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Personal Cases

Volume 496: debated on Tuesday 26 February 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for War why 22480142 Signalman N. Willis was, after qualifying as tradesman, operator keyboard, transferred to an infantry unit.

This man was doing his initial training as a keyboard operator and was transferred to the infantry because he was found unsuitable to remain in a technical corps.

In view of the facts I have now received, will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to meet him privately to discuss this matter?


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is now in a position to reply to the representations made to him about the death at Oswestry of Gunner Douglas Owen, Holyhead, by the hon. Member for Anglesey on 3rd and 28th January; and, in particular, if he has considered the findings of the coroner's inquest and question of compensation to the late Gunner Owen's widowed mother.

I have not yet received the Minister's reply. Although it was conveyed to me by telephone this morning, I am not satisfied with what I have heard.

Is the Minister aware that the gunner I referred to in my Question collapsed at five minutes past 12 and there was no medical attention available to him until 12.45? Will the Minister inform the House how many medical orderlies are in this camp and why none of them were available to attend this man?

This man collapsed while doing physical training and was immediately taken off to the hospital, which was some distance away; but a medical orderly is not an expert in medical attention. However, we have taken note of certain recommendations regarding supervision of physical training exercises, and these will be borne in mind.

Will the Minister remember that it has taken him two months to reply to my hon. Friend, who apparently has still not received the letter? Can the Minister tell the House why this man was left lying dead in the gymnasium whilst the class went on with the training and why medical attention was not made available for so long?

The time involved was three-quarters of an hour. By and large, one is fortunate in a unit if it takes only 10 minutes in sending a man to find the doctor and getting him to the necessary place; it may take longer. In this case, I do not think there was any actual fault, in view of the location of the hospital and the gymnasium. It took three-quarters of an hour: a quarter of an hour would have been better, but, short of having a medical superintendent at every P.T. class, one cannot obviate that possibility.

Is it not desirable that there should be someone in charge of P.T. who understands first aid and can take appropriate steps, and is it not the case that in this instance medical attention was not sent for, but the commanding officer happened to be going on his rounds and saw this man lying at the side of the gymnasium?

I have no information which corroborates the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's statement. As to the former part, the recommendation as to first aid, the supervising of P.T. classes will be borne in mind.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he has now completed his investigations into the death of Trooper Burgess; to what extent he accepts liability for this accident; and what action he contemplates.

I have seen the proceedings of the court of inquiry into this case but have decided that, before I give the hon. Lady a definite answer, I must refer certain points back to Malaya. A further letter will be sent to her as soon as these points have been clarified.

If it is the case that Trooper Burgess died on 1st September, and that this matter has been under active consideration since 1st September, would the right hon. Gentleman kindly tell me when he will attend to it?

I can assure the hon. Lady that I am attending to it. She will appreciate that this man was killed by an explosion, and I do not want to write to the hon. Lady apportioning blame where it is not due. I am not absolutely satisfied by the court of inquiry as to the reasons of the accident.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the cause is said to be a faulty grenade; and if the grenades are faulty, does that not indicate immediate action on behalf of all the other lads in Malaya who might be handling faulty grenades?

I can assure the hon. Lady that safety precautions have been taken, but there is an additional question about the procedure on grenade practice which I should prefer to clear up before I write to the hon. Lady.