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Infantry Training

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 13 April 1954

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11 and 12.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) what were the arrangements made for realistic training in field work, including night patrols, in both Germany and the United Kingdom for units about to be posted to Korea in the period immediately prior to the truce;

(2) whether he has considered recent allegations, a copy of which has been sent to him, of insufficient and misdirected training of young troops recently engaged in Korea; and whether he will make a statement.

I have read the articles to which the right hon. Member refers. The training facilities in Germany are finer than anything the Army has ever had before, and full use is made of them. Units moving through this country on their way to operational theatres get special training, and the battalion to which reference is made in these articles carried out three weeks' special training at Stanford before embarkation. I have seen the report on this unit when it left this country, and its high terms have been wholly justified by the unit's later record in operations.

While agreeing that the account given in these articles is not representative of training generally in the British Army, at any rate as I have seen it, may there not be some case for looking again into the training of this unit, because the articles are extremely circumstantial, and is the Minister really satisfied that in those instances all was well?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I read the articles carefully; they were both circumstantial and, if correct, extremely damaging. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen a letter in the "Manchester Guardian" of 9th April from a young ex-National Service officer who had been in the same battalion as the writer of these articles, categorically denying many of the charges made?

Is it not a fact that the inefficiency of the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers, to which the articles refer, also applies to other units in the 5th Infantry Brigade? Is the Minister aware that my right hon. Friend had an opportunity of seeing this Infantry Brigade at work last year in Germany and that some of us were quite shocked at the standard of training in the Brigade? Would he inquire into it?

We have been into this with General West as well, who is now back in this country, and we have looked most carefully into the question of training. I am convinced that many of the charges in these articles are exaggerated.

Will the Minister appreciate that, in my view, the allegations in the articles are not representative of the training in the British Army as a whole?