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Infantry Training

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 6 April 1954

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51.

asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent officers and non-commissioned officers returning from Korea, Malaya or Kenya, are being used to train the Regular Army in modern battle tactics.

The fullest possible. For instance, on the staff of one school, which is not exceptional, there are three majors, six captains, two warrant officers, 12 sergeants and seven corporals who have experience of operations in Korea.

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken the opportunity of reading the three articles in the "Manchester Guardian" written by a platoon officer who saw active service in Korea? They are very restrained articles. Do they not tend to show that there is not sufficient intensive battle training before our young troops are sent into action?

I have read those articles, which were written by a young subaltern. I have already been into this and seen reports of General Erskine and also of General West and others. It is a question of taking the word of a young subaltern against many others. They are very damaging articles. I am satisfied, from the inquiries I have made, that they are not grounded on fact or justified.

52.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make immediate inquiry into the standards of infantry field training in the Army.

The standards of field training are continually watched and studied by the military training staffs in and outside the War Office.

Is it not the case that, the Secretary of State having been trained in the cavalry, he has grown up with the idea that in dire circumstances his horse will always look after him? This is certainly not so in the infantry. Do not the articles to which reference has already been made bear the hallmarks of authenticity and bear out the experience of many people who are concerned with the training of the Territorial Army, and in particular point not only to shortcomings in Korea but shortcomings in the training of the troops in Germany?

It was not my experience during my training that my horse always looked after me. So far as the training in Germany is concerned, it is my belief that the infantry training in Germany is of the highest standard ever reached by the Army in peace. I should be only too glad to enable the hon. Gentleman to go to look at it if he would like me to arrange it.

55.

asked the Secretary of State for War to state the infantry and guard battalions which proceeded from Germany to Korea between 25th June, 1950, and the Korean armistice; and if he will indicate those battalions that underwent three weeks training in East Anglia between the date of leaving Germany and embarking for Korea.

The following infantry battalions went from Germany to Korea during the period: 1 Royal Norfolk. 1 Black Watch, 1 Royal Fusiliers, 1 Durham Light Infantry, 1 Duke of Wellington's Regiment and 1 Royal Scots. Of these, only 1 Royal Fusiliers carried out training in East Anglia before embarkation.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it seems that the officer who wrote in the "Manchester Guardian" about the system of training in Germany was serving in the Royal Fusiliers? Will he look at the system of training not only in the first battalion of that regiment but of the 5th Infantry Brigade, because if anything is wrong with training in Germany it must be in that brigade? Will he look into that and make a statement to the House?

I have already done that both in Germany and East Anglia, and have seen reports of the generals concerned.