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British Army

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 1 April 1952

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Personal Cases


asked the Secretary of State for War why the date of discharge from full-time service of 22330907 Lance-Corporal Parker was altered in his discharge book from 31st January, 1952, to 25th February, 1952.

This alteration was made to correct a mistake by which the date on which this soldier reported for part-time service, instead of the date on which he completed his terminal leave, was entered in his discharge documents.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that this alteration had nothing to do with the charge that was subsequently laid against Lance-Corporal Parker?

I am completely satisfied on that point. I understand the reason for my hon. Friend's anxiety, but I can assure him that it is not so.


asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 22330907 Lance-Corporal Parker was kept under close arrest for nine days, and was subsequently sentenced to 28 days' detention for the unauthorised borrowing of a motor-cycle; and whether he will cause a review of this sentence, in view of its severity.

This soldier's sentence of 28 days' detention was confirmed and promulgated, but on 14th March the reviewing authority remitted 21 days' detention and he was, therefore, released from detention on 18th March.

Can my right hon. Friend say why it is necessary in a case of this kind to keep the soldier concerned, who is on discharge leave, under close arrest? In a similar case tried by the civil authority he would not have been so detained.

This is habitual in the procedure, and I do not think that under the circumstances nine days was an unduly long time.

12 and 16.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) why 22774347 Signalman G. W. Parsons, 7 Training Regiment, Royal Signals, Catterick Camp, was not granted legal aid in the preparation of his defence before a district court-martial;

(2) on what date 22774347 Signalman G. W. Parsons, Royal Signals, was tried by court-martial at Catterick Camp; and on what date his sentence was confirmed and by whom.

The trial took place on 20th March, 1952; the sentence was confirmed by the Commander, Signals Training Centre, Catterick, on the following day.

All applications for legal aid in this country are considered by the Director of Army Legal Services. For trials by court-martial for purely military offences, it is granted whenever the case presents particular legal difficulty or in cases of mutiny, serious cases of insubordination and certain other specific offences. The charge in this case, under Section 33 of the Army Act, was a straightforward one and did not come within the scope of the scheme.

Is the Minister satisfied that this trial was properly conducted? Is it or is it not a fact that just before this trial this soldier was charged and summarily convicted on a charge of making a false statement to obtain pay, and that on investigation a senior officer quashed the proceedings on the ground of irregularity? Is it not a fact that the soldier was told at the trial that he should have had expert legal advice on a certain point, and that certain important evidence was never produced?

I am not aware of these facts, but if the hon. Gentleman would care to inform me of the details of them I will certainly look into the matter.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement on the case of Gunner J. E. O'Leary, missing in Malaya since 2nd March, 1951.

A death certificate could not be provided by my Department until an investigation in connection with a murder charge had been completed by the civil authorities and an inquest into this death had been held. The civil authorities have now decided to dispense with an inquest, and I hope that the death certificate will very soon be issued.

Is the Minister aware that in this very deplorable case the parents have been treated with a lack of consideration which is really heartless, especially in view of the right hon. Gentleman's promise in the House on 13th November that the fate of this lad was going to be cleared up within a week or two? I am really ashamed of the way in which this has been handled.

I very much regret this delay but, as I say, we could not issue the death certificate until the civil authorities had completed their examination.

Ex-Miners (Releases)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many miners now in the Army have applied for release to return to the mines in the past six months.

The scheme for the release of miners serving in the Army ended on 30th September, 1951. No records are, therefore, available of any applications submitted after that date.

That is not an answer to the Question. Is the Minister aware that I, as one Member on this side of the House, have sent him quite a number of cases where men have applied for release in the last few months? I should like to know what are the ranks of these men and what is the job they are doing in the Army. Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it would be infinitely better from the national point of view that a man who is doing duties of a routine character in the Army and is an unwilling soldier should be released to work in the mines?

As I said, this scheme was stopped on the 30th September, 1951. My answer is correct. As a man applying for discharge under this rule would have been informed by his commanding officer that no such rule existed, no records could be kept and no such returns were made to the War Office.

Is it not about time that we had a new policy, and that it should be a question of unconditional release for miners?

Accession Proclamation, Lincoln


asked the Secretary of State for War why the band of the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment was ordered to travel from Lincoln to Nottingham to take part in the ceremony in the city of Nottingham proclaiming the accesssion of Her Majesty and was thus prevented from taking part in the proclamation ceremony in the City of Lincoln.

I do not think that I can usefully add to my reply to the hon. Member's Question on this subject on Tuesday, 18th March.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the citizens of Lincoln resent the poaching of this band in this case, and will he do everything he can to foster the association between this famous regiment and the city and capital of the county?

I think that on this occasion the Lincolnshire band, through no fault of their own, found themselves with two dates and, as often happens, they were unable to keep both. One party was thus unsatisfied.

Boys' Battalion (Service Engagements)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether recruits to the boys' battalion of the Army will have the option of taking their discharge at 18 years of age.

No, Sir. The engagement is freely entered upon and must have the consent of the parents or legal guardian. Since the period spent before attaining the age of 18 is devoted to giving the boy a specialised training for his future Army career, I cannot agree to give these boys the option of taking their discharge at the very moment when their training is completed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that it is right to allow a boy of 15 years to sign on for up to 11 years with the Colours and Reserves, or 15 years with the Colours? Does the right hon. Gentleman not remember that an alteration was made in the Royal Navy a few years ago when boys were given the option at the age of 18, I think, to enter into a short-term engagement?

None of these boys can sign on for 15 years. This system has been continuing for some considerable time, including the last six years under the late Government, and I do not think that when we spend a lot of money on their training we can afford to let them go so early.

Is the Minister aware that in an official document it states that a boy of school-leaving age may join a battalion by enlisting in the Regular Army, and the conditions are that he signs on for eight years with the Colours and four with the Reserves, which means 12 years with the Colours from the age of 18? That, in effect, means up to 15 years' service.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not apply the new proposal of giving everyone the right to a discharge after three-yearly intervals to these boys? Would not that meet the difficulty?

We have considered that, but the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that if one of these boys has had a technical education and is well qualified, many civilian firms may come along and make alternative offers to him so that all that time would be wasted. I think when we have these special concessions we have a right to claim longer service.

Armoured Vehicles, Malaya


asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that British troops in Malaya are inadequately supplied with armoured fighting vehicles; and what steps he is taking to maintain and improve the supply.

British units in Malaya have their full establishments of armoured fighting vehicles. Additional vehicles could only be provided at the present time at the expense of the essential needs of other theatres.

Naafi Parcels Scheme


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will extend the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes' parcels scheme to the forces to include 5s. parcels.

Yes, Sir. Five shilling parcels will be included in the scheme both for Korea and Malaya.

I hope the Minister realises how much this concession will be appreciated by the wives and friends of the soldiers serving. It makes it far easier to send parcels to them.

Court-Martial Findings (Confirmation)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will arrange for the publication of a statement of reasons on each occasion when a confirming authority fails to confirm the findings of a court-martial.

I do not think that it is desirable that this should automatically be done since in many instances the reasons derive from legal advice which is privileged, and there would also be objection if a re-trial were contemplated.

Would the Minister not agree that when a court-martial is held in a blaze of publicity and the officer or soldier is found guilty and sentenced, it is very undesirable that some time afterwards there should appear in the Press a short notice to the effect that the confirming officer has refused to confirm the finding without any explanation as to whether it was due to some technical defect in the trial or because some new evidence had been forthcoming? Is it not highly desirable that the reasons should be given when a trial has been given much publicity?

As a principle to cover all cases it is most undesirable, but so far as individual cases are concerned I am prepared to consider the matter.

National Service Men, Germany (Marriages)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many National Service men have married German girls in Germany.

Statistics available cover all men whose marriages with German women have been approved. These total 7,584 since 1947. To find out how many were National Service men would need a good deal of time and effort.

Will the Minister say if these men are provided with married quarters and treated in every respect in the same way as other married men?

They join the queue for married quarters in the same way as any other soldier, but we take special steps to see that the fact that they have married a German wife does not give them special privileges in being given married quarters.

South African Veterans (Thanksgiving Service)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will grant soldiers vouchers to enable the veterans of the South African War to travel from Leeds to attend the Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul's Cathedral which is being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty at Vereeniging.

Yes, Sir—No, Sir. In spite of the special interest of this occasion, I regret that I cannot arrange a concession.

Are we to understand that the negative came from the right hon. Gentleman's head while the other reply came from his heart? Will he reconsider this matter, in so far as there can be very few men concerned after 50 years; or, if he cannot meet it in this way, could he intercede on their behalf with the Railway Executive?

With regard to the latter part of the supplementary question, I will certainly discuss the matter with the hon. Gentleman. With regard to the first part, the hon. Gentleman will realise that if I once made a concession in this case, there are innumerable other organisations which might wish to follow suit.

Further to that answer, how can the right hon. Gentleman say there are many other cases which would have to be considered? After all, this kind of case is only likely to arise twice in a hundred years.

I could suggest a great many, but I do not wish to waste the time of the House.

Does the Minister not appreciate that there are considerable charitable funds left over from the South African war, and that the money might be used to give this last remnant a little bit of fun in meeting together, and could he not try to see if he could get these men up to London?

Northumberland Fusiliers (Court-Martial Sentences)


asked the Secretary of State for War what decision has been reached on the review of the court-martial sentences on 22331472 Fusilier Taylor and other soldiers of the Northumberland Fusiliers in Korea.

I will let the hon. Member know the outcome of this review, which was due yesterday, as soon as the report reaches me.

School Teachers (Call-Up)


asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been called to the clash between the date for the calling-up of school teachers for their fortnight's refresher course and school vacation; and if he will instruct commanding officers to make provision for such men to perform this military duty during holiday periods in face of the necessity for full-time teaching in great centres like Birmingham.

It is our policy not to call up schoolmasters during term time. Any schoolmaster who has been recalled for training during term time should inform the authorities who issued him with his recall notice: it will then be arranged for him to be recalled at another time during the vacation or, where this is not possible, his recall will be cancelled.

Officers' Pensions


asked the Secretary of State for War for an estimate of what would be the annual cost of restoring the pensions of officers, stabilised in 1935, to the original rates laid down in the Royal Warrant of 1919.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be a good thing to try to remove the sense of injustice which has been left with many officers since the 1935 settlement, and which was made even deeper by the 1947 increase not covering all cases?

I have sympathy with this case, but the hon. Gentleman will realise that it concerns all three Services and the Civil Service and cannot be settled in isolation.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that retired officers are not a numerous class, that they have served their country well, that they are suffering considerable hardship in many cases, that they are not politically organised, and would he make a renewed attempt to settle this question?

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the fact that it is tied up with the other two Services and with the Civil Service makes it all the more urgent that a solution should be found?


asked the Secretary of State for War by what percentage the cost of living has increased since 1919, when the rates of officers' pensions were fixed by Royal Warrant; and if he will give an estimate of what would be the approximate annual cost of granting such increases as would make good this fall in the value of money.

I can only give an approximate figure showing the change in the level of retail prices since 1919, as different bases must be used for different periods, and an index covering all consumer goods and services has only been available since 1938. Subject to this qualification the present level is about 60 per cent. above the level in 1919.

To increase to 60 per cent. above the 1919 rates Army officers' retired pay awards at present based on the consolidation of 1935 would cost upwards of £2½ million a year.

Connaught Military Hospital (Dietician)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has come to a decision regarding the appointment of a dietician to the Connaught Military Hospital.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he will look into this as a matter of urgency? Quite a considerable time has already elapsed, and surely it is a matter on which a quick decision should be taken?

This matter was first mooted on 20th March, and I do not think the delay is very long. It is being looked into, and I can assure my hon. Friend that it will be completed as soon as possible.

Officers' Emergency Reserve


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will accept applications for enrolment in the Army Officers' Emergency Reserve from men who have not previously held commissioned rank.

Enrolment in the Army Officers' Emergency Reserve is now open to suitable civilians in commands overseas, and I am hoping shortly to open this Reserve to specially qualified civilians at home.

Is the Minister aware that since 1945 quite a number of men who served in the ranks during the war have now acquired qualifications which might make them suitable for enrolment in this Reserve? Will he consider their applications?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, if this is done, the object will be to get those with technical qualifications into the Army as officers without regard to their previous status.