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British Army

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 8 April 1952

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Service Dress Regulations (Review)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will describe the present regulations regarding the wearing of Service dress in the Army; and what changes in these regulations he proposes to make.

Under present regulations Service dress may be worn by those who have got it at any time, except when parading with troops in battle dress. This question is under review.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in spite of the fact that Service dress is very expensive indeed, nearly all officers in the Army are, in fact, buying it and that, as a result of the great delays in issuing No. 1 dress many newly-joined officers are uncertain whether they should spend the money on Service dress which may soon be replaced by No. 1 dress? Will my right hon. Friend look at this matter in order to clear up that uncertainty?

As I have said, the whole question is under review, and when I say that it is under review I mean under urgent review.

Personal Cases


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has now been able to arrange for the posting to Malta from Tripolitania of 7591061 Corporal L. Bartolo, R.E.M.E., L.A.D. Attached 4/7 R.D.9, M.E.L.F. 1; and if he will state the reasons for the delay in dealing with this case and for the nonpayment of family allowances for Mrs. Bartolo's children and of an appropriate portion of the local overseas allowance for her maintenance.

As regards the first part, "Yes, Sir." The answer to the second part is that special family allowances and married rates of local overseas allowance are issuable only where the husband and family have set up residence together at the husband's duty station; as this condition was not fulfilled, this n.c.o. was not then entitled to these allowances, but he will be when he joins his family in Malta.

When the right hon. Gentleman says—and I welcome the information—"Yes, Sir" in reply to the first part of the Question, does that mean, as I gather from his last words, that the man in question has not yet gone to Malta?

The first part of the answer means that this man will be posted to Malta very shortly.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he has considered the case of Private Robert Harper of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps who died from tuberculosis while on the way to Warwick Hospital, on Wednesday, 12th March, having been treated by his medical officer for spasmodic asthma; and what steps he is taking to ensure the correct diagnosis of disease from which serving soldiers may be suffering.

Yes, Sir. The concurrence of tuberculosis of the lung and bronchial asthma inevitably makes diagnosis of the former chronic condition difficult. In this case, I regret to say, it escaped detection.

In view of the fact that it was stated at the inquest that this man had been suffering from tuberculosis of the lung for several months, will the Minister say why it was that he not sent to hospital until the day on which he died? Secondly, what steps are taken to see that there is a proper X-ray examination of soldiers to detect the disease from which they may be suffering?

I am in agreement with the hon. Gentleman that we should do everything possible to detect tuberculosis at an early stage. I am informed by expert opinion that bronchial asthma can make it extremely difficult to detect tuberculosis at an early stage. I have been into the case in some detail, and, although I much regret the mistake, I think it is one which might have been made by any medical officer concerned. I am further informed—although I am afraid it is poor consolation—that even had the initial diagnosis been made it would probably not in this particular case have saved the man's life.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of mass X-ray for all entrants? Mass radiography is the answer to this question.

I think the hon. Member will agree that that is a different Question, but I undertake to look into it.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will consider the case of 1474384 ex-Bombardier Tomkins, about whom the hon. Member for Uxbridge wrote on 10th March, and an answer to which he has not yet received; and if he will ensure that ex-Bombardier Tomkins is not recalled for reserve training.

Yes I have, but it is not very satisfactory. Will the Minister look into this again? There is no question of personal hardship. It has never been claimed there was. The man was in the Territorials before the war and served throughout the war, and it would not hurt him to do another 15 days. But he is now over 40 years of age and is the managing director of a substantial firm which is going on to armament subcontracts in the national emergency. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he should be kept on his present job and not called up?

These questions of men on the industrial side being called up are referred to the Ministry of Labour. This case has been referred to them, and they do not consider that on those grounds this man should be exempted.

In view of the fact that there are 114 Questions on the Order Paper today, would not this have been a suitable Question to put down for a written answer?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that I am asking him to look into this personally? Is he not aware that the Ministry of Labour turned this case down on the grounds of personal hardship and that I am emphasising that there are other aspects of this matter and asking him to look at it again?


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will arrange for the Z Reserve training period to be suspended in the case of Mr. W. A. Beasley, who is under contract to the North Warwick Colliery Lodge for the delivery of allowance coal.

If the hon. Member will let me know this man's Army number and unit, and if possible the date of call-up, it will expedite our inquiry into the case.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that answer, may I ask if he is aware that this man is under contract to the colliery that it has been impossible to find anybody capable of carrying out this detailed delivery work, and that the miners of the North Warwick Colliery feel very strongly on this point?

I will undertake to look carefully into the case. I think that, on the whole, the War Office is not unsympathetic when cases of this kind arise.

Royal Welch Fusiliers (Christmas Parcels)


asked the Secretary of State for War what report he has received on the reasons for the 1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers not receiving their Christmas parcels.

The hon. Member will now have received my letter dealing with the inquiry into this delay.

As the reply which I have just received says that the last troops did not receive their Christmas parcels till 6th March, can the Minister tell us what steps he takes to ensure that, when troops are posted to outlying islands, mail communications are kept up?

The hon. Member will see that the somewhat unfortunate set of circumstances outlined in my letter were the cause of some delay. This was accentuated by the fact that there is no very frequent shipping between these islands.

Home Guard


asked the Secretary of State for War when he proposes to start enrolling members of the Home Guard.

Would my right hon. Friend say whether from this date onwards any badge will be issued to members of the Home Guard so that they can show they have joined?

We are proposing to issue to those who are enrolled as members of the Home Guard a badge, somewhat similar to other badges, which will indicate their membership of this body.

Since the right hon. Gentleman said he must have a minimum of 125,000, and will require more, and the rate of recruiting has now dropped to less than 4,000 a month, and it is quite clear he will not obtain the number for which he has asked by any stretch of the imagination, would it not be better to abandon this foolish scheme before further time and money is wasted on it?

I am disappointed that hon. Members opposite, who, although questioning the advisability of the Home Guard, gave an undertaking that they would support it, are now doing the very reverse. Nobody could be so bold as to say there might not be a sudden war, and the existence of the Home Guard will be invaluable to the country.

As the right hon. Gentleman has only 33,000 now and has said on the Army Estimates that he will want 170,000, all he is doing therefore is wasting the enthusiasm of a few people. Does he not agree that he ought to scrap the scheme and wait until an emergency arises?

If I waited until the emergency, it would put the Territorial Army and the Regular Army in a considerable jam. The Home Guard is not being helped by people like the hon. Member, who are doing their very best to discourage it.


asked the Secretary of State for War what instructions have been issued to Home Guard units on the subject of their co-operation with the Civil Defence organisation.

East African Forces (Commissions)


asked the Secretary of State for War what steps are being taken to train suitable Africans for commissioned rank in Her Majesty's East African Forces.

Much is being done by the Army to educate the East African soldier to qualify for commissioned rank and 10 hours a week are devoted to education. But, until the educational standard of the recruit on entry is raised, there will be great difficulty in finding candidates suitable for training for the grant of a Queen's commission.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the commissioning of Africans has been agreed in principle for the future and, if so, whether there is any intention to open Makerere College with special courses for that purpose?

Yes, Sir, I am most anxious that we should make progress in commissioning officers in all our colonial forces. At the moment the difficulty is educational, and we are taking considerable steps to overcome it. The major difficulty is the basic education before the man arrives.

Colchester Garrison (Strength)


asked the Secretary of State for War what additions to the strength of the Colchester garrison he anticipates will be made in the immediate future.

The second battalions of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Black Watch and the Sherwood Foresters, which are now forming, will be stationed at Colchester.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether there will be any other ancillary units in addition to the three units he has mentioned?

Not as far as I know. I think my hon. Friend's constituency has a good share.

As the Black Watch is going to Colchester, is it not reasonable to expect that that is ample for any town?

I am obliged for the forbearance of my hon. and gallant Friend who, I thought, would be urging me to send them to Scotland. They are being sent to this garrison for operational reasons.

Boys' Battalion (Terms Of Service)


asked the Secretary of State for War the terms of enlistment for a boy joining the Boys' Battalion at the age of 15 years.

Up to the age of 18 with the Colours, and thereafter for eight years with the Colours and four years with the Royal Army Reserve or, at his own request, for 12 years with the Colours.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that last week, as reported in col. 1395 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, of 1st April, he assured us that it was not possible for a boy to sign on for 15 years, and does his answer not show that it is possible for a 15-year old boy to sign on for 15 years?

I think my answer referred to Colour service. As the hon. Member knows, boy's service does not count. It is, of course, possible if one includes boy's service. As for the Boys' Battalion which is now forming, we are considering whether a shorter period of Colour service should not now be introduced.

Is it possible for them to purchase their release at 18 years of age, as used to be the case?

In September, 1953, when the present scheme of holding men in the Regular Army is finished, it will be possible once again for men to purchase their discharge.

Department (Overseas Staff)


asked the Secretary of State for War the number of home-based civil servants of his Department serving abroad in the clerical, executive, works group, including mechanical and electrical engineers, scientific, technical draughtsmen and other categories, respectively.

The latest breakdown of home-based staff serving with the War Department overseas is as follows. Executive, clerical and typing staffs 181; professional, scientific and technical staffs 612; ancillary technical staff and supervisory staff in industrial establishments 260; industrial staff 58; total 1,111. These figures exclude stalls in Germany recently taken over or in process of being taken over from the Control Commission.

Wrexham Depot (Postings)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many National Service men who have been stationed at Wrexham during the last six months have signed on for further service; how many have refused; and if it is with his authority that young soldiers have been told that unless they sign on for further service they are liable to be drafted to Korea.

I take it that the hon. Member is referring to the Depot, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, since the other unit in Wrexham does not provide drafts for Korea. Out of 120 National Service men who joined this depot since January. 30 have undertaken Regular engagements. National Service men may be posted from this depot to any unit within the Welsh Brigade Group, while a man undertaking a Regular engagement can generally serve with the regiment of his choice. I think it right that the men should be told where the battalions of the brigade are serving. I do not accept the implication in the last part of the Question: the facts were put to the men without coercion.

May I have an assurance that the persons who are interviewing these young soldiers do not threaten them with service in Korea if they do not sign on for further service?

I have a copy of the letter written by the commanding officer. I think it is a very fair letter. The information he gave to the men was that if they joined the Regular Army they could apply to join the regiment of their choice; otherwise they could be posted to any one of three regiments, and he merely stated factually where those regiments were.



asked the Secretary of State for War what economies, for the purpose of reducing expenditure, he is making in the provision of live, film and radio entertainment for British troops in Germany and elsewhere.

Except in Korea, live and cinema entertainment is provided without expense to public funds. The scale is related to the needs of the various theatres. No economies are contemplated, and the scale in Korea and Malaya has been recently increased. The Forces Broadcasting Service is designed to provide radio programmes where existing programmes cannot be received satisfactorily.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the War Office is closing down the British Forces Network in Hamburg in a few weeks' time, although this service is very greatly appreciated by the men in B.A.O.R. and their relatives at home? What does he hope to save by the closing down of the British Forces Network?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind particularly the great need in the Canal Zone, which he did not mention in his original answer?

Class Z Reservists


asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent it is estimated that men called up for Z training will be available for the same duties in the event of an outbreak of hostilities.

It is our policy, whenever possible, to use men in the same duties in war.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that I have brought several cases to his attention—there has been another case this afternoon which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick)—of men who have been called up for Class Z training who in no circumstances will be available in an emergency? This is a waste of their time and quite defeats the object of the scheme.

These cases are referred to the Ministry of Labour for clearance. It is our job not to call up for training men who are not available in time of war.

Will my right hon. Friend bring that fact to the attention of the Minister of Labour, because there seems to be some misunderstanding about the position?