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Personal Cases

Volume 480: debated on Tuesday 14 November 1950

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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?


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.