they may have to revert to sergeant, or even corporal, if the war promotion code is abandoned? Would he look into it very carefully to see that this does not happen?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me the opportunity of saying that I do not think there is any case at all for such uneasiness.

Wrac (Messing Facilities)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will arrange for officers of the Women's Royal Army Corps, who hold appointments in London, to be provided with central messing facilities.

I regret that shortage of accommodation prevents the establishment of a women officers' mess in Central London. There is a women officers' mess at Richmond and women officers can make use of the War Office Luncheon Club.

Would the right hon. Gentleman look into this again, because these officers have a justifiable sense of grievance? With the rising cost of living and the very heavy calls on their pocket they find it difficult to maintain themselves in London.

—but we are always being pressed very hard to get out of accommodation, and it is very difficult to combine the two requests.

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered taking over one of the London County Council restaurants for this purpose?

Fire, Aldershot

4.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement as to his investigations into the cause of the recent fire at Aldershot.

Was sabotage proved and, if so, were the offenders arrested? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware——

Tanks (Production)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the gravity of the international situation, he now intends substantially to increase the production of Centurion or any other tanks.

Does this increase allow for the sale of Centurion tanks to European and other countries?

The Question referred to the production of Centurion tanks, and I have answered it.

I was asked if the production of Centurion tanks was being increased, and I answered that it was being more than doubled.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that production will be more than doubled has he any time factor in mind? If so, can he say what it is?

I must not go into precise details on this matter, but production is now rising fairly rapidly.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say if the new rate of production will be adequate to our needs?

Naafi Facilities, Korea

6.

asked the Secretary of State for War what canteen facilities are available for British troops now in Korea.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Gillingham (Squadron Leader Burden) on 7th November.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the N.A.A.F.I. units now on the way to Korea will be sufficient to serve all British troops in Korea?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in view of the almost abnormally high standard of welfare and facilities for American troops particular attention should be paid to facilities for British troops, so that they will not feel that they are getting less than their allies?

Will the statements which are to be made as a result of the favourable reply to a supplementary question by me last week about the general position of British troops in Korea include fuller information about canteen facilities and other things such as winter clothing?

Will opportunities to serve be given to voluntary organisations, such as the Salvation Army and the Y.M.C.A., which did such good work of this kind in the past?

That we can consider. Some facilities are already in being there and others are on their way; they are N.A.A.F.I. facilities.

Personal Cases

7.

asked the Secretary of State for War in view of the fact that he informed the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon on 9th October that Fusilier Brown, of the 1st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, was fit for service everywhere including overseas, when in fact on 10th Ocober he was discharged from the Army as medically unfit for further military service, whether he will take steps to improve the machinery for dealing with such matters in his Department.

I have now investigated this case. As the hon. and gallant Member was notified, Fusilier Brown was found fit for service everywhere except in forward areas. His discharge was effected, not because, as the hon. and gallant Member was wrongly informed, he was unfit for further military service, but because it is the policy of the Department to retain in Section B of the Reserve only men of the highest medical standards. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member was given the wrong reason for Fusilier Brown's discharge.

Is it not extraordinary that I should be given two wrong reasons—first, the reason that he was fit enough to serve overseas and then the reason that he was unfit to serve anywhere at all—and that now I should be told that he was not fit to serve in all categories? Cannot these mistakes be avoided, because it makes the War Office look so stupid and the Minister so inefficient?

There is no mistake in the man's classification, except that the hon. and gallant Member was given one incorrect reason—that he was unfit to serve. The real position was that men in this medical category, while fit to serve anywhere except in actual operational theatres, are not retained in Section B of the Reserve, which is a paid reserve.

Is this category of people which is fit to serve anywhere except in forward areas a new category? What is the qualification which makes the difference?

16.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement regarding the death during military exercises of Brian Douglas Frank Osborne of 41, Bedford Road, Birmingham, with particular reference to his medical examination and the attention paid to his previous medical history.

I would like to express my sympathy with the relatives of Mr. Osborne. I have examined this very sad case with care. With permission I will circulate a full statement of the medical facts in the OFFICIAL REPORT, where they can be studied. But I should like to say now that my information is that careful attention was paid to the views of Mr. Osborne's civilian medical practitioner.

Following is the statement:

Mr. Osborne reported to a Ministry of Labour Medical Board on 27th March, 1950. He stated that he was under the medical care of a civilian doctor and the doctor was accordingly asked by the Medical Board for a report on his health. In reply, he stated that Mr. Osborne had been under treatment for 3½ months for anaemia, which he considered to be due to his unhealthy occupation. He recommended a change to a healthier occupation, but the Medical Board nevertheless deferred Mr. Osborne's call-up for three months.

On 4th July, 1950, he again reported to the Board, bringing a letter from his doctor which stated that, although his anaemia had not greatly improved, his general condition was good. The doctor further stated that his occupation was the major factor acting against full recovery. He was medically examined by the Board and found to be fit for front-line service in any part of the world.

He joined the Army on 24th August, 1950, and the finding of the Ministry of Labour Medical Board on 4th July, 1950, was confirmed. From his enlistment until his death, he did not report sick or complain, although he took part in a number of cross-country runs.

At 12 noon on 24th October, 1950, Mr. Osborne took part in a physical efficiency test, consisting of a timed mile run, in physical training kit, the maximum time for a pass being 7 minutes 10 seconds. The test consisted of six laps and, in the sixth lap, Mr. Osborne collapsed. The medical officer was immediately sent for. He arrived at 12.30 hours and administered coramine and artificial respiration, but without result.

A post-mortem examination was carried out at 4.30 p.m. on 24th October by a civilian pathologist, who reported that death was due to acute heart failure and that there was some evidence of acute rheumatic carditis. I understand that, at the inquest the civilian pathologist said that there would be no evidence of valvular lesion when Mr. Osborne was medically examined, and that the coroner held that no blame could be attached to anyone concerned with his military training or to the Army medical authorities.

Recruiting

8.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many recruits have volunteered for service in the Army since the increase in the rates of pay; and how do these figures correspond to the similar period in 1949.

Seven thousand one hundred and seventy-one recruits were provisionally accepted for the Army between 1st September and 4th November, 1950. We have not yet received the October figures of men who have enlisted on normal regular engagements while serving. In September this figure was 343. If the October figure is similar, the total recruitment in the two months' period this year will be approximately double the figure for the corresponding two months of last year.

In view of this very small improvement, is not it a pity that the Government were not inclined to listen to the appeal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) three years ago?

Manœuvres, Germany (Equipment)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, at the manœuvres recently held in Western Germany, the equipment of the British troops engaged was found to be in all respects serviceable and up to date.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my hon. Friend's reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) on 24th October.

Is it not a fact that the equipment in question was not in all cases serviceable and up-to-date? Is it not of great importance that this equipment should be made up-to-date in every way?

I thought the hon. and gallant Member's Question was on refresher training to Class Z reservists. [HON. MEMBERS: "This is Question nine."] This is a supplementary to Question nine?

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said, new types of equipment are arriving in the Army. I have just given an instance of production of tanks being doubled. But it would be wrong to say that all the equipment of the last-war type used in the exercise in Germany was obsolete or unserviceable.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman can answer a simple question. Was the equipment found in all respects serviceable? Up to now he has evaded the answer to that question. Was it, or was it not?

The Question says, "serviceable and up-to-date." Some of the equipment used by the Army needs replacement. That is the purpose of the rearmament programme which has just been undertaken.

Was not a large proportion of that equipment found not to be serviceable and up to date.

Class Z Reservists

10.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any arrangements are being made to give refresher training to Class Z reservists.

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence to the hon. and gallant Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low), on 26th July.

Is it not most necessary that many of these reservists, who are, to put it mildly, rusty in their training, should receive further training now, especially if it is proposed to use them to make up deficiencies in the Territorial Army?

There are some facilities for these reservists to receive training. We are very glad when they make use of them, but I cannot go further than my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence went.

Was not it part of the answer of the Minister of Defence to me that the matter was under consideration, and have not four months elapsed since that date? Is not it about time that an answer was given?

Peace Promotion Code

11.

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the policy of his Department as regards the continued granting, or otherwise, of temporary higher rank to officers holding certain commands and appointments.

It is intended to introduce a peace promotion code under which the grant of temporary rank will be much less frequently necessary. This code cannot, however, be introduced until the size of the post-war Army has been finally determined. Meanwhile, the establishments of substantive ranks are reviewed from time to time.

Is not it desirable that some form of permanent rank should be given instead of temporary rank, and would not it be advisable to consider the re-introduction of brevet rank which is permanent, costs little and can be given as a reward for good service?

It is considered important to introduce a permanent peace promotion code, and that will be dealt with.

Defence Services, Singapore (Medals)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for War when the 14,000 Singapore volunteers and members of the passive defence services may expect to receive their medals.

Is not it rather disgraceful that these people should be kept waiting for these medals for nearly 10 years?

There are large numbers involved and I do not think that the delay is unreasonable.

Motor Mileage Allowance

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War when he anticipates the review of the rates of motor mileage allowance to Service personnel will be announced.

The rates of motor mileage allowance for Service personnel are similar to those paid to civil servants. A review of these rates is proceeding in the Treasury.

Does the Minister realise that I first asked this Question in May and got much the same answer, and that, ever since, Service personnel have been running their cars at a loss?

The category does not apply to Service personnel alone. It applies to a much wider field.

As this Question was addressed to the Secretary of State for War, as it refers entirely to Service personnel, and as this is the third time of asking, does the right hon. Gentleman know any just cause or reason why these people should continue to help out the Minister and be out of pocket as well?

This review will be completed. It does not apply only to the personnel for whom I am responsible.

Married Quarters

14.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many married quarters have been completed since 1st April, 1950; how many more it is hoped will be completed by 31st March, 1951; how many have been started since 1st April, 1950; and how many more will have been started by 31st March, 1951.

During the current financial year 1,068 permanent married quarters have been so far completed and a further 1,269 are expected to be completed; 933 have been started and a further 1,657 are expected to be started.

Do not those figures show that, more than half way through the year which started in March, the right hon. Gentleman is behind both in his programme of completed quarters and his programme for the start of building?

When estimates were presented in March I said that I hoped that 1,700 married quarters would be built. We think that, in fact, the figure will be 2,337.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether those figures refer to this country only?

Can my right hon. Friend give an estimate of the extra cost represented by all these questions asked today by the economy efficiency experts opposite?

Military Law Manual

15.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the new edition of the "Manual of Military Law," when published, will be printed in larger type and will include a number of blank pages at the end for notes.

Much of the Manual is already in type of the size used in the current edition. I will look into the hon. Member's other suggestion, but the Government is being strongly urged to economise in the use of paper.

Can the right hon. Gentleman also arrange for as much of the Manual as possible to be printed in rather better type, because the type of the current issue is small and extremely difficult to follow, unless one has had a legal training.

Before this new edition is brought out, would my right hon. Friend satisfy himself that modern thought and recent events are taken into consideration, so that the interpretations in the Manual of such subjects as the use of coloured troops, warfare against uncivilised people, war crimes and hostages are taken into account?

If my hon. Friend will let me know the basis of that point, I will try to give him an answer.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the current edition is so plastered with amendments as to be quite unintelligible, and will he restrain the zeal of those who are making amendments to the coming new edition?