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British Army

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 6 April 1954

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

Trooper's Funeral, Germany (Notification To Parents)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now make a statement on the circumstances in which the body of Trooper B. A. Brown was buried in Germany, without proper notification to his parents of the funeral arrangements; and why they were not given the opportunity of attending the funeral.

My hon. Friend has already written to the hon. Member about this case. I would myself say how sorry I am that this failure occurred.

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen the letter which I have sent in reply to his hon. Friend's letter to me? It makes one or two new points, I think. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in comparable circumstances, parents have ever been flown to their son's funeral? If so why it was not done in this case, in view of the error which has been admitted?

I think that the letter explained the reasons for this error. The flying over of parents for funerals is not a thing which is done, and indeed, in this case it would have been too late to do it

National Service Men (Middle East Postings)


asked the Secretary of State for War the minimum age and the period of training which must previously have been served before a soldier can be sent to the Middle East.

Before embarking for the Middle East, a soldier must be 18 years, 3 months old and have had at least 12 weeks' service, including 10 weeks' training.

In view of the fact that, when in Opposition, none was more hostile than the right hon. Gentleman to the idea of sending inexperienced lads to active areas, why does he now permit inexperienced youths to be sent to the Middle East with but a minimum of training, when there are already 80,000 browned-off troops there?

The regulation about the age at which National Service men go to the Middle East has been the same since the introduction of National Service.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any of his hon. Friends who, during the last Government's period of office, were so anxious to get these conditions altered, have exercised any pressure on him recently?

I am not aware, without reference to HANSARD, of any pressure in this respect.

Courts-Martial (Committee Recommendations)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many of the recommendations of the Lewis Committee on Courts-Martial have not yet been implemented in the Army, and why they have not been implemented.

Apart from the recommendations which were not accepted by the Government of the day, nine. The Select Committee on the Army Act and Air Force Act is now considering these nine recommendations.

As it is five years since the Lewis Committee reported, should not the Secretary of State proceed to implement the recommendations that have been accepted without waiting for the report of the Select Committee, which has a very much wider task to complete?

Those recommendations which were accepted by the then Government have been put into effect. The ones now outstanding are being considered by the Select Committee, in accordance with the opinion of the House at the time the Select Committee was appointed.

British Troops, Colonial Territories (Costs)

41 and 42.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) to what extent the cost of maintaining British troops in Colonial Territories falls on the British, and on the colonial, taxpayer, respectively;

(2) to what extent the cost of transporting British troops between the United Kingdom and Colonial Territories falls on the British, and on the colonial, taxpayer, respectively.

It depends on the circumstances. Where United Kingdom troops are stationed in Colonial Territories for reasons of Commonwealth defence, the cost of transporting and maintaining them there is met from United Kingdom funds, but the Colonies are encouraged to make contributions towards the general costs of Commonwealth defence. Where the troops are sent to help to preserve or restore order, the Colonies are expected to pay, so far as they can afford to do so, the extra costs, including transport.

Can the Minister tell us what say the citizens of the Colonial Territories have in the employment of such troops, what is the total amount of money which they contribute annually towards this military expenditure, and why they should pay so heavily for the blunders of the Colonial Secretary?

Those are different and much more detailed questions, which do not arise out of this one.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that all those who are concerned with the welfare, good government and security of the colonial peoples consider this as money well spent?

Can the Minister tell us who is going to pay for the 19 new colonial battalions, about which he was so coy last week?

I am far from coy about these battalions, but without notice I could not give the hon. Member a detailed answer.

Youth Employment Service


asked the Secretary of State for War what liaison he maintains with the Youth Employment Service.

The Army's school liaison officers and chief recruiting officers at command headquarters and recruiting officers locally keep in touch with the Youth Employment Service.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that because of the large number of young men he gets into the Army, both for National Service and as Regulars, the closer liaison he maintains with the Youth Employment Service the better?

Coal (Whitewashing)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the practice of whitewashing coal, which has been brought to his attention by the hon. Member for Harrow, East, has now been expressly forbidden as a military duty by his Department.

Coal may sometimes be whitewashed to mark the edge of a coal dump for safety hi the dark or as a check against pilfering. I think this has led to the old Army legend that it is sometimes done to please inspecting officers, an instance of which has yet to be proved.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a pail of whitewash would soon overcome this device against the pilfering of coal? As this is, in any case, a very silly practice, can it be stopped?

Yes, Sir. I think there are a lot of things that might be whitewashed, but not that.

Infantry Training


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.


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.


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.

"Empire Windrush" (Loss)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give an undertaking that all persons travelling on thess. "Empire Windrush" who suffered loss because of the fire on that vessel, and whose possessions were not insured, will receive full compensation.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give an assurance that those who have lost personal clothing and possessions as a result of the loss of the ss. "Empire Windrush" are to be completely compensated, in view of the exceptional character of the disaster and their own exemplary conduct\ which contributed towards minimising it.

This question is still under discussion, but I hope to make an announcement before the Easter Recess.

If it should be brought to light that this vessel was not in the state that it should have been and that there were failures in the mechanism, and so on, will my right hon. Friend bear that in mind when he is negotiating with the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the moneys to be paid out on the loss of goods and chattels?

Church Parades


asked the Secretary of State for War why Queen's Regulations relating to church parades have been consistently contravened in Southern Command; and why, upon this being brought to his attention, he took no action.

If the hon. Member has any complaint about a specific church parade I will look into it.

The Secretary of State himself told me that 101 church parades had taken place illegally. Why, in view of the information he himself has given about more than 100 illegal parades in Southern Command, is he not prepared to take action? Is it not a fact that Queen's Regulations say that church parades may take place only on days of local or national significance, and that a regimental week-end is not a day of local significance?

I wrote to the hon. Member explaining that the parades that have taken place in Southern Command came within the category specified in Queen's Regulations.