HC Deb 23 December 1915 vol 77 cc607-8
72. Mr. HIGHAM

asked the Under-Secretary for War if he is aware that the first-line East Lancashire Territorial Division left this country on 10th September, 1914, for Egypt, that they went to the Dardanelles on 1st May, 1915, never having had an opportunity of visiting their homes, and that even now after fifteen months' absence only 10 per cent. are allowed leave by War Office order, and most of these not on free warrants; and will he take steps to arrange that the whole battalion be granted Christmas leave with free warrants to visit their homes, as they are now at Salisbury Plain?


I am afraid that my hon. Friend is under some misapprehension. The formation to which he refers is still with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and there can be no opportunity, therefore, for home leave, though I have no doubt that every effort is made to give locally the necessary relief and rest. The units on Salisbury Plain are the grouped third-line depots which produce the drafts for the division overseas, and these units enjoy the same privileges as regards leave as other units serving in this country.


In the case of units who have not been home for over sixteen months, can he give special consideration to their cases?


Can the right hon. Gentleman give any prospect of those who are still in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, which has been reduced very largely by casualties and disease, being relieved, and other soldiers in a necessarily better state of health taking their place?


I am sure the House will recognise the great difficulty of giving leave to soldiers to come home from such a distance as the Mediterranean. I think, really, that is not a feasible thing, and I can hold out no hope, I am afraid, that leave of that kind can be granted. I recognise that this division has been depleted in a manner which we know, unfortunately, to be the fact. All facilities for rest will now be given, and one hopes that that will have the desired effect, but I cannot hold out hopes that they will be given facilities to come home.


Are they now allowed to rest in camps that are not under enemy fire?


The rest camps are on the islands.