Skip to main content

Special Clothing

Volume 26: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1982

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


asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent clothing used by Service personnel in the Falklands conflict has proved adequate in the climatic conditions encountered.

Knowing the Falklands winter to be exceptionally inclement—a combination of high winds, much rain and temperatures around freezing-point—substantial extra issues of modern high-quality clothing were made to troops taking part in the operation. It is, however, too early for us to be able to assess detailed reports to see what lessons about clothing may be drawn from the operation.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one has only to look at television pictures of the troops in the Falklands to see that the warm lightweight clothing worn by the British troops compared impressively with the bulky and heavyweight clothing worn by the Argentine troops? Is he aware that letters home confirm that the troops were impressed with their clothing? Will my hon. Friend confirm that boots did not leak and that waterproof and windproof clothing was in fact waterproof and windproof?

It is extremely difficult to get boots that do not leak. The new combat boot, of which 2,500 pairs were delivered to the Forces at the beginning of June, is an interesting piece of equipment and we believe that it will probably fit the bill.

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that four and half years ago, in the depth of winter, I had the great pleasure and honour to visit our Royal Marine Commandos at their winter training in Arctic conditions in Norway? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that I was kitted out with exactly the same items of clothing as those worn by the Marines and found them extremely adequate, and that was the view of a colonel of the United States Marine Corps, who was also highly delighted? For those reasons, I was fully confident that our Royal Marines and other Service men would acquit themselves as well as they did in the South Atlantic, in contrast to their opponents from the Argentine.

I recall the hon. Gentleman's visit to the Arctic Circle. I am glad, as I am sure the Armed Forces will be, to have his seal of approval for the equipment. I am glad that he has obviously never suffered from trench foot.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the clothing used by the crew of HMS "Endurance" was just one factor in enabling them to carry out their duties so magnificently in repossessing Southern Thule and defending South Georgia and the Falklands? Will he therefore urge his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to make a statement as soon as possible about the future of the ship, so that it can continue its traditional role in the South-West Atlantic?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may have something to say about that matter in the debate later this week.

Was 63 Squadron of the RAF Regiment adequately kilted out when it was in the Falklands? Is it intended that the regiment should remain in the Falklands or return to Germany? I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that any information that he can give about the squadron will be appreciated by the relatives of the men, who can obtain no information from his Department?

I am extremely disturbed to hear what the hon. Gentleman has said. I shall look into the matter immediately and write to him.