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Shropshire Light Infantry, Korea (Leave)

Volume 499: debated on Tuesday 22 April 1952

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46.

asked the Secretary of State for War is he is aware that the men of the 1st Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry now in Korea were promised leave after 16 months; that they have served in Hong Kong for 21 months and for 11 months in Korea; and when they will be granted home leave.

I know of no such promise and to give one would be contrary to War Office policy. This battalion will, however, in the normal course of events move from the Far East to Northwest Europe this autumn and it is hoped that an opportunity for a period of home leave will then occur.

Is the Minister aware that these men have been out in Korea and the Far East for two years and nine months without any home leave; and will he take steps to see that these young men, who have been either in the Far East or the Near East for a reasonable period, get home leave?

We are anxious that these units should be staged on their way back in Britain so that they can get home leave and, as I have said, we are hoping that will be possible this autumn. But the exigencies of the Service must always make the first claim on movements of this kind, although we are anxious to do what the hon. Member wants.

Has the Minister seen some rather disturbing figures relating to difficulties which have arisen regarding the domestic affairs of many of these soldiers, and will he bear this factor in mind in getting something done about it?

Interests such as the hon. and gallant Gentleman has brought to my attention are among the things which make it desirable that some sort of leave should be given.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider how far it is appropriate in the case of National Service men, whose total liability is two years training service, that they should be called upon to spend a period in more than one danger area, as so many of these young men are being called on to do?

Will the Minister give the same undertaking in relation to every regiment of the British Army serving in Korea regarding their leave and return to this country?

Is the Minister aware that there are other regiments where men are in the position that their stay in Korea has been extended by six months, and that they have been out there practically three years?

I realise the period of service out there has been extended. We have done what we can to make local leave available, although this is something of a makeshift since I realise that it is home leave which they are really anxious to have. But I cannot go further than I have at present.